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In my world, advanced technological body modification exists. Those with any sort of modifications are rare, and those with extensive modifications are even rarer. These rare and uncommon cyborgs are not, as one (or at least I) would expect, very present among the rich elite. They instead are typically found in the lower-middle and lower rungs of society. Why, and how could this be? It makes at least some sense to me that cyborg modification would be rare, but it seems that the reason for this that seems most logical is that modifications are expensive and only a tiny segment of the ultra-rich can and want to purchase them. What would be a reason instead where the uncommon cyborg is found among the masses, rather than the elite?

Some context on the advanced technological body modifications":

  • Modifications can be "wet" or "metal" or both
  • Modifications can be temporary (i.e., a drug that temporarily alters biology) or permanent
  • The most modification that a human can receive (i.e., the most organic, "original" human matter one can alter or replace) is that of the brain-in-a-jar treatment, though it's more accurate to say it's a brain and quite a few other organ systems in a jar (like the circulatory and nervous systems)
  • The modified can be much better than humans, but only in specific areas or environments, and not so much so that it grants them godlike superiority. This specialization also costs them generalization, so they might actually be worse in some areas or environments.
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  • $\begingroup$ Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. $\endgroup$
    – Community Bot
    Oct 11, 2023 at 5:32
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe divide the wet and metal to be accessible to the rich and poor, respectfully. Seems like the easiest solution. The rich get expert installed fleshy mods, while the poor experiment with metal mods. Combine with social unacceptability, then you have rich with hidden mods and poor with visible ones. $\endgroup$
    – user458
    Oct 11, 2023 at 14:50
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    $\begingroup$ Does "Deus Ex" mean anything to you? That had a society that pretty much functioned like this, mostly due to early implants having both intentional and unintentional flaws. $\endgroup$
    – Cubic
    Oct 11, 2023 at 15:01
  • $\begingroup$ Isn't it obvious that in a Capitalist system - as yours clearly isn't - the rich would get the choice but under Socialism, the benefit would go to the most deserving? What 'most deserving' really means is up for endless debate, and my Capitalist-Socialist scale has many grey shades between its ends. How could any of the 'context on the advanced technological body modifications' make any difference to which demographic group the cyborgs showed up in? $\endgroup$ Oct 12, 2023 at 18:48
  • $\begingroup$ Your assumption is good but you seek for opposite one? My answer could be only one: middle-class peasants (whatever you call them) are left with this what WAS earlier abundant in elite's life. It's deprecated, while elites got "better" things to use and hard to detect thru the social communities/statistical offices etc. For example, mid-class cyborg's AI is to be recognized, while hi-tech stuff is not. :P $\endgroup$
    – Peter.k
    Oct 19, 2023 at 20:47

23 Answers 23

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You only notice the Cyborgs who don't pass

And it's really expensive to get a body mod that is indistinguishable from the natural form.

There is actually a reasonable number of Cyborgs amongst the elite (although perhaps less proportionally, thanks to various elite privileges), but without fail, they have all chosen discreet modifications. It costs a lot to get good plastic surgery and even more for one that will fit cyber/bio-ware in a subtle way. Thus, being indistinguishable from an all-natural human is a prestige point.

However your low classes must choose function over form, as they are already throwing a lot of money at a body modification and can likely not afford the additional cost to make it the right size/skin tone/etc.

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    $\begingroup$ Yup, for every hilariously bad nose-job or cheekbone sharpening, there are countless people where the plastic surgery has gone perfectly fine and made them look better. People just don't notice. $\endgroup$
    – Dragongeek
    Oct 12, 2023 at 17:24
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    $\begingroup$ Echoes real life too. Think people wearing glasses vs lasik, good dental health care / replacements vs cheap alloys, big visible vs small undetectable hearing aids, etc. $\endgroup$
    – cthulhu
    Oct 14, 2023 at 11:16
  • $\begingroup$ A good analog for this is dental work. A gold tooth is expensive. An indistinguishable-from-real tooth is extremely expensive. $\endgroup$ Oct 30, 2023 at 22:26
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  • Modifications are detrimental for quality of life.
    Replacing a normal arm with a mechanical one may be better than living with a stump, but there will always be low-grade pains, worry about infection, surgery to adjust the fitting, etc.
    They may even reduce the lifespan.
  • Modifications have a significant risk of failure.
    Implanting a vat-grown eye with night vision may be neat if it works, but there is an 1-in-10 chance of permanent blindness instead. A risk taken only by those who are desperate for an edge on the job market or in a street fight.
  • Modifications complicate medical care.
    Somebody gets into the emergency room with irregular heartbeat. The physicians grab the defibrilator. Unfortunately, the patient had an obsolete artificial heart from an obscure manufacturer. The medical electronics did not recognize the heart for what it was and treated it like a natural one. That blew the regulator chip.
  • Modifications are most relevant for lower-class jobs.
    The upper class in your setting is mostly paid to think and talk, or it earns rents from investments. The available mods don't really help in the boardroom, or the law firm, or the research lab. This year's electron microscope is so much better than last year's cybereye.

