Enhanced prosthetics in Deus Ex: Human Revolution

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In the world created for the video game Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Sarif Industries creates high-tech prosthetics whose use is encouraged for everyone in the name of human enhancement. The catch is that once you have one of these prosthetics, you need to stay on the anti-rejection drug for the rest of your life—and drug prices are skyrocketing. Those protesting Sarif Industries use rhetoric like “Human augmentation: enslaving us all” and “Be human. Remain human. Purity first.”

This promo video for the game is a good example of how easily people react to human enhancement technology with black-or-white thinking. On one side, the evil corporation is hijacking the technology to gain power: it can alter people's thoughts through the cognitive enhancers and choose what people see through their prosthetic eyes. On the other side, the resisters fight not just against the corrupt corporation, but against the prosthetics all together.

Interestingly, the main story of the game centers not on a resister but a Sarif security chief Adam Jensen as he tracks the people responsible for an attack on Sarif headquarters (source). In contrast to the people we see in the video above begging on the street for medication, Adam's privileged position means his own prosthetics keep him strong and ready to kick ass.

Prosthetics are currently used to replace something lost; people don't voluntarily remove body parts to replace them with prosthetics. But if when this starts happening, it is extremely likely that the “Remain human. Purity first.” argument seen in Deus Ex: Human Revolution will be a popular one. This game, along with other recent works dealing with enhancement like the films Captain America and Rise of the Planet of the Apes can help us be ready for these discussions.

I'd like to end this post with a quote from real-life prosthetics user Aimee Mullins, from her excellent TED talk:

“A prosthetic limb doesn’t represent the need to replace loss anymore. It can stand as a symbol that the wearer has the power to create whatever it is that they want to create in that space. So people that society once considered to be disabled can now become the architects of their own identities and indeed continue to change those identities by designing their bodies from a place of empowerment.”

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