Cybernetics Eat Your Soul
aka: Cybernetics Will Eat Your Soul
"If you are going to munchkin out in cyberpunk you have to cyber yourself up to the maximum... Some games try to penalize this with the half-hearted penalty of "losing your humanity", a concept that is in no cyberpunk literature and just exists as a feeble attempt to prevent munchkinism."
— The Munchkin's Guide to Powergaming
In many popular cyberpunk Tabletop Games
, cybernetic implants cause "humanity loss", reducing your social traits and essentially making cyberware into a form of Body Horror
. Too many implants may reduce your character to catatonia
or (far more often) Ax-Crazy on steroids
. If these settings also feature Psychic Powers
or Functional Magic
, cyberware often reduces your ability to use those as well. This trope usually accompanies the broken lesson that only
cyberware inflicts humanity loss — sure, getting that Arm Cannon
will dehumanize you, but not deliberately committing actual atrocities
, getting hooked on hard drugs
, learning Black Magic
, having a mental illness that is not fictional, or other expected sources of insanity. It is also a Broken Aesop
when Ridiculously Human Robots
are depicted as more...um...human
It does of course make a huge logical difference whether it is just limbs and other body parts being replaced, or if sections of the brain itself
are being replaced with equipment which may perform inferiorly to, or merely differently than the original. Replacing parts of your uniquely balanced glandular/hormonal system with pumps might not do your personality any favors, either. Characters who are getting encased in a mobile life support coffin
usually suffer this not from having parts replaced, but being put in large, scary and clumsy or destructive bodies.
This trope can be considered a form of Competitive Balance
gone bad, as game designers originally used humanity loss to keep player cyborgs in line — without any drawbacks, any Munchkin
worth his salt would load himself down with Kill-O-Matic 3000s slaved to his neural systems so he could kill with a thought while his brand new shiny titanium limbs ripped battleships in half. In practice, this wasn't a good balancing mechanism; to a true Munchkin
, having your character become a drooling Ax-Crazy
psychopath only made it easier
to justify all that senseless carnage. It's also notable that this trope happened in few (if any) of the original Cyber Punk
novels that inspired most of these games.
Of course, if the cyborg was dead
prior to the cybernetics being installed, and it is mentioned that parts being reactivated have side-effects or don't work like the original, this is a case of Came Back Wrong
In works of fiction, the "humanity loss" is often shown by the character turning evil
, becoming emotionless or "hollow"
, or possibly even losing their memories.
Compare with Magic Versus Science
, Science Is Bad
, Pro-Human Transhuman
and The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body
. See also Psycho Serum
, Body Horror
, Transhuman Treachery
and Our Souls Are Different
. If the "humanity loss" from cybernetics is seen as something desirable, see Machine Worship
. See also Creative Sterility
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Anime & Manga
- Cyborg (Victor Stone) of the Teen Titans played with this trope. While Victor is normally portrayed with a very forceful personality (he started out as an Angry Black Man whose anger mostly stemmed from being a cyborg), he has been rebuilt and reinterpreted multiple times over the years. There have been versions of the character where it was implied that Cyborg was a full machine using what was left of Victor, but had no soul or personality; but these versions were very much the exception.
- The "Big Wheel" issue of Global Frequency had a half-dead soldier who'd been basically turned into a walking killing machine by cybernetic alterations. Then he saw his reflection and decided to live up to the role.
- Dekko from Zot is a textbook example. Although cybernetics don't seem to be inherently bad in Zot's world, the trauma of having his terminally-ill body replaced a piece at a time turned him into a Mad Artist. Of course, after a while he started to like it.
- Hart Whitcraft was afraid of this happening after receiving an artificial heart in the Acclaim version of Magnus Robot Fighter. The series, and entire line, ends before we can find out.
- After becoming a Technopath thanks to the Extremis process, Tony Stark's friends and colleagues start to suspect this. Turns out the information overload is just making him a little loopy - the rest is his own normal paranoia and borderline-masochistic work ethic cranked up to 11, thanks to his new efficiency. And Skrulls, but you find that out later.
- And at one point the cybernetics just plain eat him, overwriting his body and mind for a few issues, turning him into Girl Ultron.
- It's now an inversion, thanks to said Anal Skrull Tony losing his Extremis powers; he's now a shell of his former self.
- Played straight and subverted in the Archie Sonic the Hedgehog series; the roboticization process used by Dr. Robotnik/Eggman normally results in a loss of free will, while the cybernetic enhancements of the Dark Legion actually don't result in a significant change of personality (though it's still considered by the mainstream public to be "unnatural"), and their status as "evil" is more from their methods of fighting for their right to continue their lifestyle, than the lifestyle itself.
- The original roboticization process didn't do this since its inventor, Sonic's uncle, invented it to save the lives of people whose bodies were too far gone. The loss of free will was something Eggman added.
- Hank Henshaw, AKA Cyborg Superman, looks like a straight example, but it's a bit more complicated. Originally part of a pastiche of the Fantastic Four Gone Horribly Wrong, he was turned into an energy being/ghost that could possess machinery after his body decayed away. It wasn't until he was rejected by his wife and wandered around space for a while that he became a hardcore villain (and even more hardcore Death Seeker). So, this is more a case of his soul eating cybernetics.
- He eventually found himself in a clique with the Anti-Monitor and Superboy Prime, both of whom had every intention of destroying everything that existed, including him. It didn't stick, much to his regret.
- Subverted in Transmetropolitan, where one issue is dedicated to the concept of "foglets": humans that have turned themselves into clouds of nanomachines. When Channon's former boyfriend Ziang decides to join them, she thinks that this trope is in full effect and reacts like Ziang's going to kill himself. Spider, knowing better, gets them invited to Ziang's downloading. While Spider practically had to drag Channon there, she changes her mind when she meets Tico, who is charming, well-adjusted and unmistakably human.
- Then played straight in another issue when Spider describes "mechanics": synthetic drugs that can be taken both by humans and by AIs. Both get high, and in the meantime the AI gets control of your DNA...and promptly starts turning bits of you mechanical.
- Played straight in Iron Man: Rapture mini-series that had Tony implanting himself with a new heart after his heart attack. He ended up getting addicted to cyber enhancements and locked himself in his lab for a week. Before revealing himself as a cyberbeing named 'Stark 2.0''.
- Rom Spaceknight subverts the trope, being an extremely human and noble character despite looking like a walking suit of armor—but he fears this happening, and he loathes his metallic shell. Played with when his girlfriend Brandy becomes a Spaceknight as well — at first her personality is unaffected, but when her entire home town is murdered by the Wraiths, she succumbs to a state that Rom says he has seen in Spaceknights before: an overwhelming hatred that physically changes her armor to look more vicious, and she remains a cold-hearted killer until she's removed from the armor and becomes human again.
- Alistair Smythe, one of many Spider-Man villains to build the Spider-Slayer robots, was at least a borderline case. After using cybernetics to become "the Ultimate Spider-Slayer" (as he called himself) he became a megalomaniac with somewhat of a god complex. He was a little more lucid in subsequent appearances, but still somewhat mad, his desire for revenge against Spider-Man and J. Jonah Jameson becoming a dangerous obsession that eventually leads to his death at the hands of Superior Spider-Man.
- Circuit Breaker from the original Marvel Transformers comics is this. Originally a humble, loyal, and cheerful woman, after a raid by the Decepticons leaves her crippled, she has cybernetic circuitry implanted onto her skin to allow her to walk, fly, and manipulate electricity. She also becomes a violent sociopath with no regard for the Transformers' factions or the actions of any individual Transformer, blaming all of them for her current state and believing that the best course of action is to Kill 'em All. She actually ends up helping the Decepticons more through her constant obsession with the violent destruction of all Transformers, since the Decepticons are Dangerously Genre Savvy enough to take advantage of her predictable blind response and the Autobots are a bit Honor Before Reason in this instance. The point of whether her psychosis is stronger before or after she goes through with her cybernetic implants is up for debate.
