The Perfect Combination?

Greg Halenda, '08, The Cyborg Self, Brown University, Spring 2005

Several types of cyborgs exist in fiction, cinema, and anime. What is the perfect combination of man and machine? One popular example, from the Neuromancer trilogy, is what Zachary Reiss-Davis describes as the godlike AI. Such AIs are completely digitized and reside in a network. They exhibit extraordinary control over the network, thereby making them seem supernatural in nature. However, while they can make great use of any device linked to themselves, they are also limited by their networked nature. They cannot affect the physical world without the help of their networked appendages.

Another common type of cyborg is the genetically enhanced superhuman, such as the NEXUS-6 replicants of Blade-Runner. Extreme speed, intelligence, and power makes them very dangerous. But, these cyborgs are also limited. They have no more special abilities in the digital world than a normal human, and as such cannot control the vast networks of the cyberpunk worlds.

Human-like machines represent a third class of AI. They would be like Sylvia and Anri from Bubblegum Crisis, or the cyborgs from Ghost in the Shell. Again, these AIs may have great physical attributes, or technological abilities such as invisibility, but they are still limited much like replicants in that they have no network control. Plus, they can break down or need repairs.

Finally, the fusion of man and network AI such as in Orson Scott Card's series Homecomming, seems to be the ultimate type. Here, a human wearing the Cloak of the Starmaster is given a direct link to the Oversoul AI. The Oversoul can perfect the wearer's biological body, directing cells to grow and repair wounds instantaneously, and speeding metabolism to create superhuman strength and even shoot bolts of lightning with charged up energy. The wearer also has control of the networks through the link with the Oversoul. All in all, it renders the user practically invincible, only a direct decapitation would kill him. The Cloak of the Starmaster might even be more awesome than retractable razor blade hands (if it's possible for anything to be that awesome).

Why do authors of cyberpunk seem to always leave a weakness in their cyborg?

Is the fusion of the biological with the digital really the strongest combination? What are the disadvantages and advantages of different types of cyborgs?

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Last modified 22 March 2005