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[system-less] The line between cyberpunk and transhuman science fiction.

TheMouse

garmonbozia
Validated User
Very simply, where do you put this divide for your games? What features make you look at some game setting and think, "This is a cyberpunk game and not a transhuman one," or the other way? What distinguishes them from each other? Is there even a difference?

I'm asking because I'm actually having issues defining where one begins and the other ends. Other than that the settings that look sort of like dystopias as imagined in the 80s are probably cyberpunk.
 

Neaden

Registered User
Validated User
If it has mohawks, it is cyberpunk.
Transhuman fiction can be cyberpunk IMO. What makes it cyberpunk is an element of dehumanization of workers, people in power being corrupt, high levels of social stratification in terms of haves and have notes and unequal access to technology and resources. So for an RPG example a game of EP where you play Barsoomians on Mars hacking in to hypercorps servers and fighting against the man could be cyberpunk but exploring other worlds through the gates and having adventures with dead civilizations as octopus Indiana Jones wouldn't be.
 

Lord Raziere

Registered User
Banned
Validated User
if I remember correctly someone once said: "transhumanism is all about how technology will make humanity better and change civilization, cyberpunk is about how it won't."

so technically a work can be both, if made right, showing both what changes and what doesn't.
 

Black Flag

Dweller on the Threshold
Validated User
Transhuman science fiction evolved out of cyberpunk, among other things, so they're not entirely separate things. Cyberpunk is very much a product of the Reagan/Thatcher era, so it's ultimately about anarchism in the face of corporate oppression, with no real civil safety net, and technology as a potential equalizer insofar as nonelites can get their hands on it. Still, corporate oligarchy is so entrenched, there's not a lot of optimism for the future in general; individuals & small groups just try to get by and live their lives with as little oppression as possible. Also, the corps always have the best toys, since they restrict access to tech in order to keep the people down.

Transhumanism can have any of those elements but doesn't have to have any of them. The main focus is on the ability of technology to overcome basic human problems and to create new possibilities that people never imagined before. It's not as pessimistic as cyberpunk, but it isn't necessarily optimistic, either, although enthusiasts of transhumanism tend to have positive attitudes towards technology in general. However, access to advanced technologies is not necessarily free, so transhumanism isn't any more likely to be utopian than it is likely to resemble a cyberpunk-style dystopia with immortal oligarchs. Still, there's always the possibility that humanity can get its act together and evolve into something better, if it doesn't drive itself to extinction first.

As a result of its origins, cyberpunk seems to be really obsessed with the Web and hacking, whereas transhumanism comes from an era that takes the Web for granted and is more interested in focusing on nanotech, digitizing consciousness, etc.

Ultimately, the "punk" part is the key. Cyberpunk is fundamentally anarchist, anti-capitalist, potentially nihilistic, and absolutely anti-establishment. Transhumanism is neutral on those topics by default, though capitalist transhumanism would end up looking pretty damn dystopian pretty damn fast, as you suddenly have two classes, one of which can afford to be free of aging, disease, death, etc. And transhumanism is never nihilistic, since the possibility of evolving past various traditional sources of suffering is seen as a good in itself, and humanity is assumed to be worth saving without having to justify that opinion.
 

TheMouse

garmonbozia
Validated User
What exactly is it you look for to tell the difference between such things?

Let's say you're looking at, I don't know, Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex. It's a cool setting, and you want to run a game in it. And you want to pitch it to players who haven't seen it and who will want to know whether it's more cyberpunk or more transhumanist science fiction (or whether it's both or neither).

So what do you say, and why do you say it? What makes that setting one, the other, both, or neither?

Or I guess if you've never seen it, and I know I'm only a few episodes in, you can choose some other setting from media. Is Gunslinger Girl cyberpunk or not, and why? Is Dollhouse transhumanist science fiction or not, and why? Etc, etc.
 

Neaden

Registered User
Validated User
What exactly is it you look for to tell the difference between such things?

Let's say you're looking at, I don't know, Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex. It's a cool setting, and you want to run a game in it. And you want to pitch it to players who haven't seen it and who will want to know whether it's more cyberpunk or more transhumanist science fiction (or whether it's both or neither).

So what do you say, and why do you say it? What makes that setting one, the other, both, or neither?

Or I guess if you've never seen it, and I know I'm only a few episodes in, you can choose some other setting from media. Is Gunslinger Girl cyberpunk or not, and why? Is Dollhouse transhumanist science fiction or not, and why? Etc, etc.
I would say as a general rule of the pc's are part of an establishment that is portrayed positively or neutrally such as the police then it isn't cyberpunk.
 

Solarn

Registered User
Validated User
I think ultimately it's down to attitude. Cyberpunk as a genre rejects the notion that technology can make life better. Transhuman procedures risk loss of freedom, identity or morality. The "cybernetics eat your soul" trope is fundamentally cyberpunk. Improved communication such as the Internet doesn't connect people, but allows authorities and shadowy interest groups to monitor them.
 
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