Space is often regarded as the final frontier, while some believe that Earth’s own oceans are a more realistic final frontier of exploration and understanding…however, there others that believe that our bodies are the true great scientific mystery to be solved and controlled. In science fiction, the human body is a symbol of the scientific and technological progress, and its control is via the familiar cybernetic enhancement and biological augmentation paths. In this article, we will be looking using these upgrades to the human body through a military lens to examine how future warfigthers could be made better, stronger, and faster through the use of technological and scientific advancements along with the genetic engineered soldiers and cyber/bionic warriors of science fiction.
What is an "Cybernetic"/"Bionic" Soldier?
communication and automatic control systems in both machines and living things”, but in the common understanding it is the replacement of biological limbs, organs, and systems with mechanical ones that attempt to work organically with the patient’s body. This is visually represented by soldiers with robotic arms, legs, eyes, and even nanobots floating around internally and is designed to increase the defensive and offensive abilities of soldiers in all military roles from snake eaters, to pilots, to clerks.
What is an "Bio-Augmented" Soldier?
Custom here on FWS written by me.
Which is Superior? Cybernetics or Bio-Augmentation?
However, any modification to a soldier’s body via either cybernetics or bio-augmentation is likely irreversible and will mark the soldier forever, even after service, as a soldier, which could lead to issues with societal reintegration.
Hybrid of Cybernetics and Bio-Augmented Soldiers
Other Uses for Cybernetics and Bio-Augmentation Besides Combat Infantry
Throughout science fiction, the most common usage for cybernetics, bionics, and biological augmentations is to enhance the combat abilities of foot soldiers and special mission units, such as the SPARTANs from HALO and the the COBRA unit by Timothy Zahn. Following close behind is the replacement of body parts and systems due to injury or lost in combat operations. This could be the simple replacement of an limb or eye or even nearly the complete body replacement in the case of massive trauma as seen Briareos. Detective Spooner from I, Robot, and Steven Austin. In those familiar cases in sci-fi, the organic limb is blown off or sliced off by your daddy's lightsaber and the character is fitted with a shiny robotic limb that is either an 100% fully functional replacement for the original flesh, or an improvement in strength and lethality (arm-cannon!), or has less function than original body part, allowing for character development (Zeerod from Alien Legion).
There are other uses for these technological and biological enhancements. In the series finale for ST: Voyager, "Endgame", we would see an cybernetic implant into Admiral Janeway's brain that allowed here to interface with her advanced SC-4 shuttlecraft from 2404 in both communication and operations. This idea of brain-to-machine interaction has been seen in sci-fi and that bridge between the two is often cybernetics. This has been seen in Ghost in the Shell, the Robotix toy storyline, Andromeda, Johnny Mnemonic, and The Matrix films. These cybernetic brain implants allow a greater fusion between the two systems and tap the use of the human brain for hacking, vehicle control, and data download/storage.The Case Against Modified Soldiers: The Republic Clone Troopers and Jem'Hadar
The Morality of the Enhance Soldiers via Cybernetics and Bio-Augmentation
Will Cyborgs and Genetic Engineered Humans really exist in the Future?
What About the Replicants from BLADE RUNNER and Other Bio-robots?
BLADE RUNNER and it had a huge effect on the world of sci-fi and even real robotic research. This 1982 film, inspirited from the Phillip K. Dick book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? asks questions about the morality of creating artificial life and its rights and our responsibilities as creators. But just what the hell are these "Replicants"anyways? Are they cyborgs, robots, androids? They are normally classified as a "bio-robotic" in nature, and they are a fusion of the fields biological augmentation, cybernetics, and genetic engineering. This idea of a more organic artificial lifeform that is a hybrid of these two fields of science and engineering goes back to the origins of robots in sci-fi with R.U.R and can be seen in the ALIENS universe, the new BSG, and even ROBOTECH. With the Replicants from BSG and BLADE RUNNER, we see the advantage of having these bio-robots over conventional androids and robots, and but they are still artificially created life and are not the retrofitting of an existing human with mechanic parts or some sort of bio-augmentation therapy. They are man's creation that comes from a place more similar to us than robots built on an assembly in Tokyo.
BLADE RUNNER and Soldier suggests? Or would fully robotic soldiers, like the T-800 seriesTerminator, be better for a battlefield application and moral angle? After all, being more human than human, you would treat in a manner much different than a toaster. They would be similar to us in damage resistance, but would be more hearty when it came to environments and food requirements. While I am certain that future humans will try to create something along the lines of bio-robots, I imagine that cyborgs and designer babies will be more accepted and common.