- All-Star Squadron's Robotman, who in the main series struggles with maintaining his humanity while being a brain placed inside a robotic body, eventually loses his humanity after the war ended in JSA: The Golden Age.
- The Doom Patrol's Robotman was a different person with similar issues, who once checked himself into a mental hospital as a result. Despite this, he was often the sanest and most level-headed member of the team.
- In Noble Causes, Rusty Noble's body was horribly mangled in an accident, and his brain was transferred into a robotic body. He struggled with his humanity for years, and eventually seemed to just give up; he started talking in a robotic monotone, without contractions, and with clipped, clinical sentences. Turns out he was faking — this happened not long after a couple of serious personal tragedies. He decided to hide his emotions by pretending he didn't have any, but on the inside he was feeling more depressed than ever. Ultimately a subversion, as Rusty never lost his ability to relate to human emotions, he just wished he had.
- Deathlok got revived as a cyborg to be used as a soldier. He's now stuck with a computer linked to his brain that is constantly encouraging him to be a cold-blooded pragmatist instead of a decent human being, and it's a constant struggle of wills for him to override it.
- Deathlocket is a subversion. She usually has complete control, but technopaths are able to shut down her human half and control her via her cybernetics.
- The Homestuck fanfic Tenth Life, where one of the characters has a robot body made for her after her death, but the cybernetic body robs her of all imagination and creativity. Her friends eventually decide to just end her life.
- In The Service, building on the Lyrical Nanoha example above, posits that cybernetic enhancement is neither necessarily good nor evil: it reinforces existing traits. Mentally healthy people converted to cyborgs will withstand huge amounts of emotional trauma and stress without ill effect. People who are not mentally healthy...won't.
- A prominent theme of Sonic X: Dark Chaos, especially with Tsali and Venus the Seedrian.
- Dr. Beljar invokes this trope in The End of Ends, when he takes over, since the condition for the Dark Prognosticus is to have an empty heart.
- In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, this is played with when Marcus Vickers has to have cybernetics in order to save his life. While that itself is jarring, what pushes him over the edge to cruelty is feeling betrayed by Mega Man.
- In Spider-Man 2, Dr. Otto Octavius programs limited artificial intelligence into his trademark robotic tentacles in order for them to be able to work together more efficiently, and installs a Restraining Bolt to make sure he could control the arms, but not vice versa. He is driven to madness by feedback ("voices") from the arms after a lab accident destroys the chip, and becomes obsessed with finishing his failed experiment at any cost.
- Except for Jean-Claude Van Damme, cyborg conversions didn't go too well in Universal Soldier. He was able to overcome his programming and have a normal life. The villain didn't but he was pretty screwed up to begin with. Now, Redux features JCvD's friend being converted to a soldier and allowing herself be blown up because, as she tells him, it's "too late for her" even though a living, breathing proof that "no, it isn't" stands right in front of her. Plus they didn't turn evil because of the cybernetics, they turned evil because the AI that's controlling them turned evil-ish (it didn't want to be shut off).
- In Kamen Rider: The First, it is explained that all Shocker agents must undergo periodic blood transfusions to stop their bodies from rejecting their cybernetic implants, forcing their loyalty to the organization. Though Takeshi Hongo/Kamen Rider 1 oddly doesn't experience this, Hayato Ichimongi/Kamen Rider 2 does. This eventually leads to his death at the end of Kamen Rider the NEXT.
- Averted in the movies. While limited by his programming, Murphy remains a man inside. Similarly, the psychopathic RoboCop 2 was a scumbag drug lord before his conversion.
- In RoboCop 2, there are 3 prototype RoboCops who commit murder, then suicide, within seconds of their debut. It is more likely the Body Horror they experienced, waking up inside robot bodies.
- Also averted in the RoboCop: Prime Directives mini-series, where Murphy's old friend is killed and turned into an identical RoboCop (with Dual Wielding) by a Corrupt Corporate Executive (the mini-series is full of them). While, at first, he does exactly what he's programmed to do, his original personality later re-asserts itself, and he performs a Heroic Sacrifice, while preventing Murphy from doing the same.
- In the 2014 film, Omnicorp attempts to surpress Murphy's humanity, but he was eventually able to overcome this. He even manages to overcome the film's equivalent of the original films' fourth prime directive.
- Star Wars: Obi-Wan calls Darth Vader "more machine now than man; twisted and evil." Then again, Anakin was pretty twisted and evil before getting the life-support suit, and was taking his first steps towards the Dark Side before getting a prosthetic hand.
- In an episode of Star Wars: Clone Wars, in a sequence reminiscent of Luke's experience in the cave on Episode V, Anakin has a vision in which a warrior loses his arm in battle, and replaces it with a mysterious shiny, black one with great power. At first he is able to defend his home and friends with the power of the arm, but soon it reaches out and kills a bunch of stuff without him meaning to, eventually including his wife. The parallel to the loss of his own hand is clear, and it is certainly tracks to his own tragic fate and reliance on the power of the Force to protect the ones he loves.
- Downplayed with Lobot, Lando Calrissian's aide. He may seem rather soulless in the movie (the fate of many Star Wars extras), but he retains a great deal of his humanity and actually became a more upstanding and noble person after the augmentation. However, a malfunction with his implant can cause him to lose the rest of his humanity and go berserk.
- Defied by Luke Skywalker at the end of Return of the Jedi, where staring at his cybernetic hand points out all too clearly what he would have become if he finished off Vader. Cybernetics saved his soul.
- Played straight with General Grievous. He has a Freudian Excuse like Vader, minus any redeemable qualities.
- In Back to the Future Part 2, Marty is warned that the cyborg asshole Griff "has a few short circuits in his bionic implants." (In fairness to this trope, though, Griff does descend from a long line of bullying Jerkasses, so it's quite debatable how much - if any - of his Jerkassness can be blamed on cybernetics.)
- Inverted in Repo Men, in that Remy only becomes conscious of the horror of his profession after his real heart is replaced by an artiforg one.
- Averted in Bicentennial Man. Andrew invents cybernetic organ replacements that the human population universally embraces, as it eventually makes people essentially immortal. Though Portia does object, saying that people are meant to die eventually, and she wants to.
- Subverted by Tony Stark. When he's completely flesh and blood, he's an arrogant playboy genius with no consideration for the consequences of his work. It's not until he has to place the miniature arc reactor in his chest that his more noble nature emerges.
- Implied in House of 1000 Corpses: Doctor Satan appears to be some sort of self-made evil/insane cyborg. It's how he is still alive at such an unnatural age! His victims are implied to be his evil, deadly, mindless slaves and are possibly insane.
- In Transcendence, Will and the hybridized humans only exacerbate RIFT's faith in this. It's even posited that, though Will's personality may be entirely intact, he's simply grown so far beyond humanity that the difference is academic. Too bad they were totally wrong.
- It's subtle, but Neuromancer does actually have a theme of dehumanizing technology. Specifically Molly Millions got a job as a "puppet" prostitute to pay for her augmentations, which required her to get an implant that controlled her while she was effectively unconscious. But as she cybered up she started remembering bits of her puppet sessions, then one night she woke up in the middle of performing snuff, and decided to kill the client instead, it apparently had left some deep psychological scars. While Case doesn't have any cybernetics, but being online all the time gave him a deep contempt for his "meat" body and when he was cut off from cyberspace he became a ruthless drug dealer and user.
- In Ancillary Justice, the Radch's dominant religion's view is that only humans can be pure, so impurities introduced to the body reduce your humanity. People who are sufficiently altered are considered so damaged they might as well be aliens. Not that that stops anyone from the Radch getting audio-visual implants installed for pure practicality.
