Societies of the Future
More Than Machine, but Not Quite Human
With the onset of cybernetics becoming available to people in the future, the question of how society will adapt to this new technology remains to be seen. The idea of a human has always been biological in nature; regardless of the race, culture, or other differences between individuals humanity as a whole is made of flesh and bone. When the bone becomes a carbon Nano tube array, and the flesh becomes a metal alloy the idea of a human is fundamentally changed. In fact the word cyborg even alludes to this being the fusion of man and machine, but still not considered really belonging to either. The moral issues become irrelevant once that border is crossed, and at that moment the person has become a fusion of man and machine they have become larger than the sum of the parts. As with any technology the goal of cybernetics is in to improve the quality of life for the user. The societal potential presents problems of a backlash against this form of enhancement is entirely possible. The rise of an elite augmented stratification, and the question of what will happen to humanities’ free will as the brain is merged with augmentations are all societal issues that should be contemplated as the technology emerges and then becomes implemented into the population. Like all revolutions in society humanity will eventually be faced with the choice to either forgo or embrace cybernetics, much like they have their smart phones, and the countless other controversial technology that has risen over the course of time. At the present moment humanity is quickly becoming less bound by the rules of a natural world, the race that once struggled to wield technology now is fast approaching the means to weld it to their own bodies. The definition of what it means to be a human is changing into something that is not quite a figment of the imagination any more, but still lacks the finesse to be widely incorporated. In the trilogy of DeusEx games, the limitations and boundaries between man and machine have been lifted, and the cost to society becomes a stratification war that ravages the globe. After the dust has settled though, the ending result becomes a human race that is not bound by any obligation to the natural ailments of the flesh, one that has managed to transcend the principle of what it means to be Human. This Hypothesis applies to the real world as well, and in time society will chose to wholly phase out the individual who remains un-augmented in favor or a technologically fused society and race. To address the research for this topic the games themselves were played through, and research went into looking at the societal issues present in the game. After the games were dissected thoroughly for these social elements, further research was made into the non-fictional elements of human augmentation, and the potential effects that it could have on the world in order to support or refute the hypothesis.
In history the aspiration of humanity to become greater than just a mere mortal has existed since man could look up at the sky. However, the means to alter the body into the image of something that is beyond the original body is a technological advancement that has only surfaced as a real possibility in the last decade. With the advent of new possibilities for the individual, it can only be imagined what the collective of society could become with such advancements. This ideal has been the cusp of a technologically based Utopian ideal that can be best summed up as “self controlling, self maintaining, self reasoning. Indeed cybernetics has been characterized as the “science of effective organization”(Ericson 1). Society has come to envision the future of cybernetics with a mixture of awe and fear. The awe stems from the hope that this future Utopia can live up to the expectation that has failed us historically, after all the very idea of a Utopia is found nowhere both linguistically or historically in the real world and the apprehensions toward this possible future has lead to the discursive theories to become a school of thought. Cyborg Anthropology as it is called, is the summation of the thoughts of dealing with these issues “ Cyborg Anthropology is interested in the construction of science and technology as cultural phenomenons” (Downey 265) . The old add-age to lose humanity for the sake of this goal is a common concern when technology and culture are involved together. The idea of Humanity even being overcome by machines is a staple of fiction thanks to the the popularization of the Terminator series. While not specifically depicting a merger of man and machine, the fear “that our automated machines may ultimately become too intelligent and may even eventually do away with us” (Arnold 24) sets the tone of the advancement of robotics in any form could eventually lead to this doomsday scenario. However, Cyborg Anthropology offers a very different view of the eventual singularity between humanity and machines. The alternative to either a wholly humanistic or machine oriented view point, is that only one side can remain dominant is essentially flawed because “ human subjects and subjectivity are crucially as much a function of machines, machine relations, and information transfers” (Downey 266). This states that humanity will adapt to the use of machines, and in the end the two are essentially the same. This theory then stands to reason that humans in themselves are only advanced biological machines, so we can augment the body with compatible machines to achieve increased performance without sacrificing anything. The humanity would not be lost, but rather it would adapt and grow stronger as a result of the change.
