In a sci-fi setting, suppose there is a species that has a very strong cybernetic enhancement, to the point where they can actually form a kind of pseudo-hive-mind, while still retaining their individuality and being able to disconnect from such a system at will. (Or form smaller, isolated clusters.)

This way, they can access an enormous amount of brainpower and ideas, and they can quickly reach a joint consensus (or at the very least agree that they disagree very quickly), and they can rely on each other's wisdom at any time.

Now, this would imply that members of this species are nearly-omniscient. How do you avoid this from becoming something that they can apply to every situation and completely overpower every challenge or other species that they face?

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    $\begingroup$ Call it 4chan, and you're set. $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Jul 22 '16 at 15:25
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    $\begingroup$ reminds me of our world, and the counter is propaganda warfare, where people use puesdo-hivemind to spread false information, leaders or false prophets would use divide and conquer. Thus unless there is a common enemy most of them just fight with each other. $\endgroup$ – Chinu Jul 22 '16 at 15:51
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    $\begingroup$ Sounds somewhat like the Gaia society in the Foundation series by Asimov, except with added cybernetics. The end goal there was exactly to overpower all challenges as the only way to avoid eventual annihilation. $\endgroup$ – Mad Physicist Jul 22 '16 at 18:47
  • $\begingroup$ @SerbanTanasa Don't call it 4chan. They already have the power to manipulate governments, just by sharing text and images. Give them a hive-mind, and they can destroy the world. $\endgroup$ – wizzwizz4 Jul 23 '16 at 12:03
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    $\begingroup$ Has being this kind of cybernetic creature eliminated political differences and such like? Because if not, the hive mind will occasionally debate a question where they will NOT agree to disagree. They'll just keep shouting their own individual viewpoints forevermore. For instance, the referendum on Scottish Independence and the referendum on EU Brexit both had results pretty close to 50:50. Recriminations, finger pointing and argument is still going on. Your hive mind could be paralysed with indecision. $\endgroup$ – DrBob Jul 23 '16 at 19:30

12 Answers 12


Being in a hive mind is not easy. There's a lot of brainpower that goes towards it. You have to structure your mind to leverage it. As a result, it is very easy to lose localized awareness, so it is more likely you will miss something you are seeing with your own two eyeballs. This effect could be crippling, especially if the technology is new enough that their society isn't helping them filter all that hivemind data.

Take, for instance, our own hive mind. If you really look at it, the internet is really a hive mind. I mean, here I am sitting at my desk, helping StackExchange join a consensus about hive minds. (Turtles all the way down, I tell you). Now there is a definite difference in magnitude here. My ability to use my eyes and fingers to interact with you would be dwarfed by the bandwidth of a cybernetic enhancement, but the principles are similar enough that we can put forth some good theories on how the hive mind could work based on how the internet has affected us.

One of the defining aspects of the internet's affect on us is just how much more data we have to process. Filtering becomes a major challenge. It used to be that your understanding of national affairs came to you filtered by your newspaper editors. It was short, conciseness, and fit on a few square meters of paper every day. Now we are inundated with information. The same event on a national scene now appears in 5 different newspapers, 4 trending articles, a facebook feed, and your twitter account blows up.

And therin lies the rub. If you have more information coming in, you naturally have to process the data less. More importantly, that information is now very delocalized. Before the internet, most of the information you got was put in a frame of reference based on who or what is around you. We noticed things more. We simply weren't too busy trying to make sense of events on an extraordinary scale.

Take police violence, and I'll do my very best to just stick to the facts and avoid opinions. According to one website, police killed 1,152 people. That includes both justified and unjustified homicides (aka murders). When numbers like that come across your desk, your brain has to process what to do with it. 1,152 is close to the mythical 1,500 people which is supposedly the number of faces you can recognize and associate to a name. That's a lot of bodies!

However, that number is on a large scale. The population of the US in 2015 was 321,442,019, per the census bureau. That means 0.000358% of people died at the hands of police that year. That's a tiny fraction!

What are we to do? One number is massive, one number is tiny. Which one do we want to pay attention to? Say we got one number from twitter and one from Facebook. They're actually the same fact, just phrased differently. Well, maybe we can phrase it in terms of "small towns." We're used to the idea that in a small town, everybody knows everybody, so our gut instincts regarding how bad things are in those small towns tends to be reasonable. Let's say a town of 10000 (the largest it can be by Alabama state law before it is renamed to be a "city"). Scaling these numbers for a town of 2000 people gives us 0.0358 deaths/year from police violence or one death every 28 years.

So I just spent three paragraphs playing with just a single number. One result made it huge, one result made it small, and the other made it some murky number in the middle that would make you pay attention to who you elect as Sheriff of your town. I guarantee you that no matter how you work with those numbers, I can go cobble together a different form of the same number to throw your thinking back into dissonance. There's a reason that particular topic is an issue of national debate in the US at this very moment.

Now, let's take a new scenario. I'm 15 feet away from you, and I'm tossing what appears to be a small heavy ball up and down. I then throw it at you. How long does it take you to forget this discussion of Sheriffs and national death rates and respond?

