basedeltazero: (Default)
CN: Transhumanism (obviously), slavery, war, genocide, infertility, Wall o' Text

"Reflecting on the advances of the recent decades, it becomes increasingly clear - if we are to become gods, we must first make ourselves devils."

Canonicity Level: Dubious (as always).

While at first glance, the TSAB might seem to be devoid of advanced biotechnology - there are no clone-creches, extensive body-modification programs, or overarching AI control to be seen - this impression is deceptive.  While it is true that such extensive programs are vanishingly rare and often illegal, this does not mean that the fields of biotechnology, cybernetics, or general Transhumanism are dead - and while they are heavily restricted, they are nevertheless alive and well.

Much of present TSAB policy related to bioethics was defined by the Third Conclave on Meta-Humanity and Neogenics, a binding treaty signed by the Three Free Powers in the year 1264 OE, approximately forty years before the dawn of the Last War.  This treaty was itself built on the longstanding traditions of caution and regard exemplified by the Second Conclave, but strengthened and modernized them for new technologies.  With the foundation of the TSAB, the Bureau Charter codified these agreements into national law, as well as strictly establishing the rights and dignity of all sapient beings.

In these documents, the rationale for the TSAB's strict stance on 'neogenic' technology (as they refer to such things as AI, genetic engineering, cybernetics, and cloning) becomes clear.  Some have dismissively suggested the only reason these technologies are restricted is because of fear, and that their use could bring new safety and prosperity to the world.  In this, they are entirely accurate.  neogenic technology is dangerous - not only physically, but morally.  The fear of these technologies is based not on simple disdain, or concern over their power or any potential loss of control, but for the simple reason that they make possible the mass-production of sapient beings.  The spectre of Al-Hazared, and Walden with it, looms large over any application of neogenics - slavery on an unimaginable scale, the widespread industrial transformation of people into things.  However, while the Bureau restrictions on neogenics are strict, they are not boundless, and many varieties are legal.

Cloning: To begin with, cloning is not illegal.  In fact, human reproductive cloning is widespread and almost universally accepted, used by anyone from gay couples to single persons to infertile families.  Roughly 7% of children born are conceived via some manner of neogenics.  The two main approaches are conventional twin-cloning, creating a genetic copy of a single donor, and genetic fusion, where gene samples are taken from multiple donors and combined in the lab, either 'manually' or through replication of the natural fertilization process.  Legally, this should be done in a quasi-random process (emulating nature), with the doctor only intervening to eliminate dangerous genetic syndromes, in order to prevent 'baby-shopping', where the parents attempt to engineer a child according to their own fancies.  In practice this restriction doesn't always hold... and minor (especially physical) alterations are sometimes overlooked.  In any event, the embryo created in this way may be implanted in the womb, or it may be artificially grown in a life-pod.  Indeed, entirely natural embryos are often developed in life-pods for a variety of reasons.  However, artificially enhanced growth or leaving the infant in the pod for an excessive duration after viability are both proscribed, as these risk making the process to efficient and impersonal.

Of far more concern are two varieties of cloning, each of which comprises considerable danger.  The first, and most worrisome, is large-scale or 'Industrial' cloning.  Creating a single clone is nothing but an alternative form of reproduction, but it is just as feasible to take the process and expand it to a massive scale, creating hundreds, thousands, even millions of clones from a single source, the only limitation being the number of life-pods available.  With genetic fusion and gene generation, it's even possible 'adjust' the clones for the characteristics desired (natural magical talent, strength, obedience...).  And with accelerated growth combined with hypnopaedics, they can reach 'adulthood' in a few months.  The potential applications are endless - a readily available, custom ordered, not to mention completely unattached and disposable, workforce, army... whatever one might desire.
Needless to say, this is considered unacceptable.  The capacity to create people on demand is too dangerous to be allowed - even if done for initially 'innocent' reasons (increasing population, disaster recovery), it is inevitably one step closer to slavery... and moreover, difficult to stop once it starts.  For this reason, Industrial cloning is considered a 'Crime against general morality', and by the Second Conclave, regarded as a universal Causus Belli for nations, and grounds for outlawry for individuals.  To this day, any sign of such human mass production will draw harsh retaliation, with the intent of eliminating the disease before it can spread.  This task is made harder by the necessary innocence of clones themselves, and to that end, the use of drones (inferior to a mage, but expendable and not sapient) armed with non-lethal weapons is endorsed.

