"I turned them into post-human warriors. You're a soldier, think of it as a necessary sacrifice. (...) The Ceph are coming, Prophet. Soon. You think we'll defeat them with ordinary human soldiers? This isn't a war ordinary humans can win. This is the future. Death's an inconvenience now. Nothing more. We are all dead men walking!"
—Jacob Hargreave, Crysis 2
Simply put, a Transhuman (sometimes called a Posthuman) is a person who has exceeded their normal mental and/or physical abilities/limitations. The how can be anything from magic to science, the only thing that's common among all of them is that they are somehow better than before.
A positive portrayal of transhumanism generally places a work on the Enlightenment side of the Romanticism Versus Enlightenment spectrum while a negative portrayal or conspicuous absence of it does the opposite. May be used as an aspect of a Post Cyber Punk or Cyberpunk setting.
And even though this trope is called Transhuman, it's not actually limited to humans. Other species or beings that are enhanced count as well.
This is a quite common trope, and supertrope to the Transhuman Tropes. Particularly, it's related to all of the following:
- Artificial Limbs: A limited form of enhancement that's specific to the limbs.
- Badass Transplant: See Artificial Limbs above.
- Being Human Sucks/Humans Are Flawed: A major motivation.
- Bio Augmentation: Biological enhancement, as compared to a Cyborg.
- Brain Uploading: The physical limitations of a body are outright removed.
- Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Used as a "balance" for being enhanced, usually seen in Cyberpunk RPGs.
- Cyborgs: Cybernetic enhancement. This is what most people think of when they think of transhumans.
- Designer Babies: Making a person better before they're even born.
- Emergency Transformation: If you become better than you before. Better. Stronger. Faster.
- Goal-Oriented Evolution: Or at least an attempt at it, via technology.
- Humans Are Psychic in the Future: The concept is self-explanatory, if not the science.
- Magic Enhancement: Magical transhumansim, when applied to people, at least.
- Nanomachines: One of the most common ways to become Transhuman is through them.
- Pro-Human Transhuman: Despite no longer being (fully) human, the character still identifies with humanity.
- Super Breeding Program: Using genetic trait inheritance to create better people.
- Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: Nearly always have advanced themselves to god-like power instead of starting out like that.
- Superhero: For those that gain their powers. If they have them.
- Super Human Trafficking: Abuse of transhumans via slavery, organ trafficking, and other means.
- Super Serum: One of the ways to become one, but be wary of it's Psycho Serum cousin.
- Super Soldier: This one usually relies on the physical aspect of transhumanism for war.
- The Singularity: A hypothetical scenario where we become transhumans due to acceleration of progress.
- Training from Hell: If it gives you Charles Atlas Superpower or Enlightenment Superpowers.
- Transhuman Aliens: A variation where the transhuman can't be called "Human" anymore.
- Transhuman Treachery: For when this makes you go bad.
- Touched by Vorlons: Aliens or whatnot might be the cause.
- Ultimate Lifeform: The end-all and be-all of transhumansim, in fiction at least.
- Uplifted Animal: A Trans-Animal, basically.
- We Can Rebuild Him: Forced to be enhanced due to injury, instead of personally seeking it out.
- Working for a Body Upgrade: Enhanced because they earned it as a job perk.
Not to be confused with the comic book of the same name by Jonathan Hickman.
Anime and Manga
- NewTypes from the Gundam series have superhuman spacial awareness and some empathic or predictive abilities. They are suspected/considered to be the next stage of humanity, a result of man's move into space.
- Ghost in the Shell is all about this.
- In the entirety of Blame, we do not see a single purely biological human. Everyone is heavily modified, be they cyborgs, human-descended androids, or gene-modded superhumans. The closest to "pure" human we get is Seu, and he's an eight-foot giant with enough enhancements to fight in hand-to-hand combat with advanced Silicon Life warriors, who has been reconstructed and had his personality restored from backup countless times. Most "normal" humans were exterminated by either the Silicon Creatures or the Safeguard, given the events of NOiSE, Blame's prequel.