How did you respond? Did you dodge? Did you try to catch it? Did you flinch? I said the ball appears to be heavy... what did that look like? It's impossible to tell the density of an object from its appearance. How'd you know how emphatically to respond to my actions? The answer is that you were subconsciously observing all of my body language while I was tossing the ball to myself. You might not have even been paying attention to me, but your subconscious was taking inventory of everything in the area. You would watch how I catch the ball, making estimates about how a human body bends and flexes under different loads. All of this was subconscious until I threw the ball and something woke you up and said "that incoming fast thing is heavy."

You might not have even respond properly. We used to be better at such localized estimations. When we weren't busy preparing to deal with the cognitive dissonance of all of these national and global scale numbers, our brain was more geared towards dealing with local issues facing them day to day. It's simply a matter of training. We spend more time paying attention to the national scale numbers, so we develop that side of our capabilities more.

To see that taken even further, consider the abilities of a tracker, especially a native one to the country. They can see things in the brush that we aren't even aware are there and use them to find what they are tracking. We've simply practiced that skill less and practiced the national level information filtering more.

So as a result, I would expect these cyborgs to have much less of a situation awareness, because they have spent more of their time developing the ability to understand the larger scene. They would make up for this with things like sensor fusion. If two cyborgs can look at the same scene from different angles, they can fuse the data, and hide the fact that they weren't processing everything they could have.

Which leads to an interesting twist to your original problem. Even if they can technically detach from the hivemind at any time they want, they may not want to. It may be humbling to see just how little you are capable of without access to the hive. They may even start developing excuses as to why they want to stay connected to hide the reality that they feel useless and helpless.

In Time's Eye by Clarke and Baxter, there was a group of people who were transported in time, and this problem reminded me of their plight. In that era, they carried around a small computer (smart phone?) which was always connected to a global grid. That small computer had an artificial intelligence that helped the humans work with this information overload. At one point after they were transported, now cut off from the grid, a human commented how frustrating it was, how helpless they felt without access to all the information from the grid.

The AI's response: "How do you think I feel?"

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    $\begingroup$ I wish I could upvote this more than once. $\endgroup$ – GrandmasterB Jul 22 '16 at 17:32
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    $\begingroup$ "10000 ... largest in Alabama before being renamed a city" - so... does Alabama know where the disaster menu is to summon Godzilla, too? $\endgroup$ – corsiKa Jul 22 '16 at 17:52
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    $\begingroup$ "one death every 28 years." which is huge. Every generation knows of one person killed that way, and in 2000 people, that means it's either someone you know or someone you heard of. $\endgroup$ – njzk2 Jul 22 '16 at 18:37
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    $\begingroup$ @njzk2 or someone you heard of. yeah, and probably, in most cases, you will wonder why did't that happened earlier with that person, if everything ok with police in your town. For one of those, you know 20 who died because of car crash, some from age, some from drinking and swimming, some are Darwin nominee, etc. Death is around us every day. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jul 22 '16 at 23:10
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    $\begingroup$ I'm pretty sure that Cort doesn't want to get into the issue of trying to size up these numbers. It was just one example with a couple different perspectives to show how much effort we spend analyzing the numbers. Trying to add more analysis is really off-topic here, although it does confirm Cort's point. Good answer. $\endgroup$ – jpmc26 Jul 23 '16 at 15:55

You have quite a few options open to you. I'd take a mix of them.

I'll assume that the species is human all but the cybernetic enhancement as a base point, and I'll also assume the brain is control of the cybernetics and not the other way around.


Ever wanted to get an app, but found out that it was for the other guy (Android or iOS), and you couldn't download it because it wasn't compatible with your phone's operating system?

Now imagine if you have millions of brains, each with variations of the same patterns, being affected since birth. The way one person thinks, considers, or remembers something (even as overtly as if they use mnemonics or not) won't be the same as virtually everyone else; it'll always be different. So there's going to be overhead for every brain (or cybernetic implant) to try to sort out and adjust the input/output.

Personal Bias

Even if the information is adjusted so thoughts can be transmitted, on a more macro level people just process and think about the world differently. Political views, incorrect assumptions, personalities... the list goes on.

Signal Noise and Resource Competition

Sure, you might tap into the resources of my brain, but I'm currently trying to read a book, or impress this girl, or I'm dreaming of canine FBI agents interrogating me in my underwear in my childhood home. Unless the other people you're tapping into are brain dead, they're going to be using their own brains as well. This is both going to alter the path neurons take for your processing, but also bottleneck your performance when you tap into my brain.


Well I don't suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it! ...But those networked to my brain might not enjoy it. Insanity isn't an off-on thing, and it's shades of gray. How tight do you want the screening process to be to not provide "bad brains" in the mix? Can a screening process be tight enough? What do you even define as a "bad brain?" You're going to have less-than-optimal processing and altered memories...