The historical context in which the Deus Ex games take are a recent history that truly began in the early 2000’s. The first game in the series chronologically is DeusEx: Human Revolution, and the game is the most recently made, being released in 2011. The story follows the development of fully integrated cybernetic prosthesis that can interface with the body directly into the hands of the public by the year 2027. While at first the development of this technology was strictly medical, the real world applications of the technology for war and other environments where the prosthesis gave an advantage became a quick economy. In light of this an economic boom in prosthesis sales, and the advantages which their owners have over the normal population quickly forms a stratification based upon three groups. The most powerful and influential group are the corporations that run the development of cybernetics and their clients. The second is the lower class who cannot afford to obtain augmentations but wish to do so in order to improve their lives. The third as always, acts as the oppositional force to the movement trend, and sees augmentation as an unethical and disastrous mistake by mankind. The player finds themselves in the role of Adam Jensen, who works as a body guard for Sarif industries, which is the largest manufacturer of cybernetics on the planet. As Sarif industries begins to work on a new chip which can be implanted in the brain to hopefully prevent cybernetic rejection on account of scar tissue build up on the chips. Seeing an opportunity a group attacks the corporation in order to obtain the researchers on the project, and in the process the mortally wound Jensen. Recovering under Sarif’s watchful eye, Jensen is outfitted with the latest augmentations in order to get back up to the forefront of figuring out what is being planned. As the game progresses Jensen learns that the anti augmentation groups are being used as a proxy to attempt to halt the progression of augmentation until the Illuminati can seize control of it for their own goals. Just as Jensen begins to piece together the plot of the Illuminati to seize control a rival company to Sarif corporation has announced the development of the new bio-chip that they were originally developing. The augmented population flocks to this new advancement that will prevent the risk of rejection, and soon a majority of them are carrying the new chip. As part of the scheme the Illuminati then activate a beacon that drives any augmented individual who has the new bio-chip insane by over-stimulation of the nervous system. The signal is originating from a supercomputer aptly named Hyron, which to Jensen’s horror has been routed to human brains to act as its processor. The Illuminati used the Hyron project as the first prototype to controlling the human mind, and with its success used the computer to attempt to take control of the populace. Jenson manages to shut down the signal, however as the news leaks out about the controversies that were in the works behind human enhancement, the world is further thrown into chaos, over what is the right choice for humanity,
The world has fallen into a dystopian future, in the year 2052 a plague called the Gray Death has appeared and wrecks what is left of humanity. Conveniently the only company that can synthesize a treatment for this illness is a proxy company of the Illuminati. As tension’s between the upper class that can afford to purchase this treatment, and the people who are dying without it grows terrorist groups begin to spring up to wage a war against the governments of the planet. The character played in this game is JC Denton, a rookie agent under a anti terrorist division. As it turns out the character is being manipulated by the Illuminati as a test candidate for AI merging. The reason being is that a previous attempt to create an artificial intelligence to police the world ended in failure. As the Ai managed to achieve sentience and determined that the Illuminati themselves were a threat, and therefore it rebelled. The Illuminati having learned from their previous failure decide to engineer the perfect role for the merger relying on neither a sole human or computerized method of keeping control. Over the last few decades since the last game augmentation has progressed to the point where nano-machines have taken to be the main source of cybernetics over physical hardware. The player character JC Denton learns that the Illuminati need either him or his brother’s body to activate the merger with the Ai unit. As a result he decides to openly rebel against the organization that was a part of the Illuminati, and sides with the terrorist cells that are attempting to bring down the Illuminati once and for all. The Gray Death turns out to be, unsurprisingly, an attempt to bring the world under an easier social control by keeping the resources in the hands of the Illuminati, but when the virus is cured then they lose a major portion of their power. Resorting to drastic measures one of the heads of the Illuminati decides to alter himself with nano augmentations so that he will be compatible to the new AI system instead. As the Illuminati begin to start the merger process Denton and his allies see the opportunity to attack the base in an effort to stop the Ai construct all together. However in a twist, the Ai that originally went rouge against the Illuminati decides that the other more peaceful Ai that has been created in the meantime needs to be accounted for in order for the Ai to reach the state of a complete being. In the chaos of the resulting fusion and creation of a new artificial intelligence, that far exceeds either previous parts. JC Denton is given the choice by the new Ai that calls itself Helios, to merge with it in order to guide humanity with the best traits of machine and man. Denton reflects on his past dealings with both the terrorists and the Illuminati and decides that both are too dangerous to be left in power. Denton then accepts Helio’s offer, and as the two become one entity he begins to plan for how to best bring the world to salvation.
