No Transhumanism Allowed

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

In speculative fiction settings with very high technological levels, older Space Opera in particular, transhumans, meaning people who use cybernetic and/or genetic enhancements to give themselves capabilities far in excess of those of ordinary humans, will often be either completely absent or much rarer than you would expect given the stated capabilities of the society they live in. In the older works this was more a case of No Transhumanism Existing As A Distinct Concept Yet, though they did have Evolutionary Levels and/or Mutants which often served the same plot purpose. A primary contributor to Schizo-Tech.

Oddly enough, Twenty Minutes Into the Future settings, particularly within the Cyberpunk genre, typically feature human capability enhancement prominently. This is probably caused by real-world technological advancements making it seem like this will become reality in the relatively near future, while older works hail from a period when this sort of thing still seemed entirely fantastic and authors therefore rarely included such themes in their stories.

Often caused by the fact that Most Writers Are Human: it's tricky to imagine what a fictional society where everyone or at least the majority are no longer recognisably human would be like. One misstep and your work will turn into a pile of Zeerust, or just be plain silly. It can make more sense to have everyone be regular humans wielding nifty supertools rather than transhumans with nifty superbodies and superminds, which also conveniently allows the humans in the audience to relate to the characters better by keeping their thoughts, behavior patterns and limitations familiar. Also done to sidestep What Measure Is a Non Super: the idea that humanity might be "superseded" by a more advanced version is repugnant to many, and the more radical the enhancements are, the more likely it will be seen as a kind of Body Horror.

Indeed, in older works, it was generally taken for granted that any kind of bionic modification, whether outwardly visible or not, constituted a type of Body Horror that was hard to live with, which is why the Six Million Dollar Man and his ilk only received their enhancements as part of medical treatment for injuries.

Naturally enough, Transhumans may take the form of Transhuman Aliens, who Turned Against Their Masters after Man Grew Proud.

It's worth remembering that present day artificial implants are almost universally inferior to their healthy flesh-and-blood equivalents, and so are usually only used in cases of medical necessity (apart from cosmetic surgery, which sometimes has its own long-term problems). This is likely to change in the future, however.

Of course, Bluetooth implants are possible now and nobody's rushing out to get them.

Transhumans can end up as default villains in Space Opera settings, as it's all too easy to classify someone nonhuman as less-than-human. In that sense it's a form of Fantastic Racism, sometimes called bioism (prejudice against non-biological consciousness or modified life). They may also succumb to an Ubermensch mentality that drives them to either subjugate "lesser beings" or to forcibly convert them into beings like themselves "for their own good."

Subtler but equally unsettling is the thought that not all humans are likely to be able to take advantage of genetic engineering and advanced cybernetics, and the gap between the "haves" and "have-nots" would naturally become even wider as rich people and poor people literally become separate species. In some cases, you will find that villains use radical modifications while the heroes remain more Badass Normal and "pure", leading to What Measure Is a Non-Human?.

This is sometimes justified or at least Handwaved in various fashions; it could be a form of Schizo-Tech where genetics and cybernetics stagnated while other scientific fields advanced, it might be considered unethical or be illegal, there may be an unforeseen cost to the individual, or there could be strong taboos in place due to past problems with this sort of thing. Instances of replacing lost body parts with equivalent or improved versions are not really an aversion, as the people of the society still do not seek out these enhancements (and especially so if the replacements aren't even more effective than the originals). A very specific form of Misapplied Phlebotinum. The most common aversion of this trope is the Super Soldier.

Some settings literally do not allow transhumanism. That is to say, transhumanism is acknowledged as a real technological possibility by characters in the setting, but is explicitly forbidden by laws or customs. Taken too far, this can form the Backstory of a Feudal Future.

Compare with Schizo-Tech, Zeerust, Fantastic Racism, Ludd Was Right, We Can Rebuild Him, Emergency Transformation, Unwilling Roboticisation, Body Horror, Beware the Superman, Cybernetics Eat Your Soul, and Transhuman Treachery.

Contrast with The Singularity and Transhuman (which, given the existence of the previous two tropes, stop listing aversions in this one unless it is somehow notable, like if part of the work averts it, while other parts play it straight).

Examples of No Transhumanism Allowed include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Cowboy Bebop, Jet Black has a cybernetic arm to replace his natural one, lost long ago, and Spike has an artificial and mildly enhanced eye. Aversion, right? Well, no, as Jet's considered odd for not picking up an organic one, and the cybernetic arm's made of fairly weak metal and motors. Spike doesn't seem aware of the enhancements his eye gives him, if his reaction times or accuracy with firearms are due to the eye. This is the same setting with man-portable force field generators and many, many small concealed weapons.
    • The protagonists play this trope relatively straight, but the rest of the series tends to avert it. It deals with a variety of transhuman themes, such as uploading consciousness into computers, super soldiers, futuristic drugs, and cryonics.
  • Vandread follows this to a degree, in that each of the different human worlds has been created/genetically altered for specific organs or traits, and whilst the main villains are robot swarms in the anime, in the manga they're human brains wired into vehicular bodies.
  • Played straight in the Backstory of the Gundam Seed series with superhuman Coordinators and regular Naturals. The first Coordinator was produced in secret and was only revealed when he proved just how superior he was to everyone else. A brief period of bandwagon-jumping followed until some people began having concerns about just what their children were becoming. (People were mainly just really jealous of the super-enhanced though.) Although Poor George Glenn paid for it with his life, and It Got Worse to the point where the factions were at war by episode 1.
  • In Macross, more than once an aspiring scientist has tried to dabble with transhumanism, but due to all of them having Science-Related Memetic Disorder, none of these tries ended well, as we could see in Macross Plus and Macross Frontier. Thus, while there's no general prohibition of transhumanism, and there are societies that actively practice it (like Macross Galaxy colony fleet in MF), it tends to be frowned upon.
  • Crest of the Stars—Abh are your garden-variety supermen constructed for space exploration, but they were constructed as slaves, and rebelled against their creators utterly destroying them in process. The second, antagonist faction goes even further, considering them just sentient equipment.

