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Meat-Sack Robot

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Beneath the fleshy exterior beats a heart of steel.
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 their body. Sometimes, in fiction, it is done in the opposite direction: an a AI controlled machine is grafted with biological tissue (either by another individual or of its own volition). 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.
  • The creators deliberately use the skeletal, flesh, and nerve remains of a biological 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 to 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 lifelong 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 on a still living and conscious living host, this results in Wetware Body and/or Unwilling Roboticisation.

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 (and probably a mechanism for waste disposal) 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 taken from 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.

See also Organic Technology. Overlaps with certain variants of Artificial Human. Compare Ambiguous Robots, Living Battery, Wetware Body, and Wetware CPU. For a magical/fantastical equivalent, see Flesh Golem. Not to be confused with Ridiculously Human Robots, though Meat Sack Robots acting like Ridiculously Human Robots are not precluded.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: The titular Evangelions piloted by Shinji, Asuka, and Rei, and etc. were made from organic bodies cloned from "Adam" and (in Eva-01's case) "Lilith", the Seeds of Life that respectively serve as the progenitors of the Angels and humanity, with armor, weapons, computer networks and other technological features grafted on to them. The Evangelions were intended to be controlled by their implants, but some of them managed 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 Books 
  • Micronauts (Marvel Comics): Biotron's second incarnation, as the humanoid spaceship Bioship, is a machine that incorporates bioengineered tissue in its workings, most notably an enormous living brain.
  • 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.
  • The X-Men storyline "Operation: Zero Tolerance" introduces 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.

    Fan Fiction 
  • The Battlestar Galactica (2003)/Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles crossover "An Angel with No Fate" introduces a new form of Terminator in the form of the T-666, which is essentially the "missing link" between the rubber-skinned T-600s and the living tissue grafted over the T-800s. Where the skin for the T-800s was specifically engineered for each individual Terminator model, the skin on the T-666s was formed from dead tissue taken from corpses. According to a reprogrammed Terminator, the T-666s were normally treated with various preservatives to keep the skin reasonably fresh when they were first created, but the scent of those drugs alone often gave away their true nature, which prevented Skynet deploying the T-666s on a large scale even if some of them are kept in certain bases for security even after the creation of the T-800s onwards.

    Film — Animated 
  • Starchaser: The Legend of Orin: The "Man-Droids" are robotic beings who take limbs (with one scene implying they don't bother killing their captives before dismembering them) and some other organs from living beings in order to incorporate that organic matter into their robotic frames. Given that they reside in a swamp (which is filled with water which in turn can rust metal over time), the addition of organic matter to their bodies is presumably a counter measure against that.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Bicentennial Man: Andrew starts as an ordinary housekeeping android who develops artificial intelligence. After finding the son of the roboticist who designed him, he starts to add organic components to his body. First it's just his skin, but then he replaces much of his inner circuitry with artificial organs. Eventually, he becomes so human that he even starts to age and decay, as a deliberate choice so he can die with his human wife, who becomes a cyborg herself thanks to Andrew's inventions.
  • The Replicants of Blade Runner and its sequel Blade Runner 2049 are at times implied to have mechanical/cybernetic parts controlling their bodies, but Word of God is that they're fully Organic Technology.
  • The title character of D.A.R.Y.L. is a computer brain in an organic body.
  • In The Matrix Revolutions, the Ex-Agent Smith, a malicious program that formerly served the Matrix, takes 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 a technological implant, from which Smith (a thoroughly non-biological entity) is able to use to manifest himself in the real world via a human host.
  • RoboCop (1987): RoboCop was designed to essentially be a robot using critically injured cop Alex Murphy's central nervous system as a Wetware CPU. They left enough of a digestive system to sustain the brain and spine, and grafted his face on for looks, but he's otherwise a robot meant to be subservient to programming. RoboCop remembering his past and turning back into Murphy was an unexpected accident.
  • In Star Trek: First Contact, the Borg Queen grafts living skin tissue onto the android Data's arm, allowing him to feel human sensations, something he has longed to do but was not capable of, in 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). The tissue gets burned off when he vents the reactor onto the Borg.
  • Terminator: Even though the terminators throughout 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), 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.
  • Anthony from Tetsuo: The Bullet Man is a cyborg of sorts born from his android-replicated mother and human father, meaning that while he feels pain, can bleed, and have a child, he is also a rapidly-transforming gun monster who can survive being shot in the head.
  • Virus: The titular virus starts as an extra-terrestrial storm cloud that is transferred into a oceanic ship with advanced robotics — but not more advanced than the body parts that make up the pesky human crew. Cue Body Horror.