- The Tin Woodsman from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz claims to be an example of this, since he literally has no heart—or any other organs, for that matter. The Wicked Witch of the East cursed him to repeatedly accidentally injure himself with his axe, so eventually his whole body (including his chest, where his heart used to be) had to be replaced with tin. Now he's just a thinking, moving suit of metal with no internal organs at all, but any idiot can see that he doesn't need a physical heart to have a spiritual heart. When he accidentally crushes a bug beneath his foot on the Yellow Brick Road, he cries so hard that his jaw rusts shut.
- In the BattleTech novel Operation Excalibur, one character, whose husband recently had a limb replaced, mused that the sex the night before proved that cybernetic limbs at least don't remove a person's tenderness or passion, and thinks that the only people who tend to go coldly murderous when they have cybernetic prosthetics installed are people who tended towards that sort of behavior anyway.
- The World Of Blake's massively cybernetically modified Manei Dominei soldiers are merciless killers, but that's more likely due to their indoctrination rather then a side-effect of their cybernetics.
- Played (somewhat) straight with the Word of Blake's VDNI and Buffered VDNI, in that they cause insanity and brain damage after ten years or so (with medical treatment).
- Played... bent, by Clan Enhanced Imaging technology; it does not eat your soul, but will eventually result in crippling neuromuscular degeneration despite constant treatment, and arguably a lot of the hard-core Crusaders who would use it were pretty soulless anyways. The version used as a control system for protomechs carries with it no inherent penalties different from the usual one, but due to its use as Unusual User Interface with the protomech, in which the pilot essentially becomes the machine while it's active, it can result in a "God Complex" insanity.
- Though in the case of the psychological problems caused by EI technology the fluff mentions that social interaction, particularly with other members of their protomech unit, outside the cockpit can limit this. So apparently they only eat your soul if you're a loner.
- Played with regarding Myomer implants, which act as electric powered muscles that can vastly augment one's strength and endurance. Despite the large alteration the procedure generally does not result in psychological problems. However patients usually become dependent on pain killers afterwards and that in itself can lead to a host of issues.
- On the flip side, Redemption Ark describes the effects of a prosthetic body (plus a physics-altering energy field) on a Conjoiner villain: "Her thoughts shifted and coalesced with frightening speed, like clouds in a sped-up film. She flickered between moods she had never known before, terror and elation revealed as opposed facets of the same hidden emotion."
- Averted in The Lunar Chronicles with Cinder, a cyborg who is very human even though about 80 percent of her body is made of metal. However, she cannot cry and extreme emotions or exercise of her psychic powers can sometimes cause her machinery to shut down.
- In To Hold Infinity by John Meaney, the plexcores with which the inhabitants of Fulgor augment their brains don't eat your soul so much as change it into something rather inhuman. The antagonist of the book is a hundred times more augmented than his peers, ultimately enabling him to survive death, in a fashion, and become a mind-eating planet-conquering godlike being. He maintains much of his human emotion, but has a tendency to consider other humans as obstructions or prey.
- In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, cyborgs aren't really any more or less likely to go psychotic than anyone else, but there's a bit of Fantastic Racism towards those who've had more than a limb or an eye replaced. Wedge Antilles, surely near the top of any Imperial wanted poster, is able to infiltrate the Imperial capital world by using machinery to disguise himself as a spectacularly unlucky test pilot - everyone saw the cybernetics, not the man beneath them.
- Ton Phanan of Wraith Squadron was a doctor before losing a leg, and half of his face during the Battle of Endor. It's debatable whether the cybernetics specifically or his highly-visible injuries are more to blame, but nonetheless Phanan became increasingly cynical and depressed, hiding in snark. The author is on record as saying that although Phanan feared death and struggled against it, deep down he didn't want to live.
Phanan: There's no mechanical replacement for a future, Face. And every time I take a hit, and they have to cut away another part of me and replace it with machinery because I'm allergic to bacta, every time that happens I seem to be a little further away from the young doctor who had a future. He can't come back, Face. Not all of him is here anymore.
- In one novel Tenel Ka loses an arm. She refuses to replace it cybernetically due to family values. Luke supports her decision and explains that while he prefers to have his arm replaced, he always keeps in mind this is a step in direction of Vader - "half human, half machine".
- Also one argument why Vader was irredeemable was that he was "more machine than man".
- The comic Star Wars: Legacy plays with this. An Imperial Knight was badly wounded so they gave her a "Vader" Life Support system. One of the healers was worry about making another Vader, however the other pointed out that Vader turned evil before being put in his suit. She's still mostly the same, but since she was fine with dying before and now can't touch anything without feeling pain she's pissed.
- The Dark Forces Saga has robotic Darktroopers; supplemental material mentions that the prototypes were aging veteran clone troopers who had around seventy percent of their bodies replaced with cybernetics. Combining the weight of their experience with stronger, faster, more damage-resistant bodies made them extremely effective in combat, but no one had consulted them beforehand. That's why the project switched its focus to droid troopers - droids don't gape in horror at what they have become and kill themselves or just act really recklessly in battle, wasting good credits and tech.
- One of the Imperial Grand Admirals, Teshik, was known for being humane and compassionate, moreso than the others. After he failed Palpatine, he was sent on a suicidal mission, survived, and came back, but so badly wounded that a good seventy-five percent of his body had to be replaced with cybernetics. This put him in the NonhuMan category; in that 'verse, bacta therapy is so effective that cyborgs are seen as weak and inferior. As a result of this, Teshik grew cold and distanced himself from his emotions. But his soul hadn't been eaten; a construction worker saved him on Endor, reawakening his true nature, and he fought on until his Star Destroyer was captured. Then the New Republic executed him for atrocities he, the least evil Grand Admiral, never committed; his mechanical laughter at hearing his sentence is said to be the saddest thing those who witnessed it ever heard.
- At the end of The Truce at Bakura:
Luke: Alliance surgeons can do wonderful things with prosthetics. They'll treat you at Endor.
- Because it relies on two different kinds of technology, one even more esoteric than the other, possibly the ultimate example of this has not really had a chance to be explored— using a refined version of the entechment process (mentioned above) to have one's "spirit" placed into a replica droid of oneself. The only person known to try it was already evil when he went for it, but it didn't seem to affect his personality any.
- In "Children of the Jedi", another character went through a similar process to save his life from an incurable disease. He later mentions that, apart from his hands, he has no real sense of touch. Also, all his memories have been converted to information. When remembering a picnic, he knows things like the color of the cloth, or what food they had, but it's just a text file, he can't visualize the memory. C-3P0 notes, though, that he can still do things no true droid can do, like make guesses, or eyeball measurements.
- Tanner Sack, a secondary protagonist in The Scar and all-around nice guy voluntarily undergoes Remaking to become more amphibious, as his new home is a floating city.
- Force lightning isn't possible with cybernetic hands but other force powers may or may not be affected by replacements. Vader is much less agile than before his transformation but there is the question if it is because of a weaker connection with the force, the shoddy suit design or the limitations that went with producing the movies in the 80s.
- Orson Scott Card discusses this in Robota, eventually concluding that non-visible augmentations are perfectly safe psychologically. Making yourself look like a robot, on the other hand, is generally connected to rejection of humanity, and hence to Transhuman Treachery. (Incidentally, this setting has no Ridiculously Human Robots, so robots that embrace emotion ignore this rule.
- Played with horrific psychological subtlety in Damon Knight's short story "Masks". A man has been saved from certain death by having his brain and nervous system woven into an otherwise robotic body. Though he's retained all his memories and sense of self, his lack of human senses and physiology has left him with only one emotion: nauseating disgust and hatred for the organic life that surrounds him.
- Walter Jon Williams's Hardwired plays a variation of this trope; a person who replaces too much of their brain-matter with implants becomes "white-brained", detached from the world and other people, obsessed with mathematical abstractions, and losing much of their emotions in the process. However, it only happens to those who are inclined towards abstract thinking to begin with - those who use their cybernetic implants to intereact with physical objects like vehicles, and expand their abilities in the realms of physical talent like martial arts rarely suffer from these effects.
