I am trying to write a tabletop RPG, about cyborgs. It happens in the future. But I am also trying to keep it as realistic as possible, technological and historical. That is why I would like help in creating a timeline for the technological advancements that is as realistic as possible.

I made a list of bulletpoints that I think are crucial. I think they are in the right order, but if not or if I am missing something, please add it to the list.

What would be a realistic timeline for these events?

  • start with the current situation
  • Prosthesis are able to replace real limbs 1 on 1 without any disadvantages
  • Prosthesis surpass the level of functioning of normal limbs
  • people start replacing limbs with better performing prosthesis
  • these prosthesis become available to the general public
  • people start replacing eyes too instead of just limbs
  • people start adding/ replacing technology to their brains
  • replacing limbs, etc. has become a common accepted practice - (almost) everyone does it
  • $\begingroup$ Could you please focus on the events that you want to date? And what would be the end result, what kind of cyborgs would occupy Earth at the onset of the game? $\endgroup$ – Alexander Feb 28 '18 at 18:31
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    $\begingroup$ It is unclear what you exactly ask. This "letter" describes a series of political events, but not details of what "prosthetic breakthrough" sparked them. I think you should edit the question adding a series of actual technological objects, then we can try to understand if they are feasible and jot down a timeline. As-is you risk the question being closed as "unclear". Note: to-date there is not even one simple prosthetic which is actually superior to the natural thing (not even something as simple as dental implants). $\endgroup$ – ZioByte Feb 28 '18 at 18:36
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    $\begingroup$ Wow, wow, that's too much, imho. Can we focus on tech development timeline for now, like how we got from pegleg to an artificial eye? Otherwise the question is too broad and very opinion-based. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Feb 28 '18 at 18:57
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    $\begingroup$ I still have a problem with the bullet list, starting with "without any disadvantages" mention. Real life prosthetics at some point will surpass natural limbs in some aspects (like strength and durability) while still lacking in others (like sensory interface and aesthetics). So the items in the timeline will be overlapping. Also, attachment of advanced prostheses will be a weak point, eventually the whole human skeleton will have to be replaced, and it would be a major milestone. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Feb 28 '18 at 21:08
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    $\begingroup$ This question is the subject of a Worldbuilding Meta question at How can a question be “Too Story Based” if there is no story involved? $\endgroup$ – user Mar 5 '18 at 10:35
  • Starts with current situation
  • Prosthesis able to replace limbs 1 on 1 without any disadvantages

I think that this step needs to be split in at least two steps. The first is "without any disadvantages, but the limbs need replacing every 2 to 3 years", the second is "without any disadvantages, the limbs will have decade-long lifespans". At this point you should also wonder how these limbs will be treated. Cars for example are a consumer item. VolksWagen tried to promote cars that lasted decades and were sturdy and capable throughout those years. Other car companies build cars that lasted only a couple of years, but by then the consumer wanted a newer, shinier model anyway, which caused VolksWagen to lose out despite qualitatively superior cars. If the latter is true, then no one will ever want or need something that lasts more than around 5 to 7 years, although if the recuperation process behind every adaptation takes a while people will want longer lasting prosthetics. This would really only apply to the limbs. While limbs have complex systems that allow for example 90% of the energy from the previous step to be used in the next step, such systems are all mechanical in nature and would be relatively easy to reproduce (relatively, it's still incredibly hard). But other biological functions like the Liver won't be surpassed for some time. As for the exact timeline, this is a link to something that gives you some idea but paints the current status quo much more rose-colored than it is: https://share.upmc.com/2015/03/timeline-prosthetic-limbs-years/

In recent years, we've started building things like ultra-light carbon prosthetics. These are extremely detrimental to the wearer except in extreme sports conditions. Our legs are pretty heavy for a reason, because when we move we basically throw our legs forwards to drag our bodies after it, then "fall" forwards until our heels touch the ground. Lightweight Carbon prosthetics don't have that weight, and require high speeds before you can re-use some of the energy of your previous step. Basically, the general prosthetic of today is no better at walking than the wooden peg, the only advances have been easier to clean, easier attachment and less wounds from extensive usage (and the ability to hang a shoe off of it). Some electrical designs are now in play that can mimic certain movements, but they run out of energy quickly and the user must manually change it's settings each time. Having a computer that knows that the user is doing is still a bit away and would leech even more energy. So my quesstimate is that it's going to take until 2030 at least before we have anything approaching a "normal" limb functionality that lasts the entire day. (this has been my area of study). If you look around the internet, you'll find advanced electrical hands and legs up the whazoo (some as early as 2010, maybe earlier), each claiming they can now let someone walk around or grab stuff as if it's a normal leg/hand. These things also cost immense amounts of money, and while they all have a gimmick they are good at they aren't close to mimicing the complexity and capabilities of a real leg or hand like they claim.

  • Prosthesis surpass the level of functioning of normal limbs.