But the Abh seem to avoid further experimentation themselves, and the non-Abh humans seem to have mostly deliberately avoided taking advantage of the longevity genehacks. There's been just enough transhumanism to provide space elves, and no more.

  • Fullmetal Alchemist - The protagonist has cybernetical limbs (called automail), but only go them after losing his real limbs. His whole motivation is to get his real limbs back, even though he can do amazing things with the automail. In the original anime one of the Elrics lampshades this, realizing that they were only on par with some of their opponents due to their enhanced nature.
  • Lyrical Nanoha plays an interesting take on this. Purely artificial life is apparently not only allowed but common in the form of magic-based familiars and magic-based augments like ageing retardation/youth maintenance are widespread. However, transhuman enhancement with genetic engineering or cybernetics is outlawed. Despite the illegality, no stigma is attached to actually being either since those enhanced rarely had a choice in the matter.

Comic Books

  • Too many Comic Books to detail. Apparently the rule is that if you go out of your way to enhance yourself, it'll result in a Psycho Serum (except for that one time). If it just happens to you, then you might not end up evil.
  • Speaking of graphic novels, Robota lays down some rules for this. The effect to be feared from augmentations is that they'll make you think your superiority makes your life and desires more important than those of others. However, the augmentations themselves are perfectly harmless, as are changes in physical capabilities that do not change your appearance. Risk comes in when you no longer look like a human, since you might forget your origins.
  • In ROM Spaceknight, an army of young Galadorians volunteered to be made into cyborg "Spaceknights" to fight the evil Dire Wraiths. The huge majority of them viewed this as a personal sacrifice, and lived only for the day the war would be over and they could be surgically returned to normal. The second generation of Spaceknights produced, however, embraced their bionic nature and declared themselves to be superior beings, and nearly wiped out the normal Galadorians before being stopped. As a result of these bad experiences with cyborg technology, the current generation of Spaceknights are just non-augmented Galadorians in very powerful Powered Armor.


  • Star Wars is also mostly like this: Artificial Limbs are considered vulgar, and Sith Alchemy is worse than planetbusting. Villains like Darth Vader and Grievous use cybernetics that make them more dangerous in physical combat, but only after suffering crippling injuries. Good guys like Luke Skywalker only use replacement cybernetics that are somewhat more effective than the original body parts were, when it comes up at all. Clone troopers can be mass-produced, but are still only on the level of well-trained regular soldiers, instead of being enhanced to Warhammer 40000 Space Marine levels or anything in that vein. Some expanded universe media feature cyborgs and genetic engineering, but still it seems less prominent than the general technology level and the obvious utility of such enhancements would suggest. Princesses abound, but they're elected. While still teenagers.
    • One minor example of a transhuman character in the films is Lando Calrisian's majordomo Lobot, a man with (rather clunky-looking) cybernetic brain implants. His implant basically turns him into that guy you know who's always on his mobile ON SPACE CRACK!. To the point where, in the Expanded Universe, he gets lonely if he turns off his implants.
      • It is explained in the EU that Lobot’s cyber-enhancement was actually an alternative sentence – originally a behavioral reconfiguarator on account of him in his youth being convicted of stealing.
    • There's mention of cyborgs suffering various degrees of Fantastic Racism, whether from outside or only to themselves, like Ton Phanan, whose Cybernetics Ate His Future. Oddly enough most of the good guys cover their Artificial Limbs with synthflesh, and Phanan didn't.
    • There are also monks who like to have their Brain In a Jar. Sith Alchemy depends on The Dark Side. Vader became weaker, not stronger, after being turned into a cyborg. And the stormtroopers have a full-body armor, so it's unlikely that enhancements on the underlying flesh would help them much. Stormtroopers could be enhanced for things like not being knocked out when you hit them on the head through their armour. And the armour isn't powered, so a strength enhancement would help them too.
    • One note though, the ARC trooper clones are indeed superhuman, given genetic enhancements at formation in addition to less genetic inhibitation on Freedom of thought allowing them to do really crazy things like leap up onto the top of an AAT that is twice as tall as they are in one jump, run up grappling lines at inhuman speeds, very casually wield gatling blasters without any trouble whereas normal clones find the things to be quite unwieldy though possible to use while standing, or strap a quadruple repeating blaster on their chest and stand without breaking their backs. This is what separates them from Clone Commandos, who are just regular clones given much better gear and training.
  • In Avatar the human scientists have the ability to create Human-Na'vi genetic hybrid bodies (Avatars), as well as project a human consciousness into them. However, the Na'vi mind transfer ritual can make this permanent, effectively allowing for new bodies to be produced in a lab and continuously body-hopped into as the old one ages or gets injured. It's a completely ethical method of near-immortality (for humans as well as Na'vi), but this is never brought up in the movie. On the other hand, the vast majority of humans are completely unaware of this capability, even if they know about the neural network itself, which is also something that the majority don't.
    • It proves impractical for immortality since Universal Health-care is non-existent and even something as trivial (compared to the creation of a huge alien-human hybrid) as regrowing a couple of nerves is prohibitively expensive for the average person.
    • In point of fact, the mind transfer concept was only used twice (the first semi-failed and the second, although successful, was the last moment of the movie) and wasn't even something the humans were aware of. Grace was aware of the neural network and some of its potential and tried to bring it up, but Selfridge just shut her down without bothering to listen.