  • The Doctor Who Missing Adventures novel System Shock features a race of alien cyborgs from a planet where an AI took over. When the Doctor attempts to appeal to their buried human natures, their leader explains that they don't have any: they're not people with robot bits grafted on to keep them in line, they're robots with people bits grafted on to gain advantages they couldn't get with fully mechanical bodies.
  • In "Evidence", a candidate 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's stated to be flesh grown upon a plastic skeleton.
  • In Girls with Sharp Sticks, the titular girls are all meat-sack robots taken to an extreme, with their brains being the only mechanical parts in what are otherwise biologically human bodies. Their creators originally tried using regular Robot Girls, but they were created as personal servants, and their owners felt that artificial skin fell into the Uncanny Valley.
  • In the Hainish novel 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.
  • Fyzen Gor, Big Bad of Star Wars: Last Shot, does this as his modus operandi. He believes mechanical life to be superior to organic life, and that organic beings using mechanical prosthetics to repair themselves is hypocritical. To wit, Fyzen has a legion of droids with organic limbs grafted onto them, and once they start to rot, they hunt and slaughter other organic life to harvest new limbs from.
  • The vorg of Terminal World are sapient robots that have learned how to supplement and replace parts and systems damaged by the zone shifts with more error-tolerant biological tissues. While they aren't great at making or maintaining these tissues themselves, they have found that these materials can be easily harvested from living organisms as needed. Humans in particular have large amounts of useful neural tissue inside their skulls, for instance.
  • Whateley Universe: The Human-AI-Transports (HAITs) 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Andromeda, Rommie's android avatar has realistic cloned human skin, presumably designed by Harper for his own benefit.
  • The humanoid Cylons in Battlestar Galactica (2003) were initially believed to be just skin deep, hence the nickname "skinjob", but later episodes showed that their organic components extend a bit further, to reproductive systems even.
  • Doctor Who:
  • Lexx has a few variants of these strewn throughout its Bio Punk setting, including one of the main characters. 790 and his fellow androids are robotic heads incorporating human brain tissue, slaved to computer controls and stripped of all identity and personality down to the naked neural circuitry necessary for controlling the human bodies that the heads are crudely grafted onto.
  • Star Trek: The Borg assimilate various species (via injecting Nanomachines into their victims) into its AI's unifying conscious called "the Collective" whether their victims consent or not.
  • West World: Zigzagged. Host bodies are 3D printed with synthetic flesh that is indistinguishable from the real thing. This wasn't always the case though. But it appears at present that the only way to be sure if a host is fake is to crack open it's skull and see if it has a processor in there. It's also left rather unclear what physical needs carry over to hosts as a result of their synthetic bodies.

  • Seems to be the case with the title character of the Styx song "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 
  • Eclipse Phase:
    • Pods are assembled from a mix of cybernetics and vat-grown organs and tissues. They were originally built as servitor drones, but with the Fall many people have resorted to downloading into Pods when they can't afford full biomorphs.
    • The Synthetic Mask augmentation places a layer of vat-grown human tissue over a synthmorph, for people who want the benefits of a robotic sleeve without the social stigma.
  • In the Gamma World 1st Edition 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 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.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Imperium of Man has a ban on true AI due to a Robot War that helped destroy the previous human civilization, so to get around this, it uses servitors, "robots" made from lobotomized criminals or vat-grown clones implanted with cybernetics for various purposes.
    • The Necrons are Skelebots housing the damaged consciousnesses of once-living beings. The so-called Flayed Ones are trying to attain this trope — these Necrons have had a mental breakdown from the resulting Sense Loss Sadness, and after butchering victims with their claws, the Flayed Ones drape their metal forms in bloody strips of skin in a desperate attempt to regain the sensation of having a flesh-and-blood body.