Overhead with routing

You can't get something for nothing. Simply seeking out a brain at all is going to take processing overhead, and then finding the brain with the specific memory, skill or thought process you want is going to be another issue. Does the implant just wildly search around, trying to connect to brains and then performing a search on the gray matter for approximate hits? Do you have to dedicate people to being brain meta-data sources, so people have to connect to them as some sort of Google or phone book? "Hello, I need to know information on how to properly run a mile in a forest if I'm out of shape and barefoot. Where might I find this information?"

Processing Time

So I was considering what to eat this morning. Took me about five minutes to do so; I weighed my options, looked at what I had, tried to recall what time I'd be having lunch today... and so on. Even if a million brains could communicate at the speed of thought... the speed of thought isn't that fast. If a million brains are all trying to agree on a single breakfast to eat, they all need to sort through what options they all have access to and what all of their plans for the day are, compare and share...

...And not one of the brains can hold all of that information at once, so it becomes a logistical problem on how to store that thought process and share it on such a macro level.

Obviously they won't be needing to agree on a singular breakfast, but the same concept carriers over to other topics. How about a trade agreement? Military action? There's too much for one brain to store, and even if one brain still could hold it, thinking just takes time, and you can't get around that.

  • $\begingroup$ Pretty sure google already knows what resources they would tap in my brain if they could. If we had the technology to interface with the brain, I think indexing would be the least of our technical hurdles, considering how well we organize it already. $\endgroup$ – corsiKa Jul 22 '16 at 17:54
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    $\begingroup$ Hmmm not entirely sure about that @corsika. I mean i'm no neurologist so i may be entirely wrong there... But i was under the impression our brain doesn't index the same way AT ALL. So not sure how the hive mind would "re index" our thoughts, which may take a while $\endgroup$ – Patrice Jul 22 '16 at 21:47
  • $\begingroup$ good that you collected all those points. All of them have solutions, as I know, for last one - I weighed the possibilities - Monte Carlo democracy in action, as we do it now, just faster and more precise. Also different approaches not necessary exclude each other. Even if you active at war, it do not denies piece negotiation. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jul 22 '16 at 22:45
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    $\begingroup$ @Patrice it doesn't need to index our thoughts. It just needs to index what thoughts we're likely to have. Instead of sending the thought request to 10,000,000,000 other brains, when you need thoughts about Mountain Dew it sends the thought request to the 100,000 most likely Mountain Dew oriented candidates (after taking into consideration load balancing.) That indexing is easy. $\endgroup$ – corsiKa Jul 22 '16 at 23:05
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    $\begingroup$ @corsika but.. For the computer to know who are the 100 000 mountain dew minded people... It needs to already have such an index of our thoughts, no? (I am okay with just it being hand waved away with "superior tech".... But at some point a computer will need to map a human thoughts... And my basic understanding of neurology makes me believe this is going to be virtually impossible) $\endgroup$ – Patrice Jul 24 '16 at 13:32

Impose some limits on this ability.

  • The radio waves used for communication between members of the hivemind deteriorate beyond the allowed margin after 1AU (Due to the complexity and speed of the transmitted information the wave has been modulated very tightly and only allows for a small margin of error). This makes it unusable in interplanetary contexts.
  • The method of transimission is vulnerable to simple jamming by their enemies and can therefore not be used well in hostile situations.
  • Other species can use a man-in-the-middle attack to inject false information into the hivemind, which makes it unreliable.
  • The hivemind method is inefficient if used with multiple critical situations at once. If the species is attacked on three fronts at the same time the "discussions" regarding optimal actions get mixed up with one another and suddenly you find that fleet A, which is trying to defend the home planet, starts retreating instead of fleet B, which was attacking an enemy outpost and fleet C launches a suicidal attack against the well-defended enemy's home planet instead of fleet A which was only being attacked by a small contingent.
  • The method of transmission is subject to the speed of light: in interplanetary situations it takes minutes for any reaction to be broadcast to the rest of the hivemind, in that time the discussion has already moved along. In interplanetary situations it takes years, decades or millennia for the transmission to get broadcast, which is obviously not very convenient.