  • Subverted and played straight in Dune: deliberate breeding programs are used to create humans with intelligence, reflexes, lifespan, capacity higher consciousness and physical capabilities far beyond those of current-day humans, but a religious taboo is kept in place on genetically engineering anything recognizably inhuman or unable to interbreed back into the larger human population. Thus, the characters and societies remain human while simultaneously having greater advancements over modern man than modern man has over homo erectus. The Tleilaxu, however, have no religious taboo on inhumanity and gleefully make a living selling inhuman humans genetically-engineered for specific purposes, including gholae (clones made from the cellular material of dead people), Navigators (water-breathing psychics), and axolotl tanks (giant wombs on life support used to grow such creatures).
  • Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium: The Bureau Of Technology not only policed technology, but contaminated all records have with false data; people know how to build the stuff they use, but are ignorant of the underlying principles that make them work. After the Dirty Communists and Eagle Land wipe each other out, say hello to the Empire of Man, which lacks those controls - leading to the rise of the warlike and scheming Saurons.

In the CoDominium universe, genetic engineering is a crap shoot—the Saurons are superhuman, but also overspecialized and much less adaptable. Apparently, the other cultures in CoDo space decided to keep their options open rather than risk brainlocking themselves racially.

  • Larry Niven's Known Space: The ARM polices all technology which could be turned into a Weapon of Mass Destruction—and every technology has a destructive use, so the only new technologies in the series are the ones they're unable to suppress quickly. The ARM don't call themselves royalty, but they're the only ones who choose who gets weapons - and before you ask, the answer is an emphatic no unless Earth itself is being attacked by man-eating cats. (Which happens more often than you'd expect.) Then they pass them out once the surplus population is cut down a bit.

On the other hand, once the ARM stranglehold is broken after Hyperspace technology is bought, most flatlanders have near-immortality thanks to Boosterspice, "modern" geriatrics, cheap widely-available access to nearly any kind of healthcare needed (Autodocs are so common they're used for everything from surgery to hangover cures to haircuts), and prosthetics so similar to the original that they put organ transplants out of business. Humans not on Earth have less access simply because no other human world is quite as developed, but still can live for a long time. And after the Puppeteers diddle the Birthright Lotteries a bit too hard, we get the only genetic advantage we'll ever need: all-pervasive luck. Turns out it's genetic, and yes, it spread like a wildfire.

  • Alan Dean Foster's Humanx Commonwealth: After a bunch of Morally Ambiguous Doctors attempted to breed some Designer Babies with Psychic Powers, The Government banned research into the genetics of sapient lifeforms. Cyborgs are nowhere to be seen. Only backwaters are feudal, just like The Federation.
  • Walter Jon Williams' Dread Empires Fall books; the Shaa conquerors stomp hard on any technology not strictly needed to allow the Shaa to conquer.
  • The transhuman Luculenti in John Meaney's To Hold Infinity use serious brain augmentation, though this is controlled to prevent people upgrading themselves too much and having... alien thought patterns emerge. The result of one gentleman doing just that can be seen in the Nulapeiron sequence by the same author in the form of The Anomaly. The inhabitants of Nulapeiron also use impressive amounts of augmentation though not at all in the classic cyborg vein, and more importantly not the sort that leads to inhuman modes of thought.
  • The Fall Revolution series by Ken MacLeod features the rise and fall of the "Fast Folk", strongly transhuman individuals who uploaded themselves to immensely powerful computer frameworks/spaceships and constructed a wormhole to a distant planet and the far future before going insane, malfunctioning and dying. Except for the ones that survived (just), and spent a few hundred years plotting to take over most of the universe once they'd pulled themselves together again. Oh, and incidentally crushed most merely human governments and killed millions (and forcibly uploaded millions more) and trashed all serious technology in the solar system by hacking, EMP, or plain old computer viruses. This is the reason why AI/uploading transhumanism is quite definitely not allowed in the later books of the series. OTOH even the relatively bioconservative humans have biological immortality—the oldest is about 350 years old—and they'll take brain backups to be written into new bodies in case they die.
  • Vorkosigan Saga: there are transhumanist elements, but fairly limited given the potential. Cetagandan haut are an ongoing project to make better humans. Jackson's Whole will make altered humans to order, or a clone to transplant your brain into. Four-armed space workers, quaddies, were made. Hermaphrodites were made as a social experiment in gender relations. Most civilized people use uterine replicators instead of natural pregnancies, and have their children's genes 'cleaned' of defects. Total sex change, down to the genes, is available. All that aside, lifespans don't seem impressive for 1000 years in the future and the demonstrated ability to regrow any body part, most people are pretty close to baseline human, implants seem vanishingly rare. Basically, they have nice medicine, but not too nice for lifespan purposes, and some isolated wacky experiments.
  • Discworld: Igors are pretty much biological transhumanists in hunchback form. They play with it themselves, but are kept isolated from the main plot; when a character in the Watch dies, Vimes refuses to let the local Igor try to bring the character back. Sort of like magic not ruling: there for color, but not to do anything transformative.
  • A YMMV, but no page to put it on: a clever cycle of Discworld fantasy fiction postulates the existence of a Discworld South Africa, where an immigrant Igor inadvertently tests the limits of apartheid law by repairing a Vondalaandian white man with bodily parts harvested from a black man. The white state is then tied in knots as to how to racially classify the hapless rebuild. Most funny both as text and as a satire on the malignity of apartheid.
  • Mike Resnick's Santiago: A Myth of The Far Future Space Western plays this absolutely dead straight - people only get cybernetics when they're injured, but as Sebastian Cain comments on someone else's eyepatch, "Why doesn't he just get a cybernetic one? I've got one - it sees better than the one I was born with."
  • Played With in Peter Hamilton's Nights Dawn Trilogy. Part of the Backstory is that Genetic Engineering led to the discovery of a completely synthetic "affinity gene" that conveyed telepathy. The Fundamentalists had a colossal freak-out upon discovering that affinity permitted Brain Uploading - and that the creator of affinity did so specifically to make humans Outgrow Such Silly Superstitions. Why go to church to save your soul if Death Is Cheap? Unfortunately for him, the Catholic/Protestant split had healed by the time he succeeded, meaning a papal decree of excommunication(AKA "God Hates Freaks") held about as much weight as a Presidential declaration of war. The only reason it didn't result in a war was because the breakthrough occurred on a newly-independent space colony orbiting Jupiter. Instead, it resulted in a culture split; the fundies declared themselves "Adamists", named for the biblical Adam, who was "Pure". The augmented declared themselves "Edenists", mocking their opponents. Edenists then developed "bitek" to incredible levels; Organic Technology is commonplace, and their Living Ships outperform baseline vessels easily. Even their space stations are organic and sentient. To keep from being left behind, the Adamists were forced to develop nanotechnology to keep up, resulting in equally prevalent cybernetics. Super Soldiers are common, often bearing modular arms with gun attachments and extra forearms for More Dakka, and even totally bionic bodies with crazy-ass ceramic-gel skin. Dedicated spacers or "cosmoniks" casually let their bodies atrophy in microgravity or "astrophy", replacing organs as they fail until only the brain remains human, taking the Rule of Cool to a new height. The implication is that transhumanism is inevitable.
    • Note that, despite the above, by the year 2600 the two societies coexist peacefully: Adamists are the vast majority, but Edenists use their bitek to harvest fusion fuel from jovian planets and stabilize the economy. Also, with one exception, most Edenists rely on bitek space habitats, while Adamists colonize planets. Neither of them can survive on their own (and the Edenist Consensus makes this clear when the issue is brought up).
    • Also note that bitek has its limitations: it can outperform "solid-state" technologies by a fair margin, but bitek constructs have a limited lifespan (less than 50 years for starships) and are generally harder and more expensive to create; biocomputers also generally become sentient the moment they're switched on, leading to some ethical issues at one point with one that was essentially created to be killed. Also, on the issue of Brain Uploading: this is a universe where the soul, in its religious sense, is a real thing, and the Kiint reveal that Edenist uploads are not "real" souls, but copies running inside sentient bio-computers, simply adding their experience and personality to the computer's own soul. All Edenists who ever died, died as much as everyone else.
  • In The League of Peoples Verse, the technology for cyborging exists, but the League explicitly disapproves of it. Genetic engineering is also illegal in the human Technocracy, as it goes horribly wrong more often than it succeeds. Genetic engineering is only widely used by alien species, such as the Divians and Cashlings.
  • In "The Waves Stifle the Wind" by the Strugatski brothers, a small group of humans (about one in 100000) begin to evolve biologically, and it is assumed as truth by all sides that those "Ludens" must leave Earth, as otherwise the human society would be destroyed. in the end, they leave.
  • In Charles Stross' Accellerando, the things that humans and the artificial intelligences they spawn turn into are effectively transhumans; they do not communicate with the remnant of humanity in any direct way because their minds are so totally alien in structure and function. Having your mind adjusted to cope with their fiendishly complex economic system they use is effectively a one-way trip and results in you losing your humanity.

