Psychology of implants in cyberpunk fiction

Something that’s always seemed odd to me in cyberpunk fiction is how indifferent people are about implants. In real life, amputees experience a number of psychological reactions to having a body part removed. These include depression, grief, and PTSD.

Yet I have not seen this in the cyberpunk fiction I’ve been exposed to. For the most part, characters seem to feel normal or even superior with replacement parts. I haven’t been exposed to characters who felt less than human after implants except for that side quest in CP2077 with the monks.

Can anyone recommend some cyberpunk fiction where characters wrestle with the concept of their own humanity after getting implants?


The only thing I can really think of off the top of my head is the Altered Carbon stories where there are people who are morally opposed to the “resleeving” concept and refuse cortical stacks. They believe that you only get one life and one body, and you’ve gotta make the most of that setup the first time. One of the main characters’ mother is in that group, and the Netflix version of the show kind of talks about it a bit when people get released from “prison” but their old body is gone or they can’t afford a new one.

There’s some interesting ethical concerns covered in that.

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Deus Ex: Human Revolution somewhat dealt with it… for like the start of the game. Jensen is shown to be pretty depressed at how much of his humanity is stripped away from him, and dialogue choices in the early game show how unhappy he is with the situation. It has been a hot minute since I played the Jensen games so I might be remembering wrong, but I think it becomes a non-issue pretty quick after that though unfortunately…

Somewhat related though, I did enjoy how Human Revolution/Mankind Divided showed the general population’s division over “augmented people”. The early games also touched upon it (Invisible War had a whole faction that was anti-augmentation even), but HR showed a general wariness towards augmentation and Mankind Divided showed a much more hostile view of augments in the population with segregation of augmented peoples even being implemented in areas.

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Speaking from a trans perspective here, where body modifications, including major surgeries removing or adding body parts, are pretty common and often deeply important to wellbeing and identity in our communities, I think there’s an interesting nuance here between just shrugging off major surgical body alteration and it always having to be a lifelong existential problem that makes you feel depressed or inhuman to be realistic.

Yes, even trans people go through post-surgical depression for the first few months after getting gender confirmation surgery, because the body (especially the nervous and endocrine systems) is adjusting to the massive changes, and we can struggle with largely imaginary anxieties about regret and perminance, but we genuinely, empirically, and lastingly do feel much better afterwards, and it doesn’t cause ongoing existential angst. Trans men who get mastectomies feel relieved afterwards, they don’t have lasting PTSD. Same for trans women who get orchiectomy or vaginoplasty.

So there’s always going to be an element of pathos to any major body modification, but it doesn’t really have to be the biggest part of the process, or even a particularly meaningful part.

I think the key difference is whether whatever modifications you’re making are part of your self expression and agency, or whether they’re forced on you somehow. Amputies probably have lasting trauma and depression from the amputations because those amputations were necessitated by the possibility of even worse consequences — they essentially did the modification with a gun to their head, it wasn’t part of any self expression and it wasn’t the limb itself inherently they wanted removed. Meanwhile, trans people (or even people who get plastic surgery but dont have BDD) might suffer temporary psychological effects due to the physiological nature of surgery, but in the long run it makes them happier and more confident in their bodies than ever, because it was an expression of themselves, and so in a sense they’re more themselves than before.

Obviously in a cyberpunk world it’s often a little of both. For every person that chooses chrome of their own free will, there’s probably a dozen that were forced into it for a job.


Oh wow! Thank you for this perspective!

I had not made the connection with personal agency, and that makes the treatment of implants in fiction make more sense. I also had not thought of the parallel with trans people’s experience. This has given me a new lens to read things with.


I’m glad I could offer helpful insight :smiley:

I was afraid to post this bc I was worried people would see it as “woke” or “political” or something, but it did seem relevant.

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I just wanted to let you know that your post is really cool and to get to know this site! Thank you for sharing it with us.


