Image from Keith Wigdor and Bing Image Maker
What is a cyborg you ask? Hmm. I'd say one who follows, or whose creation was inspired by the ideals of cyborgism. What 'cyborgism' is exactly I'm still not sure of despite centuries of study. [Speaker pauses: whirring of skull-mounted cogs intensifies] 'Cyborgism' is a philosophy, a culture and an aesthetic ideal that seeks to fuse the natural with the artificial, synergising the advantages of both in a way that's always deeply personal. It's about pushing the envelope of not just technology but of the sense of self. The minutia of what divides cyborg from non-cyborg is something I've long stopped debating. The term walks between cultures and history. Ultimately I think it's a question of identity; if you view yourself as a cyborg and you take steps to fulfill that view then you very likely are one [Speaker pauses: brief chuckle] Especially if you're doing your viewing through full-spectrum lenses...

     —Recovered archive footage of Bannerek Wheelfell, matriarch of the Unified Church of Metabolics and Metal. 4437a.t.

How do I pick out cyborgs? Simple, I know 'em when I see 'em.

     —Greater Jovian Angelnet when asked about census data. 6960a.t.

Cyborgs are one of the oldest phyles in the terragen sphere and also the least well defined. Most cultures classify cyborgs as bionts that have radically augmented their phenotype through the grafting of technology onto/into their body, often replacing natural features in doing so. Cyborg augmentation is often acquired during the lifetime of the individual, although inherited augmentations are becoming increasingly commonplace. Thus many cyborg clades grow from willing conversion of their children or from migration. A common dividing line between "true" cyborgs and "just" bionts with implants is that in the case of the former the augments have become necessary to survival, take them away and the sophont will be greatly crippled, or dead. Conversely, the types of implant that are ubiquitous among biont societies (such as personal medical systems) could be disabled without significant harm.

Exactly where the line is drawn on what makes a sophont a cyborg or not varies wildly across different cultures and times. In some societies and the pre-First Federation Era simply having any elective technological implant was enough to qualify as a cyborg. In others, sophonts that don't have roughly equal parts machine to biology are regarded as either bionts-with-implants or vecs-with-biotech. Nevertheless there are some generalities among cyborgs (self-identified or otherwise);

  • A tendency for non-conformity in favour of personalisation of one's augmentations
  • Frequent alterations, additions and removals of body parts for reasons of experimentation, aesthetics and specialisation suitable for the latest interests
  • A strong acceptance of mind-body identity, particularly the belief that the two are synergistic parts of a whole (to varying degrees this is responsible for lower average upload rates among cyborgs)
  • Extropian derived cultural values expressing that the teleological purpose of mindkind is to improve oneself mentally and physically, ultimately towards godhood

Further divisions within cyborg culture revolve around the nature of the technology employed. Traditionally (and stereotypically) cyborgs are a fusion of sophonts with a predominantly evolved, biological heritage and intelligently designed inorganic technology. However, there are alternative approaches as well as divisions within the traditional view (such as whether or not the drytech used should be "smart" i.e. self-maintaining/replicating). Bioborgism is the largest subculture and is predominantly found within the Zoefic Biopolity. Bioborgs prefer to utilize gengineered, neogenic and xeno-derived augmentations, seeking to explore the phase-space of chimeric biological forms. Smaller, but by no means less well-known groups include cyberborgs, the cyborn and synaborgs (for whom the dry/wet-tech distinction grows extremely fuzzy).


Whilst definitions of cyborgs are varied and often contradictory their exact origins are paradoxically easier. Despite the term having existed for decades previously, it was Ruth Dourkin that created and inspired the true cyborg movement. Whilst the technology of her exoskeleton wasn't a radical improvement over existing medical treatments it was her ethos that turned her into a symbol. Throughout her life she championed the cause of the disabled, pushing for them to consider themselves as blank canvases instead. She spoke at length on the replacement of the flesh and the identification of the extended phenotype as self. Her personality and social efforts led to the organisation of many groups that would later become important actors in cyborg cultures; from technology megacorps to extropian political parties.

