One of the central themes to the Kazei 5 setting is the question of "Who is human?" When faced with genetically upgraded humans, cybernetically upgraded humans, full-conversion cyborgs, and even artificial humans built to customer specifications, one has to wonder who the "real" humans are. Is it a matter of birth? Of outlook and belief? Or is it deeper, a matter of "soul"? And what of espers? Are they human, or are they something more than human?
The following scale gives a rough idea of how people are treated based on their physical makeup and alteration. Naturally, this scale is only a rough guide and is more from the point of view of a "normal" unaltered human. However, it does help establish an idea of different forms of humanity may be treated in a social situation.
A normal human is just that—a normal, everyday, biologically-sired human with no genetic or cybernetic alteration. Normal humans form the majority of the people on the planet, although this perception is often colored by where one lives. To a native Neo Yorker, for example, one gets the impression most everyone has some sort of cybernetic implant, even if it is a Direct Neural Interface jack. Of course, in places like Africa and China, one can go days or even months without seeing any sort of cybernetic augmentation.
The bulk of humanity doesn't really care about any perceived "status" they may have for being unaltered. Some, however, are proud of their unaugmented bodies, and feel superior to those who must resort to scientific means to compete. Others have a more conservative viewpoint and feel that if a lack of augmentation was good enough for their forefathers, then it should be good enough of them. Others go the opposite direction, and feel inferior and insecure in the face of increased genetic and cybernetic improvements.
A genetic upgrade is, for all intents and purposes, still a "normal" human. However, a genetic upgrade has one major difference—they've been optimized, so to speak, via science. For the most part there is no social stigma attached to upgrades, and, in fact, upgrades are in vogue among the wealthy as a way to guarantee physically and mentally superior children. Some, however, question the wisdom of genetic upgrading, and the self-esteem of anyone who feels they need to undergo the procedure (Ignoring the fact many upgrades had no choice as their parents made them submit to the procedure.). As for the upgrades themselves, there has started to develop a "pecking order" as the qualities of different upgrade packages become apparent. There is also a tendency (usually among corporate youth) for upgrades to feel somewhat superior to unaltered humans.
Testing seems to show that genetic upgrades breed true (or, at least, pass along the bulk of their improved genes). This may mean that with time there will be no more "normal" humans left.
Normal Human/Genetic Upgrade With Minor Cybernetic Implants
In much of the industrial world, simple cybernetic augmentation has become commonplace. The most common form is a DNI jack, allowing the recipient to access various forms of datasystems. Such a jack is almost required in the corporate world, at least among the rank-and-file salarimen. Other common systems are skill interface jacks, optical augmentation (removing the need for glasses), and audio augmentation (removing the need for hearing aides). replacement limbs are also common, especially since the typical cyberarm is just as fully functional as the original (flesh) arm. For the most part, this sort of augmentation is seen as normal, and even expected. There is almost no social stigma attached to getting datajack, for example.
As clones are very rare in the world of Kazei 5, there is no over-all public perception of a clone's social status. Most clones alive today are the children of the super-rich, born before genetic upgrades become common. However, for the most part, a clone is thought of as a copy of a "real" human, so if a CEO had a clone grown "just in case" that clone would be considered secondary to the original. On the other hand, if no one knows a clone is, in fact, a clone, then they are just another normal human (or genetic upgrade).
Common public perception of synthetic humans is that they are property (a viewpoint encouraged by the corporations). Most people recognize the fact that a synthetic is an organic being, but don't regard them as "human." They are grown, not born, and to many that's the big difference. This makes then organic machines, not "real people." Interestingly enough, however, their organic origins often make them more acceptable and "user friendly" to some people then, say, a full-conversion cyborg.
A subset of the synthetic human is the cybernetically enhanced synthetic. In most cases, the cyberware is minor and doesn't significantly alter public perception of the synthetic in question. However, extensive (and obvious) physical modification starts to push the synthetic human out of the realm of the organic and into that of cyberdroids, becoming, for all intents and purposes, just another dumb machine.
Espers push the envelope on what is considered human. Most espers have limited powers, and are generally thought of as just another human (thus ranking above synthetics on the social scale of acceptance). It is the espers who posses serious paranormal power that start to stretch the definition of what is human. To many individuals, they are something more than human—possibly the next stage of humanity—and this scares people. They wonder not if, but when, normal humanity will become obsolete, and who will be able to stop the espers when this happens (It doesn't help that research shows the number of espers is slowly growing.). Even worse are espers such as Raven, Shion Nys, or Ran, who are thought of as power made flesh, transcending any definition of humanity to become something else.
Because of their power, some corporations look at espers more as a resource to be exploited and not as a individual person. An esper is an asset, much like a synthetic (or even a cyborg). Thus, by nature of their power, an esper looses their humanity and becomes another corporate tool or weapon.Espers themselves are too individualistic to have much of a generalized reaction to the rest of the world. Some, like Shion Nys, feel fairly superior to non-espers, while others wish to blend in and be "just another person." In addition, espers, for all their power, are heavily outnumbered by the bulk of humanity, and have no powerbase from which to mount any sort of dominance campaign.
Normal Human/Genetic Upgrade With Major Cybernetic Implants
At some point (no one is sure when), a person's cyber implants go from "minor" to "major." It's hard to say what the dividing line is, although most people agree that any implants that go beyond the needs of day-to-day living are "major" (This includes muscle replacement, reflex augmentation, subdermal armor, and the like.).A major implant usually involves alteration to most, if not all, of the body, and is usually something the average person would never need in their lives. This makes the heavily cybered suspect in the eyes of many "normal" humans, as the thought is "Why do you need so much?", followed by "Any who needs that much cyber is just looking for trouble." Thus, the common social stigma for the heavily cybered is that they are involved in violent occupations and probably work beyond the law (Think about it, why would Joe Salariman need a smartgun link, finger razors, or skeletal reinforcement anyway?).
Cyborgs are a bit of an oddity. Technically, anyone with major cybernetic implants is a cyborg (Marta Nys for example), but this definition is usually applied to this who have had 70-75% or more of their bodies replaced with mechanical implants. But, this is further confused by the nature of cyborg bodies. Few people (at least, few people now), have the large, metal-clad, bodies many people think of when they hear the word "cyborg." People like this exist, but at the moment are rare, as it requires a certain self-confidence to totally abandon one's face and form for a wholly mechanical construct.
Most cyborgs retain a portion of their original bodies (usually the head and torso), with cybernetic limbs added to a central frame. Normally, they look perfectly human, provided they are fully dressed. A new development is the full-conversion cyborg, where the brain and spine is implanted into a artificial body. These cyborgs look perfectly human, dressed or not, and can only be told apart from the bulk of humanity by their physical skills.For the most part, the average cyborg is accepted by society, especially since cyborgs are common in many governmental military and corporate security forces. However, much like those with major cybernetic implants, the average citizen usually figures any cyborg must either be a combat operative or have been the victim of a terrible accident (Most people can't picture anyone voluntarily discarding their old body for a new—mechanical—one.). Thus, when dealing with a known cyborg (especially one with extensive combat modifications), the average person may wonder if they are dealing with a person or with a machine. This goes doubly so for those who have chosen to abandon any pretense of a normal human form when choosing a cyborg body.
A cyberdroid is a machine with human form. The typical cyberdroid has a complex neural net allowing it to "think," but even the most progressive of thinkers won't try and argue that makes the cyberdroid self-aware (well, most won't). To most people, even a synthetic is more human than a cyberdroid.
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