|“||To perfect the frail human form. To correct nature's mistakes. These ideals form the essence of the modern age.||„|
|~ Ernest Soral, "The Cybernetic Manifesto"|
Although implantation had been established as a viable medical procedure as early as the twentieth century (with some attempts dating back to the 1800s), it wasn't until the Cybernetic Revolution of 2034 that the cybernetic augmentation procedure became a global phenomenon, profoundly impacting science, medicine, culture and the very notion of human limitations.
The Cybernetic Revolution
|“||To say that the Great Transition changed everything would be a gross understatement.||„|
|~ Conrad Badowski, "The Augmented History, Vol. 1"|
Although the early XXI century saw significant advancements in cybernetic augmentation, the implants of the time were still clunky, limited in their articulation and prone to malfunction. All this changed in 2034, when two scientists - Ernest Soral and Albert Dumanski - designed a revolutionary type of nano-machine, far surpassing any previous advancements in the field. When introduced into the host organism, these semi-autonomous biomechanical nanites could perform complex surgery, even going as far as to reprogram the immune system. This amazing leap in technology was soon to become known as the Cybernetic Revolution, although it is sometimes also referred to as the Great Transition.
|“||For a brief moment, it seemed like we finally made it. A new frontier of medicine, an unprecedented power to heal and improve.
We should have known it was too good to be true.''
|~ Dr. Anthony Skalski, "The Disease of Transition"|
The new technology proved nearly miraculous in the treatment and rehabilitation of patients suffering from organ failure, cardiovascular diseases and numerous physical impairments. With the aid of nanites, implants could be installed without risk of the body rejecting them. The new and improved augmentations were miles ahead of their clunky predecessors - their level of articulation and responsiveness equaled that of an organic limb, while their strength and movement speed often surpassed them. As for the nano-machines themselves, they worked wonders in disposing of blood clots, tumors and unwanted foreign bodies from the host's organism. In just a few years, mortality rates dropped to an unprecedented low, ushering in a decade of growth and development, which also served to improve the country's unfavorable demographic situation.
|“||Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.||„|
|~ Albert Einstein|
Unsurprisingly, medical experts were not the only ones who sought to benefit from this revolutionary technology, as it immediately garnered the attention of both the national armed forces and corporate PMCs. Unlike doctors, however, the military were not just interested in the healing and rehabilitation of wounded soldiers. Their primary interest laid in its potential to improve upon the frail human form and to increase its effectiveness in combat. Volunteers were subjected to an extensive augmentation program, which increased their strength, speed and stamina exponentially. It wasn't long before special units made up exclusively of augmented soldiers were being sent on tactical incursions around the globe.
|“||Don't get left behind! Get linked!||„|
|~ Advertising slogan for the CTX-1 line of neural implants|
Following the Cybernetic Revolution, augmentation became a staple of everyday life and culture. Implants were no longer seen as mere prostheses, but instead became a symbol of style, wealth and status. Each year, manufacturing plants offered more and more elaborate models.
However, the greatest cultural shift occurred with the introduction of the neural implant - a tiny computer chip installed into the cerebral cortex. The device was able to improve cognitive functions and enhance the user's ability to assimilate information (although the latter was still limited by the natural capabilities of the human brain). It also offered built-in interfaces projected straight onto the retina, as well as a direct link to any wireless network. Despite early skepticism, the device was quickly adopted into everyday life. By 2041, 'neurally linked' citizens outnumbered the 'naturals'. The resulting cultural shift was immense - citizens without neural implants soon found it difficult to compete with those who had opted to have them installed.
The breaking point
|“||All I maintain is that on this earth there are pestilences and there are victims, and it's up to us, so far as possible, not to join forces with the pestilences.||„|
|~ Albert Camus, "The Plague"|
The Great Plague of 2047 drastically changed the outlook on cybernetic augmentation. With the advent of the nanophage, what was once perceived a giant leap for mankind became a potential threat to its very survival. The disease spread like wildfire, especially in the poorer and more densely populated areas, leading to the introduction of strict quarantine procedures. Hundreds of thousands died, trapped in their miniscule apartments, writhing in pain, their minds taken by fever. The situation continued to escalate, leading to civil unrest and stigmatizing the afflicted as 'unclean' and 'defective'.
Although the pandemic was eventually extinguished and the newly introduced safeguards were meant to prevent further outbreaks, isolated incidents of the nanophage continued to occur. However, since they mostly affected the poor and underprivileged, they were not met with widespread panic. Over time, people adjusted to this new reality. Slowly but surely, trust in the viability of augmentation was restored, although it never fully regained the prestige it once had.
The Age of Disillusionment
|“||We were like a child that someone handed a soldering iron to fix all our toys.
Is it really that surprising we got burnt?
|~ Conrad Badowski, "The Augmented History, Vol. 1"|
Today, cybernetic augmentation is still a major and integral part of life in the Fifth Polish Republic. However, for all its benefits, modern use of implants comes with an increasing sense of disillusionment. The threat of the nanophage, combined with the growing prices of installation and maintenance had a chilling effect on the augmentation industry. While most of the population is still equipped with some sort of modifications, there are also those who suggest that meddling with our bodies might not be the answer and that we should take a step back before it is too late. The most vocal detractors have even started a cult, known as Children of the Immaculate Birth, that has been trying (unsuccessfully) to establish itself as an official religion.
The introduction of the neural implant and the observer unit brought about further doubts as to the limits of authority and an individual's inherent right to the privacy of thought. Combined with a host of newly discovered disorders connected to augmentation (such as ADS, or Sterling Syndrome), these issues form a valid counterargument to the naive optimism of cybernetic pioneers.