- Biomega -  takes this Up to Eleven: The very first chapter features pretty much everybody who wasn't a robot, cyborg or mutant of some sort being wiped out by a full-blown Zombie Apocalypse.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica presents a very disturbing take on this theme. Yes the girls do become supremely powerful, but in doing so their souls get ripped out of their body and placed inside a Soul Jar.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, humans have various degrees of self-enhancement. Some become walking armor, some get artificial limbs, and still others get transmuted into chimeras with new functional abilities. They have various degrees of acceptance of these transformations, as none of them was by choice. There are also the Homonculi, who consider themselves an evolved form of humans.
- Every superhero who was once a normal human. Inherently superhuman races do not count, unless they enhance themselves even further.
- It's notable that only a small percentage of them gained their powers deliberately; usually it was a Freak Accident. This is arguably a necessary component of a superhero universe; if super-powers were easily reproducible, then the heroes themselves would stop being special.
Syndrome: "And when everyone's super, no one will be."
- The Surrogates
- In the appropriately named Transhuman by Jonathan Hickman medical advances make it possible to give people super powers. However there is a one power limit so everybody opts for Healing Factor.
- Iron Man, in recent years, has been doing everything he can to transhumanize himself, ranging from cyborg parts to a Super Serum. Of course, it's debatable how much of this is symbolic of the lack of humanity in his behavior during the Marvel Civil War and its aftermath. Many fans theorize that the Extremis Formula caused a lot of his erratic, high-handed behavior, either by directly affecting his mind or just giving him a superiority complex.
- Hulk villain the Leader seems preoccupied with creating more Gamma-powered mutates like himself.
- The short-lived DC Comics series The New Guardians (unrelated to the current Green Lantern spinoff) involved a Xanatos Roulette by the Guardians of the Universe to turn humanity into a race of transhumans. Unfortunately, the series' execution was... somewhat lacking, and it's been forgotten, with reason. The method for spreading super-genes through the population was to, well, have sex with as many people as possible; by picking people up in singles bars; despite one member of the team being an apparently sterile cyborg and another being gay. Oh, and they were all wince-inducing Ethnic Scrappies, to boot.
- Captain America would have been the first of an army of super-soldiers if the formula hadn't been lost immediately afterward. It's worth noting, however, that the existence of a few other, far less successful super-soldiers like USAgent stand as proof that it's not just Cap's powers that make him Captain America, it's his personality.
- The Inhumans, Eternals, and Deviants are humans genetically modified by aliens.
Live Action TV
- The Traveler (and later Wesley Crusher) from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
- Not to mention the Borg.
- A more fantastic version could also be applied to Q and the rest of the Continuum.
- Julian Bashir from Deep Space Nine is transhuman thanks to his genetic enhancement. He puts it to good use. Other genetically enhanced people, however, tend to end up having various drawbacks, including mental instability or evil-inducing levels of ambition.
- Though, due to genetic modification of this type being illegal, it's carried out primarily on children who are already "damaged" by doctors with restricted resources and no support. The Star Trek universe is kept from full-scale transhumanism primarily by editorial dictates.
- The infamous (and often titular) Khan Noonien Singh and his followers had genius-level intelligence and five times the strength of a normal man.
- Also, the Vorta, who were uplifted from ape-like beings into what they are now by the Changelings. The other main Dominion race, the Jem'Hadar, are also genetically tailored by the Changelings into loyal super-soldiers.
- The Changelings themselves were once "solid" humanoids, and it's implied they reached their current form through some kind of technological means.
- The Organians (original series) stated that once they were as human as Kirk and his crew, but had evolved into creatures of pure thought and energy.
- Gary Mitchell and Dr Elizabeth Dehner both acquired psi-powers from the galactic energy barrier - within a few hours Mitchell could read the entire library of the Enterprise and could telekinese, create small objects, and project energy from his fingers, with Dr Dehner just a short way behind him. It's impossible to be sure, but they might have hit Q power levels a few days later if they had lived. Unfortunately, Gary becomes a psychopath. Spock believes Transhuman Treachery in such a situation to be inevitable, as the transformed would come to view mere humans as a petty annoyance.