It is interesting to note that the transhuman intelligences bear the rest of humanity no ill-will, or even any passing interest: "normal" intelligences simply cannot provide any threat or anything of interest and are more or less entirely beneath their notice. One interesting ability one weakly godlike intelligence gains is the ability to create a perfect software model of a human intelligence and run it though a "Turing oracle" to exhaustively calculate every possible response the human might have in a situation. It would be literally impossible to out-think such a being without upgrading your own intelligence, and it would already know that you'd try to do that.

The sequel, Glass House does not have any strongly superhuman minds presented in the story but implies that they could exist. The protagonist decides that worrying about superhuman intelligences is futile, because if any were involved there would be simply no hope of defeating their plans.

  • The Honor Harrington series plays with this in an interesting way. While the 'Good' guys at Beowulf have created a process that allows for life-spans of over three centuries and are working on improvements, replacement grown limbs are common, and those few who can't use them due to genetic instabilities can get cybernetic limbs with no real stigma or issues, and in the case of a planet called Sharpton, are actually a cultural icon, they are insistent that this is not self-enhancement so much as bringing out the genome's full potential. Actually improving on the body using Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke, on the other hand, is widely stigmatised thanks to the damage done to Old Earth in its Final War, partly due to eugenic Super Soldiers, and those who are outright gene-modded or descended from such try to keep quiet about it. The real bad guys of the setting (though Word of God says they are just Well-Intentioned Extremist who have a very good point) are renegade Beowulfians who have been actively enhancing the gene pool of their key members for centuries.
  • In the novelisation of Red Dwarf, mention is made of the world having got over issues of mere drug-enhanced athletes in the Olympics and professional sports only to be faced by the problems posed by genetic and biological modification - Olympic sprinters who are all legs with only a vestigial upper body, for instance, and profesional footballers with vestigial heads (un-necessary for the game of soccer) whose brains are minimal and literally in their feet. This is resolved by making professional sport leagues for genetically modified players, thus driving the old boring natural sort into extinction. People cheer professional boxers who can pummel each other for days on end, or pro soccer teams made up of genetically modified players. The text notes that Scotland fields a goalkeeper who is a massive rectangle of flesh who in theory can block the entire goal - yet Scotland still fails to qualify for the World Cup.
  • In Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds, following a Nanotech disaster the surviving humans split into two factions: the "Slashers" who said "What's done is done, no use crying over spilt milk" and embrace all possible technology, including genetic modifications and implants, and the "Threshers", who will only use tech which is essential for survival. They leave their own bodies alone.