First the "throwaway" prosthetics with a short lifespan will surpass the normal limbs. But just like a Car, it'll likely come at a price. Having to recharge every day, or refill the fuel. As someone else mentioned, it's more likely that at this point they will start 3D printing biological limbs first (https://www.theverge.com/2018/1/31/16954712/growing-ear-3-d-printing-regenerative-medicine-microtia), assuming we solve the problem of creating capillary bloodvessles for larger organs, and then start combining these 3D printed limbs with synthetic materials first, like a spidersilk tendon and improved muscle attachments so we can use a higher muscle force without ripping it out of the bone. Then these start being combined with robotic/cyborg elements to improve the limb overall. On the timeline, I expect this to be fairly close to having the limbs be on equal footing with normal limbs, around 2030 to 2035. Here's actually a (not super-accurate) source: https://www.futuretimeline.net/21stcentury/2036.htm I expect that they paint it far more rose-colored than it will actually be. But if the Olympics assume that a "super-athlete" category is feasible between 2036 to 2040, it should be possible somewhat feasible. I've personally worked with an (unfinished) idea to help blind people skate on the ice through the use of triangulation of a phone the participant is carrying, and then using earphones for simulating a soundsource a distance away from the participant that follows the track. So they are nothing but ambitious and trying to make such things a reality.

  • These prosthesis become available to the general public.

Probably within a year or two after these limbs become better than current limbs you would see people actively pursuing gaining such limbs, it could be longer if the legal issue's drag on. At first it might be some half-crazy person who will happily cut his arms and legs off in an attempt to become elegible for advanced prosthetics, and quickly people will have trials in court to receive such limbs if only because some idiot who had an accident at work now outperforms his peers and everyone else wants it too.

  • People start replacing eyes too instead of just limbs.

At this point I can't comment anymore. It depends on how fast we can start 3D printing full-scale organs, how advanced genetic alterations are at that point to create biological super-organs, and how much research they still put into creating mechanical versions while they have potentially biological super-versions already available or in the pipeline. A heart might still be mechanically replaceable, but something as complex as the chemical factory liver? I wouldn't be able to predict a timeline at this point, not even with my experience in this field.

  • $\begingroup$ First of all, thanks for you answer! But, I am a bit confused about how exactly it answers my question. In this case, because I asked for a timeline for certain events. I can understand you don't exactly agree on my events, but could you incorporate some kind of timeline in your answer? $\endgroup$ – Noralie Mar 6 '18 at 13:38
  • $\begingroup$ Yes I was wrong, my answer does not really answer your question and gives an alternative timeline. I'll edit it and give a proper answer, my apologies. $\endgroup$ – Demigan Mar 7 '18 at 10:47
  • $\begingroup$ <not relevant>Reading the edit history is fun. Especially how SE platform decide where are the additions and deletions.</nr> $\endgroup$ – workoverflow Mar 11 '18 at 12:40

you will likely see cloned/printed biological replacement before you see a perfect mechanical replacement. The limit of most prosthetics is the transition point, where you switch from flesh to machine. It is a point of mechanical weakness and/or infection risk depending on how to attach them. This is an inescapable problem no matter how you design the limb. Whereas a biological replacement will reproduce the function exactly.

Another issue is mechanical replacement limbs can already exceed normal capabilities but only in one narrow area, blade runner legs are great for running on track, less good for running on loose ground and absolute shit for rock climbing or swimming, the better you make them for one thing the worse you make them for everything else. even worse for replacement wearable enhancement of existing limbs (power risers) can match or exceed this performance of the artificial limb and can simply be take off to do other activities. You are far more likely to see removable enhancement on top of (or in addition to) existing limbs, more like a mechanical exoskeleton or interface, than replacement. We don't build specialized limbs to run faster than horses, we get on a motorcycle then leave it behind when we do something else. I neural interface with the motorcycle would help, replacing your legs with the motorcycle would not.

direct connection to the nervous system has already happened, they were developed for prosthetics but there is no reason it has to involve prosthetics.

Replacement of brain tissue is a long long way off, we understand the brain about as well as cavemen understood climate, and you will need to understand the brain in minute detail to replace parts of it. By the time we can replace brain tissue we will be able to grow brain tissue. Quite frankly we can't come close to the energy efficiency of the brain, your brain uses about the same energy as a 20 watt light bulb. Again you will see enhancement not replacement people already have brain computer interface technology, and University of Pittsburgh's three armed monkey shows us how easy the brain can adapt to extra capabilities so there is little need to replace anything, again enhance instead of replace is the way to go.

You will probably never see a point when replacement is the norm, the advantages are too few and the costs too high. There is basically nothing you could do by replacing limbs you could not do without replacing them. When you consider biological redesign this makes even less sense, there are ways we can improve biological systems without the downsides of mechanical replacement.

Will there be people who do it, sure, there are people who do all kinds of extreme cosmetic surgery to themselves, but the norm, likely never.


I'm not sure this is answerable, because there are multiple techonologies to solve those problems and there's no clear idea of which one will win in the short term, much less the long term.

Advances in nanotech, MEMS, 3D printing (both organic and inorganic), cloning, and general medicine will all affect this, and will all shape the answer in different ways.

Maybe think about the kinds of technological progess that is/was/will be made in your world and shape your own answer from there.


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