- Several of them have popped up in Fringe
- Almost everyone in Duumvirate is either born transhuman, becomes transhuman, or desperately wants to be transhuman. When your regeneratively immortal friends can play Bullet Hell games at maximum difficulty without breaking a sweat, and dodge actual bullets for that matter, you tend to get a deep appreciation for genetic superiority.
- In Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra, Zarathustra preaches that mankind's future lies into the Ubermensch. A form of spiritual/mental transcendence into godhood.
- Alastair Reynolds' work is full of this, especially the Revelation Space universe.
- The Culture
- Greg Egan often uses this trope in his novels.
- Lilith's Brood
- Beggars in Spain is about the rise of a new breed of transhuman, the "Sleepless".
- Childhood's End
- Oryx and Crake
- The Diamond Age
- The Turing Option by Harry Harrison and Marvin Minsky.
- The Quantum Thief. Notably the society of Oubliette on Mars is resistant to most transhuman technologies, being built on the ideals of privacy and individuality, yet from the reader's perspective it's still filled to the brim with transhuman technology designed to ensure this state of affairs. For starters the citizens all have a specialized privacy sensory organ called Gevulot through which the majority of their communication takes place.
- Everyone and everything is immortal in Robert Reed's books.
- Sister Alice follows the life of a young boy, part of a family of transhumanist gods created to rule over the immortal galaxy.
- Marrow goes into a bit more depth. So long as the brain is intact, the individual can be revived. And in this case, "intact" is pretty broad. One man shoots himself in the head to stow away on a ship (life signs detectors can't find you if you're dead!), and the captain is so impressed that she makes him a lieutenant.
- John Varley's Eight Worlds setting is filled with transhumanism. Even though human genetic experimentation is technically illegal there's always surgery, symbionts, cybernetics and nanotechnology so it's not unusual for people to modify their bodies (sometimes radically) to suit a specific environment, fad, fetish, or job. While the people who go for the most radical physical modifications tend to be professional spacers (who tend to discard things like legs and feet that are not very useful in zero gravity) most people are so cyberized the lunar central computer admits to tapping the unused portions of their brains for additional processing power.
- The Mesan Alignment in the Honor Harrington series has been practicing the biological form of this in secret for quite some time and believe they should share it with the rest of the galaxy... by force.
- There's also a brief mention in on of the early books that there are a handful of planets in the galaxy where cybernetic transhumanism is a common practice but they're fairly isolated incidents.
- In the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons most epic destinies put you beyond the abilities of mere mortals, even to the A God Am I levels with epic destinies like demigod or godmind.
- Also, the Elan Race in 3.5e's Expanded Psionics Handbook and the bloodline feat chain of the same name in 4e D&D's Psionic Power is essentially this: humans who underwent body modification to turn themselves into an immortal being powered by thought.
- GURPS:Transhuman Space has these, as the name suggests.
- In Shadowrun, many people have some degree of mechanical alteration - cybereyes are the most common bit of cyberware in the world. Mages on the other hand can't use them with out messing up their Essence/magic. Also, the metahuman races are humans who have been altered by the return of magic.
- Warhammer 40,000 has mechanicum Cyborgs, augmented Super Soldier Space Marines, as well as their psychic, Chaotically powered, and Cyborg versions, genetically engineered Super Soldier Orks who also come with crude cyborknetic and psychic versions, and undead full-body Cyborg conversions that come in Eldar and Terminator rip-off versions. There are undoubtedly countless more examples, all of them trying to kill you.
- Eclipse Phase, due to ubiquitous Brain Uploading technology most people jump from one genetically enhanced or synthetic "morph" to another fairly regularly.
- Eclipse Phase specifically states that its big underlying theme is trans-humanism and exploring both the technological and psychological aspects of it. All the rule books use transhumanity instead of 'humanity' and wants you thinking about it.
