Do I just not understand the concept of the hive mind entirely? My understanding is, its one voice that controls and orders all the drones in all unimatrices.

It seems implausible (at least to me) that one voice, one mind, could control an entire collective.. how would a ship on the other side of the quadrant be instructed by the hive mind that also controls a cube on the opposite side of the quadrant at the same time? And all the mini tasks that a ship requires to operate, or are these tasks done individually by a hive mind directly on that ship?

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    The straight answer to your initial question: It works too damn well.
    – MPelletier
    Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 1:05

4 Answers 4


You are falling into the caterpillar's dilemma; there's too much to control, so it seems that there is no way to control it all, when the answer is simple -- Don't bother.

Think of the Borg Queen (or any 'lead' Borg) as the brain, specifically, the Super-ego. It's the part that does the 'conscious' thinking, and decides on major courses of action. The individual borgs, on the other hand, have very little volition (in that they have no overreaching goals), but they do control individual details. Much the way you don't usually THINK about breathing, the Borg Queen doesn't have to think about the mini tasks required to keep the ship running; in your case, your brain (and spinal cord, hypothalamus.. gah.. not going to get into the biology here...) keeps it running on 'automatic' without your conscious intervention. Need to increase the o2 level due to a heavy work out? It happens. Need to contract vessels and keep heat in the body? No problem.

Many (although not all) of those functions you can consciously override (and the ones you can't, you can often influence by other behaviors), but you don't normally bother. Think of the Borg collective as a body (or, rather, the shared parts of their brains -- think 'distributed computing')... And it functions much the way a human body does.

(This is also one of the reasons the Federation away teams could beam on-board and explore without being attacked; the units they encountered had jobs to do, and worrying about what others are doing (or if the others are Borg) was not one of their jobs. It's possible there were internal security Borg, but we didn't see them, and they would most likely be very rarely called upon, and possibly left in storage/stasis most of the time.)

They DO have an ability to do something your body can't; at need, problems can be passed down the line to let them all 'think' about them. They only do this when directed to 'from above', but when they do it, it gives them massive processing power.

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    (For anyone who doesn't know the reference, the Caterpillar's Dilemma is simple. Someone asked a caterpillar how he could possibly coordinate all of those legs and move smoothly. The caterpillar thought about it, realized he had no clue how he did, and the more he thought about it, the more he was unable to do so anymore, as he was busy trying to control an action that he used to do automatically.)
    – K-H-W
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 22:27
  • explainxkcd.com/wiki/index.php/972:_November
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Mar 13, 2014 at 19:38

I think another way to think about it is that lower level Borg have their assigned duties and they do them until they are done, and then they do more duties. It takes them awhile to adapt or change course because they are mostly reactionary drones operating on feedback loops and not conscious beings deciding on courses of action from a myriad array of external data. As the original answerer stated, the Borg Queen and other upper level Borg do the strategic decision making, and each descending and radiating arm of Borg conciousness has their own set of assigned duties. Think of an anthill or Navy warship. Most organization falls along this top-down model, where specialization and duty-completion are distributed throughout the group.


In software, the way you solve this problem is with levels of abstraction. If I wanted to design the Borg hive mind, I would design a highly-federated (functioning autonomously at their own level of abstraction, but receiving macro-instructions from above) structure, as well as contributing democratically to decision-making in the opposite direction.

Of course, by "democratically", I don't mean democratically in the way that we think of it, but rather that individual preferences are aggregated upward until a consensus is reached (with some built-in tie breaking function), and then that consensus is directed top-down in the way I mentioned before.

You might even aggregate those decisions at lower levels, so that network traffic is minimized - for example:

Submatrix zero sensors indicate a fault in reactor 12b. This information is propagated to all members of the cube, and a consensus decision is made to repair the fault immediately. This decision is directed downward to a subnode, which composes the problem into forming a further subnode devoted to technical capabilities, organized because those particular units have special equipment, or maybe just because they're close to the problem.

Then that subnode functions autonomously with the particulars of the problem, though they are implementing the top-down decision of the hive.

The continual assault of up and down communication, consensus-seeking, and continually having decisions imposed on you forms what they call the hive mind.

  • I don't know if I would call decisions made by the borg queen consensus
    – CamelBlues
    Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 18:16
  • She doesn't make a decision unless there's a deadlock, which would be unlikely and unusual. Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 19:34
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    Deadlock? The borg should assimilate someone who knows the solution to the dining philosophers problem :)
    – CamelBlues
    Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 21:53
  • That's how we can defeat the borg! We'll give them a travelling salesman problem. Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 22:16

There are two things that the borg use for a hive mind : 1 the vinculum this eliminates all “unnecessary" thoughts as seen in season 5 of ST voyager 2 the central plexus this is the heart of a borg cube connecting all the drones and cubes via qn interlink frequency over sub-space carrier waves

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