The third game, DeusEx: The Invisible War, is the last chronological game in the DeusEx series and takes place in the year 2072. As Denton bides his time to establish a plan for the ideal world order, different factions have built themselves up as world powers in the mean time and a world of war is all that is left. This event known as the Collapse has left the people of the world broken and scattered. Heavy augmentation has become necessary to survive the harsh environment of war, but as a result of the constant conflict anti augmentation groups are a major world power as well. The character in this game goes by the name of Alex Denton. A mercenary that does freelance work for all of the world powers in exchange for pay. Over the course of the missions that Alex is sent on he learns that he is a clone of the original JC Denton. Finally being able to meat the original Alex is presented with the plan that JC denton spent so long planning. The final plan involves augmenting the entire human race to one large computer network, a person would belong to the collective government by thought, but would still fundamentally keep their individuality to keep intact human nature while also creating a true world equality without difference or issue. Alex decides to back JC Denton’s idea of a perfect world, and with the information for mass nano machine construction, the entirety of the human population is able to be quickly be modified and added to the collective government of the planet. The results of this is staggering with the ability to share information and motive on a whim, to be guided by JC Denton which ends with a society in which war is nonexistent, and the entirety of humanity can go on to focus on their passions instead of worrying over issues of inequality and war.
From the perspective of values, norms, and sanctions the main power that manipulates society from the background is the Illuminati. They first among all else value control and obedience among the populace so that they may guide them. “Such things will only be dimly remembered upon waking to their normal lives” (DeusEx), gives this example the Illuminati work by proxy and so seek to coerce the populace into doing its bidding. The norm that arises through this for the population is the need for privacy that is valued heavily by the Illuminati so that they may work in secrecy in order to deceive the world. When this idea of gentle coercion fails for the Illuminati the sanction that they fall back onto is through a threat of destruction. Whether it be the bio-chips causing madness or the Gray Death keeping the population in line, the Illuminati seek to keep people in line through causing bigger problems to take the attention off of themselves. On the opposite spectrum the line of values that the protagonists favor is toward free will and progress. In each game the main character ends up canonically making the choice to progress humanity towards the next step in evolution while trusting it to make the right choice in the future. In an odd twist the sanction that this line of thought follows is equality. “We’re now ready to transform the human race” (DeusEx Invisible War), are the words that JC Denton uses before he gives up the reigns of progress towards the collective of humanity. The Irony in that to achieve this they have no choice, and are therefore sanctioned with equality in the form of augmentation. While JC Denton and Helios see this as a just reward, the counterargument towards people wishing for privacy makes it a forced “right” of the population.
Surprisingly for a trilogy that seeks to end stratification the only ones seen through the trilogy coincide with one another. The world has been split up into two groups the wealthy who profit off of augmentation and have it themselves because they can afford it; and the poor who though many wish to be augmented to gain either status, or to benefit their quality of life cannot afford to buy the augmentations. This leads to an every increasing rift that accumulates into the collapse event of the first game. In civil war the two sides are stratified irreversibly by hatred until the ending of DeusEx Invisible War where stratification is ended by the planet wide augmentation. Other social differences such as age or gender play no part in the stratification, meaning that the sole reason for the inequality comes from the advantage that augmentations give over a entirely human body.
In terms of the social institutions seen the three major ideals take form of the Illuminati, and the Templar philosophy. The Illuminati have importance to the narrative from the stand point that they have the most power through out the trilogy. The economy is entirely run by their proxy companies to forward the goal of guiding humanity in the way they see fit. Despite this all powerful control, the Illuminati is depicted in an often negative light in comparison to the idea of Augmentation freedom. Though they may be the “Invisible Hand” (DeusEx), by taking a reserved backseat driving approach, as an organization they have lost touch with the very world that they seek to control, which leads to them misjudging the actions of the protagonists. Despite limitless power without the knowledge to back it up the resources are wasted. The theme of progress is handled in the institution of Sarif industries, the goal of the corporation is to create and progress human augmentation by any means necessary. As said by David Sarif “They cannot stop us. They cannot stop the future” (DeusEx Human Revolution), Sarif industries serves to act as the embodiment of sacrifice for the greater good, a hope for Utopia and a continued progress towards the singularity of augmentation. The Templar’s on the other hand are present as the antithesis towards change, they do not wish to see augmentation controlled or allowed to flourish freely, but want to keep the status quo intact. Humans should remain solely human, and to tarnish the natural body that was given is a sure way towards destruction.
