The Borg are one of the most fearsome adversaries in the “Star Trek” universe. The species was first introduced in the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” episode “Q Who?” The god-like entity Q was determined to show the crew of the Enterprise that they weren’t truly prepared to face what they’d find while exploring deep space.
To prove his point, Q sent the ship across the galaxy, directly in the path of a Borg Cube. The Borg were so technologically advanced because of their practice of assimilating other species that the Enterprise was completely overwhelmed. Q had to rescue the ship, thus proving his point that they were woefully unprepared for the trials of space exploration. Since then, the Borg have appeared in nearly 40 episodes of “Star Trek” and were the main antagonists in the TNG movie “Star Trek: First Contact.”
Though the Borg episodes are some of the best in the Trek franchise, some fans think there’s a major plot hole in the stories about the Borg and the Federation.
The Borg are capable of wiping out entire species and decimating planets. They’ve done this myriad times, throughout multiple galaxies. So, why haven’t the Borg assimilated humanity? And why have their attempts to do so been so half-hearted?
The Farming Humanity Theory
Several hardcore Trekkers have put forth the theory that the Borg don’t actually want to assimilate humanity because they’re “farming” the species. There are several variations on this theory, which has been circulating in fandom forums for many years. The basic premise of the theory is that the Borg have determined it’s more beneficial to them to allow humanity to advance on its own because they continue to develop new technologies.
The entire mission of the Borg is to become perfect beings. They assimilate different species in order to absorb their collective knowledge and possess their technological and scientific advancements. When the Borg encounter a species or a society that has something they want, the Borg add their “biological and technological distinctiveness to [their] own.” This helps them advance as a species, and they believe it helps the species they assimilated to become more perfect.
Assumably, humanity would be a perfect target for assimilation. The Borg have shown special interest in humanity several times since they first encountered humans. However, every attempt they’ve made to assimilate humanity as a whole was fairly lackluster. The two times they made a real attempt to assimilate Earth, they only sent one ship to complete the mission.
Why would they do this when they have countless ships across the galaxies and technology far beyond humanity’s? Because they want humans to continue developing new technologies.
Nearly every version of the “farming” theory proposes that sometimes the Borg encounter species that show great promise in terms of technological advancement. Instead of assimilating these species upon encountering them, the Borg decide to let them continue advancing so they can assimilate all the new technologies the species develops.
If this is the case, then why not leave humanity alone altogether until they’re ripe for assimilation? There are a few possible answers.
One is that the Borg act as an antagonist for humanity in order to further technological development. Societies that believe they’re under constant threat put a lot of resources into research and development, especially in the weapons industry. So, the Borg continue to threaten the humans to force them into technological advancements.
Another theory is that the Borg are slowly integrating humanity’s collective knowledge by assimilating hundreds or thousands of humans at a time. While they allow humanity as a whole to survive to continue producing new technology, the Borg must assimilate some humans to integrate the knowledge they’ve already developed. So, the Borg attack humanity in order to get a “software update” of the technology humans have recently produced.
Why it Makes Sense
This theory makes a lot of sense, especially because the Borg definitely have the resources to assimilate humanity. In TNG, Guinan established that almost the entire El-Aurian species was wiped out by the Borg. In “Star Trek: Voyager” an alien named Arturis said that when the Borg attacked his planet they sent 800 ships and wiped out nearly everyone.
They also had the access to assimilate humanity. The series finale of “Voyager” confirmed that the Borg had a transwarp conduit just a few lightyears away from Earth. They could have sent a massive fleet of cubes and spheres through that conduit and bombarded Earth before Starfleet could even mobilize a defense. But they never did.
This is hard to explain without a good reason why the Borg would want to keep humans around, and farming them for resources is definitely a good reason.
The Holes in the Theory
Though the “farming” theory is solid, it’s definitely not perfect. Some fans believe that the Borg wouldn’t have any need to farm humanity for their technological developments. On several occasions, the Borg revealed that their technologies were far superior to human technologies. These fans point out that humanity is unlikely to produce anything truly interesting to the Borg because they’ve already assimilated such advanced technology.
Fans also assert that the Borg are perfectly capable of their own research and development, as evidenced by their work on the Omega Molecule. Though they gain a lot of their knowledge and technology through assimilation, they also expand upon what they learn during that process. So, it doesn’t make much sense that they’d let another species continue to develop just to gain access to their research and development.
Perhaps the best argument against the farming theory is that the ex-Borgs, some of whom are members of Starfleet, would know about the farming theory. As one fan pointed out, Seven of Nine likely would have known about the Borg’s humanity-farming project since she was a part of the Collective from a very young age.
To expand on that, “Star Trek: Picard” has established that even humans who were drones for a relatively short period of time, like Captain Picard, have extensive knowledge about the Collective. If that were true, then every ex-Borg who escaped the Collective, including Picard and Hugh, would know about the farming plot. If that’s true, there’s no way they would have kept that knowledge from Starfleet and the Federation.
Some fans have argued that some knowledge was kept from drones that didn’t serve a special function in the Collective. There is some precedent for this in the “Star Trek” canon. However, canon also implies that every drone knows the same things because of the collective consciousness. So, whether or not Seven, Picard, and Hugh knew about the farming of humanity really depends on how the Borg’s collective consciousness works, and that has never been fully clarified.
Though there are some holes in the farming theory, it’s still a very good explanation for why the Borg have yet to wipe out humanity. Maybe the second season of Picard will give some new information to confirm or deny this theory.
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