Or compensate with other factors

  • This species lives in a part of the galaxy with very little [useful resource] and therefore is very limitated in the scope of what it can build. (e.g. Something used to power their reactors, which means their fleet of warships is limited to <100 ships)
  • $\begingroup$ Their enemies might not just jam the communication. They might take advantage of it. If their enemies are of the same specie that are in internal conflicts with others of the species you wouldn't want information too easily shared and reached. So in civil wars, coups, hostile takeovers, etc etc would not take full advantage of the larger shared mind. $\endgroup$ – EveryBitHelps Jul 22 '16 at 15:42
  • $\begingroup$ @EveryBitHelps that is a good point but it seemed to me like the OP was asking about intaractions with species who don't have this advantage. If you give an overpowered weapon to everyone it is no longer overpowered. $\endgroup$ – Annonymus Jul 22 '16 at 15:44
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    $\begingroup$ If this is a shared consciousness kind of thing, i would expect the maximum acceptable lag to be more in the range of 3 microseconds (puts you roughly within a kilometer), not a little over 8 minutes (1 AU). Beyond that it seems like it would only be suitable for static transmission of information rather than shared-mind level of communication. You might get a city center to engage in sharing brainpower, but beyond that it would be more akin to speaking back and forth than a hive-mind. $\endgroup$ – pluckedkiwi Jul 22 '16 at 15:50
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    $\begingroup$ @pluckedkiwi you're right, I didn't even consider the time it takes for the transmission to arrive at the other end, but this still leaves the possibility of requesting help from the home planet. e.g. General Alice sends "Help. We're under attack. This is the situation. Recommended actions?". 8 minutes later (she's half an AU away) she receives the answer "We have evaluated your sitiation. Optimal resolution of the situation can be achieved by taking these actions:..." $\endgroup$ – Annonymus Jul 22 '16 at 15:55
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    $\begingroup$ @Annonymus, if you gave an overpowered weapon to everyone, doesn't make it any less overpowered(think nukes), just less likely to be used and therefore maybe less 'dangerous'. Mutually assured destruction. But I do get your point. I was just adding an extra sidenote for the OP in relation to your answer as I didn't have full answer for myself - you are welcome to add it to your answer if you want... $\endgroup$ – EveryBitHelps Jul 22 '16 at 15:58
  • I'm basing my ideas on the following definition taken from Wikipedia. This means a hive mind is essentially one being in multiple bodies, while individuals using a mental internet like structure to communicate and exchange knowledge is not a hive mind.

A group mind, hive mind, group ego, mind coalescence, or gestalt intelligence in science fiction is a single, collective consciousness or intelligence occupying many bodies or entities

  • I'm considering humans, not an unnamed species. Most other answers do that too, only without admitting it.
  • I'm assuming the implant makes for a really hive-like connection in the sense that it's all or nothing - you share everything you think, or you stay offline and there are no filtering walls to keep secrets or ways to fake a personality - there is no way to lie to the hive, although of course you may believe untrue things. This may be technologically justified by saying that it's much easier to connect minds and to create new ones or really understand what is going on.
  • I did an evolutionary approach because I find them comparatively easy.
  • I assume the thoughts travel at the speed of light and the beings are close enough so that the delay isn't much more than 1ms (i.e. little compared to reaction time of the individuals). At the end I think a little about longer delays which could be caused by huge distances or by slower transmission speeds.

Say one generation of adults gets those implants for the first time. Happy couples may use it, some even full time, others maybe during sex, or for calling home. Very close friends might also use it to communicate. Other than that, people mostly won't use it because it exposes too much of their thoughts. Certainly no one would connect to a world wide net because any malicious person could do them great harm.

Those people who heavily use it (like said couples) will probably within a few years at most be incapable of separating from the system - it would be like amputating a large part of their brain, they would feel incredibly alone and might just die from loneliness and mourning.

After this at the latest there would start to be regulations about minimum ages, maximum connection times and such. A hive police would be created which consists of police officers hooked up to public hives, listening for malicious thoughts. This would be absolutely necessary to protect those daring to connect to public hives, but would certainly also be used to enforce all other laws - no one could hook up to a public hive who committed any crime. This would probably cause widespread protests about some laws which are routinely broken, so those would sooner or later be abolished. Justice systems may force people to connect to find out whether they committed crimes, or offer the possibility to convicted people so they can prove their innocence if there was a mistake.

Tyrannies may try to force their people to connect to a hive used for indoctrination and surveillance, but this would be more difficult to pull off than it seems at first - people might ask the dictators to connect too, and they couldn't because this would destroy their propaganda lies. But if done correctly, they could indoctrinate people in the old fashioned way first and use extremist honest followers as the base for their hive, to influence their people, but it would be difficult to steer. On top of this they couldn't abduct or torture anyone because they would just open their mind to the world and everyone would see the truth.

I think in the long run it would bring about peace and tolerance - say in a war the civilians being killed could use their implants to broadcast their pain. This would absolutely poison any global hive and anyone connected to it would become as anti-war as possible. But on a smaller scale this would help society too: Nobody would dare hit or rape someone because the victim could broadcast their distress (just for a split second if they are hive-skeptical, as long as during that time they make sure to think about where they are and what is happening). On an even smaller scale, a bullying victim in school would sooner or later prove to some teacher what is happening (without risk of being called a liar or exaggerating or even having to make an effort).

The friendlier society (that is, people with hive implants) became, the more people would be inclined to use their implants. For example I absolutely can't imagine first or even second generation users doing hive-speed-dating to find their soul mate. But sooner or later I could imagine people using this as the primary way to find partners - just connect to each other for an hour or two and they'll have a good idea whether they are for each other or not.

I think the acceptance would slowly rise, society changing. Some extremist (or maybe call them brave and open minded) subgroups would form hive-minds from the beginning. From maybe three to five people up, I could imagine that they then could survive if a member died or left. Those real non individual hive groups would slowly grow and become more powerful, because essentially they would never die, they would just accumulate more and more experience, slowly phasing out old bodies and integrating new ones. Their growth rate would probably be limited though: Too many minds would surely overload the brains of the members. But after a couple of years of full time connection, those minds would merge and form a single hive-mind, which then probably could accommodate new members. But for those new members to connect not to other people but to, say, a 200 year old hive mind who already integrated 15 persons, would probably be a frightening or at least very strange experience, which would limit the amount of people wanting to do it.