Live Action TV

  • Star Trek: In The Federation, Cyborgs are illegal, and Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke because of the Eugenics Wars. Their technology is so advanced they should be able to do most anything; the transporter might be able to resurrect anyone who dies as long as their pattern is stored in the buffer, and maybe multiply them too (or, depending on the physics involved, maybe not). If the replicator can make just about everything by converting energy to matter on the subatomic level, they should be able to manipulate pre-existing matter on that level, including their own flesh (again possibly not. The show's Hand Wave for not doing so is that replicating complex life would require quantum-level duplication, which is consistent with at least some real-world theories on the as-yet highly speculative subject). More specific examples include but are by no means limited to the following:
    • Geordi LaForge has a visor that allows him to perceive radiation outside the normal spectrum visible to humans, yet no one else uses such a device even if it would be useful to them. It's mentioned in some episodes that wearing the visor causes him constant pain.
    • In an episode of TNG, a deathly ill villain manages to capture Data and download his own personality into the robot brain. He is rather pleased with his new super-strong and immortal body, but when he offers to do the same for his girlfriend, she breaks down crying, finding the idea monstrous.
    • Nanomachines that can repair and even improve living bodies have been shown, then ignored (or used only by the villains, except when convenient for the heroes).
    • One episode of Deep Space Nine had a cyborg who could interface her brain with computers; it's referred to as a rare occurrence. And of course, genetic alteration of humans is illegal and the resulting beings subject to Fantastic Racism and legalized discrimination because of a war that happened centuries ago caused by augmented humans raised to believe they were superior beings.
    • Another episode of Deep Space Nine features a character suffering progressive brain damage, and having their brain supplemented with computer implants. Once their organic brain is completely destroyed, the doctor just lets the character die because nobody sees any point in keeping them alive, despite the fact that in-universe the character is still a sapient, sentient being with all of his original memories. However, the character in question didn't feel like himself with the implants and wasn't really interested in living a shadow life.
    • The Borg are an example of the Body Horror type, as a forcibly Hive-minded species.
    • In one episode, Ensign Barclay is raised to literally godlike superintelligence by an alien probe. He starts out by using it to indulge various personal desires and do his job with superhuman efficiency, then goes off on a power trip to where he hijacks the Enterprise and takes it to meet some nigh-omnipotent aliens—the probe makers—who revert him to normal human intelligence. But at no time throughout his several days of apotheosis does it occur to him to devote one minute to studying his own augmented brain, how it got that way, and how he could possibly reproduce the phenomenon in others. You'd think he'd at least be interested in checking out 'Is this new rush of brains temporary or permanent? And does it have side effects?' Because he's still Barclay. Intelligence is not wisdom.
    • Artificial Intelligences with potentially superhuman capacity have deliberately been limited to human-equivalent abilities, again except when the plot causes them to be briefly and intermittently superhuman. There is a specific example of this: at one point Barclay has the Holodeck run a program which enables him to interact with a virtual Albert Einstein and discuss entirely new ideas. If the holodeck is capable of simulating Einstein's intellect in such a fashion, it would imply that the computer running it is at least as smart as Einstein and should be capable of making new discoveries on its own. This, of course, never happens. Well, except that whole Moriarty business. Which apparently required a significant portion of the Enterprise's processing power.
    • Artificial lifeforms like Data, Lal, and EMH-1 have to prove they are deserving of rights. Over and over again.
      • In fairness... At the time of Data's trial, he was both unique and irreproducible without endangering his life, which was a central point of his defense. When Lal came along, that appeared to no longer be true; although Lal eventually malfunctioned, returning the status quo. The holograms are a much trickier situation, since the early holograms (except Moriarty) apparently were genuinely nonsentient—and, by the time technology had advanced to the point that many of them were sentient, they had become completely ubiquitous throughout the Federation, used mostly as toys for entertainment. The realization that these completely disposable toys might be living, feeling beings should have sent shockwaves of Fridge Horror throughout the Federation, but we never see it happen.
    • Amazingly even when the Federation finds out that not everyone who is genetically enhanced goes crazy they suppress the information rather than try to find out what makes Bashir different and potentially move themselves forward hundreds of years. Nothing changes however: each Augment has a chance to turn normal or turn like Khan, Admiral Ross states that. It's just that one bad augment can result in deaths of millions if not more. Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke on danger level. Indeed it is supposed that Khan was Gone Horribly Right rather than Gone Horribly Wrong - it was the feeling of being superior that made him evil, not any flaw in the process.
    • Averted in the novelization of the first movie, which claims that most of humanity outside of Starfleet is actually going a transhumanist route, forming into massminds and such, and Kirk, as narrator, regards this as a generally good thing and chides himself for being old-fashioned. However, this claim is not supported anywhere else in Trek canon.
    • The original 1960's Star Trek Writer's Guide lampshades this by pointing out that, whether or not it's realistic for man to be physically unchanged in the 23rd century, it's considered necessary for audience relatability.
    • Well actually Transhumanism exists in some other cultures, but never for the good. Changelings, for example, are augmented humanoids - and evil most of the time (it's revealed Odo was also once like this). In the novelization of "The Search", Odo muses that the genetic enhancements Changelings did to themselves also made them naturally close-minded and aggressive.
  • In Doctor Who transhumanism appears in good and bad light. Don’t think that it’s a coincidence that most of the transhumanism is good examples come from the new series.
    • The good:
      • The Time Lord themselves may be a transGallifreyan race, augmented by regeneration and time senses.
      • A cyborg character was reluctant to reveal his status, and when he finally reluctantly mentioned one of his implants that could save the cast, Astrid told him not to worry, saying cyborg rights were making progress, and they were even allowed to marry now. (Does This Remind You of Anything??)
      • In the ‘Forest of the Dead’ series a death has him save the remains of his future companion's Data Ghost by uploading it into a virtual reality contained within a giant hard drive.
      • In ‘The Doctor Dances’ he upgrades nanobots to heal an army of zombies – although the zombies were created by the same nanobots gone wild anyway.
      • The Doctor criticized the Implants in ‘The Long Game’ for being more primitive than expected.
      • At the end of the universe the Doctor mentions that humans went through periods of uploading, or being gas.
      • A recurring character's mind is essentially transferred into a plastic automaton body. Despite taking The Slow Path for about two thousand years, he's mostly treated by the show and characters as pretty much the same guy he was when he was biologically human.
    • The bad:
      • At the end of the universe the transhumans have still regressed back to humanity, and keep going back to the same form.
      • The future humans then turn into evil flying brainballs.
      • The Daleks are the modified Kaled mutant, placed in a travel machine. Cyborg, genetically engineered genocidal monstrosities. Played with some nuance in Genesis of the Daleks, however, where the good Kaled scientists plan to continue creating Daleks, but without removing the brain cells containing the conscience.
      • The Cybermen’s evilness is a outgrowth of their self modification.
      • In 'The Lazarus Experiment' the Doctor seems to dislike the villain's attempts to basically regenerate like a Time Lord and, just to eliminate any moral greyness, the experiment fails spectacularly because of the scientist's own pride and hubris (thus sidestepping the moral dilemma).
  • Babylon 5 only features cybernetic enhancement of humans once, in "A Spider in the Web", and its established that human brains can't function properly connected to machine parts. Similarly, sentient AI experiments were banned some time ago.
    • The Technomages were shown in Crusade to be cyborgs using Shadow nanotechnology. The full reveal didn't come until the unproduced season finale, the script for which was available online briefly. This was further explored in the canon novels, which claimed "the tech" was slowly driving them nutty, until Galen found a solution.