Even after Ruth's death, the movement grew rapidly, spurred by an effective network of collaborators and rapidly improving technology. By the Interplanetary Age prosthetics with the full motor and sensory capabilities of natural organs were not only available for most body-parts but also cheap. Personalised design grew easier with more advanced software and a burgeoning market grew of augment clinics willing to perform the elective surgeries. As with the field of gengineering (also flourishing at the time), the road was not completely smooth with many cases of ambition outgrowing ability (not to mention criminal uses of the technology). But with cyborgisation becoming more accessible to the public the movement progressed regardless. Popular myth often describes an intense schism in society at this time, between those enhancing and speciating with biotechnologies and those with cybernetics. In reality there was little more than a friendly rivalry between groups and in many cases a lot of crossovers. Biosculpt-proponents made frequent use of drytech implants for gengineering managers, health monitors and neural interfaces. In a similar vein, the early cyborg cultures used biotechnology to not only improve their remaining biological parts but also aid implant interfacing and prevent side effects such as rejection.

Unfortunately for those early cyborg clades, their choice of personal improvement left them particularly vulnerable to the Technocalypse. Their drytech augments, so frequently controlled by wireless processors, were easy targets for the malware plagues. Those that had not progressed far into the culture were mostly safe and suffered merely disability. More heavily cyborged individuals perished as augments vital to their survival malfunctioned fatally. Some enclaves survived through protection of the more powerful AI of the time, possibly favoured due to their more similar nature to the digital beings than regular bionts (though the historical accuracy of this belief is disputed).
Cyborg Navigator
Image from Juan Ochoa

Thankfully, like many clades who weathered the Sundering, the cyborg phyle blossomed upon the establishment of the First Federation. Since then they have proliferated, diversified and progressed with only a modicum of in-fighting and setbacks. In the Current Era, the cyborg population in the Terragen Sphere varies between 2 and nine quadrillion depending on the definition used.

  • Andromeda Kids  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Semi-mythological feral tweak-cyborg hu superbrights who established a number of colonies in the vicinity of Kapteyn's Star during the late Federation (early Emergence age) period.
  • Arion Ascendancy, The  - Text by Espen Antonsen
    Hyperexpansionistic interstellar empire in the NoCoZo outer periphery.
  • Autocycler  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Interplanetary Age biont and cyborg ideology and historical-intellectual precursor of the Clesycs, popular among some low resource and minimalist nomads, of using bionano and bacteria to recycle all of one's waste products, without having to even leave one's spacesuit or biosuit.
  • Backgrounders  - Text by Anders Sandberg
    During the dark ages, between 500 and 700, several cyborg communities escaped into the oort cloud from the Technocalypse. Gradually they developed their own culture, the Backgrounder Culture.
  • Biaioid  - Text by Updated 2019 by Rakuen07
    A rare form, an aioid with integrated biological parts. Vecs, bots and other ai will sometimes add on biological enhancements or organs for various reasons.
  • Changelings  - Text by Steve Bowers
    Cyborg variant with a biological body and an artificial brain
  • ClearEye  - Text by Johnny Yesterday
    An optical sensor that cleans itself by spinning. A common design for vecs, bots, or cyborgs that operate in debris-filled environments
  • Conver Limis  - Text by Mark Ryherd
    Su-cyborg House which originated within the Conver Ambi.
  • Cybernetics  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev and Stephen Inniss
    In popular usage, the study of the creation of cyborgs through the use of dryware/hylotech such as mechanical, electronic, and bionic implants, augments, and neuroprostheses. In technical usage, the study of communication and control systems based on regulatory feedback, with application in a number of fields such as sociology, memetics, biology, engineering, artificial intelligence, and information theory.
  • Cyborg Reproduction  - Text by Steve Bowers
    Acquired, inherited and engenerated cyborg characteristics
  • Cyborn  - Text by Mike Parisi
    Cyborns in the general sense (as opposed to members of Clade Cyborn) have an organic component that is grown with the express purpose in mind beforehand of being "mated" with its cybernetic component. They are therefore unlike ordinary Cyborgs or Borgs, who typically began life as viable bionts or vecs but later added other components. They often refer to themselves as True Cyborgs. Typically the organic component is "grown into" its cybernetic component. The latter is laid out beforehand and serves as a scaffold for this growth.
  • Cyborn, Clade  - Text by Mike Parisi
    This clade has its origin as part of the Twin Stream faction of the Genomorpher branch of the Genetekkers.
  • Dream Rejection Tendency, The  - Text by Steve Bowers
    Brown dwarfs in the Stellar Umma region supporting a dual civilisation; a virtual cosmos in the databanks, and a human nearbaseline society living outside utilising the waste heat.
  • Dryware - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    The non-biological part of a cyborg (c.f. hardware, software and wetware).
  • Electra Entity  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Expansion age nanocyborg activist clade, Pleiades Volume.
  • Endoskeleton   - Text by M. Alan Kazlev