- Justified in Android Karenina, where the mechanical "Face" that eventually transforms Alexei Karenin into the nightmarish Tsar With No Face was specifically designed for exactly that purpose- as part of a scheme for world domination by the Honoured Guests.
- Quantum Gravity: Lila worries that this will happen. In something of a twist, it's not that she's worried about her human parts being replaced by more mechanical ones (at first), it's that her organic and inroganic parts are slowly integrating—she's told her AI and her brain will stop being separate soon. And then the magic metalloid fleshoid stuff starts growing to encompass more of her body, and she frets even more because she is losing all of her human body.
- Max Barry's Machine Man addresses this with Dr. Charles Neumann. After becoming a Man in the Machine, he begins talking to his artificial parts and referring to himself as "we". He gets better... Sort of.
- Grigari nano-cybernetics do this in the Star Trek novel Federation, although it doesn't affect the personality so much as the stuff below it - essentially Flanderizing the user. Also, the guy whose soul was being eaten was a psychotic Optimum agent obsessed with Zefram Cochrane and a physically impossible "warp bomb", so it's quite possible everyone would have been better off if it did take out the emotions.
- In C.L. Moore's novella No Woman Born, the deceased starlet Deirdre is brought back to life in a robotic body. Her builder, Maltzer, regrets doing so and is convinced she will eventually lose her humanity. Deirdre, however, is thrilled to be alive again and ignores his exclamations of worry. It's only when he threatens suicide that she admits she does have doubts about her retaining her humanity, and her voice turns just a little more metallic in the final line.
- Dark Future: Dr. Threadneedle, himself significantly cybered-up, addresses this topic with Jessamyn shortly after having installed huge amounts of cybernetics and bio-augmentations in her. One of the reasons he was fired by GenTech and Dr. Zarathustra cancelled his projects was to do with the high levels of psychosis that many of his subjects suffered. He himself has been experiencing a significant lack of interest in the rest of humanity and a general feeling of detachment from the world, manifesting in trances and spending hours simply testing how long he can balance himself on his fingers or hold a significant weight: "I can do almost anything with this body, but... when you're superhuman so little seems worth the bother."
- The Stalkers (AKA the Resurrected Men) in the Mortal Engines books were cyborg soldiers that were "resurrected" using Old Tech. The Lord Mayor of London manages to have the tech reverse-engineered from Shrike, who is a partial aversion to this trope.
- The Hostile Takeover series averts this and plays it straight. Dominic Magnus has had much of his body cybernetically rebuilt, and worries about this, but in fact his emotional detachment is for perfectly ordinary human reasons. The minor character of Ambrose, though, has had much of his brain replaced as well, and is described as not really being a person anymore, but not legally an AI, and thus allowed to exist
- In the Doctor Who Expanded Universe novel The Silent Stars Go By, the "Transhumans" are psychotic cyborgs who intend to eat their descendents once the planet has been terraformed for them.
- There Will Be Dragons has a mother appalled at the prospect of her teenage daughter uploading herself into an A.I., not because the uploading process is inherently flawed, but because she's so young. The upload will emulate her brain as it is now, so her brain will never have the chance to undergo the physical maturation processes of adolescence, and she will remain neurologically (and, it is implied, emotionally) a flighty teenager for the rest of her very long life.
- The Choblik race introduced in the Star Trek Novel Verse are an inversion. They were originally reasonably intelligent woodland creatures before a race of unknown Builders installed their implants, giving them sapience. Upgrades throughout childhood and adolescence are celebrated rites of passage in their culture. Choblik crewmember Torvig Bu-kar-nguv of the Titan initially doesn't understand why everyone fears the Borg so much. In Star Trek: Destiny the full implications hit him and he's horrified. This trope, and thus the Borg, are essentially the anti-Choblik, their most primal horror.
- In Sasya Fox's Theta the preeminent religion on Jale's homeworld believes that if you lose any parts of your body in life you lack them in the afterlife as well. She's not religious but still a little disturbed when one of her crew (from a more "pragmatic" culture) decides to replace his crippled arm with a prosthesis instead of waiting for them to find a hospital that might be able to salvage it.
Live Action TV
- In Doctor Who, the Cybermen are said to have lost their ability to feel emotion during their transformation, as a species, from biological entities to cyborgs, either deliberately or as a byproduct of their cybernetics (depending on who wrote the story). In the new series, which presents Cybermen as Body Horror, emotion-inhibiting firmware is used to prevent the forcefully-cyberconverted individuals from killing themselves upon realizing what they've become.
- Similarly, the Kaleds of the planet Skaro who suffer the mobile life-support coffin variety in becoming the (in)famous Daleks. It's never made clear if it was the accelerated mutation or the placement in the mechanized armor that causes the genocidal insanity all Daleks share.
- Genesis Of The Daleks strongly suggests that it was Davros's tinkering that causes the Daleks unrelenting villainy. In fact, it is when he orders the Dalek organisms to be bred without the capacity for things like mercy and reason that the other Kaleds revolt. Naturally his desire to make the Daleks ruthless results in them turning on him.
- The Daleks' creator Davros. His further descent into Ax-Crazy land is punctuated with the steady decay of his body and growing dependence on Dalek-like replacement parts, making a poster for this trope.
- The Borg from Star Trek: The Next Generation. In Star Trek: First Contact, they assimilate Data by putting organic components into him.
- The Borg were once planned to be robotic insectoids at the end of the first season, until budget and other behind-the-scenes problems wound up only vaguely hinting at them. Of course, the Borg we all know and (no longer note ) fear showed up in the second season.
- In the Expanded Universe Star Trek: Destiny series, it's revealed that the Borg aren't evil because of their cybernetic nature or because of their Hive Mind, but because the first assimilation process went horribly wrong, and subordinated the minds and bodies of its victims to an alien entity who had faded away entirely save for an all-consuming hunger.
- This was hinted in one earlier novel.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine played with this trope with Vedek Bareil. After slowly dying, Kira tried to keep him alive by replacing his body with cybernetics. After half of his brain was replaced with a positronic matrix, the sudden change in sensation (which he describes as being like an echo of what he once felt) is enough for him to want to die instead of going further and Dr. Bashir, the attending physician, agreed with that sentiment. He remained himself throughout the procedure (though in increasing pain and disorientation), but Bashir admitted that the unprecedented last step needed to save his life, trying to replace the other half of his brain, not only was nigh impossible but, if it worked, wouldn't leave him as Bareil anymore.
- Generally, Star Trek mistrusts such replacements. Picard's replacement heart malfunctions and nearly kills him in "Tapestry" (Q points out that a normal heart would not stop in such a situation), Geordi's Visor is abused a couple of times by Romulans, Nog's leg hurts until he realizes the pain is entirely psychosomatic, etc.
- Christine Chapel's ex-fiancé Roger Corby uploaded his mind into an android before his death. The resultant android is an ends-justify-the-means sociopath, who suffers a My God, What Have I Done? moment when this is finally made clear to him.
- On the other hand genetically augmented humans aren't much better (Khan), not to mention Jem'Haddar...
- An ironically poignant lampshade of this phenomenon was given by Data, of all people, in the second season episode "The Measure of a Man"; in response to the prospect of being disassembled and studied for a mass-production experiment, he voiced his concerns over being damaged in the process by comparing the memory transfer he'd undergo - and the subsequent loss of the "essence" of those memories - to the difference between reading about playing poker in a textbook and actually playing it in real life. To sum up, he theorizes that it's the loss of context, the subtle details about an experience and the events surrounding them that makes the experience memorable and familiar, that prevents people from accepting a robotic life or truly understanding and appreciating an event being told to them second-hand.
- In the short-lived 2007 Bionic Woman reboot, the protagonist's Ax-Crazy predecessor, Sarah Corvus, apparently became psychotic as a result of her bionic implants.
- The fact that said implants are malfunctioning and that she is possibly near death may have something to do with it, though.