Human evolution is shown to progress to the state of Vorlon-like Energy Beings in "The Deconstruction of Falling Stars", millions of years in the future. We got a brief preview of that in the first-season episode "Mind War", which involved experimentation on telepaths. And Telepaths themselves are eventually revealed to be the result of alien biotech.

Agent Bester expresses an interest in Lyta's body (after she's died and finished using it, with her consent... unusually reasonable, really) after being Touched by Vorlons made her an extraordinarily powerful telepath. He points out that understanding what happened to her would allow all telepaths to improve themselves in ways unconstrained by their current biology. Whether this actually worked out was never revealed, though it is notable that the result of one experiment to increase the power of a telepath created a godlike energy being who promptly left the galaxy in search of something he could relate to.

  • Warehouse 13 - An early Agent of the Warehouse transferred the left side of his brain into a computer system, and wants to be reunited with his other half (still in the organic body) before he'll release control of the Warehouse. During the transfer, the team uses the chance to throw the process into reverse. As Fargo said, Hugo-1 had a point, but the team, and especially Artie are rather organic-human-centric. So now he's stuck in an elderly human body, having lost 40 years or so. He doesn't seem too broken up, though.
    • Of course, Hugo-1 DID seize control of the biggest collection of dangerous supernatural objects on Earth, tried to kill the team by various means, and framed Pete and Myka for kidnapping (probably endangering Warehouse operations long-term by hurting their cover). Artie is entirely justified in not trusting that power to anyone, much less a weird old tech geek who cheats at kid's games. A trip to the bronzer seems in order.
    • There's also nothing stopping him from uploading his brain into a computer again.