I think the proportion of hive mind integrated people versus people who still have individuality would slowly change to more hive minds (because those are advantaged) until the individualists are a tolerated (and quite possibly dependent) minority. Not all hive minds would merge to only one, because they might have philosophical differences too strong to overcome (say a christian hive mind versus an agnostic atheist one, or a fundamentally conservative one versus one in love of change, whatever). This may seem like an explosive combination, but unless the hive minds are extremist and refuse to connect to their opponents for discussion, they would probably still understand each other enough to avoid hurting each other. Such extremist or crazy hive minds would surely come into existence, but would sooner or later be killed or dissolved (if the latter is even possible) or incarcerated (and banned from integrating new people).

This state, of maybe hundreds or thousands of hive minds and a couple of millions of individualists (who use hives, but limit their time in it enough to stay individuals) in billions of bodies seems stable to me. The in-between one of a majority of hive mind implants plus individuality not.

So if I wanted to write a story in the between state, I would put it in the middle of the development, before the large true hives form a significant group of the population, but a couple of generations after the implants were invented.

But even in the state of fully developed hive-society, they wouldn't be omniscient. The speed of reaction of the individual bodies wouldn't improve. They couldn't understand their environment much faster because this is limited by the sensory organs. If you want to limit them, don't give them sensory implants and maybe add a fantasy touch to the hive implants to make it more plausible that hive implants are possible but sensory improvements not. If a hive mind set 100 bodies to a task, they would be much more efficient at it than a 100 bodies communicating ordinarily, but every optimization has its limits, they wouldn't be stronger or faster or anything, just coordinated.

Make the speed of thought transmission considerably slower than light and you seriously limit the maximum size of a hive. This would mean that the hives couldn't do too much space travel without becoming less powerful. With information exchange speeds too low (say speed of sound) a hive mind couldn't even encompass the whole Earth. They would have the same problem as a dinosaur where it takes like half a second for a command from the brain to reach the tail (I made that number up, but I know they had the problem and some had kind of independent movement systems and extended "reflexes" because of it).

To illustrate: If the delay is 1ms, and an individual who has been integrated into a large hive speaks, then it's the whole hive who decides what is being said, who hears the reply and then speaks again. When the individual runs, all of their sensations reach the hive and the hive can control the running, improving the technique of the individual, drawing upon the experience of say an ultra runner who was absorbed.

If the delay is an hour, then the individual may know how the ultra runner feels when running, but will have a different length of legs, less muscles, etc., which makes it considerably harder to integrate the experience and make it their own. And the process of integrating it would need to be done without immediate help from the hive because the hive only learns about it an hour later. With a delay of an hour, when an individual hears something, they will need to assimilate it on their own and when they answer it wouldn't be the answer of the hive but their own, because the hive wouldn't know about it yet.

I don't think hives would even form under those circumstances, people would keep their individuality. With fixed, relatively low transmission speeds that means there would be some center of the hive, where many individuals would stay as close to each other as possible (so the delay is short and they can form a hive) and someone who walks away from it would develop individuality over time as delay increased. The hive may obligate all its members to regularly join the center of it for a while to update their mind with the current views of the hive (and integrate their views in exchange).

Sending a member far away say on a space mission would carry the risk of losing them because the thoughts they receive would largely ignore them (because they are old and don't reflect the thoughts of the individual), they would probably feel more like something external, some video feed, rather than their own thoughts. A space traveller (or a group of them, kind of a sub hive) could learn that the hive is wrong about something (maybe even fundamentally wrong) and if they are far away it could take years for the hive to receive that information and then years again before the space faring hive would receive acknowledgment about it. During that time, the thoughts of the hive would certainly feel wrong.

  • $\begingroup$ delay is not so crucial, it affect different information differently, this way different tasks are processed differently. atm 45 min delay and I'm ok with that. Even without delay in communication, it's not necessary to all power of give mind to solve the question where is my fork, I'll find thanks. Begin of A isn't so good but after that more or less reasonable. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jul 23 '16 at 0:07
  • $\begingroup$ Sure it is. If delay is 1ms, then your thoughts and the thoughts of the others are more or less the same, you react to their stimuli and vice versa, thoughts flow back and forth. If delay is 45 minutes, a simple yes/no question takes 1,5 hours. With a delay of 45 minutes, the two beings will never merge, they will need to retain quite some autonomy: if they have a conversation with someone, it's not the hive who talks because the hive only knows about it 45 minutes later. $\endgroup$ – Nobody Jul 23 '16 at 9:08
  • $\begingroup$ @MolbOrg I added some details about the problems of delay towards the end of my answer. $\endgroup$ – Nobody Jul 23 '16 at 9:40
  • $\begingroup$ makes 2400 years delay communication with Diogenes of Sinope less usefull, do not think so. Although what you have added clarify our perception of hive mind better. You have valid points in your answer. But thinking about HM as system which allows to read everything for any member about any member in network, even if it is possible, this is not what makes hivemind as hivemind, my opinion. I try to base my representation of HM on how our neuron's work, how our brains working, how insect and animal swarms working. Your system is too fragile, it needs too special environment to work. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jul 23 '16 at 11:23
  • $\begingroup$ I have to admit I have trouble understanding your comment. Maybe using whole sentences or justifying your assertions would help. If the speed of light is too slow for you then make the information travel faster and ignore how it would mess up physics. $\endgroup$ – Nobody Jul 23 '16 at 12:43