- The original The Six Million Dollar Man had Jaimie Sommers have a similar problem when her body started rejecting her implants, causing her maddening pain that drove her berserk and forcing Steve Austin to restrain her for emergency surgery that she seemingly didn't survive.
- In Hyperdrive, Sandstrom is an "Enhanced Human" cybernetically connected to the ship's controls, who has a personality somewhere between Commander Data and the Enterprise computer. One episode has her "replaying" the events immediately before her enhancement, revealing she was a cheerful (if somewhat dim) young woman.
- Even though she was probably joking, Kilo invokes this trope in the finale of Dollhouse. She is part of a team of cybernetically-enhanced vigilantes who can download specialized skills to their brains and store them on thumb drives. When asked what she takes out of her head to make room for the extra knowledge, she holds up a thumb drive labeled "MERCY" and grins.
- In Fringe the Observers don't look cybernetic, but some of their physical and mental abilities are granted or enhanced by an implant in their brain. Over time, it takes over the areas of the brain that govern emotion. Though interacting with people who do have emotion can still create it in them, it seems to be a slow and limited process, and they don't like to admit it.
- Inverted in Buffy the Vampire Slayer when a computer chip acts as a functional substitute for Spike's soul.
- In Chuck, later versions of the Intersect cause Morgan and Sarah to lose memories. Morgan also undergoes dramatic personality shifts as a result.
- In Continuum, Kiera gets a very rude awakening in "Playtime" about just how much her CMR has eaten her soul when Liber8 uses it to take over control of her body and attempts to use her as an assassin. She's only saved from killing people by Alec hacking her CMR as well and taking control of her instead. At the end of episode, she tearfully tells Alec that she needs "another reboot," and it's obvious that she's realizing, and grieving over, the loss of her humanity.
- In the folk music/prog rock/metal Rock Opera album 01011001 by Ayreon, the main characters are a race of fish aliens that rely on machines to keep them alive, and as a result, they lose their emotions and ability to really experience life. They try to regain them by creating and living vicariously through humans. It works, and in the end, after humanity destroys itself, they stop the machines so that they can die. Probably. Ayreon is kind of a Mind Screw.
- Nine Inch Nails' "The Becoming" is all about this:
That me that you know used to have feelings
But the blood has stopped pumping and hes left to decay
The me that you know is now made up of wires
And even when Im right with you Im so far away
- Papa Roach's Singular Indestructible Droid is this trope.
- In the Vocaloid song series "New Millenium" (consisting of Risoukyou ~Utopia~, A Faint Wish, and ~Shinseiki~ New Millenium), all of humanity suffers from this. The couple from the beginning is put into robot bodies and lose their love for each other, and a pair of twins are the only ones left with souls, until one of them dies. The other, however, manages to change history so that the mass-Cybernetics Eat Your Soul and the war that prompted it never happens.
- The Soul Doctors from Fireaxe's 4-hour Food For The Gods
Lay thee down thy weary soul.
Give to us complete control.
Upon the alter thy heart and mind.
A sacrifice of the truest kind.
Empty vessel you shall be filled.
With sterile thoughts and happy pills.
Enter now the veil of sleep.
Join the flock of human sheep.
- Artificial Immortality by Becoming the Archetype.
- Decisively averted in Eclipse Phase. Your mind is software and can be "resleeved" into anything from another human form to an uplifted octopus or even a futuristic tank. If for some reason you want to keep your old body, you can still deck out it with an array of cybernetic and biological modifications, without any limitations whatsoever.
- The closest thing being some temporary stress when re-sleeving (especially when the character remembers dying).
- However, the Jovian Junta firmly believes in this trope, the only starting morphs available to characters with the "Jovian" background are unmodified "Flats" and minimally modified "Splicers".
- An option for cybernetics in Atomik Cybertek.
- Transhuman Space makes the question of whether or not Cybernetics Eat Your Soul the central question of the game. Different factions debate (again and again) whether AIs, uplifted animals, and bioroids have souls at all. Ditto for modified humans and especially uploaded intelligences. Several factions, especially bio-chauvinists and some preservationists, believe that Cybernetics Eat Your Soul, while others like Christian Hyper-evolutionists think that enhancements are necessary to advancement.
- There are no game mechanics to prove either side right, but depending on where you life, what you are or what enhancements you've received might limit your civil rights.
- Cyberpunk 2013 and Cyberpunk 2020: The problem was that essentially primitive (i.e. mostly mechanical) implants like hydraulic legs or augmented arms decrease Humanity by 2d6 while coprocessors (essentially computers implanted into one's brain with optional false memories, capable of overriding cognitive and neurobiological functions) incur measly 1d6 decrease. No cyborgized firefighters and combat paramedics for you.
- Made even worse for 'Borgs. Many full body conversions have a human brain as a plug-n-play Wetware CPU. They are like the Servitors of Warhammer 40K, but the brains can be put into another body. One conversion, the Dragoon, combines this trope with And I Must Scream. The cyberware and the drugs keep the thing (barely) controlled. It acts almost like a dumb robot. But your character can recover some humanity loss by moving into another body. Just now he/she has horrible nightmares and flashbacks from being was a 7 foot tall killing machine.
- A major theme, especially for police characters, are full borgs who have gone psycho, running amok in their 500-pound metal bodies wreaking havok with heavy weaponry. The task of dealing with these nutjobs falls to a police force's C-SWAT (Cyber-SWAT) team who are often extensively cybered as well and use heavy gauss rifles and anti-vehicle weapons to take the psychotic borgs down. If they manage to catch the perp alive, he gets send straight to the clinic, gets his cyberware removed, and then spends a long time in a recovery ward (on top of serving prison time for his crimes, obviously).
- Fading Suns: Mostly averted, as this trope only happens if you take the "Cybernut" disadvantage. Then again, the resident Church Militant declares you soulless if more than 64% of your body has been replaced, but that's really them going nuts, not you.
- Feng Shui has two major ways to enhance yourself with cybertech:
- "Arcanowave" implants are icky Mad Scientist tech that are made of demons and Black Magic. Here, the danger is not so much losing your humanity in the typical cyberpunk sense the more you get cybered up, but having bent magic sent into your system like a virus whenever you use it. Use it too much, and you start mutating into something horrific and run the risk of becoming an abomination, one of those altered demons that the government of 2056 uses to fight its wars.
- Conversely, those who use hardware schticks are rather well-adjusted, averting the trope, though hardware schticks do have their own little drawbacks (mainly being bulky as hell and nigh-unconcealable, particularly if you get the whole package). The people who primarily use the stuff, the Jammers, run the gamut from Well Intentioned Extremists to batshit crazy people who just want to blow everything sky high, but that's mainly a personality thing and not an effect of the cybernetics.
- Obsidian: The catatonia option on steroids. To be fair, you can also lose Humanity for other horrible things, like binding demons or getting hit by Brown Note powers that reduce your Humanity.
- Shadowrun: Getting cyberware drops your Essence, which comes with a corresponding drop in Magic ability; however, even the non-magically active should fear dropping too low in Essence, as if one's Essence runs out, they die. However, it is possible, through a combination of powerful blood magics and technology, to keep somebody with below-zero Essence alive as a "cyberzombie". It's not pretty, but nothing in Shadowrun is. Notably, cybernetics are actually only one of the things that can damage a character's Essence.
- The 1st edition game hinted at "cyberpsychosis," whereby characters become increasingly violent and irrational as their essence goes down; however, no rules system was ever given for this, and it was entirely dropped by 2nd edition.
- Cyberpsychosis is back in 4th edition, as a negative quality characters with real low essence can take. If they critically glitch on a social test, they enter an Unstoppable Rage.
- One chapter of the 3rd Edition sourcebook Cybertechnology has a heavily-cybered mercenary named Hatchetman tell his life story. He says killing was easier once he got cybereyes because it was like watching everything he did through a TV.
