I'm working on a story where cryogenic technology was made viable in the early 21st century (2026 or thereabouts) and became widespread due to an ageing elite seeking to put off their death, the private space industry using it to bypass issues with transporting untrained people through the expanse of space, the insurance industry as an option that people offered to people who don't necessarily understand what they are signing up for, and simply people with terminal illnesses trying hoping for a future cure.

Fast forward a century or so and there are millions of people in cryostasis, possibly hundreds of millions, often in poor physical condition with no one to pay for their resuscitation. What makes these people doubly unfortunate is that it was decided the most cost-efficient method of storing someone in cryostasis was to remove whatever is unnecessary to minimize their storage footprint. Thus, a large percentage of these people are rendered as little more than a head or simply a brain and ancillary bits (not sure if the spine would be preserved yet).

The end result is that those waking in the future are, due to a legal case, effectively indentured workers for whoever it was that resuscitated them. These people have rights; of course, those in charge are wise enough to know that nobody wants people with full prosthetic bodies staging a revolt. This is due to the fact that most people being resuscitated are fitted with rather strong and durable full-body prosthetic as hazardous work environments tend to have the highest demand.


This scenario is set some 200 or so years in the future.

Humanity has colonized the solar system through the use of an STL propulsion system derived from research into the Alcubierre drive. (Its gradually getting better)

Stations, moons, asteroids, and small rocks have been and are being colonized or mined.

Indentured workers have roughly equal rights as regular workers but with exceptions. They can leave the employ of those that resuscitated them, but only if someone else picks up their debt contract and in the worst-case situation they can go back into stasis. Shenanigans such as putting full-body prosthetic workers on less than subsistence living are cracked down on. It's not perfect, it's not pleasant, but that is the reality they woke to, and they have a second chance at life.

The full-body prosthetics vary to a fair degree in quality and build. At the shallow end would be Civilian, something like a Frame from Destiny but with a braincase in its abdomen, to simulacrum grade, which could be a Ghost in The Shell type full-body prosthetic.

The power players are a mix of planetary governments, state states, and megacorps with some smaller organizations operating in the background.

Thematically I was aiming for a setting between Cyberpunk/Shadowrun (sans fantasy elements) and The Expanse (sans protomolecule).


Edit 3: Removed original question for being too broad.

Edit: To clarify these people are effectively brains in a jar cyborg.

EDIT 2: (to specify the question further) Specifically, and most relevantly, I would be wondering about the person(s) well being with them awakening to their new existence as a 'brain in a jar' cyborg. Namely, what issues would arise psychologically and physically?

I don't necessarily need to know how such things would be addressed, but what they would be so that I may inquire into them through alternate means.

  • $\begingroup$ How can we have hard science for the societal and cultural part? $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 8:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Ah. I suppose that was in relation to the physiological and psychological issues that would come from being a brain in a jar. Perhaps not the best tag to use. $\endgroup$
    – PseudoSim
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 8:07
  • $\begingroup$ i am not knowledgeable about this thing but what about the blood circulation? i doubt transfusion can work for them, assuming if they dont have blood and only brain in jar, also considering body rejection exist which also apply to prosthetic, i dont know how painful that be for brain though, since i heard brain dont have pain receptor which also may can lead to unnoticed infection or goes crazy. $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 11:12
  • $\begingroup$ The VTC reason "needs focus" states that you're asking multiple questions and should only be asking one. Stack Exchange also has a "book rule," basically a question that would need an entire book to answer is too broad and off-topic. Explaining what could be societally, culturally, technologically, and psychologically a problem are four full books all by themselves (whole novels have been written about some of these. C.F. The Ship Who Sang.). Do you have a specific question to ask? (Please review help center.) $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Oct 11, 2020 at 6:01
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH I see. Specifically, and most relevantly, I would be wondering about the person(s) well being with them awakening to their new existence as a 'brain in a jar' cyborg. What issues would arise psychologically and physically? I don't necessarily need to know how such things would be addressed, but what they would be so that I may inquire into them through alternate means. $\endgroup$
    – PseudoSim
    Commented Oct 11, 2020 at 8:56

3 Answers 3


Depression and no physical entertainment

Although you suggest you prefer no psychological issues, I think these are very much tied to the other problems.

The brain is very much linked to the body in many ways, most we don't fully understand. A few big ones are influencing what we want to eat (gut bacteria), metabolism/growth/development (thyroid), and even just moving. Without gut bacteria, you probably have no craving for a certain food, making eating bland. Without a stomach, you don't feel you need to eat. Without the feeling of healthy exercise, you'll not be able to get a good dopamine and serotonin response. Each of these contributes to unhappiness and eventually depression. What is life worth if you can't even have basic enjoyment? Of course you can say all this is being simulated, but that means you require an incredible amount of technology inside of them, while you suggest they are simple full body prosthetics for the time period.

What's more, most of the entertainment will be moot. Only cognitive entertainment will be stimulating. Why would you run if your prosthetics never change? Would you have sex without such organs? Even something simple as a hug might be ineffective if not enough receptors are placed on the person. And as above, why would you have restaurants if taste is merely something to distinguish the food and not giving any satisfaction due to missing gut bacteria? These things would be for real people, or for people with advanced full body prosthetics, making them high society.

To combat this, electrodes in the brain would be able to stimulate certain area's for certain actions. This can be compared to the rat who had electrodes in his brain. Every time he pulled a lever, the brain was stimulated and the rat got an orgasm. The rat starved as he was only pulling the lever, but your humans would have certain safeguards from this to happen. Doing certain tasks will give you that much desired spark of hormones and stimulation. This can immediately be a reason for them to keep working, or even become workaholics. They feel only happy when they are working and taking care of themselves. Otherwise the stimulation stops and they will feel bland, not even caring enough to rise up.