Sci-Fi and the Cyborg/Bio Augmented Soldiers
While sci-fi is still quite obsessed with the concept of cybernetically enhanced humans, it has had trouble bring them to reality on the screen. It was only relatively recently that the technology of special effects has allowed creators to bring their vision of mechanically enhanced humans to life on the screen without being laughed at. Prior, creators used selective and quick views of the cybernetics, as with the Six Million Dollar Man and even Data from TNG. In live-action examples of cybernetics that decided to show the full mechanization on screen was productions like Classic Doctor Who that knew their limitations and had to operate within them. This constraint caused for fewer examples of live-action cyborgs, but there was no limit in other forms of media. In comics, animation, books, and art, cyborgs flowed freely.
When we see most cyborgs in sci-fi, they most feature half of the face exposed, oh-so subtly symbolizing the duality of being an cyborg. In science fiction tales of cyborgs, we seem to cross over into the tired trope of "what is being truly human" and the quest for identity, as seen in the Ghost in the Shell film. Yawn. The same often is true of biologically augmented humans, where as they are oppressed by society, or rise to power, or they are just plain dicks to normal humans. Once again...yawn. These ideas, while interesting when done right, are far too common in sci-fi and need to be retired like a Replicant. Seriously. However, with the science of genetic engineering become more of a likely possibility with CRISPR and continued progress on true cybernetic augmentations, the world of the sci-fi augmented humans is becoming the present that we live in and a part of our real-world futures.
Examples of Cyborg Soldiers:
Briareos from the Appleseed Universe
Let it be said that Masaume Shirow has created some of the best military SF works in anime and magna, and prior to Ghost in the Shell, Shirow was already known for the post-World War III epic Appleseed. In the story of a special tactical police unit, ESWAT, serving the technological megacity of Olympus one of the central characters is the nearly 100% cybernetic Briareos Hecatonchires. Born prior to World War III, the flesh-and-blood Briareos was an African man from the Mediterranean coast that was child spy for the KGB and when he killed his handler, Briareos was given political asylum in the US. Before the 3rd World War, Briareos became a member of a LAPD SWAT under his partner’s, Deunan Knute, father.
It was a bomb that forced Briareos to be transformed into the cybernetic organism we known today, and he was a marriage between the cybernetic and the organic. His name was taken from the Greek mythological 100-hand giants and his last name is not a formal last name, but the classification of his cybernetic body. Via his cybernetics and natural skill, Briareos is able to pull off killshots with three different weapons at the same, accomplish amazing physical feats, but he does need to eat, sleep, exercise, and is not immune to the effects of gunfire. The “bunny ears” are actually an sensor systems that allows him to see around corners and in the manga, it also expresses some emotion. With his eight electronic eyes mount in the head unit, it is no wonder that Briareos’s brain is mounted in his chest! To the credit of Shirow and the Appleseed series, Briareos is not portrayed as a super-soldier, is injured through the franchise, and is projected as not losing his humanity.
The Borg Collective from the Star Trek Universe
Deathlok from the Marvel Comic Universe
Jack Mitchell Cybernetic hand from Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Captain Picard's Artificial Heart from Star Trek: TNG
The Terminator Model 800/900 "Infiltrator" Cyborgs from the Terminator Universe
Throughout the original Terminator from 1984 often has Kyle Reese refer to the Terminator chasing them as an Model 101 800 series "infiltrator" and "cyborg". These represented a new breed or variant of the standard T-101 model Terminator humanoid Skynet war machines designed to hunt down the surviving human populations. According to Reese, the original infiltrator model, the T-600, were skinned in a rubber that was not realistic and allowed the resistance and other groups to easily spot them and prevent them from infiltrating resistance units.
However, it is likely that the most important mission type undertaken by the infiltrator models over simply termination of bases or assassination targets, was the gathering of surveillance/intelligence data on both the resistance movement and the human refugee population.
This marriage of the metallic skeleton and the living tissue vernier was a lethal combination that resulting in the complete loss of a some major resistance bases and shelters. To spot a T-800 infiltrator, the resistance relied on dogs, the awkward social skills of the Terminator's behavioral software, the weight, and new security procedures. The balance swung back to the machines began to change with the grays and the new T-900 advanced infiltrators.
Lord Darth Vader from the Star Wars Universe
Cyberware from the Shadowrun RPG Universe
BLADE RUNNER images. Released by famed RPG publisher FASA in 1989, the game has gone on after the collapse of FASA onwards until today. In the dark future world, cybernetic technology, called Cyberware allowed people to reshape themselves to improve the lethality and functionality of their bodies....for a price. Much like tattoos, you get what you pay for and bad Cyberware could be lethal to yourself or your gang members. Basic Cyberware was the common stuff with Delta Level Cyberware being the best of the best and the most expensive. Cyberware was not just used for combat, but for computer crime, sex, getting ahead in the corporate world, and repairing damage.