- The Exalted were basically Puny Earthlings (who can at best be Badass Normals with Charles Atlas Superpower, with the rare case of slight Enlightenment Superpower) that Exalted, thus becoming enhanced to the point of surpassing the gods in ability. However, going too far into transhuman paradigms generally leads to The Dark Side in some form or another.
- Several Exalted types are quite literally transhuman. The Alchemicals start as cyborgs with human souls, and eventually turn into giant robots and even living cities as their permanent Essence rating increases. The Infernals have the ability to become like their Yozi patrons, the many-souled, world-like beings that first made the world. You've even got cases among the other Exalted, like the First Age Solar Queen Ktula, who experimented with her body so much that a bunch of her Charms shut down because her Exaltation no longer recognized her as human.
- Abyssals too. Except that rather than become something more than human, they become something less - something hollow and malignant, a walking conduit to Oblivion. The ultimate destiny of the Abyssals could be Deathlords Mark Two - or something greater and more terrible than even the Deathlords can imagine. Or, y'know, they could kick the Void in the face and powerload hope and light into their Shards until they can achieve redemption and become Solars. One of the nice things about Exalted is that there's always a choice.
- In Strike Legion, transhumanism is ubiquitous. The average human in either the Imperium or the Star Republic is already genetically enhanced to the point that they make modern humanity look like degenerate apes. This is before factoring in extensive bio-augmentation, cybernetic implants, and nanotech enhancements which are commercially available to civilians and military. And that is before one gets into the Imperium's countless supersoldier programs (cybernetic modification, genetic modification, extradimensional modification, genetically-enhanced Reality Warper powers....) and the Republic's Legion Process.
- Mass Effect has humans that are enhanced both through gene therapy and cybernetic enhancements. Furthermore, exposure to the substance "Element Zero" has caused a small percentage of the population, known as biotics, to gain powerful telekinetic abilities.
- In the sequel, Shepard's resurrection necessitated "Bio-synthetic fusion" where Shepard was given extensive cybernetic implants wired throughout their body that serves to reinforce their skeletal structure, enhance strength, improve organ function and supplement their central nervous system. Project Overlord reveals that Shepard is just about machine enough to briefly be taken over by the Overlord "Virus".
- All organic beings become transhuman in the "Synthetic" ending of Mass Effect 3.
- The BIOS faction from Allegiance.
- The Advent from Sins of a Solar Empire, in contrast to the No Transhumanism Allowed Traders. Part of the reason why the Traders exiled them in the first place. The alien race present in the game, the Vasari, are as of their in-game state, also technologically improved to varying degrees from their biological baseline.
- Terran Ghosts from StarCraft and Star Craft 2 both thanks to their inherent psychic abilities and the technology and training that helps them harness it (and keep it under control). Also, Protoss Dragoons, Immortals and Stalkers are mildly transProtoss by virtue of their mechanical bodies.
- Metal Gear Solid
- Deus Ex
- Transhumanism is a major theme in Deus Ex Human Revolution. You've got people in support of it, people against it, lots of reasons for both, and Adam Jensen himself has lots of cybernetic upgrades, also called augmentations.
- Half-Life 2. "Transhuman" is a politically loaded word in the Half-Life universe.
- To clarify, any human who volunteers to join the Overwatch is brainwashed, gutted, dismembered, and rebuilt as a cyborg. The augmentations make them entirely dependent on the Combine.
- BioShock (series)
- Command & Conquer. Mostly Nod cyborgs and Yuri's psychic army.
- EVE Online, just watch the intro movie.
- Alice Margatroid from Touhou used to be human, but transformed into a magician as a species.
- In the series that follow on from Mega Man X, this becomes the third option solution to the Robot War that has plagued human- and Reploidkind for hundreds of years.
- MegaMan.EXEHub Hikari in Mega Man Battle Network and (possibly) Dr. Light in Mega Man X are this via Brain Uploading.
