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Cyberpunk versus transhuman

tecnowraith

Retired User
What is the main difference between Cyberpunk and Transhuman as a genre in fiction and games? I know Transhuman is "somewhat" a subgenre of cyberpunk. I know Cyberpunk megacorps, cyberspace, cybernetics and 80's view of the view of the future (retro now a days) but what does Tanshuman have that comparable to cyberpunk elements?
 

Vitenka

New member
Cyberpunk could be called transhumanism light - lots of the stuff of nightmare futureshock that was cyberpunk have come to pass, and no-one thinks are extraordinary. (Mobile phones that do web and email? Heck, even the internet is more advanced than the networking postulated by lots of old cyberpunk.)

Where transhumanism takes off is the whole "Becoming more than human" thing which cyberpunk has (with, you know, cyberwear) but which transhumanism takes a lot further (unimaginable intelligence upgrades, for example; or, as the-register likes to say "The rapture of the geeks")

On the other hand - cyberpunk has a running theme of repurposing the rotting infrastructure. (Gangs using old equipment for nefarious purposes, creeping through old steam tunnels, everything has forgotten air ducts etc.)
This element, transhumanism doesn't seem to share.

Cyberpunk also seem to focus on "That's it, improvement has stopped - futureshock ht and, really, nothing much is gonna change now; everything is right on the edge of going wrong and it's a struggle just to contain it" - whilst transhumanism is much more "Whee! And then we can do THIS! And then we can do THAT! And then we can reassemble the MOON so that it can THINK!" - take off the brakes and just let the future run.

The archetypical transhumanism novel for this is probably Accelerando - if only because it's free to download (and somewhat NSFW)
He's done a bunch of other stuff which irritates the same people that one irritates.
 

Stephen Lea Sheppard

Be seeing you
Staff member
Moderator
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I once summarized it roughly as follows:

Transhumanism (as a fictional genre, not as a philosophy) is about the idea that we can use technology to overcome the problems inherent to human nature, while cyberpunk is about the idea that we can't.

I'm not as satisfied with the statement as I used to be, but it works.
 

mindstalk

Does the math.
Validated User
I wouldn't call Transhuman a subgenre of cyberpunk; they're independent, though with a few things in common (technology, basically.)

cyberpunk: Gibson's Neuromancer, someone's Bad Voltage, Stephenson's Snow Crash (in parts, and parodied), Blade Runner, Shadowrun, cyberpunk games I don't know. Themes: megacorps, powerless governments, "street samurai", cyberprosthetics (the main transhuman overlap), implausible VR (and implausible brain damage risks from it), emergent AIs vast cool and unsympathetic lurking on the net (another overlap with transhuman). Grim, gritty, chrome, polluted, marginal, violent, in your face, "metal". Someone might be going to the stars but it sure ain't you, runner. God isn't here, but maybe you pray anyway.

transhuman: Banks, Egan, Vinge, Stross, Ken MacLeod, Wright, Transhuman Space, First Age Exalted. themes: cyberprosthetics, bio-enhancement, genetic engineering, uploading, physical or virtual longevity/immortality, friendly AI and robots, "post-scarcity" economy, moonbrains, Jupiter brains, Dyson spheres. Expanding, more capable, longer-lived, being the powers that overshadow others rather than being overshadowed, hopeful. We're going to the stars -- we might *move* stars. The world is our oyster, to remake as we will, and we're part of that world. We become like gods (for realistic values of gods.)
 

Insect King

Mechristopheles!
Validated User
Transhumanism (as a fictional genre, not as a philosophy) is about the idea that we can use technology to overcome the problems inherent to human nature, while cyberpunk is about the idea that we can't.
Nice.

I like to think that transhumanism is cyberpunk once it stopped being a surly, resentful teenager.

C.
 

tecnowraith

Retired User
Okay, what would call a setting where the superheroes gain their powers through some form technology in a near-future world, cyberpunk or transhuman?
 

Vitenka

New member
Okay, what would call a setting where the superheroes gain their powers through some form technology in a near-future world, cyberpunk or transhuman?
Depends on what they did with them.
Use superpowers to rule the world and make it all grimy and people fight against them hopelessly; but do so in order to earn enough cash to make *their* life comfortable? Punk.
Decide that the world would be more fun if it was made out of glitter and crystal, and food was free and anyone who wanted could teleport to any dimension they liked? Transhuman.

And I like the definition above, but would alter it slightly.

Cyberpunk is 90s dotcom bubble - done grimdark.
Transhumanism is the same, but done as bright fantasy.

(Although I guess you COULD tell dark stories in transhumanism. They would be.. horrible. "I have no mouth but I must scream" probably counts.)

And... damn. I can't find it now. There was a good one on kuro5hin.org about sentient computers that accidentally destroy the earth and set out into space. Written as "Ok, what can we write that is hopeful even if we assume tech is bad (and ftl impossible)"
 

Fallen Seraph

Registered User
Validated User
Hmm... I wonder where Post-Cyberpunk fits into this then. Would that be transhumanism prior to "hitting it big" in that society/the setting has set its course toward transhumanism but hasn't reached there yet and still needs to deal with human/society issues, etc?
 

EarthScorpion

Nascent Cosmic Horror
Validated User
Hmm... I wonder where Post-Cyberpunk fits into this then. Would that be transhumanism prior to "hitting it big" in that society/the setting has set its course toward transhumanism but hasn't reached there yet and still needs to deal with human/society issues, etc?
Yeah, as far as I can see. Post-cyberpunk is what you get when cyberpunk matures and realises that Japanese corporations aren't going to take over everything, that companies can have enlightened self interest and thus won't just despoil the world because they can, and that having wireless internet access is pretty damn cool.
 
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