As a result, major and/or obvious modifications mostly have a bad reputation. A merc with a cyberarm? Didn't dodge the bullet, it seems. An artificial liver to help with toxins in the blood? Couldn't hold his liquor with the normal one.

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    $\begingroup$ I think your third point is especially salient. Lower-class jobs typically involve a lot of monotonous and/or physically strenuous activity, which would probably be done better by a machine... if the machine was smart enough. $\endgroup$
    – Izzy
    Oct 11, 2023 at 17:40
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    $\begingroup$ "Modifications are detrimental for quality of life." -- This, especially with regards to power. Do you plug your arm in at night? How long does it hold a charge if you are really working hard? Does someone with multiple modifications have to have a giant battery brick welded to their spine? What happens when your arm is 10 years old, and the battery life begins to fade? $\endgroup$
    – codeMonkey
    Oct 11, 2023 at 19:57
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    $\begingroup$ do your ears hang low / is their charge about to go / do they make me sound like fuzz / do they give your scalp a buzz / do you always miss the banter / when you're chatting up a waiter / do your ears - hang - low? $\endgroup$ Oct 12, 2023 at 19:48
  • $\begingroup$ @ShernRenTee Requesting permission to use this if I ever write a cyborg story :-D $\endgroup$ Oct 27, 2023 at 11:36
  • $\begingroup$ @BIOStheZerg sure, as lung as you're willing to pay ... ;) (of course go ahead!) $\endgroup$ Oct 28, 2023 at 0:29
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Job requirements

There are certain jobs that require modification. Undersea miners get their lungs replaced, road workers get their skeleton and muscles reinforced, skyscraper workers get gyroscopes installed, etc.

These jobs require you to borrow a bunch of money to pay for the modification, then pay off the modification. If you fail to pay off the modification it gets repossessed and a minimal replacement is provided, assuming you didn't try to default and run.

The process isn't very pleasant. Maintenance is a pain. And going back to anything approximating 'real flesh' is expensive.

Even relatively minor jobs often need a Cyborg enhancement.

Cyborg = working class

As Cyborgs are built for a purpose, visible Cyborg means you are working class. The management class may have brain hooks, but they don't work with their hands or even eyes. Actually replacing perfectly working human flesh is a sign you aren't a member of the ruling class.

During most of the 20th century in the west, wearing a suit was a sign of being non-working class. Maintaining the suit was expensive, and it wasn't practical to do physical labour in.

Then a counter-culture among technical workers developed of not wearing a suit. And in some workplaces, someone wearing a suit was a sign that they didn't have the pull to demand comfortable clothing; I know people for whom the nicer the clothing was, the lower the presumed status at work was. This was especially strong among female engineers; wearing business clothing meant you looked like a receptionist, while wearing a casual shirt and jeans meant you where certainly an engineer.

In this case, cybernetic modifications (especially visible ones) are a sign you had to do physical labour. Even if you replaced them with non-functional implants, it meant you spent a period as a labourer, and did not go directly into the upper classes.

The modifications the upper classes do - brain hooks or whatever - are not called cybernetic, and don't leave a visible exterior.

Meanwhile, the streets are full of obsolete cyborgs begging, sort of like war amputees after a large war. It is often cheaper to take a fresh person and replace their arm than upgrade that old, obsolete arm.