Tabletop RPG

  • Absolutely punched in the face in Mortasheen, where you have to be a semi-human horror to even survive the eponymous city. Even the villain city of Wreathe, which hates everything that isn't human, has a citizenry with huge amounts of cybernetic enhancements.
  • Warhammer 40,000 only dodges The Singularity because all that technology is focused on continuing The Eternal Churchill. The Imperium, despite being a pack of religious zealots employs numerous Super Soldiers & cyborgs, though they do have a ban on advanced AI due to a past Robot War. Also the Necrons, who are an entire race of full-body cyborgs. The Orkz are an entire race of genetically engineered warriors who also use (extremely crude) cybernetics, either to replace lost parts, to increase their fighting ability, or as is the case with Mek Blag's Mk1 Exploding leg because the painboy thought it would be funny (even if the patient went in to have a tooth pulled). Plays the trope relatively straight with the Eldar, who are supposedly the most advanced race in the galaxy following the necrons. Despite being genetically engineered along with the Orkz, they only use cyborg technology, in the form of Wraithguards & Wraithlords to replace the bodies of those killed in combat & never think of using it voluntarily to enhance their frail bodies, relying instead on Psychic Powers & have apparently made no further genetic enhancements to themselves since their creation by The Old Ones. The Tau are a little behind the Imperium in technology and do not allow any genetic enhancement beyond the selective breeding used to maintain their rigid caste system (although it's been hinted that the Ethereals were created through bio-engineering by another race, possibly the Eldar) & have no visible cybernetic enhancements, either, though some may have minor implants for combat purposes.
    • The Eldar are attempting to create a new Chaos God, a god of the Eldar Dead, Ynnead, which will presumably be a good guy and kill the other Chaos God they created, Slaanesh. To do so they'll need millions if not billions of the souls that power the Eldar Wraith machines—and while in the wraith machines the souls are trapped inside crystals that are very fragile. In addition while inside the Wraith machines the Eldar are basically being kept away from their afterlife AND are trapped in a half-awake hell. There's a reason the Eldar are loath to use them.
    • Also the Imperium does have AIs, but they have to be connected to a human, (e.g. The Titans) What exactly is and isn't allowed with regard to AIs seems to vary wildly between the branches of the Adeptus Mechanicus, the Imperial Clergy and the game designers. Every machine is expected to have a machine spirit which can be placated by offerings and prayer and some machine spirits are certainly more than superstition (advanced tanks like the Land Raider have at least an expert system), yet strong AI is definitely out of the question.
      • Although, if the comic Damnation is to be believed, even a simple bolt pistol's Machine Spirit is intelligent enough to worry about whether it has failed its "master".
    • The Eldar do have cybernetic implants, they're just not especially prevalent in modern versions. In second and third editions, every other eldar seemed to have some kind of plate in his head or an enhanced limb, they sometimes still use these older art pieces too. They also seem to fuse crystals to their heads a lot for the enhancement and protection of their minds (to be distinguished from waystones, which hold their souls, and are on the chest) a lot even in modern depictions, though.
      • While regular Eldar don't have much transhumanists (-eldarists?), the Dark Eldar are perfectly happy to augment their bodies. Most of them prefer to retain their appearance due to vanity, although they may be heavily augmented under their skin (there's at least one Succubus that has replaced all of her muscles with cybernetic ones to enhance her strength and reaction time). The Haemonculi themselves don't care about appearances so they tend to have things like extra arms and surgery tools crafted onto their bodies.
    • The human Cult Mechanicus finally is strongly based upon transcending the frailties of the flesh, mostly by replacing it with machine parts. They're generally regarded as weird, but accepted as the second religion in the Imperium because they're the only ones who understand the technology. Some of them choose to undergo the Rite of Pure Thought, which involves replacing the parts of their brains responsible for emotion with computing gear. This leaves them utterly unemotional and rational and is considered an extreme measure even among the Mechanicus mainstream.
    • The Adeptus Mechanicus try to replace as much organic matter as possible with machinery. There are two specific Adepts - in Eisenhorn and Storm of Iron respectively. The former is reduced to a brain in a mechanical body, and the latter is a brain and a face hooked up to a vast databank. Would count as And I Must Scream if said Adept didn't seem to actually prefer this state of affairs. In the new Rogue Trader rulebook it is shown that unobtrusive bionics do exist, but are frowned upon by the Adeptus Mechanicus who view overt and baroque augmentation as a mark of honour.
      • Also in Eisenhorn is the villain Pontinus Glaw, basically a box with psychic powers. later a robotic body is built for him as an act of mercy by Eisenhorn. Whoops!
    • The Space Marines in general arguably count under transhumanism since the genetic modifications to them make them far, far, far beyond the capabilities of humans. They are impossibly strong, with bulletproof bones, quickly clot should they become injured, have heightened senses, require less sleep and turn off parts of their brain to continue being awake, and may very well be capable of living forever if the violence of their universe didn't make a violent death so likely...among other things. However, the Imperium only allows lets certain very Badass children to become Space Marines, as the modifications must start being implanted during puberty. And a large quantity of said Badass children will likely die at the hands of the even more so to have those ones be eligible for becoming a Space Marine.
    • The Iron Hands Chapter of Space Marines: their whole schtick is the weakness of the flesh and the strength of the machine. Before becoming a full Space Marine, the iniate must have his right hand replaced with a cybernetic equivalent, and from that point on the Chapter's Marines gleefully replace their flesh as much as they possibly can, viewing injuries as a good thing because it gives them an excuse to get the bodypart replaced with a machine equivalent.
      • The Iron Warriors are basically the Chaos Marine equivalent of the Iron Hands. Not only do they suffer degenerations in their geneseed that cause them to suffer crippling deformities or unviable mutations in their limbs, neccessitating bionic replacements, but they willingly infect themselves with the Obliterator Virus. Which basically turns them into a shapeshifting morass of organic meat and metal.
  • In Eclipse Phase, this trope is played straight and justified with the Bioconservative factions, most notably the Jovian Republic, and otherwise gleefully averted - even with a cultural preference for basically human bodies, the vast majority of the system's population prefer to sleeve into genetically enhanced Splicer morphs.
  • Likewise in the Transhuman Space GURPS setting, many transhumanist technologies exist, but some are banned by particular societies.
  • Transhumanism is almost totally absent in Traveller . It is justified by technological stasis/regress and social stigma.
  • Played with in Shadowrun. Many, many people have some degree of mechancial alteration - the datajack is the most common bit of cyberware in the world. However, a number of people consider cybernetic modification to be a bad idea, and it's not just the mages. (While altering your body screws up your Essence, tied to a mage's power, even some non-magical people find the whole idea of cyberware to be creepy.)
    • Though this depends on the edition. Fourth edition is much more Post Cyber Punk and most people have at least some. Not the magic uses though; cyberware still messes up magic.