- Hatchetman's story is a very well-written piece of narration, so it's worth exploring this further for the sake of this trope: after going through an extremely risky medical/magical procedure called "Cybermancy" that allows him to "cross the threshold" of his human body and mind, Hatchetman has more metal in him than pretty much any other street samurai and is only held back from terminal psychosis by various quirks programmed into his cybernetic brain.
I asked [the doctor] if I was going to stay alive.
He said yes, as long as I remembered.
Remembered what, I asked.
Remembered that I was alive, he answered.
- The Old World of Darkness mostly averts the trope. Although there are a few implants that cause humanity loss, those involve removing parts of your brain. The vast majority of cybernetics have few disadvantages, and the most overt and powerful ones simply add to one's Paradox. In WoD, cybernetics gain their balance because a skilled Mage can emulate them just as well with spells-since they're all magic in the end anyways. They also have another issue, that any skilled life mage can cause a body to reject them. Iteration X seems to be sliding into this trope, but it's their anti-humanist beliefs rather than their bodily enhancements that are doing that.
- On the other hand, the Glass Walkers, a tribe of techno-shaman werewolves, had a faction known as the Cyber Dogs, dedicated to fighting the Wyrm by blending their war forms with cybernetics. Due to making the Weaver stronger, that... did not go so well.
- In the Genius The Transgression fan supplement for the New World of Darkness, getting cybered is a sin against Obligation, as with all other transhumanist developments.
- This is because Obligation represents the ability to empathize with normal humans as something other than raw material. The nature of Inspiration means a Genius always has wonderful, terrifying ideas like turning the entire human race into mechanical supermen or how cool it be to fly around as a biotech dragon; even small starts ("I'll just upgrade my arm!") can provide the necessary starting point to rationalize their way down a very slippery slope. You can have very nice, benevolent reasons for wanting to transform the human race, kiddo, but you're still an Obligation 0 madman.
- It may be worth noting that the Obligation loss is a risk, not a guarantee. One can make it out of the process entirely unscathed.
- Similarly, Exalted also mostly averts this trope with the Alchemical Exalted; in 1st edition, only the most inhuman enhancements for Alchemicals (death tentacles, massive brain modification, spider legs) caused any degree of humanity loss. Even then, a low-humanity Alchemical isn't crazy, just cold and detached.
- In 2nd ed, they get the justified version of the trope with Voidtech, Charms which draw on the metaphysical disease that's killing their god-world. An Alchemical who goes too far, accumulates too much Void-taint, soon descends into murderous psychopathy. There are also ways for Creation's Exalted to implant Voidtech, letting them join the fun.
- There's another justified 2nd ed version — Clarity. As an Alchemical's Essence rises, they run the risk of becoming more mechanical in mind as well as body, bordering on Straw Vulcan behaviour. With that said, while most Alchemical Charms are cybernetic or mechanical in nature, the majority are not Exemplary and thus do not modify Clarity - those that do tend to concentrate on distancing the Exalt from humanity either physically (such as using Manifold Transhuman Implants to bolt on an extra pair of arms) or mentally (by, for example, harmonising with the inhuman mind of Autochthon to gain information). Meaning Cybernetics only Eat Your Soul if you deliberately choose to let them, and with the exception of the Weaving Engines, you can always have them removed to push yourself back to a more human mentality.
- Rifts treats this as a psychosomatic matter instead of a literal truth. Any loss of humanity is due to the individual 'Borg's feelings and reactions, and how they are usually perceived' by the society around them, rather than an inherent drawback to cybernetics or bionics. This varies between regions and nations around the planet, largely influenced by the prevelence of cybernetics there. In North America, cyborgs are considered normal, if uncommon in places, and only spurned by mages and psychics because they interfere with the ability to use magic/psionics (there are exeptions). In Germany and Japan, cyborgs make up a sizable chunk of the nations'armed forces and are considered selfless heroes who have made sacrifices to serve their country. Russia has a unique environment where giant, bionic soldiers make up almost the entirety of the front-line troops for each of the factions fighting to gain control of the region. To be a cyborg in Russia is a mark of prestige and each faction has a signiture style of cyborg, each considered Elite soldiers and revered as heroes.
- Though it is true that each cybernetic implant lowers the power of mages and psychics, and destroys said abilities outright if extensive enough.
- In the technologically advanced sections of Japan, the natural abundance of manga and anime (see above, extrapolate for another hundred years) makes cyborgs even more socially acceptable and popular than just about elsewhere in the world. Some cyborgs can actually get paid as "consultants" for submitting their adventures for a popular anime series.
- In Star Wars Saga Edition, cybernetic replacements reduce your Use the Force check. Earlier Wizards of the Coast Star Wars RPGs reduced the benefit from spending Force Points. In any case, within the rules this only really applies to Force Users; it's even possible to become a full cyborg hybrid like Grievous or Durge without becoming a bad guy, though you have to nearly die in order to do so.
- The old West End Games Star Wars RPG mechanic for this was "More Machine Now Than Man", introduced in the sourcebook Galladinium's Fantastic Technology and it increased the number of Dark Side points gained substantially when you had more cybernetic replacements and upgrades. Upgrades counted double for calculating how many cybernetic parts your character had, as opposed to replacements necessitated by injuries.
- One of the Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual supplements introduced "half-golems", which are about as close to cyborgs as a fantasy setting gets. Having limbs replaced with golem parts can restore function and increase strength, but requires a Will save, which gets more difficult as the number of replacements increase. Failure on the save represents the trapped elemental spirit gaining control of the whole body, and, though still trapped, it can now express its displeasure, transforming the victim into a full Construct and engendering a murderous hatred of the living.
- Eberron had grafts, whom depending on the type take various toll on the body. Almost always resulted in constitution loss. Some grafts, called symbiotes, are also Always Chaotic Evil and will try to make you Ax-Crazy by constantly speaking suggestions to your mind.
- For all the Grim Dark in the setting, Warhammer 40,000 averts this trope, for the most part. Bionic eyes and arms and other augmentations are commonplace, and generally don't cause any problems. We can only assume that the Rule of Cool is winning out over the Rule of Creepy in this case.
- The Adeptus Mechanicus can certainly come across as inhuman, and commonly replace even their brains with machinery, but the causation is the reverse of this trope; Tech-Priests are supposed to shun the weaknesses of flesh for the steely logic of the machine, and consider cyborgization as moving closer to that ideal. Even so, not all AdMech members fit this stereotype: Sandy Mitchell has given us an obnoxious zoobiology otaku who has to be babysat by Ciaphas Cain's patrol, a Genki Girl with "no head for theological matters," another who loves to eat junk food, and a Deadpan Snarker.
- Servitors and arco-flagellants, mindless menial laborers and berserk killing machines respectively, both have their limbs replaced with tools/weapons, but their "soullessness" is due to being lobotomized at the start of the process. Space Marine Dreadnoughts can come across as mildly senile, but this can probably be put down to their injuries prior to internment within their life-support systems, or the fact that they're usually hibernating unless their chapter needs them. Chaos Space Marine Dreadnoughts were debatably insane to begin with, and if not then sensory deprivation is more to blame than their new metal bodies.
- Titan "machine-spirits" come close to playing this trope straight - the larger, stronger titans are said to have their own wrathful personalities, so only the strongest minds can interface with and master them. Even so, some titan princeps end up fighting a losing battle to maintain their sanity before losing themselves in the god-machines they pilot.
- The Necrons got hit by this when the C'tan convinced them to upload themselves into undying metal bodies. The millennia spent in stasis, or the damage to their psyche sustained after heavy repairs, has driven some Necrons insane, or reduced others to Empty Shells. In some cases, the "common-born" soldiers' mind transferal process was deliberately sabotaged by their Lords to make them mindlessly obedient.
- Obliterators are Chaos Space Marines who have, through some dark ritual or daemonic virus, become fused to their armor. While this gives them access to Shapeshifter Weapons, the once-cackling mad Marines become eerily silent and emotionless as Warp-tainted metal continues to spread through their bodies. The quotes page features the Apocalyptic Log of someone undergoing the transformation.
