As part of a side-project I created for myself, I've been looking through various sci-fi representations of aliens, and I've noticed that when writers talk about hive minds, they seem to describe several different things. Being me, I wanted to see if I could categorize them in any useful way (if nothing else, at least it'll be useful for analysis).
I'm obviously missing a few (and some are ambiguous), so feel free to argue and make additions.
Collective consciousness: Functional individuals with minimal sense of self (at least, less than humans) --group survival is prioritized over self-preservation. These beings could be fully self-actualized or nothing more than drones. Intelligent beings removed from this environment will simply redefine their collective to include outsiders.
(Ants, meerkats, xenomorphs, the Gand from Star Wars, Transformers' Sharkticons)
Gestalt consciousness: Interlinked individuals. May not be individually intelligent, but physically linked and thus able to approximate intelligent behaviour as long as they're connected (by transmitting signals from individual to individual).
(Tubifex colonies, Mgalekgolo [from Halo], the Geth [Mass Effect], Replicator blocks [Stargate])
Decentralized hive-mind: Self-contained life-forms are psychically/pheromonally/technologically connected forming a single mind, without a central guiding intelligence. A "true" collective mind, occupying multiple (expendable) bodies. A drone removed from this collective will be significantly impaired and unable to function.
(LGMs [Buzz Lightyear of Star Command], the Orz [Star Control 2], scub coral [Eureka Seven], the Extraterrestrial Living-metal Shapeshifter [Gundam 00], the Emilies [StrAIn: Strategic Armored Infantry], the Swarm [Transformers], the Vajra [Macross], the Borg as presented in TNG)
Centralized hive-mind: A (sapient) central consciousness has emerged (embodied in a specially-adapted body; a Queen or Brain), directing the "drones" that make up the bulk of the collective. This allows greater intelligence (by concentrating decision-making in a specialized node), but at the cost of potentially leaving the collective crippled if the Leader is killed (until a new Leader can be produced). Drones may be capable of self-actualizing (to become a new Leader if the old one dies), or may be entirely mindless.
(the Six Paths of Pain [Naruto], the Flood [Halo], Poleepkwa [District 9], the Ood, Cybermen, Andromeda, the Borg as presented in First Contact)
Centralized or Decentralized Synaptic hive-mind: The collective (which may or may not be embodied in a particular host) directs "synapses" or relays, which further direct various levels of specialized drones. This extends the mind's reach (and decentralizes command functions), but means that losing a single synapse can sever an entire arm of the collective. Not all drones will be capable of operating independently if disconnected; some may revert to sub-sapient or vegetative states.
(Tyranids [Warhammer 40K], Starcraft's Zerg [under Overmind], evolved [human-form] Replicators, Borg as presented in Voyager [the ship-mounted Vinculum/Central Plexus --arguably, the ships themselves-- serve as synapse relays])
Differentiated hive-mind: Intelligent synapses are left to operate independently (directing drones), with the central consciousness (if it exists) providing only partial direction. This would work well in situations where the collective may be out of reach due to distance, interference, or potential death of the Leader. Drawbacks include potential conflict between different branches (if two synapses cannot establish dominance).
(Zerg [under Kerrigan], Rachni & Reapers [Mass Effect], Killiks [Star Wars], the Data Integration Thought Entity [Yuki Nagato tells us it's divided into several conflicting factions], Heinlein's Bugs, OSC's Formics [functioning as an alliance of separate hives])
Hierarchical hive-mind: A differentiated hive-mind, in which a central consciousness has "override" power over independent synapses (and can thus "focus" its attention on any specific drone as needed). (This allows the collective to distribute processing power across multiple brains, so the Leader doesn't have to do everything, though it also leaves the collective vulnerable to inattention or treachery from an overly independent synapse.)
(the Regis' Invid [Robotech])
Remote hive-mind: Different branches of the collective operate largely independently (as individuals), though they share an "open" link to the collective --essentially functioning as an "always-on" internet connection. The death of any member will draw the attention of the collective, as all members are aware of each other. A being removed from this type of collective will be weakened, but will still be able to function.
(Tribe of Silver [Heroic Age], Eywa [James Cameron's Avatar], Asurans [Stargate], Caeliar [Star Trek])
Synodic hive-mind: Individuals can completely detach and reconnect with the collective at will; the central consciousness is itself a coalition of multiple fully-actualized minds, rather than an individual (though a specific Leader may emerge by consensus). Beings severed from this collective will be able to function normally even when separated --in fact, that may be the whole point of their separation.
(the Taelon Commonality, the Great Link, Jedi battle-meld, the Consensus of Parts)
Edited by Cybersnark, 02 May 2015 - 04:28 PM.