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  • $\begingroup$ See also suit, definition (2), in the Jargon File. Do read in the context and spirit of definition (1). $\endgroup$ Oct 12, 2023 at 17:33
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Bodypart Dispossession As Payment Or Punishment

Imagine a world much like ours, but where mechanical science is just a little more advanced and biological science just a little sideways. What happens when you lose an arm or a lung or a pancreas?

You buy a new one. Turns out modern medicine can reprogram your immune system to accept a donated body part reliably*, and nanotechnological nerve junctions are good enough that you might only twitch once or twice a month.

Of course, you don't think too much about where those body parts came from. You don't think about the person who's replaced an eye with a basic webcam to get through college. The divorcee who's willing to make do with a pneumatic leg to keep the kids away from their alcoholic ex. The prisoners who have stopped caring which excisions will be declared constitutional or unconstitutional by each changing government. Dark whispers of international trade deals sealed with promises of entire shipments cryogenic.

All you know is that you can pay to avoid all the troubles of bolting a machine into your body. You're certainly not rich, but you're rich middle class enough to deserve biological. Everyone you know is too. Why ask too many questions beyond that?


And even though this fictional world sounds incredibly queasy, I imagine plenty of real-life people longing for an organ donation would take a reality in which cyborg replacements were good enough that people no longer considered selling their body parts taboo.


*For extra horror: a world where immunosuppression isn't reliable yet, and the standard follow-up to a body part rejection is to simply replace it with another and hope it works. You feel so bad about throwing away that set of fingers, but, well, you tried your best on the Facebook swaps! Not to be confused with the BookFaces swaps, of course.

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    $\begingroup$ Full disclosure: I was inspired by China Mieville's Remade. $\endgroup$ Oct 11, 2023 at 20:19
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    $\begingroup$ See also Repo Man $\endgroup$
    – Brondahl
    Oct 12, 2023 at 7:55
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The rich get cloned tissue, the poor settle for cyborg prosthetics.

If you lose an arm you can get a mechanical arm or you can get your arm back, most people will pick their arm. It works even better if cyborgs have to worry about implant rejection, infection at the connection point, wear and tear, and outside power source, all real considerations.

The goal of most prothetics are to look and function as close to the real thing as possible, a cloned arm is as close as you can get, but it is also very expensive. Not only do you have to grow the arm, it has to be stimulated during growth to have the right muscle strength and match the original neural connections as closely as possible. Plus each one is made to order, no mass production of cloned tissue because then it would not be your cells. Even if a cyborg arm is custom made it is still mostly made of mass produced parts with just a few bespoke components that can be assembled quickly thus vastly less expensive.

something similar would apply to cosmetic surgery. For breast implants you can get mass produced silicon bags that have possible medical issues as they age. Or you can get cloned scaffold grown breast tissue that will be identical to the real thing after implantation.

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The flesh is pure. Altering it is sin (or at least looked down on).

While a religious route is quick and easy, it's not even needed, as there could be a societal stigma attached to not being imperfect.

You need glasses in order to see? Your genetic stock is clearly inferior. Why would you need cybernetic legs? Were the one's you were born with not good enough?

This may sound nonsensical, but judging by how modern society determines social status it's that far of a reach.

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    $\begingroup$ Not necessarily based on religion, but cultural taboos on body modification would be a powerful social restriction. Consider the cultural difference between modern "western" societies where sun tanned skin is associated with health, good living and popularity whereas in many Asian cultures it is associated with working outdoors and therefore lower social status. Perhaps body modifications are a necessary but undesirable feature of lower social status jobs and are therefore avoided by those of higher social status and wealth. $\endgroup$ Oct 12, 2023 at 8:28
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    $\begingroup$ Your answer reminds of of Jack Vance's The Last Castle where fighting with lower class' revolt was the single most disgusting things in the eyes of the nobility. $\endgroup$ Oct 12, 2023 at 11:15
  • $\begingroup$ “You need glasses in order to see? Your genetic stock is clearly inferior.” Now listen here I don’t like these completely accurate statements you are making here $\endgroup$
    – Topcode
    Oct 14, 2023 at 4:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Topcode ironically a twitter post to along this line inspired that specific line. $\endgroup$
    – Lu22
    Oct 16, 2023 at 8:22
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The rich get real meat organs. They get these organs from the desperate and poor…

…Who sell their original organs to pay off their debts, avoid ending up homeless, give a better life to their kids, etc.