- Dark Heresy takes this literally with Obliviates, who are cyborgs implanted with a device called an "Oblivion Volitor", a Heretek device that actually destroys the soul, turning the unfortunate into a zombie-like creature.
- Alternity uses Cybertech that is mostly safe, baring the chance of rejection, which one species doesn't have. There is a limit on how much cybertech you can have, and two products come with a built in risk of Cykosis, notably the Fast Chip. Cybertolerance determines how much cybertech you can handle before rejection is automatic, and there are ways you can increase your tolerance.
- In Deadlands: Hell on Earth, a distinction is made between cyborgs (undead with cybernetic parts) and scrappers (living humans with cybernetic parts). While cyborgs suffer no ill effect because the power for their cybernetics comes from the soul of a demon spiritually shackled to their heads, scrappers have their Spirit die type reduced (or their total dice if they're already at d4) when they replace major body parts. This is because they power their devices with their soul: battery-powered devices are available, but expensive; and in a pinch non-vital systems can be turned off to increase their dice again. This is all well and good, fair and balanced, except for one thing: the Spirit die type is used primarily for magic rolls, faith rolls, and guts rolls. Apparently having your super-powered buzzsaw arm running makes you more likely to run away?
- Its also worth noting that Cyborgs are actually more mentally stable than normal Harrowed as their manitou are chained up in the basement next to the boiler not running around the bedroom with a knife. What makes cyborgs crazy is their asshole onboard AI's that have arbitrary rules of engagement that they force the cyborg to follow. With no AI or an AI with no idiot rules cyborgs are more sane than normal people... because armor 8 means you can face down anything in the waste and laugh.
- The Bubblegum Crisis tabletop RPG has a mechanic for this trope which is derived from Cyberpunk's. However, there are mild subversions. First of all, it is explicitly stated once in the writeup of the Humanity stat that cybernetics are not the only way to lose Humanity. Second, counseling can help out quite a bit. Other than this and a certain lack of explicit psychic or magical loss, both being foreign to the setting, the trope is played straight, especially since counseling is only guaranteed to succeed if the patient has removed all cybernetics.
- Yawgmoth, The Big Bad of the entire Dominarian Saga of Magic: The Gathering, was obsessed with the mechanics of the body. He lords over the evil machine plane of Phyrexia, where he and his followers used its mechanical wonders to improve ("compleat") their bodies, at the cost of their own humanity. In the mechanics of the game, artifact creatures (usually machines) are generally unaffected by black spells that destroy creatures.
- See also Esper, part of the Shards of Alara block. Every creature in Esper has some amount of aether-infused metal grafted onto their body. This is okay unless they replace their whole body, after which they become twisted fiends called aether-liches.
- Phyrexia's worse. Much worse.
- Ashnod's Transmogrant.
- Averted with the Therians, of AT-43. Despite being the Big Bad of the setting, they are not very warlike or evil (in fact, they have long ago forgotten how to fight, making them rely on MMORPGS for tactics). They just don't seem to get why the other races keep shooting up them for trying to blow up their solar systems in order to make Dyson Spheres in order to save the universe form dying of old age...in 25 billion years. So its more like Cybernetics makes you a Cloud Cuckoo Lander. (Except for their Warrior Guild, who all Leeroy Jenkins.)
- The Munchkin's Guide to Gaming encourages exploiting this mechanic as its a free power up coupled with a roleplaying justification for your normal behavior.
- All Flesh Must Be Eaten provides rules for Essence loss from cybernetics and "cyberpsychosis" in its All Tomorrow's Zombies supplement... but made it clear they were optional for two reasons. One was that such rules went against the Rule of Fun that AFMBE embraces (who has time for moral dilemmas when there are undead to kill?!?); the other is that when there are undead wandering around, the question of where the line between humanity and inhumanity lies is already pretty much answered, so it's not exactly relevant.
- Dark Future supplement Dead Mans Curve introduced rules for cybernetics and for psychosis caused by the stress and trauma of the life of Renegades and Ops. Cybernetics increased your base level of pyschosis.
- New Horizon The anti-rejection drugs are stated to have a side effect where the user can become easily both depressed and easily agitated as well as suffer from advanced aging. More likely though, the social rejection from society, the cost of medical bills, and the interactions of the anti-rejection drugs with alcohol and other drugs used by cyborgs to deal with emotional pain lead to most of the problems with useing cybernetics, not the cybernetics themselves.
- The White Wolf D20 setting DragonMech has a character class dedicated to installing steam-powered prosthetics, which has an ability called "Lose Self" forcing them to pass a Charisma check or spend a day as an emotionless robot.
- Mostly averted in BattleTech with one major exception. Cybernetics that directly mess with a person's brain, such as various enhanced neural interfaces, are decidedly bad for their health and sanity (this is one reason ProtoMech pilots have a life expectancy of at best about a decade even if they don't get killed in battle), but most other implants are fairly safe — though except for the Word of Blake's already somewhat Axe Crazy Manei Domini cyborgs, they also tend not to provide much in the way of superhuman abilities other than the occasional hidden weapon in a prosthetic limb or the like.
- In the mecha RPG Giant Guardian Generation, being a Cyborg means you take a penalty to Empathy rolls, as well as Awareness rolls that involve diplomacy and deceit. In other words, Cybernetics don't so much Eat Your Soul as Make You Bad at Socializing.
- Wolsung Steam Pulp Fantasy has the Uhrwerk, insane dwarves who replaced their bodies with Magitek cybernetics.
- The Yu-Gi-Oh! cards "Giga Gagagigo" and "Gogiga Gagagigo" show the character Gagagigo after being cybernetically reconstructed. The flavor text on the first mentions that the cybernetics caused him to lose his heart and redemption, and the second's says that his soul has long since collapsed, and that his body continues recklessly in a quest for more power.
- Even more Gagagigo is the evolved form of Gigobyte, a very cute mon.
- Eventually Subverted with "Gagagigo The Risen" who's Gogiga Gagagigo after being redeemed.
- In Hc Svnt Dracones cybernetic augmentation itself doesn't have any penalties, though there's a limit to how many implants one can get based on their Body and Mind traits. However one can exceed that limit by using Vitae, a substance that oxygenates tissue without proper circulation and speeds regeneration, but it can't completely replace blood and cerebrospinal fluid for the brain so it begins to atropy and go nuts, turning into a "Vitae Demon". There are also a few specific implants that affect the mind, a Behavioral Adjuster changes the character's Motivation, with or against their will depending on who controls the implant; a Voice literally gives you a voice in your head, though usually it's helpful; and the Aestus Leech really lowers its host's inhibitions and has a bit of a will of its own, if a character has both a Voice and a Leech they tend to conflict.
- Most forms of Bio-Augmentation, on the other hand, have no disadvantages or limits aside from the monetary cost, though Augmentation that adds limbs or something has a hard limit of two and Genetic Reclamation has a limit of 3 (though each species has only 4 Reclamations available).
- The "Pocket President" chips in A Girl and Her Fed. Originally designed to give federal agents unblockable, untraceable instant communication ability, they instead turned nearly all of them into virtual shells of their former selves (just going through the motions of life) or permanently depressed lumps who tended towards suicide. The exceptions being those agents who already had pronounced Psycho for Hire tendencies. And then we find out, the chips could do much much more... and the folks that made them knew it. The psychological issues were intentionally induced as a Restraining Bolt
- Dragon Ball Multiverse: Yamcha implies this is happening to #18. He also implied that it happened to himself at one point in time, but that he recovered.
- Last Res0rt avoids this trope pretty handily for a Cyberpunk work— yes, the emotionally sensitive Daisy Archanis has a robotic leg, but there's also a robot murderess who claims she's really a glorified Brain in a Jar...
- Then again, nobody cares whether or not Cybernetics Eat Your Soul when there's plenty of other creatures willing to eat it for you.