The second type of illegal 'cloning' is gene generation.  With the human genome mapped and categorized long ago, it is now possible to predict the effect of any change to a gene or enzyme with a high level of accuracy.  In this way, it is possible to adjust single genes in a highly precise way, and even create novel characteristics (whether imported from animals or entirely original).  As with 'baby-shopping' this is illegal, as it means that the creator's preferences will be imposed upon the child, and may result in unintended or harmful consequences (the prediction is *good*, but not *perfect*.)

Post-natal genetic treatment via engineered retroviri, nanites, fractal transformation magic, or other means, is largely legal, though the effect it can have on an already developed body is limited (though some rarer diseases, too minor for the 'health screening', can be inoculated in this way.)  Medical-grade transformation magic is a far more effective and common solution to the same problem.

Almost all manner of genetic alteration on non-sapient subjects is legal, except for obvious dangers, such as the creation of biological weapons, and that deemed 'cruel and sadistic', and very commonplace, though all such alterations (especially engineered foods/drugs) must be tested and approved for safety.  This is used for everything from 'designer' pets, to engineered microbes used for medicine and waste processing, and enhanced crops.  Also in common use is 'Stem-printing', where a collection of cloned or engineered stem-cells are grown in an artificially controlled environment.  This allows body parts to be grown independent of the actual organism.  The most common use of this is in 'artificial meat'.  In this, a superstructure (sometimes crudely referred to as a 'meat tree' for their shape, though in modern times they tend to be vaguely quadruped-shaped) is immersed in a nutrient bath or stream, and animal muscular tissue grown from this structure.  This allows for large scale meat production to be conducted with a bare minimum of ethical concerns, at a cost only slightly higher than that of vegetable agriculture, with significantly less waste or space taken up.  Additionally, 'butchering' is vastly simplified, and the meat can be custom-designed for taste and texture.  Approximately 98% of meat products eaten in the TSAB are grown in this way.  A similar principle can be applied to fur, skin, and other animal products, though synthetics are generally more popular.
Additionally, the basic process of stem-printing can be used for the growth of human organs for medical purposes.  Such organs are created from artificial stem cells cloned from the patient, developed in a nutrient solution, and when fully grown they can be implanted without concern for rejection.  This is considered acceptable, as the enzymes provided prevent growth into anything but the appropriate organ - there is no risk of a liver accidentally developing sapience.  These organs may also be preserved in bio-stasis (not 'suspended animation' in this case, as they were never animate) until needed - normally 'reserves' of this sort are only kept for those in high-risk situations who have requested such a measure - cybernetic organs are used in other emergency cases.
'Stem-printing' can also be conducted in-vivo within a proper life-pod, or externally with some spells (they're really the same thing, the life-pod just does it 'automatically') forcing the generation of stem cells to regrow organs or limbs.  This procedure is recommended for loss of extremities and mandatory for any injury to the brain (for understandable reasons).

Cybernetics: Cybernetic alteration (that is, the implantation of mechanical components into the metahuman body) is not illegal.  The use of mechanical implants as replacements for injured body parts is widespread, probably more so than any other solution.  At times plastic, elective implants to enhance capabilities (or, more often, provide new ones) has also been widespread, but this has been reduced in modern times, largely due to the horrific spectacle of Walden.

