Created By: JesseMB27 on December 3, 2017 Last Edited By: JesseMB27 on December 8, 2017
Troped

Meat Sack Robot

Reverse of a cyborg; A fully non-biological AI operating robot with biological components.

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trope
John: Holy shit! You're really real! I mean, you're like a machine underneath, right? But sort of alive outside?
Terminator: I'm a cybernetic organism. Living tissue over a metal endoskeleton.

Everyone knows that a Cyborg is a living being with technological components of one sort or another grafted onto his/her body. Though sometimes in fiction, it is done in the opposite direction in which a AI controlled machine grafts biological tissue into its being. How such a robotic entity is created can be for one of or a combination of a variety of reasons:
  • Such a machine is created in order to have something with human tissue to experiment on without harming actual human beings (though depending on how advanced an AI is, it can create ethical issues of its own). The Replicants from the Blade Runner movies demonstrate this variant.
  • Humans deliberately take the skeletal, flesh, and nerve remains of a Human being as a faster way to assemble a robot, both in using the skeleton and muscles to provide a base to build on and exploit the use of preexisting nerve structures to make creating the CPU of such a machine easier). The Evangelions from Neon Genesis Evangelion and Borg from Star Trek are varying degrees of examples of this variant.
  • Machines incorporate biological tissue into themselves due fully metallic and technological bodies having certain drawbacks (e.g. magnetism, inability to evade metal detectors). The Terminators from the franchise of the same name are a good example of this variant.
  • A human with cybernetic implants that have a highly advanced AI (internal or external) that, upon its host's death or presumed life long incapacitation (e.g. a coma), takes over the biological mass of its host for its own purpose and continued independent existence. If this process is committed by an AI by a still living and conscious living host, this results in Wetware Body and/or Unwilling Roboticization.

Regardless of the reasons that a robot has been given biological tissues, it in this regard also has some of the drawbacks in that it will have to gain certain nutrition to ensure that its biological components remain healthy, though to what extent this shows up in a work and is addressed in it will vary.

A defining trait of this type of Robotic entity is that the thoroughly machine AI governing an entity that is partly biological. As a result of such a reversal of an artificially created intelligence directly controlling tissues that were of naturally evolved beings (or possibly synthetically created living tissue in some cases), it is a creation that displays machinely unnatural tendencies despite being composed of biological tissue and thus likely to invoke Uncanny Valley from some of the audience.

The other wiki has an article on such a hypothetical machine called Biorobotics

Related to certain variants of Artificial Human. Related to the Wetware CPU, Wetware Body, and Living Battery. Not to be confused with Ridiculously Human Robot, though Meat Sack Robots acting like Ridiculously Human Robot is not precluded.

Anime and Manga
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: The titular Evangelions piloted by Shinji, Asuka, and Rei, and etc. were made from organic bodies cloned from the Angels with armor, weapons, computer networks, and other technological features. They were intended to be this, but some of the Evangelions themselves subvert this trope by managing to develop their own consciousnesses, with the case of EVA-01 (Shinji Ikari's) being due to having the soul of his mother Yui Ikari due to her body being merged into it.

Comic Book
  • In Runaways, Victor Mancha is an Ultron construct whose body was designed so that over time, his organs would reconstruct themselves in ways that would enable them to mimic organic material, until his cybernetic nature became impossible to detect.
  • X-Men: The storyline "Operation: Zero Tolerance" introduced the Prime Sentinels: ordinary humans who were roboticized and then released back into their normal lives as Manchurian Agents unaware of the cybernetics under their flesh. Their bodies are constantly scanning for the X-Gene and when they come in contact with a mutant, their programming involuntarily activates, where they will attempt to eliminate them with extreme prejudice. They also carry the ability to roboticize ordinary people and thus create more Prime Sentinels.

