Hey Mythcreants, so I’m writing a story with a lot of cyberpunk and transhumanist tech in it – is any of that impractical from a storytelling perspective? I’ve noticed that some settings like Eclipse Phase and Altered Carbon have it, while shows like Star Trek and Star Wars don’t, even though they often have equally advanced technology.


Hey Anon, great to hear from you again! 

The good news is that you probably don’t have to worry much about what transhumanist tech is impractical, because very little of it is likely to cause problems for a written story. Franchises like Star Trek and Star Wars largely eschew transhumanism for budgetary reasons. Even today, having a TV character with pronounced non-human traits is expensive. When Star Wars and Star Trek were first made, it was even more so. 

Often, novels follow that same blueprint because they want the aesthetic of classic space opera, but that’s all it is: an aesthetic. Advanced body modding won’t cause you any more plot problems than FTL drives or those magic fusion reactors from The Expanse. 

However, there are two exceptions that you should probably avoid unless you’re really committed to them. 

1. Super Intelligence 

Some transhumanist and cyberpunk stories feature upgrades that make a person “smarter,” and these are extremely hard to write in large part because you have to figure out what being smarter even means. Is it math skills? Empathic deduction? Being able to answer spec fic Q&As??? 

In fiction, super smarts usually translates into being able to guess what’s going to happen next, and this power is the death of plots. It’s often hard to justify why your completely normal human characters don’t guess the next plot twist, and making them super intelligent compounds that problem. 

Super intelligence is also an ability that feels arbitrary because, most of the time, it works until the writer suddenly decides it doesn’t. The genius character can predict every move the enemy makes, except this last one because they need to lose now. Bottom line, it’s hard to write a super intelligent character when you’re a normally intelligent human. 

2. Digital Immortality 

If your setting’s technology is advanced enough to copy and paste consciousness like any other data, that will almost certainly cause problems. Eclipse Phase is the most prolific example of this trope, which is ironic because it’s especially a problem for TTRPG campaigns. 

If your story features any amount of action, you’d be amazed how much of the tension is derived from the possibility that someone might die. If anyone can just download their consciousness into a new body, that tension is gone. As long as characters can afford a new clone, they don’t have to be careful or avoid dangerous situations. 

If your plot is about preventing pirates from taking over a ship, the characters might rightly decide that it’s less work to just blow the ship up with everyone on board. It’s almost impossible to plausibly get rid of a rich villain since they could have their consciousness backed up almost anywhere. 

This is especially bad for RPGs because they need to generate fresh content every week, and they can’t specifically arrange character motivations to go along with it like an author can. But it’s a problem for authors too, and it requires you to completely change how you approach action and violence. 

Of course, there are ways to make it work. But it’s a big investment, so unless that’s really what you want, it’s a good tech to stay away from. 

Hope that answers your question, and good luck with your story!

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