Prior to the Last War, it was one of the major powers in known space, and basically represented the most whole-hearted embracing of neogenics in history.  A vast empire ruled by AIs, but with its human population confined to a single system, they made almost universal use of genetic manipulation, body modificiation, and cybernetics.  In particular, every subject was implanted with a track connection at birth that linked them with everyone else in the system, enabling constant contact with both the local infrastructure, the ruling AIs, and the rest of the human populace.  It also contained a hidden fail-safe.  When provocateurs attempted to spread the Uprising on Walden, the fail-safe was activated, reducing the populace to helpless puppets.  The AI QANI, realizing there was no hope of victory, forced every one of its fifteen billion subjects to kill themselves, then destroyed itself rather than allow their society to be 'corrupted' by 'alien' influence.  Only a tiny number were spared, ironically by attacking Belkan forces demolishing every track node they could locate via orbital bombardment, ground attack, or anything else available.
The Walden union-chips were a blatant violation of every safety regulation imaginable, specifically designed with a far higher than reasonable level of feedback possible, and directly linked into the sensorimotor complex.  Even the earliest First Conclave regulations would have prevented such a thing from happening.  Nevertheless, the event left a scar on the collective conscience, and a distrust of cybernetics that, unfortunately, has resulted not only in vastly decreased usage, but also a degree of distrust and bias against those who *do* have such implants.

Of those elective implants that *are* used, most are mental in nature, surprisingly enough - partially because these are among the most practical.  Magic is regularly used to enhance mental acuity (and such enhancement is practically necessary for modern magical combat), but there are still avenues best served by computer integration.  The most popular implant is known as 'Calculator Chip' for its basic function - rapid complex mathematical calculations.  However, while that particular function is useful for some individuals, most all modern calculator chips have a track connection as their primary selling point.  This allows the user to access the Infotrack and other tracks without need of an external device, making them a valuable tool for the perpetually wired.  Typically, this access is achieved by converting the information received into a telepathic signal and then re-transmitting it to the user, though directly converting it to visual information may also be used.  Because the information received by the chip never contacts the mind, it is largely safe, in part because conventional computers and a metahuman mind are massively incompatible - you cannot crack someone's brain through even the most intrusive cybernetics (provided they still have a working brain left)... but using the cybernetic system to launch a memetic attack is possible.  For this reason, most cybernetics have a 'buffer chip', and independent safety checker that prevents any attack via malware.  Also common are various sensory implants - improved lenses for the eyes, augmented hearing, etc.  For physical enhancement, magic tends to be much more effective, especially without very drastic alteration.

Another major category of cybernetic implant is the Internal Limiter - a compact system generally placed in the small of the back, which diverts magical energy.  Most commonly, these are the ICL-6, used by the Armed Forces to ensure compliance with the Force Concentration regulations - though Device or Barrier Jacket mounted limiters are actually more widely used.  Alternately, such limiters may be used for detention purposes, preventing prisoners from using magic.  In any event, these limiters can be injected or removed with relative ease - they are located only slightly below the skin, and not linked to any particular organ.

Cybernetics are divided into five categories: Class D cybernetics have no direct brain contact, being solely operated through physical gesture or 'input only' nerve extremities, and lack any form of track connection.  Aside from general medical guidelines, these lack any restrictions.  Class C cybernetics may have indirect contact with the mind - for instance, through filtered telepathic connections.  These require special examination and testing for safety, and require a basic buffer program which may be part of the same computer system.  Class B cybernetics make direct contact with the nervous system, and can input converted information to it.  Inputting 'thoughts' is not possible, but the direct access to sensory information, feeding phantom sights, sounds, or even touch or pain, can be used for harmful purposes.  The most common example of this level is cybernetic limbs or sensory organs, which require some means of conveying sensations.  Such cybernetics require an independent buffer system and a buffer program in every other system, and should not have a track connection of their own.  (Synapses are okay).  These are specially restricted, and require rigorous testing and case-by-case approval.
Class A cybernetics not only have a connection with the nervous system, but have total control of input and/or output.  This level of influence is almost never necessary, but higher levels of efficiency may be achieved by bypassing or replacing the nervous system entirely.  This also allows computer control of the cybernetic systems, and/or input analysis.  While thorough use of buffer systems and the like can make this 'safe', it scarcely needs to be said that it highly illegal, not least because the most common use is 'slave chips' that shut down (or even override) the nervous system.
Class S cybernetics, even more illegal, but fortunately much harder to actually create, have some means of sending 'thoughts' directly to the mind, as in unfiltered telepathy.  While this intrusion can be distinguished from one's own thoughts, it may eventually result in severe mental damage, as well as blackouts and/or anomalous action.  Aside from Bureau Equivalent Systems Testing teams and others developing countermeasures, mere possession is a high crime.