Film Live Action
  • Blade Runner and its sequel Blade Runner 2049: The Replicants (though in the original novel (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip Dick) from which 1982's Blade runner was adapted from, Roy and his comrades were androids.
  • The Matrix: In the last film, The Matrix Revolutions, the Ex-Agent Smith, a malicious program that formerly served the Matrix, took possession of one of Neo's fellow members of the Human resistance in an attempt to kill him in the real world. This trope applies in that the human has technological implant, from which Smith (a thoroughly non-biological entity) was able to use to manifest himself in the real world via a human host.
  • Terminator: Even though the terminators through out the franchise have been referred to as cyborgs (which in the strictest sense of anything composed of biological material and robotic technology can be true), however as noted in the page quote, they are non-living machines with living tissue attached to themselves instead of being living beings with technological modifications grafted onto their bodies.
    • In the Expanded Universe, the I-Series Terminators are cloned humans whose bodies are controlled by a CPU and other cybernetic implants. Because of this, they are undetectable on a physical level, and even if their fragile human bodies are killed, the cybernetic components can revive them after a few hours. They even have complete control over all biological processes, such as being able to sweat, stop bleeding, cure infections, and ignore pain on command.
    • In Terminator Salvation, Marcus Wright is basically a flesh-covered robot over robot-covered-flesh. His brain, his heart and certain other functions are all organic, and his flesh and skin are his own. His brain, however, is outfitted with a chip that not only relays information to Skynet, but allows the supercomputer to give him subtle "nudges" to carry out directives.

Live Action TV
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Cybermen. The backstories vary Depending on the Writer, but in all their incarnations, they're a race of robots that "assimilate" humans and other humanoid lifeforms transforming them into full robots like them, only maintain their brains (and sometimes other "parts") to make them work.
    • Also some of the Clockwork Robots use human parts to make their mechanism work... or simply because some of them want to be humans.
  • Star Trek: The Borg assimilates various species (via injecting Nanomachines into their victims) into its AI's unifying conscious called "the Collective" whether their victims consent or not.
    • In Star Trek: First Contact, the Borg queen grafts living skin tissue onto Data's arm (Data being a purely artificial android), allowing him to feel human sensations, something he has longed to do but was not capable of. This was an attempt to lure him over to her side. (A more limited example than most others, in that we're talking about a small patch of skin, and Data was fully functional without it, but it still fits the "reverse cyborg" definition)

Literature
  • In City of Illusions, the Shing use mentally deficient people as computer controlled drones.
  • E. Crimson Tally from Charles Sheffield's Heritage Universe, a computer brain inside a vat-grown human body.
  • The Cybrids from Hyperion Cantos are human bodies remotely controlled by an AI.
  • In the penultimate store of the I, Robot collection, a runner for a political office is suspected of being a robot. The United States Robotics claim they did create an artificial body for a robot as an experiment, but it never had a brain. It was stated to be flesh grown upon a plastic skeleton. Also, the more advanced Ridiculously Human Robots featured in the later Foundation books might be of that type (instead of the older plastic over metal design), but it's never made explicit.
  • Whateley Universe: The Human-AI-Transports (HAI Ts) made by the AI known as The Palm, are human bodies modified with circuitry allowing copies of The Palm to inhabit and control those bodies.

Music
  • Seems to be the case with Mr Roboto:
    I've got a secret I've been hiding under my skin
    My heart is human, my blood is boiling, my brain I.B.M.

Tabletop Games
  • Gamma World 1st Edition. In the adventure GW1 Legion of Gold, the PCs will explore an Ancient base that has been taken over by androids. They will discover some People Jars with androids growing inside of them. The androids consist of an underlying metallic framework with electronic wiring (the "robot" part) covered by a normal human body (flesh, muscles, etc.).
  • In the GURPS setting Transhuman Space bioroids are largely biological entities assembled by nanites over a polymer-lattice skeleton. Bioshells are bioroids, or sometimes reanimated corpses, with computers in place of brains so that they may host an AI or Virtual Ghost.
  • In Warhammer 40K, servators are "robots" made from lobotomised criminals or vat grown clones implanted with cybernetics and used for menial labour. This is to get around rules that forbade the creation of true AIs thanks to a Robot War in the backstory.

Theatre
  • The original "robots" in R.U.R. were simplified human bodies made from synthetic biological protoplasm.