The role of conflict and by extension war as a method of social change is important to the series, because it acts as a crucible for the way of Augmentation. Much like the Terminator was meant to represent the “replacement of a machine that can do it better, faster, cheaper” (Arnold 24) , the end result is that biological functions simply cannot keep up with the synthetic alternative. The world must adapt this technology to themselves because it is the end of survival if they do not. The conflict essentially boils down to a war against stagnation of the human being. As one soldier in the series puts it so eloquently,“Human society is now so destructive that organic life itself is an endangered species”, when out competed the Darwinian principle of survival of the fittest holds true, even if it is a designed change.
As a whole technology is seen in a positive light throughout the trilogy. In the beginning Augmentation allowed for medical advances unseen before that point. Further development to the nanobot cybernetics cleared the hurtle of cost for the individual, allowing for augmentations to be available to the masses. Finally the merger of human consciousness into one large network, increased communication into a singularity and ended stratification entirely. The negative aspects of technology only showed themselves when someone wished to abuse the power of them. It is human nature to weaponize technology, “Even primitive savages invented such ingenious machines as bows and arrows” ( Kaempffert 432). That does not mean that the technology is bad though, and if weaponry is born out of the necessity to obtain the selfish desires in order to keep one alive, than the augmentations that have the capability to eliminate these desires are a good worth keeping in the world.
The main theme of this trilogy of games is the progress of mankind with the pressures of technology looming over the horizon. Each game follows the theme of revolutionizing a central part of what culture considers to be part of a human. Causing the question what is a human? and where does the potential of one end. DeusEx: Human Revolution preaches the theme that humanity will not lose itself to technology, and that though the progress too reaching perfection is a hard road, it is one worth following. “Some people will be left behind. It’s evolution!” (DeusEx: Human Revolution), are the words stated by David Sarif, on the realities of progress. The game makes it clear by the sacrifices that are made in the sake of progress, such as the Hyron merger with human brains will one day pave the road to true enlightenment. The importance comes from acknowledging the sacrifice of others and to honor that choice by keeping your morals in check. The struggle to retain these morals become the games argument, and with proper use any advancement is just a tool to improve humanity, nothing more nothing less. “we were cold so we harnessed fire, we were weak so we created tools. Every time we met an obstacle, we used creativity and ingenuity to overcome it” (DeusEx: Human Revolution), the idea of progress in this game is limited to the physical side of humanity. Accepting that power without giving into the temptation to abuse it is what leads the next step in human evolution.
The second game deals with human growth in terms of the mind and concept of self. Specifically the merger between the Helios Ai and JC Denton is not depicted as a loss of individuality, but a gaining of the logic and knowledge of the artificial intelligence system while still retaining the human portion of Denton needed to empathize with humanity as its leader. As Helios states before the merger, “the barriers between us have fallen, and we have become our own shadows” (DeusEx). Helios refers to itself in the plural sense, yet still emphasizes a gain to be had with a further fusion with Denton “together we can be more, if we join” (DeusEx). The core theme of attaining the wisdom of a collective with the compassion that comes with emotion and empathy on the human side, is that the vast power that comes with knowledge can be best used to serve for the greater good of all.
The third game in the trilogy deals with the concept of all with the inclusion of society into the full merger of machine and man. Both Alex and JC Denton are relying upon the unification of humanity to absolve their differences into the collective of a true and instant democracy. This process is described in detail that “Wisdom must first be human. You must start with what a human sees and feels. But wisdom must also be knowledgeable, logical, and fair to billions of other beings” (DeusEx Invisible War). The way to achieving the Utopian society comes from a benevolent power seeking to mediate the vast collective, but does not wish to take away free will, but merely understand the will of the populace with a “deep understanding of every person’s life and opinions” (DeusEx Invisible War). This theme of a guiding force presiding over the human race is very similar to the ending of The Day the Earth Stood Still, however the difference is that the populace has a direct input into the system rather than just being ruled over by it. In an optimistic turn the Helios Ai, and Denton believe that humanity when fully integrated with knowledge from birth will be able to make the right decisions for the species as a whole.