With the exception of rare cases like the Friestwelt Mech Guard, cybernetics are almost never used for combat purposes, as most everything that can be done with cybernetics confers either a minor advantage, or can be done better with magic.  Extreme cybernetic modification of the sort necessary to have a significant  like built-in weapons, Devices, armor, or the like, are prevented for simple physical reasons.  Machines have a tendency to get hot when operating.  The body has a tendency to respond to this with abrupt heat stroke and/or catching on fire.  The only way to counteract these overheating problems is to modify the body itself, either through extremely invasive cybernetics including external heat sinks... or by genetically engineering the individual for more efficient heat resistance.  The former almost universally demands illegal Class A cybernetics, the latter illegal gene-shopping.  The prospective development of Aureola-type heat sinks on individuals may change things, but until then, militarization of cybernetics remains an ethical impossibility.

Body Modification

Though TSAB culture can be rather conservative when it comes to the subject (arguably another consequence of Walden, who happily modified their subjects for hedonistic dissociation), lower-level body-modification is widespread in Bureau space.  Almost always, such plastic alterations are accomplished not through crude surgical means, but via special 'medical grade' transformation magic.  Normal transformation magic is capable of accomplishing almost anything, from the trivial (alteration of features) to the drastic (theriomorphosis) to the reprehensible (combat transformation).  However, such magic is temporary, or, failing that, requires constant maintenance, making it highly impractical for anyone but a skilled magic user - and it can always be dispelled.  'Medical Grade' transformation magic is different. Based on the same processes that are used in healing magic (which is really a kind of transformation, if you think about it), it can make major, permanent, changes to the body through small modifications.  More than that, it is fractal, accurately modifying DNA and hormonal systems to accommodate the new form.  The result is a permanent change that cannot be readily reversed (you can always do the same thing again, but it cannot be dispelled or expire).  It is a comparatively lengthy process, but not cripplingly so, and most cosmetic changes take hours at most.  For this purpose, cosmetic alteration is widely used, and almost universally accepted - perhaps ironically, this has lead to a drastic decline in the use of makeup and other traditional cosmetics.  With sufficient technology, it's possible for everyone to have 'natural beauty'. More than simple cosmetics, it also allows the basic characteristics of the body to be altered - even basic physique or sex.  This kind of MGT alteration is relatively uncommon, but is certainly an option for those unsatisfied with their native bodies.  Elastic modification via traditional transformation (whether done by a magic user or an automated system), however, is quite common.  
Though the use of Medical Grade Transformation does make permanent genetic - and thus inheritable - changes, it is still accepted as long as the form is within human norms (though 'human norms' is interpreted somewhat loosely).  In fact, the use of Medical Grade Transformation has lead to criticism of the gene selection ban, at least for physical characteristics (MGT cannot even attempt altering mental or magical characteristics) as such pre-natal changes can always be reversed later in life.  Suggestions of modifying gonad cells with a different genetic code than the rest of the body have proven impractical.
Medical Grade Transformation has its limits, though.  'Unknown territory' - that is, non-human forms - require significant modeling and simulation to achieve, to say nothing of considerable skill on the part of the doctor/caster, generating a significant risk.  Moreover, deviation from the basic humanoid form is typically impracticable, as even if the procedure succeeds, control of the modified body will likely prove impossible, as the necessary neuromental impulses have not developed in childhood.  Additionally, some systems may result in metabolic or even physical instability, requiring assistance (probably magical) to maintain.  For obvious reasons, this is illegal.
The application of Medical Grade Transformation to cybernetics has also been suggested, but this has its own problems.  Aside from the fact that the necessary modifications to achieve the 'interesting' results desired are decisively outside human norms, most 'high-grade' cyborg systems require very specific modifications, which some candidates may not be compatible with, or may require a very specific growth pattern - the 'interum period' between transformation and implantation is likely to be fatal.  This does not dissaude everyone, and rumors of the use of such techniques outside Bureau space persist, there are no confirmed reports.  In any event, while it may be possible to achieve such a result, most feel the resources spent on developing it would be better spent on improvement of existing technology.  Even considering Lost Logia threats like Eclipse, ERA loses out to basic morality, and crisis programs like the Revenge class cruisers or large scale recruitment of KDTS contractors have demonstrated considerable success in any event.