Video Games

  • The Mass Effect series contains very small man-portable force field generators, amazing metallurgy, and an entire species of intelligent humanoid robots. The only integrated tools are biotic implants in most species, and possibly tech tools. Even when you bring a member of the species that created those humanoid robots into the same ship with a man whose bones are so fragile he can barely walk, no one draws a connection. Saren, on the other hand, is most robotic, although he does have access to supertech and an evil AI is forcing him to upgrade that way as a form of mind control. The game does repeatedly mention that genetic enhancement is very common, to the point where every human soldier has been upgraded, presumably including the main character. However, strict restrictions apply in that you can upgrade a species' existing abilities, such as strength and speed, but adding anything completely new, such as extra arms or acid spit, is completely illegal. Even research into creating entirely new organisms is now illegal.
    • That's the point. The game Codex mentions that the humanity used to play with genetic modification to the point of uplifting various animals to near-sapient status, and creating entirely new organisms, but this practice stopped once the Alliance ratified the Citadel Conventions that forbid such genetic tampering. Or mostly stopped; the Medigel is a product of this technology, but is seen too beneficial to ban by the Council.
      • Of course thanks to the events of Mass Effect 2 Shepard is a cyborg Super Soldier showing just what would happen if the Council allowed transhumans.
      • In the third game EDI riffs on the notion that Shepard might be considered Transhuman and the legal ramifications of this, causing Shepard to become highly concerned. EDI then emphatically states that Shepard is not a Transhuman due to still having an organic mind. Of course, it should be noted that we later learn that she's capable of lying to spare the feelings of others, so its entirely possible that Shepard actually is a Transhuman.
    • According to Sovereign, the Mass Effect technology is left around so that the species who discover it will develop along those technological lines, and since they are never left around long enough to truly understand the complex technology in any way but reverse engineering it, they never develop any radical modifications. In the 2nd game Miranda states that she's had so many genetic modifications that she's superior in every way to baseline humans. Grunt is synthesized from different Krogan strains to be perfect, and the sterilization of the Krogans was certainly a frightening indication of how advanced technology is. Garrus has some cyborg replacements, but as it is shown with Shepard, all of this is incredibly expensive even for a monstrously wealthy, shadowy corporation. Joker, on the other hand, has a rare genetic disorder that no one understands, so it would probably be a significant undertaking to correct his disease, and he would probably resent the offer.
      • Mordin Solus explicitly states that he knows how to cure him. They just need to get around the fact that it'd mess up his liver.
    • At the end of Mass Effect 3, one of the endings could be more or less described as Transhumanism For Everyone.
  • The villains of Oni take a rare example of entirely xenobiological modification, although they're more villainous because they want to force humanity to upgrade, rather than because they are upgraded. The heroine is revealed to have been upgraded in this manner far in the past. Bungie likes averting this trope. Of course, it's also a setting where neurally linked androids are used to replace a simple monitoring system, but normal human soldiers with unimpressive body armor are used to fight said biologically enhanced superhumans.
    • They're worse then that - the big bad wants to cause an ecological disaster and offer said modification (that will allow people to survive the aftermath) in exchange for loyalty.
  • The backstory of StarCraft describes how the tyrannical United Powers League arrested all cyborgs, mutants, cyberpunks and other such "undesirables" from Earth at one point and threw them in jail to "purify" the population. Granted, for the most part these weren't nice people or innocent victims, which is why the Koprulu Sector (where many of them got deported as a kickstarter for deep space colonization) is so full of back-stabbing, treacherous Terran bastards. It's also implied that this is the reason why they survived at all.
  • Explored in the CDi game Body Slam: Mutant Rampage, in which there are very few pure humans left, and genetically-enhanced mutants and cyborgs are the norm. The heroes are The Naturals, a team of pure humans competing in Blood Sport against all the evil mutants and cyborgs. It's a very anti-scientific game.
  • The whole reason why the Advent were banished in Sins of a Solar Empire was because the Traders viewed transhuman practices as abhorrent perversions.
  • Averted and played straight in Streets of Rage 3 of all things. New hero character Zan is a huge cyborg with only his human head remaining and nobody bats an eye despite the series not previously dealing with any heavy sci-fi concepts. Played straight in that Mr. X is now a brain in a jar that works through multiple robot bodies... but he was evil to begin with, so it could be argued as Rule of Cool and another aversion.
  • Averted in Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, where transhumanism is inevitable in the higher stages of technological development. Brain Uploading is commonplace by the endgame, and the ultimate objective of all the factions is to complete the "Ascent to Transcendence" and use the planet's own neural network to survive its final transformation into a godlike sentience.

Web Comics

  • Danced around in Terinu which has
    • "Cyber Gliders" who have standard issue brain plugs for Hollywood Hacking.
    • "Moddies", humans who basically have advanced plastic surgery to alter their appearance to extremes (none of whom have any onscreen time). This is considered mildly questionable and open to abuse (Teri himself is mistaken for a extensively modded human child, with the assumption it was for sexual purposes). No other race is depicted as using the practice
    • On the other hand there's Terinu's whole race, the Ferin, which are a product of a long-term genetic Uplift project by the Gene Mage, and Word of God has stated that most genetic engineering revolves around the logical applications of modifying plants and animals to survive on alien colony worlds.
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob, artificial being Galatea believes herself to be the next step in Earthling evolution. When aliens contact her, she assumes it's because they've judged her worthy to ascend to their wonderful post-singularity world. In fact, they mistakenly think she has some extraterrestial tech on her, so they've come to mug her.
  • Pictures for Sad Children - is a good example of an extremely negative view of transhumanism based on the expectation that it will be restricted to people with white skin and lots of money—while the needs of the poor will remain unmet [dead link].
  • In The Dragon Doctors, there's a country that literally has a "No Transhumanism" law in place which they brutally enforce. Such magic includes the ability to shape-shift people into forms they'd prefer and rejuvenating the elderly. Since these are now standard practice in the rest of the world this trope is averted in their case.
  • Genocide Man takes this to its logical conclusion—after a war between Super Soldiers wiped out two-thirds of the planet's population, the beneficiaries of any form of genetic engineering are hunted down and slaughtered. The death of thousands of unaltered humans is considered acceptable in this task. (According to the Villain Protagonist, the only way to kill an idea is to kill every single person that holds it, and the idea that baseline humanity can be replaced and made obsolete needs to be eliminated.)
  • Once their service was no longer needed, the Cyborg Valkyries of Cwynhild's Loom were required to have their technology inactivated and removed, which crippled or killed them. Their refusal to submit led them to be branded as outlaws and forms the core of the webcomic's plot.

Web Original

  • Land Games: Averted. Everyone is meticulously designed. Three has been altered so much its been legally declared inhuman.