Some members of this civilization hates the hive-mind, and forms their own system where they can live on their own. Time passes, and being the minority, being the ones that can't "rule" starts to bother them, but they move on and live with that. Until one day, two or three of them decides to attack the majority with both physical and psychological meanings, aiming to destroy the ability of forming hive-mind forever.

During the war, the rebels realise that they can scramble the comminucation between members of hive, and force disconnect individuals from network by willpower.

But they couldn't shutdown the network completely, since they don't have enough willpower to force disconnect every single individual from hive-mind.

Jammer Technology

Another civilization developed a technology that can force disconnect a targeted individual from the hive-mind, or all individuals in an area-of-impact when applied as a bomb.

However, the technology wasn't powerful enough to shutdown the network completely, since individuals could reconnect to network after a certain amount of time.


Your assessment that they are "nearly-omniscient" is false. Omniscience is a theological concept that cannot be obtained in reality.

Since you say each member is the species still has individual thought and therefore still makes their own decisions. Access and use of this powerful brain collective is no different than humans using supercomputers. The smartest human scientists, with the most powerful supercomputers at their disposal, still cannot agree on just about anything. Take the internet, most people on Earth can access a wealth of ideas and knowledge, yet there is always two or more polarizing views on everything. Liberals and conservatives, creationists and evolutionists, etc, etc.

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    $\begingroup$ absolutely agree. Any kind of Hive mind for a species that did not naturally evolve it is going to be too overwhelming and impossible to coordinate. Its pesudoness will basically be The ability to connect and browse the internet in our brain, though on a higher level than our computers can. We can ask others for wisdom and advice, but like the internet/text messaging now, it will be very delayed, and only reach a small group of people. Broadcasts would be devastating to individuals and overwhelm the system just like the current internet. $\endgroup$ – Ryan Jul 22 '16 at 16:57
  • $\begingroup$ no need to agree. You cant agree on each idea exists, just not enough information in most cases. And those who agree on particular idea, their goal to investigate this idea, and those who critique it, their goal to show weak points. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jul 22 '16 at 22:29
  • $\begingroup$ That why there was a "nearly" prefixed to it, to show that he wasn't talking about the theoretical concept (which is not theological per so although it's often used in connection with deities). $\endgroup$ – Nobody Jul 23 '16 at 21:19

When the Internet was first being conceived, it was a dream by many of the people involved that it would help to bring humanity closer together. In many ways that is true, but it also has served to deepen the divide between people.

Since these beings will still possess some individuality, this network would most likely become very cliquey. There would be separate factions or cells which would have vastly differing opinions. It would be nearly impossible to know what kind of space politics they would be interested in, but rest assured that there will be many differing opinions.

These beings would become cemented in their ideas, and would be quite idealistic. Individuals which refuse to drink the "kool-aid" would be separated from the herd and be culled. Expect there to be intense competition between different groups, as well as internal struggles.

Assuming that there would be human contact, there would be some groups in support of us, while there would also be enemies. There would also be groups which are completely impartial to humans. The size and power of these groups can vary dramatically, and the organization between them can be vastly different as well.

These factions would most likely try to isolate their signals from outside groups, but on occasion, they could meet to work out treaties, etc. Since there would be competition between these beings, it would greatly diminish the ability for one group to completely take power.

  • $\begingroup$ Willing to kill person and to help him - do not exclude each other. It form maybe different type of actions that each of those feeling alone, but they are not mutually exclusive. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jul 22 '16 at 23:21

Thier enemies could have weapons designed to Target then maybe some form of computer virus that separates them from the collective.

Or to maintain their connection to that collectively have to be within a certain range of each other. This would limit their movements as if they were too far away they lose their connection The Collective.

Or Certain information is "classified" and withheld to all but certain specialist in the collective. Think of it like websites but it can't be accessed about a certain password. In the same way a certain information be closed off for most of the collective, only accessible to a few.

Or maybe so dependent on the information stored in the collective that they have a hard time dealing with things that aren't stored there. For example if so used to knowing everything that they can't imagine that one of the enemies has a secret weapon that none of the rest of their Collective has can encounter and therefore will not be stored in their data banks. Because of their lack of imagination they are overconfident and are caught off guard by the new weapon.