- Averted in The Intrepid Girlbot, where its transformation into a cyborg made no change to the raccoon apart from having to deal with its newfound destructive capabilities.
- Yuri of Space Trawler was always a little, weird, but she seems to be getting more and more bloodthirsty as she gets upgraded. Though many in comic believe she developed an "organic inferiority" complex as part of the Post-traumatic stress disorder from the torture session that cost her her limbs (the Eeb brain tissue she also had implanted probably doesn't help considering that Eebs turned out to be natural psychopaths).
- Averted in 21st Century Fox with Tora Scobee, sure he became more of a Jerk Ass after the accident that cost him most of his body but it's believed to be PTSD rather than "Borg rage".
- Defied, spat on, and given the finger in Dresden Codak. If anything, Kim seems to have been humanised by the mishap that necessitated her robotic arm, leg and eye. Not surprising, given that the writer is an avowed transhumanist.
- In Darths & Droids this is General Grievous' rational for retaining some of his original organs despite his near total cyborg conversion...sort of.
Without a heart, how am I to feel love?
Without love, how am I to feel hate?
And without hate, how am I to feel the exquisite sensation of mild annoyance?
- SCP-217 melds this with The Virus.
- SCP-191, a little cyborg girl who sees herself more as a machine than a person.
- Played straight with the Dragonstorm experiments in Darwin's Soldiers.
- Cyborg assassin Deadlock from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe has replaced the emotional center of his brain with a computer system that allows him to "jack in" skill files. When he needs martial arts, he inserts a martial arts chip, and so on. He is incapable of feeling any emotion and has become cold and merciless and inhuman.
- Robotman, a superhero who is essentially a Brain in a Jar (where the jar is a powerful robot body), believes that his total body replacement has done this to him. But it hasn't.
- Batman Beyond had the episode "Lost Soul", in which Robert Vance uploaded himself into the company computer. The first thing he did upon awakening 35 years later was flip out and jack the city network. Terry espouses a view based on this trope:
Batman: You really think you're Robert Vance, don't you? But he was flesh, and you're just binary. They don't go together!
- Completely averted and defied in Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers. Niko's Series 5 implant enhances her Psychic Powers, to the point where the Rangers, as True Companions, can channel their implants' power through her for impressive effects. Zachary Foxx has had more than half his body replaced by cyberware, but it hasn't stopped several magic-based enemies from finding him Supernaturally Delicious and Nutritious.
- It should be noted, however, that this trope is partly the reason why Zach is not all that comfortable with his bionics. ("Rogue Arm")
- Usually averted by Teen Titans, where Cyborg is arguably the most lively, spontaneous and "teenage" member of the team, but it does arise in one Cyborg-themed episode. In an increasingly obsessive effort to boost his speed and intellect enough to compensate for a villain's Doppelgänger Attack, he keeps upgrading and overclocking his neural processor until he eventually decides to shut down his brain's emotional center to further boost its efficiency. At this point he's talking pure Spock Speak in a deadened, soulless, metal-tinged voice, and the rest of the team's left shaken by a conversation with him...
Beast Boy: Cyborg's always had chips for brains, but he's turning into the one thing I never thought he could be... a robot.
- Inverted with Season 3's Big Bad, Brother Blood. He was already evil, and the fact that he voluntarily allowed most of his body to be destroyed so he could be fitted with the same kind of implants Cyborg has just showed how far he was willing to go to grab power.
- Somewhat played straight in another episode where a technological wizard (who's also a cyborg) tries to "improve" Cyborg by turning him fully machine against his will. Cyborg protests that this would eliminate his humanity, and it's not until the other cyborg downloads his memories that he realizes what he's doing is wrong.
- Inverted on Gargoyles with Jackal and Hyena. They were Ax-Crazy before deciding to become cyborgs—rather, this was a sign of how screwed up they are. Their teammate Wolf is similar, though he chose to be genetically engineered into a wolf-man instead.
- Also averted with the cyborg Coldstone; Goliath seems to think this at first, but his mental instability is really due to anger at first, and then later from the circumstances of having three souls (one of whom was evil) sharing one body. The closest he ever really came to this trope was when Xanatos used a computer program to brainwash him for a while; it messed with his mind, but his "soul" remained fine.
- In the Futurama episode "The Six Million Dollar Mon", Hermes Conrad enhances himself with numerous robot parts in order to become a more efficient bureaucrat. The alterations make his already chilly personality even more so. His desire for perfection eventually leads him to seek a robot brain replacement, which presents other problems. Oddly enough, it's general screwup and Butt Monkey Zoidberg who winds up restoring him to his previous self.
- Similar to the Gargoyles example above, Dr. Droid of The Mighty Ducks was out of his mind before he started replacing his body parts with machinery.
- Averted by Baxter Stockman in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2003. He remains more or the less the same person as more and more of his body is replaced with cybernetics. Ironically, he loses his sanity after cloning himself an entirely new body thanks to Clone Degeneration.
- Barry Dylan's reconstruction by the KGB was accompanied by an increase in the frequency of his conversations with "Other Barry", and with each appearance he becomes more Ax-Crazy and obsessed with hurting Sterling in every way he can.
- Averted in Real Life, unless it has something to do with the brain. Pacemakers, Artificial Limbs, Artificial Hearts, aural implants, and the like are fairly common knowledge in advanced medicine, and are not reported to have side effects of insanity, lobotomy, or other forms of radical personality change characteristic of this trope. There's the weird feeling of having your pulse be a faint whirr, but that's it.
- Brain implants have also been experimented with in primates, rats, and insects. Though the implications terrify some humans (particularly with "roborats" whose behavior can be controlled by an implant in their pleasure center, and a few roboroaches that can apparently directed completely by remote control), it's not clear whether the critters themselves feel any different. Of course, we can't exactly ask them. In the interests of potentially freeing stroke victims, it's worthwhile research.
- Experimental brain implants have already been installed on Alzheimer patients in clinical tests with positive results. They're still very simple, but prove once and for all that simply having silicon in your nervous system won't make you inhuman.
- It's not like anyone seriously fears the extreme case ("having silicon in your nervous system" makes you psychotic or robotic). However, modern science still has a long way to go before it can disprove the more moderate case, that extensive use of cybernetics in one's body can change one's outlook (which is very likely, since all other known processes that mess with the brain can result in personality changes).
- And implants also work with Parkinsons. A French man who was unable to hold a glass of water without the implant was fully independent and able to keep his job with those.
- Note that "roborats" aren't actually operated like a remote-control device. Their implants can provide a pleasurable sensation only, under circumstances (like searching a collapsed building for trapped survivors) where giving the rat a food-reward isn't possible. Conventional training is still necessary to get the rats to do what their handlers want.
- Certain neural implants are designed to jam errant brain signals, like the ones that cause epileptic fits.
- This study indicates that people will be able to handle unusual alterations to their body without being hit with full-on Body Horror, making it even less likely that cybernetics will eat anyone's soul.
- It should be noted that the most commonly depicted symptom of soul-lessness, loss of emotion, is possible as emotional reactions are brought on through various chemicals, (neurotransmitters, adrenaline). Even something as simple as an antidepressant can make a person less emotional or even downright Straw Vulcan with a sufficient dose. Cybernetics have the potential to affect, stimulate, or manipulate the production of these chemicals.
- Human emotions are heavily dependent on hormonal status. Replacing of internal secretion glands certainly will lead to changes... For example, adrenaline surges, makes humans more susceptible for emotions, like fear. With automatically administered adrenaline, such reactions will not take place. Same applies for some other hormones, like testosterone. Summing up, brains in jars likely to have much more stable moods due to automatically regulated hormonal balance.
- In some heart transplant patients on the waiting list for a transplant are giving artifical hearts to act as a stop gap. Some of those who are given one report a feeling of unease and detachment as instead of a heart beat they instead have a constant flowing of the blood as it's just a fancy water pump.