In Star Trek, the Borg (short for cyborg) used computers to network everyone’s brain into a collective hive mind. When they met new peoples, they were assimilated, and the hive was enriched by whatever new capabilities they had, making them a formidable enemy.
While the Borg was evil because its process was not voluntary and left no room for individual freedom, in many ways all of history is the story of humans trying to work better collectively to solve problems and advance civilization. The “melting pot” for which the United States is so well known is the positive version of the Borg’s assimilation, and it is rightly credited with being one of the main reasons for the country’s success.
The Internet has been a catalyst for mind melding, facilitating crowd sourcing worldwide for everything from naming a team to solving a math equation to getting resources to people in a disaster.
Businesses have also increasingly come to appreciate the benefits of the hive mind for both themselves and end users. That trend was evident at this year’s ASIS International Seminar and Exhibits, where many companies talked about how they are reaching out to work better with competitors and customers. For example, Honeywell has expanded how it collaborates with end users. In the past, security directors from multiple vertical markets were only brought together twice a year. But the security professionals in those vertical worlds wanted to “think broader” about issues across sectors. Now multi-sector meetings will be held monthly.
And in June 2014, for the first time ever, Verint will hold a global user forum, bringing together top users, other vendors, and thought leaders to share their experiences. The collective intelligence gathered there will help shape the next generation of the company’s products.
Another form of hive activity is the increasing interconnectivity among systems that collect data. And making those connections is getting easier. Diebold’s Tony Byerly notes, for example, that the company has created a dynamic software ecosystem that allows partners and end users to bring endless new capabilities by writing their own code to integrate their products. So if a customer wants data from an access or intrusion system to integrate with an incident reporting system through Diebold’s interface, they just write some code, and the collective capabilities of the system grow.
Quantum Secure also taps into the potential of the hive mind by reaching out to customers, and with pretty satisfying results. “Ninety percent of our apps are due to customer innovation,” says Corporate Marketing Director Rochelle Thompson.
Maybe this move to a more collective thought process is just a reification of a reality we can’t see. Nobel physicist Erwin Schrödinger reportedly asserted that in fact we are all just part of the same large universal consciousness.
If that’s true, perhaps I will still be connected to all of you when—after 21 years—I disconnect from the ASIS hive mind this month to explore other planes of existence.