As can be seen, in the world of DeusEx the idea of a non augmented human was eventually eliminated for the sake of progress towards an ideal, but what of the real world? This rests on whether the body, the mind, and society can be fundamentally improved through augmentation. Ideally the evidence for a future of augmentation of the body can be argued to already be on it’s way. The jump in the ability of prosthetic arms, and bio-tech is increasing at an ever expanding rate due to the Singularity principle. As technology is progressing at this heightened rate this will theoretically lead to a technological singularity. This singularity itself could lead to “technological humankind in its acceleration toward something utterly beyond itself” (Smith 203), it is at this point that the curve of technology begins to shape the whole of human reality. In terms of the body, when synthetic limbs have the ability to outperform the biological originals than natural selection will see the strong, whether it be through the need for military might or medicine in order to “give it new purpose and direction, and lay the foundations of engineering and mass production” (Kaempffert 432) a need for progress will at least guarantee the creation of augmented physical bodies. In terms of the mind becoming augmented it like the physical augmentation would prove to be advantageous to thought speed, much like the processor of a computer the brain could be upgraded and improved. What acts as further evidence that it will occur is the relationship between the agency of a human and a machine. Any sentient being relies upon what it gets from the outside world to define what it is. The concept of a human centric sentience is nothing more than semantics for our species. In reality even a “post human beings depend upon the embodied experiences, and upon their interaction with their complex and shifting environment” (Stevenson 88). It is then truly impossible to abandon the mind frame of the self through any alteration to the brain. Given that if memories were altered during the process, the person stops being themselves in the truest way and is then dead in the process. The incline in society towards ethics and the rights of human beings, means that the value of the information that makes up a human mind would be carefully guarded by law. If ideas and writings can be patented, than the unique thoughts that make up yourself inherently belong as property. As it is now progressing at a rate that has become a self sustaining process, humanity will inevitability change as the result. From the perspective of society itself, can that fall under the same spell of augmentation to improve relations on the planet. In a way just that is happening through economic globalization. “From 1973 until today, world trade grew at a pace of 11% annually, rising from just over 22% of the world GDP to 42% today” (Mishkin 260), and with this increased need for trade larger and more companies are being created, that have a greater monopoly on the world power. Such companies continuously devour one another into ever increasingly powerful conglomerates, so this too is a singularity towards a global economic power. When the world is unified under one economy that seeks to protect its own place at the top then the Earth will stabilize politically as a result. Much like the wold of DeusEx, the real world economy has become more reliant on communication and technology for transaction and processing. In the event of the technological singularity the rate of communication would rise as a result into the global grid presented at the end of the Trilogy. To say that the augmentation of the world through cybernetics is an inevitability, would not be far from the truth. If anything it can be argued to be highly plausible, and with that world change, the resulting environment will be unsuitable for the un-augmented person, leading to the eventual phasing out and then extinction of a un-augmented reality.
The realm of cybernetics in all fashions are quickly becoming developed, for different purposes and functions. All realms of the human body and being can be addressed by these changes in a variety of ways. As shown when something outpaces the original it has a tendency to phase out, it would be superfluous to believe that the human body is exempt from this rule. Furthering the goal of a united and augmented world, the global economy is becoming more and more reliant on technology to keep up with the naturally increasing demands of the population. If current trends in development of these technologies develop the world will fast approach the technological singularity. It is at this point where DeusEx most speaks to the core result, in that moment the definition of reality for humanity will be transformed though not necessarily lost. In support of the hypothesis that society will chose to phase out the individual who remains un-augmented in favor or a technologically fused society. The trade off for a changing reality, are the changing needs to be able to experience it, and in this case the natural human body realistically would be unsuitable for this environment, and will therefore need to adapt in order to survive. These adaptations will come with great changes to the balance of power, and the ability to abuse this power will present itself. The largest impact on society will be to overcome this urge to abuse the power given long enough for the world to adjust and settle into this new form. The potential for war and other horrors will most likely be a possible outcome of this instability. The trade off for progress is always the risk it entails, and the larger risk the greater the outcome when society emerges from the crucible.
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