  • Faster, Aphagist - Text by Jorge Ditchkenberg
    A biont, usually human, whose goal is to live an otherwise normal life and appearance without eating. Organic compounds of any kind are avoided, and the diet of a person who achieves the faster ideal consists only of water and perhaps some mineral supplements. Internal nanotech and an internal or external power source are intended to provide all other necessities. See also The Fasting Lifestyle.
  • Gati Hertzsprung-Russell Engineers  - Text by Anders Sandberg
    Sun-miner postbiont cyborg clade from the Gati system of the NoCoZo.
  • Gigantes  - Text by Omega Tyrant
    Gigantes- A sub clade of highly cyborged and bioborged Nephilim designed to be able to engage in "riskier" activities.
  • Hermophromorph - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Erotogenic with genitals and other characteristics of both genders equally developed, especially in an exaggerated or augmented fashion. Alternatively, any being who has so modified emself.
  • Homo Economicus  - Text by Extherian, updated 2020
    NoCoZo cyborg clade specialised towards business.
  • Kockengen, Clade  - Text by Stephen Inniss
    An ancient polysomatic clade with its origins in the Technocalypse period.
  • Lefty Muligan  - Text by Steve Bowers
    Cyborg paycop from Ivonya-Ngia.
  • M-Life  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Machinic non-biological life as seen in neumanns, hylonanecologies, and other inorganic organisms or ecologies. In practise M-life, B-life and A-Life tend to merge, especially because of the ubiquity of biotech and bionanotech.
  • Metal Monkeys  - Text by Stephen Inniss
    Rhesus monkey cyborgs, originally purpose-built with a "slave" mentality to serve a small polity on the Periphery but freed by avatars of Sun Wu K'ung.
  • Multiple - Text by Todd Drashner
    Distributed organic being who uses cybernetic enhancements to distribute a mind across several identical bodies. All experiences and knowledge that each body gains is copied and distributed to all other bodies in real time. The death of any one body, while sometimes painful to the whole, cannot kill the whole.
  • Oia (Here)  - Text by Steve Bowers
    Oia, a predominantly cyborg world at the edge of Sophic League space.
  • Pidgin Lobes  - Text by Steve Bowers
    Language modules that can be plugged into a cyborg's exocortex to facilitate language translation.
  • Simico  - Text by Tony Jones
    One of, if not the, earliest of the hive-mind clades, made up of self-modified cyborgs.
  • Sing++3 - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Cyborg-ai clade-cluster resident on Dewheat.
  • Skeletoids  - Text by Steve Bowers
    Sophonts with minimal artificial muscle mass, leading to an emaciated, 'skeletal' appearance
  • SunMiner  - Text by Steve Bowers
    A highly derived, cyborgised clade that during the ComEmp and early post-ComEmp periods specialized in stellar mining and star-lifting, acquiring great wealth. They are now largely "old money", although they will still take on projects, especially if those are challenging or aesthetic.
  • Transcyborg  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev, with comment by David Jackson
    A sophont who has augments and mods that give em limited transapient abilities.
  • Xeon  - Text by Grant Thomas and M. Alan Kazlev
    Aggressive expansionist Outer Volume cyborg empire.
  • Yas Om  - Text by A. C. Maté and Extherian
    Synthetic humanoid clade with polysophont mental architecture
Development Notes
Text by Ryan_B

Initially published on 01 November 2016.

Moved to Culture and Society 2022.
Additional Information