Giving up parts of your flesh body is seen as immoral and deviant. It's also not very practical. While cyborg modifications may be advanced, they can also be loud, clumsy, conspicuous, and even painful to wear. It's a vicious cultural cycle: Because the first borgmods invented weren't very good, wearing mods at all came to be seen as a mark of shame. Because Borgmods are seen as a mark of shame that nobody would ever willingly have, nobody bothers to invent new mods that are fasionable and "respectable" to wear even now that the technology can do better.

The modified can be much better than humans, but only in specific areas or environments, and not so much so that it grants them godlike superiority.

Why would the Old Money want to be able to punch through walls, heat materials using infrared, or run numerical analyses in their heads? They have servants to do that for them.

Catching an aristocrat with cybernetics would be like seeing a slaveowner or tycoon wearing rags working in the plantations and factories. Remember: It is the natural right and duty of the "elite" to rule over the common rabble, for they are surely unfit to rule themselves, and the impurity of their modified bodies is only further proof of that.

Ableism and classism are alive and well, and anyone seen with a synthetic body part is assumed to be a druggie who sold off their original at some point for a hit on the old Soma needle.

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Attack of the clones

My first response would be that the elite can clone replacement organs for themselves, or have a number of complete clones in vats on standby and harvest the organs when needed. In contrast, the lower-classes need to scrap together modifications in order to keep up with their intense demanding jobs that cause them injury.

I would also add that perhaps in this society is a culture of humanism like in Dune where the human mind and body are above all else and technology is shunned. Only the lowly peoples would sully their bodies with technological modifications.

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    $\begingroup$ The clones on reserve is a bit of a tired trope. But as a Dune fanatic, of course I love that idea. $\endgroup$
    – user458
    Oct 11, 2023 at 14:54
  • $\begingroup$ I think the main issue would be if the mods allow people to live longer then the elite would definitely want them. Alternatively, medicine is good enough to allow the elite to extend their lives and repair their bodies whereas the lower class slowly replace parts of themselves with mods. $\endgroup$ Oct 11, 2023 at 17:09
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The cyborgs are all ex-military, where they were augmented for their duties. As few officers serve on the front line, the cyborgs are generally the non commanding rank-and-file soldiers.

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  • $\begingroup$ NCO = "non-commissioned officer", not "non-commanding". FWIW. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Oct 12, 2023 at 15:55
  • $\begingroup$ @RalphJ an NCO is a solider who obtains a certain level of command privileges without being a trained as an officer specifically (like a Sergeant or a Corporal). I think what Mike means here is soldiers who do not have command privileges at all like (like Privates or a Seamen) $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Oct 12, 2023 at 20:38
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Cybernetics is cheap and tacky

The poor turn to cybernetics because they can't afford the treatments the rich can.

Why have a robot arm when a perfect cloned arm can be grown and replaced? The rich have cloning, DNA modification, nanites and as a result they are beautiful, strong, healthy and intelligent thanks to science.

The poor turn to cheap cybernetics to replace failing organs, missing limbs and to help them do their poorly paid jobs faster and better.

It's the difference between a tailor made suit and a Chinese made, off the shelf outfit from Walmart.

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  • $\begingroup$ We always see cyberware gleeming and new. But can you imagine if most of cyberware looks like a used car - and it starts to smell? Grimy, worrn and partially useless, handicapping its user. And if you abuse drugs, it doesent even work anymore, or starts to spasm. Ever had a Oilleak in public? Or a feedbackloop spasm in the corner? Disgusting.. $\endgroup$
    – Pica
    Oct 26, 2023 at 14:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Pica Head down to the local wrecking yard to find a new arm on a budget.... $\endgroup$
    – Thorne
    Oct 26, 2023 at 23:08
  • $\begingroup$ It got hacked, and now it trys to get into my mind, trys to take over, would you believe it. Piece of junk. Arm came alive yesterday night, tried to brute-force my phone- then tried to rip my junk off, demanded crypto in sign language. Like WTF! If I had this kind of cash, wouldn't have this kind of arm, chom! $\endgroup$
    – Pica
    Oct 27, 2023 at 8:51
  • $\begingroup$ And worser still, every time you need a replacement, they just slice that salami of the rest of you, a little more. The cyber arm started out as a cyber-hand, but one self-destructive motor failure and one gangreen due to cyber-rejection later- here you are, listing to the right heavily, cause it weights you down like a ton of bricks. $\endgroup$
    – Pica
    Oct 27, 2023 at 8:54
  • $\begingroup$ Better get rid of that left arm too, to keep it balanced. Oh, spine giving away, due to the heavy load, better rip that out.. Oh, knees buckling under all that chrome.. need additional tabs? Better rip it all out. You give a finger, they take the whole land. $\endgroup$
    – Pica
    Oct 27, 2023 at 8:55
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Clinical Trials