Video Games
  • Injustice 2: Brainiac has at his disposal robots known as "Betas". Several cutscenes in story mode show that they have some exposed bone and flesh, of which are presumably of some of the numerous billions of humanoid species he has collected for use in his robotic army.
  • Killer Instinct: Fulgore is a robot created by Ultratech with the intention of selling it as weapons of war to highest bidders. While it for most of the duration of the series has a human brain, that of Chief Thunder's brother Eagle, however Fulgore is not a cyborg in the sense of this trope as it only contains a brain for use as part of its CPU, which operates on its own AI). It is subverted in the post season three release when it has developed a consciousness of its own from absorbing and recording the brain patterns of Eagle, of whom became freed from it due to work of Chief Thunder and Glacius.
  • Mass Effect: The Reapers typically enslave organic species through indoctrination. However, indoctrinated slaves are limited in usefulness due to the fact that they still have the same physical needs and weaknesses as the rest of their species as well as the fact that indoctrination itself slowly erodes the affected mind until the person can literally do nothing for themselves. The way they try to circumvent this is through the Unwilling Roboticization of their slaves, starting with implants in the brain and nervous systems, which is frequently demonstrated (once you get past the indoctrinated lies) as a Fate Worse Than Death for anyone unfortunate enough to have undergone it.
  • Metroid: Fusion has Nightmare and the B.O.X. security robot. The former is a black hole spewing robot w ith organic components (including a six-eyed melting face with green skin) while the later is a armored security bot that contains an organic brain as part of its AI's neural network. It's their living parts that allow them to be infected by the X Parasites.
  • Mortal Kombat: Triborg, introduced in Mortal Kombat X, is a robot, but X-ray attacks and Fatalities done on it as well as at least one intro dialogue with Cassie Cage reveal that it is built on some unknown person's body.
  • This is Zig-Zagged in Portal 2, where the homicidal AI named GLaDOS is forcibly removed from her normal robotic body and plugged into a potato. She's still able to communicate but she's completely dependent on others. This is subverted though as it's implied she's not an AI but the downloaded mind of a human being.

Webcomic

Real Life
  • So far in real life, this has happened in a limited way with only with cockroaches and some other bugs. (read here and here for details). Those technologically modified arthropods were made into remotely beings controlled by Human handlers rather than an Artificial intelligence, though further advances in technology may make this possible. Even then, trying to perform such experiments on other species and especially fellow humans will certainly bring up ethical concerns.
Community Feedback Replies: 29
  • December 3, 2017
    zarpaulus
  • December 3, 2017
    JesseMB27
    ^Zarpaulus, Nah I'd say that is not the same thing as this potential trope, though this could be a missing super trope to Artificial Human.
  • December 3, 2017
    Omeganian
    E. Crimson Tally from Charles Sheffield's Heritage Universe, a computer brain inside a vat-grown human body.
  • December 4, 2017
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
    • Gamma World 1st Edition. In the adventure GW1 Legion of Gold, the PCs will explore an Ancient base that has been taken over by androids. They will discover some People Jars with androids growing inside of them. The androids consist of an underlying metallic framework with electronic wiring (the "robot" part) covered by a normal human body (flesh, muscles, etc.).
  • December 4, 2017
    Basara-kun
    Live-Action TV:
  • December 4, 2017
    NubianSatyress
    • Terminator:
      • In the Expanded Universe, the I-Series Terminators are cloned humans whose bodies are controlled by a CPU and other cybernetic implants. Because of this, they are undetectable on a physical level, and even if their fragile human bodies are killed, the cybernetic components can revive them after a few hours. They even have complete control over all biological processes, such as being able to sweat, stop bleeding, cure infections, and ignore pain on command.
      • In Terminator Salvation, Marcus Wright is basically a flesh-covered robot over robot-covered-flesh. His brain, his heart and certain other functions are all organic, and his flesh and skin are his own. His brain, however, is outfitted with a chip that not only relays information to Skynet, but allows the supercomputer to give him subtle "nudges" to carry out directives.
  • December 4, 2017
    zarpaulus
    • The original "robots" in RUR were simplified human bodies made from synthetic biological protoplasm.
  • December 4, 2017
    NubianSatyress
    Fixed my own pothole mistakes.
  • December 4, 2017
    JesseMB27
    I wish to thank everyone for the examples contributed so far. In particular I'd wish to thank Zarpaulus for addressing how this differs from artificial human and Nubian Satyress for elaborating on the I-Series Terminators that I only had second hand knowledge about.
  • December 4, 2017
    NubianSatyress
  • December 4, 2017
    Omeganian
    • The Cybrids from Hyperion Cantos are human bodies remotely controlled by an AI.
    • In the penultimate store of the I Robot collection, a runner for a political office is suspected of being a robot. The United States Robotics claim they did create an artificial body for a robot as an experiment, but it never had a brain. It was stated to be flesh grown upon a plastic skeleton. Also, the more advanced Ridiculously Human Robots featured in the later Foundation books might be of that type (instead of the older plastic over metal design), but it's never made explicit.
    • In City Of Illusions, the Shing use mentally deficient people as computer controlled drones.
  • December 4, 2017
    WaterBlap
    This is Zig Zagged in Portal 2, where the homicidal AI named GLaDOS is forcibly removed from her normal robotic body and plugged into a potato. She's still able to communicate but she's completely dependent on others. This is subverted though as it's implied she's not an AI but the downloaded mind of a human being.
  • December 4, 2017
    NubianSatyress
    @jesse: No problem. I'm a huge Terminator geek. :)
  • December 4, 2017
    NubianSatyress
    Fixed the quote formatting also.

