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Cybernetics

Technically, cybernetics is defined as any human machine interface, from leaver to neural implant. For Vast Worlds, cybernetics generally refers to the wiring of the nervous system into machines, these ‘Wired’ people as they are known, can have a wide range of abilities depending on just what they have been enhanced with. Broadly speaking cybernetic implants boil down to three broad categories.

Communication: The ability to send or receive information from a computer and this can be as simple as having a mouse tracker in your finger. Generally though cybernetics are a little more complicated, with systems wired into the nervous system, a virtual keyboard that responds to twitching certain muscles, or thoughts in the brain, for example. At higher levels of development[1] these systems become highly integrated, with some having the equivalent of entire limbs worth of neurons dedicated to their cybernetic enhancements.

The lead in 2100, Hawk, has a primitive version of this kind of interface, being wired directly into the ships radar. This gives him an unparalleled level of perception of the surrounding space and, with a few other systems controlled cybernetically, his reaction times are visibly shorter. While he is already a pretty damn good pilot, this pushes him into the near supernatural band for the era[2].

Conjugation: Wired with these types of implants can, at any level substitute their own thinking for an artificial source. This can be as simple as a calculator implanted in the wrist, to entire data farms dedicated to powering your thought processes[3] and individuals with the latter are scarily smart. People with conjugative implants tend to react faster than their unaugmented fellows, make more logical decisions and push the boundaries of what is physically possible. Later in the timeline, conjugative implants become pivotal to becoming successful in society, and form a critical class boundary which, not surprisingly, leads to serious social tensions with the highly Wired[4] being outnumbered hundreds of thousands to one.

Augmentation: Also by a dictionary definition, this should apply to all cybernetic implants, but tends to be used as a term for the physical alterations that are wired in. These are just as varied as the neurological implants, ranging from replacement limbs, to artificial wing sets and full firearms. Most augmentations are low key, and run off body heat (though sometimes glucose or other such chemicals) so it is rare to see someone who it obviously a cyborg. Due to physical limitations of the rest of the body, all but total cybernetic reconstructions tend to be close to the human norm[5] so you will not see someone able to throw cars; you may find people able to throw you. There are unaugmented that can throw people however, but they will generally look like they can toss you like a rag doll, whereas a good augmentation will be very low key and take you completely by surprise.

Naturally, none of these states exists in isolation, and the more heavily Wired will have a mix of all three types of implants, giving some abilities far beyond the human baseline[6]. However, implants are almost universally costly, partly because of the invasive surgery you need to install pretty much anything, and partly because they are kept purposely elite by those who don’t want the masses boosting their intelligence. Hence, after a while, you get the 2200-2400 situation where people with implants control the money and the information, while everyone else is forced to make do with the table scraps. Rebellion is pretty much inevitable, especially seeing how small the highly Wired group actually is, and this is one of the many reasons for the End Time Wars.

Over the years there are many attempts to make super soldiers out of Wired and these projects are almost universally a success, but then collapse shortly after someone looks at the budget report. By several international conventions it is illegal to force someone to become wired as part of their job, though that rarely stops people accepting implants to receive a higher salary and quite a few of the more legendary pilots were Wired to a greater or lesser degree.

Random Fact: By 2400 over ten percent of the universal population are wired to some extent. Of this group, only one percent is however, considered wired enough to be part of the upper class.

Authors Note: Cybernetics in Vast Worlds are kind of like sports cars. They do exist, but the average person comes into contact with them on a fairly irregular basis. That said, while stories about the everyman of the street tend to be entertaining in their own way, most of the really interesting characters are anything but regular. In my stories certainly you will see a high incidence of exceptional people, though that includes both the good guys and bad. Still, what do you prefer, a normal person succeeding against all odds, or an augmented human struggling against something far greater?


[1] It’s pretty hard to pin down cybernetics to any particular era as, moving along the timeline, more people have the lower end stuff while the elite have an even greater technological advantage.

[2] Most of his more Wired descendents would see the stunts as child’s play, but they come from a time when being Wired and flying a ship is practically synonymous.

[3] In 2400 there are around one individual per million who’s brain only accounts for a fraction of their total thought capacity. Their forerunners are generally thought to have transcended organic possessing entirely and become the AIs, though anyone who tries to reach this lofty goal now finds themselves quietly lobotomised.

[4] So called LTFs (less than fifty [percent of their thinking power originating in their own brain])

[5] And some cheep prosthetics are actually less useful than the human default.

[6] A little elaboration here would be helpful. Cybernetics can be incredible powerful, but only within human design limits, not to mention the design limits of the implant itself. To quote comic books, good cybernetics would probably give you Batman level abilities, better than most, but not supernatural, and still just as vulnerable to a bullet to the head as everyone else. Top of the line stuff might get you to Spiderman levels of dodging gunfire and performing impossible acrobatics. Above that anything would be just custom work and you’d at best become a walking tank, which does raise the question, why not just buy a tank? At least then you could take it off after a hard day doing whatever it is you do with a tank. There are also a few issues legally with you being physically able to punch someone’s head off their neck.

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