Look at clinical trials of new drugs / new medical devices / new medical procedures. The people who participate in them are those who are willing to risk their health for monetary compensation - definitely does not seem like "upper class" to me. Also, "people who have participated in clinical trials" is a rather rare category, simply because you don't need all that many people for the trials (compared to total population size).

So maybe in your society, cyborg modifications are still unproven technology, it is illegal to perform these modifications outside of the context of a clinical trial (and most people wouldn't even want to risk it). But some people are desparate enough to make a few bucks that they participate in the trials.

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  • $\begingroup$ I was looking for something like this, but rather than add to the already long list of answers, I'd suggest offering the possibility of human testing of "biological weapons gone wrong". I.e. the bright side of the very dark option, how it can backfire, mutate and or empower a few individuals, planting a seed of revolution. Fun stuff. That is to say if you allow bioengineering as a form of cybernetics, indeed along the lines of weaponized bionanotechnology. What could be the original purpose? Mind enslavement, the way fungi can control ant species. Zombies and assassins, oh my. $\endgroup$
    – Nolo
    Oct 23, 2023 at 6:41
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Being able to conspicuously avoid cybernetics is a mark of extreme wealth and understatement.

Generally, wealth likes to express itself as being "above the common things". A billionaire probably likes the taste of McDonalds as much as a minimum-wage worker, but they wouldn't be seen eating it because it's what peasants eat. And along the lines of "money talks, wealth whispers": there's a continuum of how each level of society/wealth shows off. As wealth increases, showing off becomes more and more subtle, with the opulence and wealth being shown in understated ways, and even being able to notice them is the mark of class (c.f. the Japanese concept of Iki. For example:

  • Lower-class people tend to use showy, ostentatious things: putting rims on their cars, buying a fancy phone, having a flashy handbag. The goal is conspicuous consumption: showing off that you can afford these apparently-expensive things (even if they're actually knockoffs or you can't really afford them).
  • Once you reach upper class, these displays are tacky and embarrassing: the wealthy are showing off to each other, not to the poors. Obviously my house is so much nicer than the people from the other side of the tracks, but those people wouldn't understand why my cream tiling is so much more tasteful than Martha's hideous champagne tiling. At this point, being able to discern the subtle differences between chic and passé becomes the point of pride, and being able to ignore or pretend to not care about money is more meaningful than showing off how much you have. Why yes, I do have a Bentley—oh, it's nothing impressive. I barely notice it, since that's just the level of wealth I live in.
  • Finally, once you reach the truly ultra-wealthy, you get to flout the system entirely. Who's going to turn away Bill Gates if he turns up to a fancy event in a T-shirt and jeans? At this point, you can do whatever you want—the thing that brings status is to be uncaring and make everything effortless. Your T-shirt and jeans probably cost more than some suits—but you don't care, because they're well-fitted and comfy, so what does it matter if they cost a little more? Your dining table is from the 1800s and the grandfather clock in the corner is older than that. You don't even have a calendar app on your phone: you've got a personal assistant who keeps track of all of that who you ask whenever you're curious about your schedule. These may be less efficient in ways, but the point is that you're using them precisely because they're so fancy as to be inefficient and rustic. And of course you have an army of dieticians and beauticians and stylists and even plastic surgeons at your beck and call, all working to keep you looking effortlessly and carelessly perfect.

And this brings us to the reason that the elite eschew cybernetics. They're cheap, they're plentiful, they're necessary for certain jobs, and they often look unpleasant or distracting. It's a mark of the common people. The elite don't get tattoos, because it's tacky and cheap. They don't eat at McDonalds, because it's too base. And they don't get cybernetics, because they have people do that sort of thing for them.

