I’ve been thinking in my own mind recently about the power of hidden personal knowledge. I attended an open house for the School of Information at the University of Michigan last week and one of the presenters commented that we would all be surprised at the diversity of experience represented in the room. But I never felt like we had an opportunity to get to know others. I always castigate myself after one of these meetings, thinking how much better I could have been at networking or even introducing myself to other people. As it is I usually follow the shy path and listen to what others say, whether they are the presenters or the audience members. What if I could learn about the others in the group immediately? Or have a computer filter out and introduce me to people who share my interests?
In trying to find a metaphor for this idea I’ve been struck by the character of the Borg from Star Trek. What made the Borg so bad? Obviously they strike at a real fear of becoming something other than our individual selves. The idea is scattered throughout science fiction: Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Puppet Masters, and almost every other alien invasion story that has ever been done. Pushing through this feeling I realize there is also a strange appeal to losing yourself in the collective. Computers and technology are, in part, so interesting because they push this question in both directions. The extremes continue to move apart and life just keeps getting more complicated and more interesting.