Star Trek: The Next Generation aired its final episode in 1994, the year before I got my first e-mail address. Watching it again over the last couple of months, I’ve had moments when I didn’t intuitively know whose future I was supposed to be imagining. I mean, series lore suggests that we, the current denizens of Federation Sector 001, Sol System, are going to grow up to become the self-reliant, fencing-class-taking, light-to-casual computer-employers of 24th century. On the other hand, I’ve seen a race of electronically linked humanoids who share information in a vast decentralized net to which they all have access; who see data as a kind of neutral atmosphere, like air; who use technology to share thoughts and impressions at all times; who are never out of contact with one another; and who react to the briefest removal from their shared consciousness with an itchy, frantic eagerness (cf. “Hugh”) to get back. Remind you of anyone? They fly around in giant cubes and occasionally wipe out whole civilizations, like Apple Maps.
I have no idea whether the heroic (but responsible!) individualism of the Enterprise crew is a relic, a quaint throwback that was already being assimilated by the Internet while Star Trek was busy articulating it, or whether the kind of humanism Captain Picard represents can survive the transition to online culture more intact than TNG wants us to think. Part of me desperately wants to believe the latter. But The Next Generation is 25 years old, and what I’m certain of is this: I am Locutus of Borg. Resistance is futile. And — another part of me wants to add — oh, God, make it so.