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  • $\begingroup$ They don't even have to be cheap for this. Just 'Not expensive enough' $\endgroup$
    – davolfman
    Oct 12, 2023 at 21:06
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Risk and loss

Cyborgs can be a great boon in many ways. But it can have big drawbacks. What if you can have incredibly strong legs, able to jump, run and push harder and longer than ever before, but lose most feeling from the 'skin'? Or that you cannot have sex any more? For many it would be enough not to take it if much feelings were removed if you replace an arm.

It can also be incredibly inconvenient in some other ways. Think recharging. Your cyborgs might need to be charged differently than a body, requiring charging for some time each day, or one whole day a month you need to sit and do nothing or something.

You also have to consider what would happen to many. Risk can be in very unexpected corners. Imagine someone having their legs and arms replaced. If they do not change nutrition, they will become fat with all the negatives that come with it. Worse is that you might not get all benefits from moving. It releases hormones to make you feel better in short and long term. It could lead to depression, despite achieving more than ever before. People can even feel resentment towards their augmentations, giving those the credits of the success and seeing none for themselves. Depression is a big thing looking around the corner.

You can even have a privacy issue, as the implants can gather so much data it'll make Orwell look docile.

Finally it can be incredibly hazardous. Few survive thanks to rejection of the implants. Even after the implants could give trouble thanks to rejection symptoms. Pain, discomfort, loss and depression all contribute to people not taking it.

You can make this even more apparent by having biological modifications compared to mechanical. Rich people might just get some DNA treatments. They get big and strong with little effort. They are better protected against their unhealthy lifestyles. If they still manage to go wrong and become unhealthy they get any treatment imaginable, from DNA to hormones to gut implantations, you name it. They will be high and happy all the wile in their treatments. You might not go so far as this, but the rich could have many biological enhancements without risk. They might not be as strong or fast as a cyborg, but as they are fully functioning, top of the world physical people the choice is easily made.

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Metal modification is SO unaesthetic

"Oh look at that freak, he's installed a steel hand! Ewww! His grip is as cold as a grave!"

After a person would desire making himself a mod, especially if not directly required by his physical condition, he might become unpopular due to xenophobia that might be prevalent in high society. Like, he's turned alien all of a sudden, and the main trend was to get away from aliens. Also some mods might be uncomfortable for others just to see, like a Terminator's eye that allows night vision, IR and probably some target tracking, on a body guard, leading to decreased wage of that person, even if he's doing his job better than before. High-level society is so brittle, you know.

Credit pit

A middle class that's suffered a traumatic amputation of an arm and does not have enough money stored in wallet to immediately buy a replacement (anyway normally it'll take a while to get one, medical treatment, tailored production, post-implantation adjustments, etc etc) would have to get the extra money from somewhere. Banks are normally happy to provide people with credits, yet they demand payment from them for years to come, and that person's budget could well turn into a downward spiral. Especially if the new arm would require expensive maintenance every so often.

Money-based reasons could be many, starting from "license issues" to "pay as you go" somehow wired to movements made by the attachment, even our current car manufacturers have a lot of practice to drain people of cash, let alone something entirely information-based like recent Unity. Just invent some simple but expensive money sinks for the implant user, there you go, effective declassification.

Temporary mods inflicted brain alteration

An example: there is a drug that increases your metabolism in the way that you have become stronger, more agile and more perceptive. A person in question used that several times (as this mod was temporary) and accidentally discovered that his brain had adapted to the drug (and not just the new abilities) and now pains hardly when there's no drug (aka addiction, but biological rather than psychological). That, and the sense of being superior while on the drug turned the person wild, inducing psychical disorders as a consequence. He goes drunk or drugged by something else and falls off the society. However, he can still get a position in the lower class, as a brute force for example, working for food-and-drug just to not get fired into oblivion.

And a point missing in the above answers:

Mind-machine interface required for metal implants turns people less socializable

I think, and my thoughts cross the barrier into the synapses of the machine, just as the good doctor intended. But what I cannot shake, and what hints at things to come, is that thoughts cross back. In my dreams, the sensibility of the machine invades the periphery of my consciousness: dark, rigid, cold, alien. Evolution is at work here, but just what is evolving remains to be seen.