I, for one, really appreciate the perspective shift here and I thank you for offering it. I remember you posting something similar over on the ■■■■■■■■ experiment (at least I think it was you), and when this topic came up I was wondering if you had made it over here to the new experiment. :slight_smile:

I think that this perspective is important because I’m pretty sure that most cyberpunk material (certainly not the founding material) was written by people who don’t have personal experience with anything like BDD or gender identity. And as someone that has not experienced those feelings in my own life, I need to hear these different points of view to remind me that “humanity” is a weird, wonderful, and widely varied concept. Reminds me to keep my mind as open as I can.

Thank you for widening my perspective!


Hey there, don’t worry, there’s a sprinkling of us trans people within the community. We’re LGBTQIA+ friendly so anyone tossing around the words “woke” unironically wouldn’t earn themselves favours here because “woke” litterally means not racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, ageist, etc.

Thanks for sharing your insight, I can agree with what you have said and can confirm these experiences through friends I’ve lived with and looked after post surgery too.

I think it’s possible that the rate of regret could mirror some proceedures we see today as mentioned by yourself. It’s quite low in the trans population but higher in people who go for other proceedures, e.g. a BBL or something like that (no hate on people who get cosmetic proceedures btw). You bring up a good point and I could only imagine how awful the forced stuff is, also some people might be expected to get some for jobs, peerpressure or social groups and gangs too.

From a forced perspective, it all seems rather expensive monitarily and mentally if not carefully thought out (some gangs might not lol).


Glad I could help <3

FYI, small point of clarification since you listed GD and BDD next to each other — BDD is Body Dysmorphic Disorder, and is very different from Gender Dysphoria, which is what trans people experience. BDD actually leads to perpetual dissatisfaction with surgeries (which is why I specified that people who get cosmetic surgeries who don’t have it probably don’t regret their surgeries) while gender dysphoria doesn’t.

It’s important to not confuse BDD and gender dysphoria bc they’re superficially similar if you don’t know much about either (they both involve wanting to change your body) and transphobes use that similarity to claim that gender affirming care won’t actually help trans people, since people with BDD who want to change their bodies are never happier & never feel like it’s enough.

The crucial reason why people with BDD are never actually helped by changes, but trans people are, is that trans people have an accurate perception of our bodies, and our bodies simply don’t align with our identities or look the way we want them to, while people with BDD have a mental illness that makes them fixate on imagined imperfections in a distorted perception of their body, and also exaggerate the importance of those imperfections to how others perceive them, so if they try to fix those imperfections either their mind hides the change from them or manufactures another imperfection to be upset about forever. BDD is also usually motivated by worrying that others think you’re ugly and trying to avoid that, instead of internally and positively motivated by identity and expression.


I’m glad to hear that. The rules here were a lot less explicitly pro-LGBTQ and antifascist than the ■■■■■■■■ ones, so I wasn’t sure if everyone was going for a different less explicitly protecting culture in response to ■■■■■■■■ getting attacked. It’s pretty common for trans people to be the first to be thrown under the bus to appease bigots a lot of the time so I’ve just been burned before.

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Thank you, again. :grin: That is an important distinction!


One piece of media I’d suggest is the Ghost in the Shell series. The movie, Stand Alone Complex anime, and Stand Along Complex: 2nd Gig all are fantastic explorations about the various stages of augmentation people go through from the bare minimum to exist in their jobs to full on the only thing biological left is their brain. The name is that because there’s a certain “humanity” that is unremovable. That is the “ghost”.

As long as you retain your “ghost” you’re fine. If you lose it, you do end up going, as Cyberpunk would state, cyberpsycho. There is a whole arc about the one person on the team who literally the only implant he has is the comms implant they need to communicate and he’s fully human otherwise and he gets questioned as to why he doesn’t go cyborg. They even go in to choices among the cyborgs such as why does Major Kusanagi stick with weaker female bodies when she could use stronger male bodies like Batou prefers. It’s insanely well written dealing with the psychology of augmentation and probably one of my favorite cyberpunk media.