Sci-fi thoughts: From human to cyborg

While I am mostly reading fantasy, I read a bit of Sci-Fi here and there and watch Sci-Fi movies more (lasers and explosions, yay!). So, here comes a Sci-Fi post inspired by a discussion on Goodreads about when one stops being human and starts being a cyborg.

To say the main matter shortly: we could not agree. There were people who would consider someone a cyborg just for having a present-time high-tech prosthetic limb. Others would need it to have advanced prosthetics (hello, Darth Vader) or CPU (like Marcus Wright in Terminator: Salvation). Someone else would call someone a cyborg in case they had a cyber exoskeleton (or exo-suit) as a part of their body (the guy from Elysium movie for the first case, Nanosuit soldiers from Crysis game series for the second). Side mention: by what some people said, Stephen Hawking (may he rest in peace) could’ve been considered a cyborg.

It’s hard to draw the line. Personally, I am among those who’d draw it quite far and have some mid-steps on the way. I’ll describe how I see the individual stages.

Case 1: Advanced prosthetics

By that, I consider something achievable with high-end present-time technology. It considers artificial limbs that are controlled by the operator directly (usually by impulses from nerves) but have no ‘mind’ of its own and only restore the functions lost in an injury without adding new possibilities (apart from material properties).

Example: Detective Spooner from ‘I, Robot’ movie.
How do I see them: human

Case 2: Cybernetic prosthetics

This goes to cases like Darth Vader – replacements that go beyond restoring functions and directly push the boundary of death.

How do I see them: cyborg.

Case 3: Exoskeleton/exo-suit

That’s where it becomes more complicated. There might be several cases. In G.I.Joe: Rise of Cobra movie, two characters use high-tech cybernetic armor, including mind-controlled operation. In Elysium, the character has an exoskeleton (including a CPU and memory storage) fused with his body to make him stronger. In Crysis game series, the Nanosuit as a high-tech armor connected to the user’s neural system to the point of partial autonomy (defibrillator, self-restart, autonomous life support).

How do I see them: human if they can remove the gear on will. Post-human if they can’t but keep fully free will (Elysium). Cyborg if they can’t take the gear down and lose a significant part of free will. Cyborg if the technology rids them of some biological functions (no need to ever eat or sleep, for example).

Case 4: Endoskeleton

In this case, the character went through significant alteration to have machine parts fused into a human body to the point it severely affects their survivability and strength.

How do I see them: borderline (between post-human and cyborg) if they keep full free will. Cyborg if they don’t and/or they can ‘live’ without satisfying biological functions.

Case 5: Remote control

This is for cases when a human is, in one way or another, controlled on distance. The means might be various – nanotechnology (G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra movie), a control device (the spider-thingy in the fifth Resident Evil movie) or possible override mechanisms in their gear.

How do I see them: human unless any of the abovementioned criteria for a cyborg/post-human are met. Undead/zombie if they are remote-controlled dead bodies.

Case 6: Terminators (and their like)

Obviously, this means a robotic creature with lifelike exoskeleton/cover.

How I see them: since they are not technically alive and only resemble humans, they are considered robots (androids if humanoid in shape) by me.


So, my foray into Sci-Fi is over. I hope I did not forget anything. Feel free to tell me in the comments if you think I did – or if you have anything to say on that matter, agreeing or disagreeing. See you next time.

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