Commissioner Pravin Lal, "Man and Machine"

Considering that high society requires some etiquette to be in, and that modified humans might have troubles tolerating it, they might as well get shunned off the beau-monde downwards, potentially even not being able to withstand social pressure from ever accompanying humans. Some people might even get psychotic from even a successful attempt of installing a mod, whatever that was, but since most mods actually make the "remaining human" more durable, or at least designed so, the affected human would likely stick at a job of some lower class than where he was initially. Probably in an army, as MMI as is is mostly used as a war-oriented alteration, and a person with an installed MMI would cope better than those that don't have one.

On the other hand, biological-based mods should perfectly do

Imagine a golden youth who's got his liver damaged by excess alcohol and drugs. His dad managed to have him undergo liver replacement with a modified biological organ, tailored to the kid so he's got some poison resistance additionally to general well-being. Since the organ is biological, and whatever scars from the surgery might get masked (we're speaking rich people after all!), the kid looked normal after undergoing a rehab, with a consequence of utter aversion to alcohol (whether the liver was the reason, the dad preferred to not disclose). On top of that, he's got his wits up, dropped the company that otherwise was leading him into a pleasure pit, started studying and eventually succeeds his father's position in a large company, together with riches. But, he might decide to not disclose the data on his past treatment to the public, so he's a "cyborg" of sorts but still in high society that thinks he's just a kid recovered from bad habits.

Or another case, a person lost his arm, and instead of opting in for a metal replacement, he went the more advanced but more expensive route of growing a new arm in a lab with eventual implantation instead of his old arm's remnants. I would say that person would get positive score among its peers, both for having a "real" arm and for suffering a lot while he might just get a steel arm quickly. The same would work with internal organs, eyes, ears and other visible parts.

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Obsolescence

These cyborgs were enhanced to perform very specific duties that require special implementations, but now that their tasks are fulfilled, they are no longer wanted by companies and the public alike, because their maintenance is too expensive, their functioning too limited, and their appearance too grotesque.

Cyborgs have enhancements that allow them to perform very specific tasks with inhuman speed, strength, and/or finesse. These tasks can range from injecting foetuses with nanotechnology in utero, to removing debris from the anti-gravity fields on which the transcontinental transportation of goods depends.* Most of the often grotesque cybernetic adaptations require removal of unnecessary human "imperfections".

It is especially their maintenance, to prevent the deterioration of the components of both organic and inorganic nature, that costs the companies that initially paid for their creation too much to keep them on their payroll. Once their tasks are finished, or they are replaced by improved technology, they are abandoned. Not entirely human, any rights to basic human benefits have been waived (or are simply not part of your world).

Since they are less capable than their human counterparts in handling almost any daily situation and stand their ground in basic human interactions, most people will turn a blind eye to the already unappealing semi-humans. Besides, as their organic components deteriorate, their bodies start to smell. They are simply ostracized by the general public. They end up living among the cast-outs, homeless, squatters, refugees, and others at the lowest tiers of society.

* Just spitballing here.

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It's exhausting to have high energy demanding body modifications, and really not a pleasant thing to have to deal with at all. It tends to put you in a bad mood. No one really talks about that, but you can see it the poor slobs' faces. Besides, it's usually done by those that need to work manual labor jobs, so why bother?

The main reason: The elite prefer to have mind mods, which are much more expensive and sometimes trivial. One of their favorites is one that makes them very witty and entertaining. Another provides an exceptional sense of smell.

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They are experimental specimens for the upper class

It could be possible that the upper class elites are divided into various competing houses. They compete among themselves in terms of resources, power, etc. One key aspect of their competition is Science and Technology. Everytime a noble house's company develops a new cyborg-technology, they need to test it and put it to display to its counterparts. The best they could find someone to carry out these tests are the lower middle classess. These people lack money and motivation to oppose them. If the elite is providing them with even a meagre compensation to part take into the activity, they are willing to do so. This will obviously create so many cyborgs out of lower classes on the directions of the upper class.

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Society practices eugenics. The people put an emphasis on selecting mates with good genetic qualities. Cybernetic implants are cheating...