- Fawkes in Fallout 3 refers to his fellow supermutants as "meta-human" but even he admits most of them are mentally inferior to unaugmented humans. A small minority however are mentally equal and physically superior (not counting their sterility, of course), exactly how the Master intended them to be. The Virus causing all this was intended to create superior human beings but their research was interrupted by a nuclear war.
- It also seems to be what version of the virus, Fawkes and the DC mutants were made with an early version. The Master's army was the "newest" resulting is most being at least human level mentally. The Enclave's mutants updated the Master's but due to their racist views they designed it to make them dumb.
- The Spartans in Halo, although in the games it's portrayed more as soldiers wearing power armor. The EU goes a great deal further into explaining that they biologically and cybernetically enhanced the bejeezus out of them before putting them into their really fancy armored suits.
- Albert Wesker in the Resident Evil games and Marvel vs. Capcom 3.
- In the F.E.A.R. games, creating transhumans was part of Armacham's goal in initiating Projects Origin, Harbinger, and Perseus. They succeeded. Hoo boy, did they succeed at that.
- In Crysis, this is the ultimate goal of Jacob Hargreave. He has been working for more than a century to prepare mankind for war with the Ceph, using their own stolen technology to enhance human technology, and it culminates in the Nanosuits, which are hyper-advanced Powered Armor designed to turn their wearers into "post-human warriors." They go so far as to literally replace entire organs, co-opt brain functions, and generally turn their wearers into full-on nanotech cyborg supersoldiers, and are capable of sustaining a person even after death, and on top of that, they contain internal machinery and advanced computers that can sample, analyze, and adapt to Ceph environmental weapons.
- Kimiko of Dresden Codak is all for transhumanism. In the Hob storyline, an alternate universe version of her didn't do a terribly good job of carrying humanity through its Singularity and apparently came to a sticky end. The human remnant of that reality did make the step into trans-humanity in the end though.
- Yuri of Spacetrawler. When she lost her limbs, she obtained robotic replacements. And she went the extra step of BioAugmenting herself with part of an Eeb brain... and cat ears.
- Schlock Mercenary is loaded with the stuff. Cyborgs, Nano Machine-based boosts, genetically engineered sophonts (including uplifted animals), and that's just for humans.
- Interestingly Schlock Mercenary approaches the the concept from the other side as well. Haban II and The Fleetmind/Petey started out as pure A Is residing in computer systems but both have since have partially migrated into organic vessels. Haban started as the AI half of the human/AI team of DoytHaban but after his gate close suffered a severe head injury, functionally killing Doyt, leaving one version with Haban as the sole intelligence. Petey on the other hand created multiple 'blank' clones and use hypernode communicators to wire them into the Fleetmind Gestalt to act as physical representatives.
- A Miracle of Science
- The Valkyries of Cwynhild's Loom are cyborg Super Soldiers.
- Very deeply explored in Orion's Arm, to the point that baselines (regular non-modified humans) are something of an endangered species by 10,600 AT. It's also not limited to humans; several xenosophont species have also embraced self-enhancement, and animals both terragen and alien have been provolved to sophonce.
- The Transhumanist movement. They're not transhuman yet, of course, but would like to promote research into science and technology that would make it possible.
- People who have undergone gene therapy or use prosthetic limbs, cochlear implants, and the such are examples of human enhancement technology used to elevate people with disabilities to the level of healthy normal humans. So they are transhuman compared to what they would have been without the technology.
- The US military is developing an eye implant code-named "Luke's Binoculars". It is designed to let the user read someone's brainwaves to determine if they're Friend or Foe.
- Cellphone and key-chip implants.
- Nootropics. Basically brain boosting pills. They've gotten better in the last couple of decades. The good ones don't necessarily push you into superhuman territory so much as they allow you to function closer to your optimal level with greater consistency and, in some cases, in spite of age.
- Also of note are smartphones. Small computers that are capable of doing pretty much anything their desktop counterparts can do, with their owner at all times (or at least as long as their owner chooses). The only difference between the characters in Ghost in the Shell and a person with a smart phone is that the former has a more seamless interface than the latter.