As an extra measure, you might have some advanced machinery that can fulfil all the functions of the body. People can be hooked up for the correct slow release hormonal cocktail to fulfil as many bodily functions as possible, while still having basic frames.

This doesn't mean all your problems are over. Again, lots of functions are diminished or not present, but my guess is that they would work. Unfortunately it's hard to give this a hard science approach, as this hasn't happened yet.

What it basically comes down to is that the lower classes are working hard and mostly happy for it, but they'll likely get some form of psychological damage over time. Some (cognitive) entertainment area's will probably rise in popularity, like quizzes, video games or painting. Most other forms of entertainment will be high society.

Technological advancement

Transistors can be made very tiny these days. A nerve axiom/dendrite is magnitudes larger than transistors. In my research at the university I suggested that this can be used to conduct electricity from one nerve to another. If nerves are damaged they normally die off, but that is probably because they aren't used any more. If an artificial connection is made that transmits the electricity from one to another, it's likely they don't die off as they are being used. This idea can be used to connect the brain with the prosthetics in such a way it's indistinguishable from a normal body. It might even increase some reaction times, as conductivity through nerves isn't as fast as through copper. Some extra transistors can be placed for the stimulation of the brain when certain (work) patterns are detected either in the prosthetics/brain. The transistors do need to be the right size to transmit as much of the electric potential as possible within the brain. That being said, in the prosthetics you can have an as low power as possible connection for receptors for example, only up-scaling it for the brain. This will save power.

The prosthetics don't need to closely follow the human body. After some adjustment period, new things can be learned, like that a prosthetic arm has nearly 360 degrees flexibility. Keep in mind that the brain can modify it's previous association with the arm. A third arm for example would require a new area in the brain, or it would get very crowded. Although you might be able to combat this with a higher density brain. The cerebellum and brain stem are higher density in nerve cells than the rest of the brain, as it's much more well developed.

For the rest you need hormone generation and a form of circulation system to keep the brain alive, but my knowledge here is more limited.

  • $\begingroup$ It was more that I was saying I knew there were going to be psychological issues but that I didnt know too much... you have aleviated that issue somewhat! But seriously, this is the sort of thing I had been looking for. I knew it would be bad, the issue was figuring out just how bad. Emotional states and responses were things I had in mind could be regulated via a hormone regulatory system that drawn from reseviors and uses machine learning to apply hormones in response to the sitation (though the specifics of that are beyond me at this point.) $\endgroup$
    – PseudoSim
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 11:09
  • $\begingroup$ But the food and excersise points hadnt even come to mind... which actually kinda fits the character I think, him being someone trying to escape extreme muscular distrophy. But for a runner that got hit by a car, or a chef for whom cooking and eating was his passion? This is the sort of tuing that wouldnt even cross the characters mind given his perspective is "Im alive, I can walk. Things are looking up." This will definitely help, thank you a lot. $\endgroup$
    – PseudoSim
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 11:10


I am supposing that these bodies are not powered by food, but rather by batteries. If so, they will need charging.

Sure, you can put a charger on your bed so you can recharge while you "recharge". But you need to go back to your recharging station every now and then, just like a vampire that needs to go back to a coffin.

You can tey some alternatives. But solar doesn't charge fast enough unless you have a whole farm forr yourself. And nuclear fries your brain over short time.

  • $\begingroup$ Yup, batteries for the most part. Im thinking there's a bit of classism among full cyborgs with one of the criteria being 'Tethered' or 'Untethered'.( As in whether their power system needs to be regularly charged or not, not physically tethered) But this is also determined by their body in general, like if they have an only above-average power system but very efficient servos and the like, if you have regenerative energy systems or not, if you can use any old wall socket to add a bit more juice, and so on. Still trying to figure out a long long term option though.. $\endgroup$
    – PseudoSim
    Commented Oct 10, 2020 at 18:58
  • $\begingroup$ @pseudosim even unthetered you still need a charging station. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 10, 2020 at 22:16
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    $\begingroup$ Of course, the difference I had in mind would be along the lines of... well let us use phones as a comparison. Someone with a high-end smartphone that has a new battery has the freedom to have it on them all day and not worry about the power. Compare this to someone with a low-end or older model smartphone and are constantly needing to watch the power usage. One is very much constrained by their battery life, while the other is not. Not the best comparison, but the one that comes to mind. $\endgroup$
    – PseudoSim
    Commented Oct 11, 2020 at 9:01

Societal issues:

Class warfare. You have effectively reinstituted slavery. This is a perfect setup for all kind of conspiracies, rebellions, insurrections, social movements etc.

Technological issues:

Anything you like. According to your premise, a self-contained "shell" is viable. Also, I assume, Neurodegenerative Diseases are cured (otherwise you end up with an army of laborers all suffering from dementia). So, you are free to play with whatever specific limitations different types of shells may have. For example, they need to recharge (how often?), they need to do "fluid exchange", they need a more extensive regular service, they may have limitations (or enhancements) to standard human 5 senses, they may have particular weaknesses or vulnerabilities that natural humans won't have (like Tin Man is susceptible to rusting, even from his own tears).

  • $\begingroup$ For sure on the class warfare. I actually had the people being resuscitated be legally considered property before examining it and finding too many points of failure in the idea. But yes, while they aren't slaves they technically aren't free. They're effectively paying off the lease to the body they currently reside within while also paying for upkeep. Although, putting that into terms they can understand, like it being a house payment and living expenses, doesn't go over very well when the 'house' could vary from a toyota pickup to a super car. Theres def gonna be rebel movements popping up. $\endgroup$
    – PseudoSim
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 18:42

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