Luke Skywalker's Hand from the Star Wars Universe
Steve Austin from the Six Million Dollar Man
The Series 5 Rangers from the The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers Universe
The Galador Space Knights from the Rom: The Space Knight Universe (Earth-616)
Cybernetic Prosthetics from Starship Troopers Universe
Cyborg from the DC Universe
Barret Wallace's Cybernetic Arm-Cannon from the Final Fantasy Universe
The Cybermen from the Classic Doctor Who Universe
Much like the Borg from Trek, the Cybermen forcibly transformed victims into the latest generation of Cybermen. Like many cybernetic species, the Cybermen were superior in the typical ways, but the primary weakness of the Cybermen was gold dust that could clog their respiratory system, killing them. Given this, gold "Glitterguns" were used during the Cyber-Wars. Normal weaponry would kill or even destroy them, but gold dust was extremely effective. For much of the history of the Cybermen, they fought with every major species and this cost them their original homeworld and their entire species. The Cybermen would first appear in 1966 with the First Doctor and their costuming were rather comical by today's standards, they were considered terrifying and served as the major other enemy of the Classic Who universe. The 4th season "The Tenth Planet" was partly lost with the BBC archives only having three of the four episodes. With the audio existing, an animation reconstruction was undertaken and is rather good. This would also be the end of the road for the First Doctor as well. I always enjoyed the Cybermen.
Max da Costa from Elysium (2013)
Okay, here is an interesting example of a mechanical enhancement to increase the abilities of a normal human. In the film, which I very much liked, Max de Costa is outfitted with an military grade exo-skeleton by henchmen of Spider, the local Robin Hood gang-leader in LA. Unlike other exo-skeleton frames seen in sci-fi, the ones from Elysium are surgically implanted into the wearers body and brain. It is unknown if all military exo-skeletons are surgically implanted or if Max was just especially lucky. The mercenaries in the film are so outfitted with exo-suits as well, and we see Kruger being implanted with a heavy combat exo-skeleton frame.
General Grievous from the Star Wars Universe
The Cybernetic bodies of Section 9 Agents from Ghost in the Shell
The Cybernetic Soldiers from The Bionic Commando universe
The Various Bloody Seas Cybernetic Projects from Xenon: the Heavy Metal Warrior Manga
The Cybernetic Demonic Lifeforms from the DOM Universe
Officer Murphy from Robocop (1987)
an American Jesus with a gun." But it makes sense in a twisted, Verhoeven way, Murphy was resurrected from the dead to bring hope to a city under terror and to be the symbol of the good that lived within all citizens and being American, he had a gun to tame the Wild West of modern Detroit. The film was remade for some unknown stupid reason, and the scene with Murphy seeing what is left of himself biologically was a haunting well-done scene that the original did in a different fashion in the abandoned steel foundry. I still think the original is far superior. Fun Fact: the film was actually shot mostly in Dallas, the original home of FWS.
The Strogg from Quake II, IV, and Wars
Legionnaire Zeerod from Epic Comics' Alien Legion Universe
Lord Dread from Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future
Examples of Bio-Augmented Soldiers:
Deadpool from the Marvel Universe
Since his first appearance in 1991, this creation of Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza has become a fan favorite of comic readers and non-comic readers the world over. With his recent and awesome 2016 film, Deadpool has exploded into a rare realm of widely accepted and known superhero in the public sphere. Deadpool's abilities are only part in due to the Weapon X enhancements and some are because of Wade Wilson's own talents and military training. Under the Weapon X program, Wilson was "gifted" with super-healing/tissue regeneration that effectually makes Deadpool immortal, even if his head is removed his body. His superior training and natural combat/firearms abilities make an massive threat to all but the strongest Marvel Universe characters.
The Suliban Cabal from Star Trek: Enterprise
Miranda Lawson from Mass Effect Universe
Adeptus Astartes from WH40K Universe
The Genome Soldier Program from the Metal Gear Universe
The Jem'Hadar from Star Trek: DS9
The Zentraedi from the ROBOTECH Universe
The Niezscheans from the Andromeda Universe
The Augments from the Star Trek universe
The CDF Soldiers from The Old Man's War Universe
The Morituri from the Strikeforce Morituri Comic (1986-1989)
The Mojoworld Genetic Engineered Arena Gladiators from the X-Men Universe
Subhadar Roga Danar of Angosia from the TNG episode "The Hunted (3x11)"
One of my favorite episodes of TNG was from the 3rd season, called "The Hunted". Here we saw the after effect of a society developing bio-augmented warrior to win the despite Tarsian War, and the government designed them too well. After the war, the government could not and would not reintegrate these warriors back into normal society due to their fearsome abilities and serious incidents that occurred. The Angoisans altered volunteer soldiers into bio-augmented supersoldiers via psychological, chemical, and physical means. When Roga Danar was let lose on the Enterprise-D, the proved to be more than they could handle.
Next Time on FWS...
Great Video on Genetic Engineering:
Great Video on Genetic Engineering: