No Transhumanism Allowed – TV Tropes

Posted: October 25, 2017 at 2:50 am

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"Captain, although your abilities intrigue me, you are quite honestly inferior. Mentally, physically. In fact, I am surprised how little improvement there has been in human evolution. Oh, there has been technical advancement, but, how little man himself has changed."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. It's a primary contributor to Schizo Tech.Oddly enough, 20 Minutes into the Future settings, particularly within the Cyber Punk 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 Also done to sidestep What Measure Is a Non-Super?: the idea that humanity might be "superseded" by a more advanced version is repugnant to many, and the more radical the enhancements are, the more likely it will be seen as a kind of Body Horror.Indeed,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.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 bermensch 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 Hand Waved 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 Back Story 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).

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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.

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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.

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 prosthesis 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 inheritable, and yes, it spread like a wildfire.

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.

Another Stross book, 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.

Live Action TV

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.

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"Tau Ceti flowering: Horrors visited upon neighboring systems must never be repeated. Therefore: if it means the end of our evolution as a species, so be it." Caretaker Lular H'minee, "Sacrifice : Life"

"Risks of Flowering: considerable. But rewards of godhood: who can measure?" Usurper Judaa Marr, "Courage : To Question"

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No Transhumanism Allowed - TV Tropes

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Written by simmons |

October 25th, 2017 at 2:50 am

Posted in Transhumanism