My latest for Science Not Fiction. My favorite part? DeMarle doesn’t have a precise answer because she recognizes the complexity of the issue at hand.

Q: Can you please give a brief summary of how augmentations are invented and popularized in the world of the game? What are the motivating factors for those who oppose augmentation?

A: As part of the game’s backstory, we envisioned a series of technological, historical, economic, and cultural events in the decades leading up to 2027 (the year in which the game takes place) which together lead to the advancement and proliferation of mechanical augmentations. In the technological arena, leading researchers discover how to significantly improve the way implanted (artificial) electrodes and the human nervous system interact, leading to a revolution in neuroprosthetics. At the same time, an increase in the number of people needing prosthetic limbs — due to military conflicts and a few devastating natural disasters in parts of the world — creates a unique demand for the tech. In the economic realm, a devastating terrorist attack destabilizes the oil industry, adding to the world’s existing economic woes, and catapulting the world economy into a severe crisis. Governments respond by opening up oil shale reserves for development; by and large the people getting jobs in this and other high risk, physically demanding industries turn out to be those who are mechanically enhanced. Unable to compete for these lucrative jobs, several “able-bodied” people sue for the right to amputate their own healthy limbs. Meanwhile, on the cultural front, several highly popular artists, entertainers, and athletes begin sporting new augments and winning unprecedented accolades. People begin viewing mechanical augmentations as something everyone could (and maybe even should) have, and their popularity takes off.

Not everyone is pleased, however; people opposed to the technology end up, by and large, falling into three camps. Those who feel threatened by it (not everyone can afford mechanical augmentations and if someone doesn’t get one, might he end up losing his job to someone who does?); those who object to it on religious grounds (God made human beings in his image and trying to change or “improve” them is morally wrong); and those who object to it for intellectual reasons (using biotechnology to alter the human body risks fundamentally changing who we are as a species. Therefore, scientists and researchers are tampering with human nature without even realizing the danger they are putting Mankind in and should be closely regulated.)