  • $\begingroup$ lack of imagination not good part, accessing internet (which is information) sometimes demands imagination to be useful, just because of peoples difference, like right now. Also s/range love each other/range from each other/ probably, as I imagine. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jul 22 '16 at 22:17
  • $\begingroup$ @MolbOrg it's not so much lack of imagination as it is overconfident, that causes lack of imagination in certain areas. Like Wolverine for example it never stops to imagine what would happen if one of his enemies is secretly hiding some kind of unknown weapon that can kill him, he just charges and starts killing people because how many have tried and failed to kill him that he has hard time imagining that one day one of them will succeed. $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure Jul 23 '16 at 2:56
  • $\begingroup$ I see you point, but I see it differently. To answer some questions, I heavily use internet as database for information I do not remember or just for checking if I remember it correctly, or in finding some pieces which I not familiar with but I need in the moment. In mountains I can identify any rock with internet help by asking someone, even estimate probability finding valuable resources, it will take more time, I'm not geologist. I'm overconfident, maybe, do I overestimate my personal capabilities - no so much. Working with information is a skill, and yes it might not help sometimes. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jul 23 '16 at 4:25
  • $\begingroup$ it might fail, but for other reason, then you mention both in answer and in comment. Movie and wolverine - horrible example)) I would kill him in no time, without mutant powers.(whole move crap in that sense) - but any way I see your point, potability to fail is always in game, you just accept that, in reasonable manner, people who do not are like paranoids, there always place for error and there are ways to handle that, with backup plans etc. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jul 23 '16 at 4:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It looks like we have lingo barrier here, from both sides. I still feel like I understand what U talking about, and still disagree with cause, but no disagreement in outcome(yes the are not all knowing creatures), they may fail. IDK, probably it is not so much important overall, if result is the same. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jul 23 '16 at 5:52

I would hasten to add that a major drawback would be a dramatic loss of perspective.

The individual would be rendered differently in time and space and existing outwith the hive might lead to anxiety and panic, as well as a huge psychological change in appreciation for co-existing in the moment - he/she(n/a) will likely find the passage of a second a huge waste of time.


How do you avoid this from becoming something that they can apply to every situation and completely overpower every challenge or other species that they face?

Give then challenge good enough.
Yes, we are not totally hivemind, and it's not so easy to imagine challenge or situation, without thinking about details of a potencial situation.

But for our future and our future generations it's better and more fruitful not to nerf hivemind, but investigate their strength and weakness.

They could be our future, or they could be our enemies - in both cases, it's good to know weaknesses to avoid or to exploit.

Hivemind isn't god. If you see them as a perfect creature, it just means that your perception of how they work is wrong. Some are excited about it as some sort of personal immortality - they are wrong too. It's the same kind of immortality as to say you will live in your children, yes to some extent that's true. Or it is the same as to say, humanity is immortal, yes, at some extent per aspera ad astra.

Investigate, and create them through challenges. It's not enough just to say they will do that easy because they are hivemind, but how they do that, how exactly they will do that. We can't think the same way and at the same speed as computers do, but we investigate code, we test code, we create code through testing, debug it etc - it takes time, huge time compared to execution but still we can understand that code.

Information exchange speed limitation - 1c, is a pretty reasonable limitation. Less not needed, faster there are other challenges in terms of understanding how they may work (more pure algorithms stuff).

You will find inspiration here Swarm intelligence - most examples do exactly what hive mind have to do, processing information bigger than they can fit in their individual brains, with a low(limited) bandwidth of data channel, and low(limited) speed of data transfer and processing.

Also, databases algorithms about optimizing data storage and reduction of time access to data can be inspiring too.

P2P decisions making and data storage's, as an example well-known bitcoins - they are working model of such system. The diversity of tasks is limited, but the vector of such systems and their fusion in one system could be applied to decision making and task solving in a more complex environment.

Processing thoughts is also a matter of optimization. I'm not sure that entire internet hive mind should know that one's lip is itching right now, ups sorry hivemind, it's gone, false alarm. (a lot of people imagine HM as a mean to know any feeling of any person and that those persons exchange those feeling constantly all to all)

So there have to be some arrangements, in this answer I wished to use another word instead lip, but some of the internet rules stopped me from doing that, especially because of possible reaction, which is not what I need to explain that HM idea.

Obviously members will not transmit some stuff, not because they can't or because of rules, but because it's not needed, not reasonable etc - a just common sense of things.


Engaging civilization isn't an easy task, especially if they are space civilization.

Are Borgs a treat for those My star will explode as a supernova. What can I do in order to ensure that my planet survives that? - no, they don't, they will be fed to BH and energy extracted will be by mass, not by how hiveminded they are. That's why we are friend with borgs, they are nice guys, each new year they send presents in form of energy, very deepminded collocutors. So yes, we have a nice time together, even when we are not hivemind like them. But yes, they are not perfect, they drink too much and forget sometimes that we are friends, so meeting them outside our home system isn't such a brilliant idea. Hmm, but maybe it's a game we have to understand ...

In some situations it is not important how smart you are, lack of information, false information as examples. Hive mind might be better at filtering that bs information, IF it is interested enough in that particular time and place to do so, IF it has enough perception members here, which might or might not to represent information correctly and detailed enough to find some inconsistency.