In addition to MGT, various 'biochemical realignments' are also available.  Though more limited in effect, they have the advantage of not being permanent.

Artificial Intelligence

The Bureau creates large numbers of Artificial Intelligence for Devices, but rarely are AIs found doing anything.  Again, Walden - and the Great Childan AI Uprising - is part of the reason, but does not completely explain it.  Walden's AI were a completely different type - and considering Walden's extremely insular nature, that technology is now Lost Logia.  Like most organic beings, A TSAB Quantum AI is not sapient when created.  Instead, it uses its pairing with the magical circuitry of a device to 'learn' from the user, gradually moulding itself an identity from scratch.  This is part of the reason personality conflicts between mage and Intelligent Device are so rare.
Of course, it is possible to remove a 'grown' AI from its frame (albeit not to entirely seperate it from the Device Core) and place it elsewhere, but this happens only occasionally - in part because of the programming (and just as importantly, 'training'/'raising') of a typical AI discourages this.
The main reason AI-controlled systems are not used is a simple matter of usefulness.  While old* (a somewhat smaller than expected category, as AIs are not immortal) AIs can approach, or, arguably, meet, a human level of understanding, it is far more common for AI to have a serious deficit in the fields of creativity and innovation.  Their ability to improvise is seriously lacking compared to humans or meta-humans.  Meanwhile, with magical assistance to accelerate mental abilities combined with telepathic/high inference user interfaces, a human (or, again, meta-human) magic user is capable of matching (at the least) the speed of an AI.  There remains, however, one advantage an AI has over a meta-human - size.  An AI's Quantum Core is often smaller than a human's hand.  This would seemingly be quite useful... but meta-humans can easily leave whatever system they're controlling and perform repairs, exit the vehicle, etc.  Furthermore a purely AI vessel, as ever, draws the chance of being too readily mass-produced.

This brings us to the once place where AIs are extraordinarily common - Intelligent Devices, as here, the ability to build an AI into a relatively small mechanism is incredibly helpful, allowing the assistance of a second person without effectively making the Device a crew-served weapon.  Nevertheless, 'weak' computer systems have improved significantly, and while they will likely never be as good as a true AI, they are still quite effective in various assistance capabilities (though they lack any real 'forward-thinking' capacity), and Intelligent Devices are, on the mean, made less frequently.  Indeed, it is probable that the technology were proposed today, it would be outlawed, but their ancient origin has resulted in being 'grandfathered in' - much like Familiars (which are an entirely different subject).  

In conclusion, Neogenics carry a terrible potential for abuse, resulting in heavy TSAB regulations.  That said, it is still used where safe, but magical technologies have supplanted more 'conventional' means in many areas, and in many ways are so subtle and/or accepted that there is a superficial appearance of their absence.
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