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In Star Trek:The Next Generation, there was much made of the Borg being a singular entity, such that one Borg couldn't detach itself from another easily, analogous to a person being unable to easily cut off their foot. But the thing I don't understand, is if they're a singular consciousness spread over individual units like our consciousness is spread out over individual cells in our brain, then why didn't they - or more correctly "It" - refer to itself as "I" and not "We"? This has always bugged me...

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    They assimilated a bunch of royalty early on ;) – barrycarter Oct 28 '14 at 16:56
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    The out-of-universe answer is "because it makes them creepier." – Malcolm Oct 28 '14 at 20:20
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    I think "I" would be no more accurate than "we". The question is which word to use when speaking to ordinary humanoids whose languages (usually) don't have a suitable pronoun, and "we" causes less confusion, at least for the short time during which communication is worthwhile. – Beta Oct 29 '14 at 0:56
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    In the Borg native language the words for "we" and "I" are the same. The universal translator has to pick one in English so it picks "we" because there are so many of the Borg. – CJ Dennis Oct 29 '14 at 2:34
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The Borg describe themselves as a collective, the literal definition of which is

"denoting a number of persons or things considered as one group or whole" - Merriam-Webster

The Borg take in and assimilate individuals and add their knowledge to the whole group, and they all share this knowledge.

Yet, we have seen throughout the series that drones can be separated from the collective to regain their individualism, or even be singled out by the collective to act as more then a drone. Seven of Nine is an example of this as is the Queen. They are multiple consciousnesses shared between multiple entities to create one drive, goal, and knowledge pool.

  • that was my point that at anytime a drone can have its individuality reactivated, and will allow them to function as an individual again. – Himarm Oct 28 '14 at 16:12
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I think this usage is solely for the benefit of the listener, whether that's humans who have individual consciousnesses, or ultimately the TV viewer. If a drone says "I am the Borg", even though this is how it feels, you would assume it was referring to itself rather than the collective.

When communicating, the Borg are extremely precise and concise, leaving no room for misinterpretation. Their famous catch phrase, "resistance is futile", cannot be shortened without loss of meaning. Most of what they say are simple SVO sentences: [We] [are] [the Borg], [Your biological and technological distinctiveness] [will be added to] [our own], [Resistance] [is] [futile]. It seems that everything they say is meant to be understood easily by their target audience.

Furthermore, I agree with you in that the Borg should naturally think of themselves as singular, and should naturally use singular pronouns like "I", and whether their drones can regain individualism is irrelevant. Since their drones are so highly connected, they might act like a massive brain, not too dissimilar to regular brains. Studies have shown that our left/right hemispheres can manifest two distinct consciousnesses if the interconnection is severed:

Did Sperry’s split-brain patients now have two consciousnesses? There appears to be pretty good evidence that the answer to that question is yes. Its not simply a case of “the left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing”, we appear to have a phenomenon of the left hand/right brain not agreeing with what the right hand/left brain was doing.

This phenomenon was termed intermanual conflict. For example, one patient found that his right hand was struggling to pull up his pants, while his left hand struggled to push them down. On another occasion, this same patient’s left hand attempted to strike his wife as his right hand grabbed it to stop it.

That is, we are a collective entity, composed of (at least) our left and right brains, and this never affects our self-image unless we start suffering various mental disorders.

All this raises some interesting questions:

  • Would the Borg use "I" when speaking to intelligent hive minds?
  • With a race of Yodas, would they say "Futile, resistance is"?
  • +1 for a great answer. +3 for the questions at the end. – Red_Shadow Oct 29 '14 at 14:41
  • It is perhaps worth noting that split-brain patients usually find remarkably few symptoms stemming from that surgery. In most patients, the hemispheres of the brain can coordinate astonishingly well even without the corpus callosum, and in most cases you can only tell a split-brain patient by subjecting them to fairly arbitrary tests (e.g. cover the right eye and show a word). In daily life, the procedure doesn’t really have negative side-effects. – KRyan Aug 6 '15 at 13:02
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It's to make a contrast between the collective who say "we are the borg" and the borg queen who says "I am the borg".

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