Evolution of Cybernetics

As with all forms of technology, advancements in cybernetics can be tracked by Progress Level.

Progress Level 5: Cybernetics is still in its formative stage. Most prosthetic units are of the nonpowered variety, but medical associations have approved certain electronic regulators for life-threatening conditions. The artificial heart is the most recognized example. Other common examples include pacemakers, artificial kidneys, and pancreas monitors (for high-risk diabetics). Nearly all PL 5 cybernetic attachments are simply designed to keep their recipients alive and reasonably healthy.

Elective cybernetics begins at this stage with the work of university professor Kevin Warwick, who develops methods of linking computer microchips to the human nervous system. His “cyborg chip” becomes the foundation for all future cybernetic components.

Progress Level 6: This era sees the first use of independently powered cybernetics, including servolimbs and subcutaneous cellular telephones. These begin mostly in military applications but soon become available to the public. Household pets all over the world are implanted with subcutaneous identity chips—as are important government figures and their families—after the technology proves safe and effective on prison inmates.

As cybernetics is still new and can have negative side effects, its adoption is not universal. Most people still prefer mundane equipment, which is generally cheaper, safer, and less troublesome to repair, replace, or upgrade. Cybernetics becomes the preferred choice only when mundane equipment is impractical or unavailable— or when the recipient is fixated on self-improvement.

Medical plans eventually come to offer at least baseline prosthetics to compensate for disabling injuries, such as the loss or partial loss of a limb, though such plans do not cover elective cybernetic surgery. Their concern is overall health—not “cosmetic” enhancement. For those who want more than just replacements, a new kind of clinic appears, offering cybernetic enhancements.

At this Progress Level, the first cybernetic regulation laws are passed—largely instigated by a few harshly publicized accidents involving cyborgs. These laws give rise to numerous black-market cybernetic clinics that install cybernetics without performing the required background checks.

Progress Level 7: By this era, cybernetics has become a mostly safe science. Flaws in earlier designs have been corrected. Cybernetics becomes more of a status symbol, and luminous skin grafts become the fashion accessory of choice. In some societies, newborn children are implanted with identity chips as an anti-kidnapping measure. Military applications include replacement eyes with heads-up targeting and GPS displays.

Insurance regulations relax considerably toward cybernetic replacements at Progress Level 7; enhancements are perfectly acceptable, though only as part of a prosthetic, rather than as elective cyber-surgery. Still, most cyborgs are members of military or law-enforcement organizations—or mercenaries.

Progress Level 8: Cyborgs are a common sight. In some societies, medical insurance frowns on noncybernetic replacements, as mechanical body parts are less expensive than flesh. Cybernetic technology has improved so much, in fact, that some cyborgs are virtually indistinguishable from living beings—except that they never appear to age.

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