Wetware Processor
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Basic Information

A wetware processor appears where biological tissue - usually a brain or other CNS derived material - is installed as a processor for a computer or as a local controller for some kind of automated plant. Generally the processor will be the only organic component - if it isn't, you're probably looking at a full-blown biotech computer instead.

The processor may be out on display for everyone to see (or at least it may be when you get into the facility's "data centre") … which would tend to overlap with the Brain in a jar … or it might be buried in a bank of circuitry and life support equipment (which would be more credible - no-one needs to look at the processor to find out how it's doing). The installation is likely to be big - this isn't likely to be your desktop PC (or at least it would be a very weird and possibly dystopic setting if it was), but it might run a supercomputer, mainframe or something similar. Other likely candidates are automated factories, starships and similar facilities. The "full body cyborg" is an interesting borderline case.

Levels of sapience (or even sentience) may vary - in some applications the processor(s) may have no consciousness at all and just sit there handling data, whilst in others the system may have a fully developed personality. What the processor is doing and where it was obtained from is likely to have a strong bearing on this - a CNS harvested from a cadaver or dying donor and "resurrected" into the role is likely to be very different from one grown in a cloning vat, and likewise interaction with the outside world will matter a lot: even if a clone brain has the potential to develop a personality, if it has no way of communicating with existing sentients it is highly unlikely to do so.

This is normally a speculative fiction/sci-fi trope - fantasy prefers bound spirits of one kind or another - but it can pop up in other genres. It is particularly prone to occur in settings with a cultural hostility to traditional AIs.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • The company literature says that its wetware processors are 100% first user vat grown clones … problem is, the cloning process doesn't generate usable material and they're secretly using cadaver brains. Unfortunately, the brains are more aware than expected, largely insane as a result of sensory deprivation and in control of dangerous machinery…
  • Insanity or decrepitude in these things may be an issue generally.
  • As may more mundane diseases.
  • Use of "post consumer" CNS and "cyber resurrection" could have some interesting implications for culture in that setting.
    • The popular sci-fi trope of military cyborgs built around the CNSs of combat casualties can be given a lot of depth.
  • As can the process of "educating" a personality into a clone brain (if required) - hypnagogic techniques might be used, but you could also see an actual education taking place, probably with the implication that the resultant intelligence would retain a parent/teacher-child bond with its educator(s) … which could be plot worthy.
  • The Robobrains of the Fallout Universe are built around this trope - luckily with the processor in question easily visible in a fragile glass dome. In universe material suggests that many of them were built using the brains of enemy POW, deserters, criminals or political dissidents.
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution's Hyron Project has similar aims, but with a lot more "meat" attached to the "processors" than in most treatments.
  • The AI alternative approach is a big deal in the Warhammer:40K setting where "abominable intelligences" are strictly forbidden and most advanced machine management involves some kind of cyborg. The Dune universe also eschews AI, but seems less fond of cyborgs.
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