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

  • Transformers:
    • Transformers: Generation 1 has Pretenders, which are Transformers with techno-organic outer shells that look like non-robot beings, whether it be a human, a monster, or an animal.
    • The Beast Era is about new Transformers that have alt-modes that are organic animals.

    Video Games 
  • Epic Mickey has a G-rated version with the Mad Doctor. Instead of being a robot covered in skin, he's an animatronic covered in paint. Hence his reasons for allying with the Blot, as when the Blot absorbs all of the paint in Wasteland, only the animatronics will remain.
  • The Fallout series, namely Fallout 3 and Fallout 4, features Synthetic Humanoids, a.k.a. "Synths", created by the Institute. Early models are lanky, skeletal robots made of metal and plastic, but the latest Third-Generation Synths are indistinguishable from natural-born humans, built from the inside-out with lab-grown bones wrapped in synthetic muscles, skin, and organs. The only "artificial" part of their body is the "Synth Component", a small device hidden somewhere in their body that allows them to be programmed by the Institute.
  • 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, it's only used 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, who 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 Roboticisation 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 with organic components (including a six-eyed melting face with green skin) while the later is an 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. Its default form implies that it's Cyber Sub-Zero's former body, the one he had before he was killed and resurrected as a Revenant. Its Arcade ending has it do the same thing to the humans at the Special Forces base, and vows to do the same thing to other kombatants as well.
    • The Cyber Lin Kuei under Sektor in the rebooted continuity are all slaved to the Lin Kuei network. This removes any individuality from them and renders them little more than robots with undying loyalty to the grand master, who is naturally Sektor himself. Once Kuai Lang beats the crap out of Sektor, the network defaults to the next sentient cyber ninja: Cyrax, which causes all of the cyber ninjas to stop attacking Kuai Lang. Later on, during Kronika's plot, the factory is restored, but this time the cyborgs are be slaved to Frost.
  • SIGNALIS: The Replika androids apparently seem to have cybernetic limbs and skeletons, but on the inside, they have blood and organs. Which is what apparently facilitates whatever condition makes them into monsters. They bleed red liquid, but apparently it isn't blood as humans know it, as it is un-edible. There is also the fact, that they are basically cybernetically mass produced clones. This is one of the reasons why they can go haywire, as the memories of their genetic donors return.
  • ULTRAKILL: According to Hakita, the machines you face in the game all have some fleshy organic components within them, which is part of why they spill precious blood everywhere; the other reason, and perhaps the explanation for why they need to be this way, is that they run on human blood in the first place. This is most easily seen with the Gutterman (where most organic components are tucked neatly into a backpack and are also a barely-alive human being used as a blood tank-slash-supply) and the 1000-THR Earthmover, which is so huge you get to crawl in its fleshy guts on your way to the core.

  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, Gadgeteer Genius Kat vat-grows organic components for Robot that can grow and adapt to his needs, which he describes as a really weird sensory experience. They also have the disadvantages of having concerning implications for the Court's Robot Religion, and of being high on the Court's Scale of Scientific Sins.
  • Schlock Mercenary:
    • Doyt Gyo has an AI called Haban built into his cyborg implants; they do not fit this trope, and neither does their combined form Doythaban. However, after a gate-clonenote  of Doythaban is shot in the head, medical intervention is only able to save the copy of Haban, leaving the AI in control of the clone body.
    • Petey does this as well. Initially done as a way to circumvent certain loyalty protocols placed in his programming by his O'benn creators, he created a blank clone body and wired up the brain with enough communication equipment to turn it into an extension of the AI. Even if they're no longer strictly necessary anymore he keeps a number of them around as many individuals find it easier to talk to someone with a physical presence rather than thin air or a holographic avatar, especially in highly emotional or very formal situations.
  • In Sluggy Freelance, Oasis turns out to be an artificially intelligent Kill Sat that is able to control an organic Remote Body grown from a clone tank. She refused to believe she was a robot until she saw it with her own eyes.

    Western Animation 

    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 beings remotely 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.