    X Men: The storyline "Operation: Zero Tolerance" introduced the Prime Sentinels: ordinary humans who were roboticized and then released back into their normal lives as Manchurian Agents unaware of the cybernetics under their flesh. Their bodies are constantly scanning for the X-Gene and when they come in contact with a mutant, their programming involuntarily activates, where they will attempt to eliminate them with extreme prejudice. They also carry the ability to roboticize ordinary people and thus create more Prime Sentinels.
  • December 4, 2017
    girlyboy
    In Star Trek First Contact, the Borg queen grafts living skin tissue onto Data's arm (Data being a purely artificial android), allowing him to feel human sensations, something he has longed to do but was not capable of. This was an attempt to lure him over to her side. (A more limited example than most others, in that we're talking about a small patch of skin, and Data was fully functional without it, but it still fits the "reverse cyborg" definition)
  • December 4, 2017
    Bisected8
    • In Warhammer 40 K, servators are "robots" made from lobotomised criminals or vat grown clones implanted with cybernetics and used for menial labour. This is to get around rules that forbade the creation of true A Is thanks to a Robot War in the backstory.
  • December 4, 2017
    Malady
    Web Original:

    Literature.Whateley Universe: Human-AI-Transports (HAITs) built by the AI known as The Palm, which seem to be copies of The Palm running on circuity implanted into humans.
  • December 4, 2017
    JesseMB27
    Added some more of your examples as well as one of my own from Neon Genesis Evangelion. I've only watched the first two episodes of that show (and even then it was a very long time ago on Toonami), so if I made any errors based on my second hand knowledge I apologize in advance.

    As for Malady, could you or someone else elaborate on your Whateley universe example as its a little unclear.
  • December 4, 2017
    zarpaulus
    • In the GURPS setting Transhuman Space bioroids are largely biological entities assembled by nanites over a polymer-lattice skeleton. Bioshells are bioroids, or sometimes reanimated corpses, with computers in place of brains so that they may host an AI or Virtual Ghost.
  • December 5, 2017
    Malady
    ^^ - Ah... How about this:

    • The Human-AI-Transports (HAI Ts) made by the AI known as The Palm, are human bodies modified with circuitry allowing copies of The Palm to inhabit and control those bodies.
  • December 5, 2017
    intastiel
  • December 5, 2017
    Malady
    The Whateley Universe entry should be moved to its own Web Original section, instead of being in the Literature section? Or at least, that's the standard?

    HAI Ts should be HAITs, so it doesn't redlink.
  • December 5, 2017
    JesseMB27
    ^ TV Tropes counts the Whateley Universe is as literature even through it debuted via the web as a prose work. Thus I'll be going with that classification unless someone with authority on the subject objects to that classification.

    With that said, "Web Originals" by TV Tropes guidelines would typically be videos on the web along the lines of what Channel Awesome does. Though I will also acknowledge that I'm not familiar enough with the Whateley Universe to be able to give any definitive answer and again will heed anyone who is familiar with it to provide recommendations as to how to classify it.
  • December 6, 2017
    Kaiseror
  • December 6, 2017
    intastiel
    Related to the Wetware CPU and Living Battery.
  • December 6, 2017
    StrixObscuro
    Comic Books
    • In Runaways, Victor Mancha is an Ultron construct whose body was designed so that over time, his organs would reconstruct themselves in ways that would enable them to mimic organic material, until his cybernetic nature became impossible to detect.
  • December 7, 2017
    JesseMB27
    Thank you all for your examples and contributions. Even though this has five hats right now, I'll wait for a later time (maybe late this upcoming Friday at the earliest) to launch this.
  • December 8, 2017
    Bisected8
  • December 8, 2017
    Lullabee
    Music
    • Seems to be the case with Mr Roboto:
      I've got a secret I've been hiding under my skin
      My heart is human, my blood is boiling, my brain I.B.M.
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