Wetware
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Basic Information

Wetware represents that branch of technology designed for direct implantation into the human1 body, either for upgrade or prosthesis (although modern and pre-modern unintegrated prosthetics normally don't count).

This is normally divided into bioware2 and cyberware, depending on whether they are made using biotechnology/biothaumaturgy or electromechanical engineering/artifice.

Capability ranges from the congruent to the extremely silly, depending on the genre and may vary in appearance even within a given genre - again, with varying levels of credibility.

Full body replacements generally don't count as wetware, being a clone, cybershell or something similar. Wetware really needs to be implanted into or grafted to an existing body - a clone can certainly be fitted with wetware, but doesn't constitute one itself.

Those of us who grew up watching The Six Million Dollar Man know this as "bionics", although the actual term refers to more than just replacement body parts.

Sources

Bibliography
1. Wikipedia article: Wetware (brain) — chiefly talking about neurological interfaces
2. Wikipedia article: Bionics — a much broader term which includes some of what this page is about.

Game and Story Use

  • Where the necessary technology exists, most PCs will rush to have parts of their body removed and replaced with foreign matter. Few RPGs effectively address how abberrant this behaviour is - although some have tried to.
  • Prostheses are probably less controversial, but are known to have occasional pyschological effects in real life.
  • Replacement internal organs are probably the safest bet, limbs much less so and a lot will depend how often the user is reminded that there's something artificial installed inside them.
  • There may, of course be cultures where this sort of thing is entirely normal - Ian M. Bank's Culture cycle novels describe a society where everyone has numerous bioware upgrades and thinks nothing of extensive self modification, including repeated changes of gender - PCs who belong to a similarly decadent society probably will have less of an issue.
  • Fitting these sort of things is almost certain to get you a great deal of attention from security details at airports, spaceports and similar public buildings. In a society where such installations are common there should also be appropriate ways of appraising them.
  • Many fictional treatments neglect small matters like structural strength, power supply, cooling or ammunition supply when designing wetware or have flesh/synthetic boundaries that would lead to horrific ulceration in real life.
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