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Cybernetics make you susceptable to hacking, which can alter your behaviour, including going into violent ramapages, advertisement or social self-destructive behaviour.

Imagine a turret-syndrom that comes with the hardware.

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It is economically advantageous to engineer humans so that they are highly motivated and proficient laborers

The elite gravitated towards this technology as a way to obtain workers that can complete complex tasks more easily than robots while also retaining an appreciable degree of stamina and motivation. The pre-existing glut of of warm bodies with few rights enabled dramatic reductions in manufacturing costs as people could be readily fitted with implants.

Although modifications are practiced by members of all social classes, the predominance of these indentured workers all but ensured that cyborg tech became irretrievably associated with low social status. Most individuals thus hide their modifications and avoid broaching the topic altogether.

My gift to industry is the genetically engineered worker, or Genejack. Specially designed for labor, the Genejack’s muscles and nerves are ideal for his task, and the cerebral cortex has been atrophied so that he can desire nothing except to perform his duties. Tyranny, you say? How can you tyrannize someone who cannot feel pain?” — Chairman Sheng-ji Yang, “Essays on Mind and Matter”

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Cybernetic modifications are controlled by the underworld

In this world, the less-than-legal underworld has developed the technology to have cybernetics. Obviously they use this technology judiciously, even among their members, so not all members will have augmentation. You didn't mention whether the modifications had to be visible or apparent, but even today many organized crime members make no secret of their involvement in criminal enterprises, so even visible augmentations shouldn't be an issue for them.

For a number of reasons, the elite don't use augmentation.

  1. The underworld tightly controls the technology.
  2. It's relatively new technology without widespread public awareness.
  3. The elite are either unwilling to fund the underworld/gangs that threaten their position and safety or don't trust any technology that comes from them, especially when it could impact their health.
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  • The modifications are more functional than aesthetic - having a front-end loader for a right arm or an oversized cranium(human computer?) is unappealing, unless you really need that construction or accounting job. It marks you out as a member of the lower working class, and something slightly less than human, since the wealthy don't use such things - or spend the big bucks for less-obvious augmentations.

  • The modifications cause additional issues - degenerative diseases, hormonal imbalances that potentially lead to violent rages or fits of depression, such as Cyberpunk's Cyberpsychosis. Expand on this with treatments being so expensive that you're basically locked in with your employer for life or on your way to the junkyard / prison if you lose your job, or with the treatments sterilizing the recipients, potentially by design. See also Neuropzyne from Deus Ex.

  • The modifications have failsafes that prevent them from being used against the ruling class, such as Robocop's 4th Prime Directive - these can be killswitches, explosives, chemical agents that can be circulated through a ventilation system and will only affect wetware, trackers, surveillance devices, etc. Expand on this with the potential for having your modifications hacked as in Ghost in the Shell.

  • People with modifications are subject to being victims of violence by fanatical purists, or even targeted for "stealing jobs" from normal humans. Expand on this with whole countries or planets having vastly different policies regarding modifications.

  • Accepting modifications that make you unable to live anywhere except the environment you're being modified to work in would generally be a last resort for someone who has no other way to work or survive. Expand on this with a system designed to force certain groups of people into these types of jobs, or with organs being harvested for the upper class when replaced with machines.

  • It's cheaper to modify workers than to create full-on robots - there are lots of people, life is cheap, and parts can be moved from dead workers to living ones.

  • Generalized AI was already tried and was found to be impossible to produce or perhaps control, as in Dune's Butlerian Jihad, so bolting hardware onto people is the only way to go. Expand on this with religious overtones of biological purity and general distrust of genetic engineering and / or machine/human gestalt entities.

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Cyborgs are treated like property:

All cyborgs have AI implanted in their brains that control the enhancements and translate the cyborg’s thoughts into movements. This is actually similar to AI that is today being used to restore mobility to paralyzed people.

But AI is mistrusted, and all AI is tightly controlled, the property of its manufacturers (who are then liable for it). So legally, cyborgs are no longer considered human. Their devices are not their property, effectively making them slaves.

Further, the AI can be externally controlled, and told to make the cyborg do anything the controllers want. Very useful if you need an expert on an isolated oil rig, not so fun being controlled remotely by a doctor or engineer a continent away.

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