If projection of power of the hivemind in this place and time is weaker than those of their enemies, then they will lose in that place and time, no matter how efficient they are in using their hivemind (sure with optimal actions of their opponents, with can be replaced with more power)

Their(HM) power not in fast decisions, but in long-term strategies, and in the coordination of actions of small and larger groups. Army also can coordinate their group's actions, maybe they need more people for that, so they are less efficient in terms of people, and yes less efficient in each particular individual case - but overall results will be comparable.

On earth army of humans vs an army of hive-minded vampires, skipping the tactics and right to the battle - will vampire have super super advantage, from being hive minded. Yes some, but not really something which can't be counteracted with numbers of humans. Because the main task is engaging as individuals, as corpses, bodies, doing some actions.

It is the same situation as with computing problems - some tasks are suitable for parallel processing, some are not, because of their consecutive nature.

They do not use all their power for any task, it is impossible and impractical. So if one human threatens hive mind, it's not practical to overreact to the situation. 0.1-2 members of hive more than enough for to pay attention to the situation and handle it. As hivemind, they have the advantage to change those peoples each 5 minutes, so this booooring task will be not a burden for members, or by not allocating someone particular, just one of background subconsciousness processes. It is practical to allocate just right enough power for a task. They can fail and underestimate the threat, like a swarm of bees, might underestimate human - they do what they can each, but it's just not enough because of limitation of their hive mind. A hive mind is a system which has its limitations.

If a hive mind has only gunpowder or nuclear weapon and has no acces to space, it can not do much against potential space invaders(that's another long story, but no handwavium, as usual), just because what they do have is not enough to create some resistance - they just can't concentrate enough of power in one place, because of physical limitation of weapon, which is nothing to do with Hivemind. Hivemind'ing does not make them automatically super explorers or researchers - they have to wish to be explorers and researchers or adventurers. If they do not, if as an example they say about the nuclear bomb - yes, it is powerful enough, so now we can chill and enjoy our selfs with the beauty of stars. They can be lazy, they can fall in a state of no doing.

We as humans decided that space too hard and have not much profit or use of us - and where we are now? Not in space, each second we lose tonnes of energy (sun) because of those decisions.

Hivemind's are different, they have individuality, face, manners, habits, patterns in solving problems (individual patterns like fingerprints), preferences, etc etc.

Hivemind of ants will not care about members, a hivemind out of humans might care about members - this difference will lead to the difference in ways which are used to solve problems. Different solutions have different strengths and weaknesses. And not all hivemind's of same species(humans) will be the same in habits etc. Yes, sure it's probably another kind of difference then between humans as individuals or countries, but using them as examples is not the worst starting point to begin to think about differences in hiveminds. Different ancient goods are probably not the worst examples of representing of such hiveminds in human terms.

Algorithms how information is filtered, redistributed between members, how it is processed, processing algorithms, organization - that's what is the essence of hive mind, subject of their evolution, source of their habits, strength's and weaknesses. That's kinda operating systems(OS). It took us at least 40 years to evolve our OS's for computers, but it still far beyond of ease of use and capabilities of those from the Iron man movies, that advanced CAD program or that OS from Mechsuit in District 9.

Improving, changing - it is never ending jorney.


I would add a drawback to using the power. For example, headaches.

Connecting to that hivemind would result in a huge influx of information very very quickly. Even for smaller clusters, two or three people talking all at once can quickly be overwhelming, especially if they're inside your head and you have no ability to tune them out. It seems like this would easily result in a headache, forcing the protagonist to choose between 'easy answer and excruciating pain', or 'harder answer but no pain'.

Another option could be hardware limitations. Even an advanced cybernetic implant isn't perfect: it could only be good for a certain number of uses, or could do something to damage the user's brain if used too often.

Another way of doing it would be adapting the situation that the protagonist (or antagonist) is in to create a benefit to not using the enhancement. Telepathic enemies, perhaps, that could deduce the location of important people by the path that their thoughts follow. Or an EMP to render the device temporarily or permanently useless.


Dungeons and dragons has Formians, who share their vision with all hive members. Star Trek has the Borg, which is almost exactly what you described but I'm not enough of a Trekkie to tell you the exact differences.

The main limit with a collective mind is that it can still only see what the members of the hive see. Within their space, they all know everything that is going on, but if they don't have any units around, they can't do anything.

I'd also consider how far the connection goes. In their ships they probably have repeaters to boost the signal strength, but outside of that maybe they have to be within 10 feet to share vision, 20 feet to share thoughts and 50 or 100 feet to vaguely know where the other is and if they're conscious/in pain/whatever.

With today's technology, such a connection would require some kind of wireless signal. Producing enough interference on the band used for communication would cut members off from the others without their consent, likely resulting in some disorientation for at least a short while. If their enhancements are vulnerable to outside interference, you may be able to hack them. If some components aren't shielded, you may be able to knock them out with an EMP.

If they're used to seeing and feeling through many sets of eyes/bodies, being disconnected from everyone else would likely cause them to become very uncomfortable, paranoid, alone, etc. Locking one in a room by itself for a day or two may cause it to mentally break down.


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