In this world, there are two trans-human species that are emerging at the same time. They vehemently despise each other and conflict is fast approaching. I would like to make the struggle between the two trans-humans as hard-fought as possible. If I cannot realistically make the struggle close, and there is an obvious winner, I might just abandon the idea. Without further ado, the two trans-human factions are:

The Bios

They have decided to reject computer chip implants, but they may use tools, guns, ect. However, their primary characteristic is that they consider ANYTHING bio related fair game, so they take genetic engineering to the extreme. Some things to expect from them are:

  • disease immunity/longevity
  • accelerated gestation rates
  • super-brains (larger-sized, multiple brains, enhanced neural connections)
  • giant muscles, overall size (potentially titanium or other strong material bones)
  • genetically splicing in extrasensory senses (think sharks electrical pulse detection, ect)

The Cybers

Conversely, these trans-humans do not genetically modify themselves, but instead embed computer chips and network cards into themselves and have many machine-like advantages like number crunching and network intelligence. They still have eyes, ears, and other vestiges of their former human selves, but these "monkey-meat" body parts act more like an input for the cyber-driven intelligence to get data from. Some things to expect from them are:

  • fast reaction times (drones can react faster than fighter pilots even at present given in aerial combat drills)

  • computer aided everything (motor function, night vision, ect)

  • quick skill learning (theoretically, just drag and drop skill sets into the cyber brain)

  • augmented physiology (an exo-skeleton suit integrated into their body perhaps with gold/carbon fiber for anti-EMP, drills for fingers, ect)


  • near future or at most 200 years in the future
  • no morality comes into play
  • advances in AI and genetic engineering could outpace each other (whatever way makes for a better fight)
  • conflict is inevitable
  • pure bio vs pure cyber implies there are no hybrids

Question (reiterated): Building off this basic premise as described above, but also subject to your own opinion on what additional advantages/disadvantages there might be with regards to the two factions, is this going to be a good match-up? If it is shaping up to be very anti-climactic and too predictable, I would also appreciate speculation as to how to level the playing field.

  • $\begingroup$ Each will have advantages in different situations (the bios for instance have self repair, while the cybers can swap some parts), I see no reason both could not exist at the same time. You could even see some combining assets from both. Although keep in mind the Cybers will only have faster reflexes for normal reactions they still need to process at meat speeds. $\endgroup$ – John Jul 21 '17 at 13:11
  • $\begingroup$ @John I see the reasoning there, but I actually included conflict in the premise. Part of the reason for that is I didn't want to make the question off-topic by imposing a pre-built world. I'm allowing latitude in terms of technology, environment (like you said, different situations), ect. However, I don't mind giving more details if that helps with the intuition. It started off as a symbolic divide that became more absolutist and almost religious. Like those who worship flesh and blood, and those who worship the transistor. $\endgroup$ – Arash Howaida Jul 21 '17 at 13:17
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    $\begingroup$ @John Your logic is spot on, I think it could that be my emphasis didn't come off the way I was hoping. Let me edit the post to add the assumption pure means no hybrids. $\endgroup$ – Arash Howaida Jul 21 '17 at 13:19
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    $\begingroup$ The problem with saying they despise each other and thus no hybrids is humans are diverse in mindset and there are a lot of us, you will find members of each group that do not hate the other, especially if baseline humans still exist. Society might make hybrids extremely rare however, technology might prevent you from descending far down each path if you mix as well, making it even rarer but None is basically impossible. $\endgroup$ – John Jul 21 '17 at 13:28
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    $\begingroup$ This is what I call good subjective. Enough info for educated answers. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Jul 23 '17 at 18:28

The big issue here isn't that these advances are not possible, but since they are approaching singularity levels of technology, whichever faction is able to perfect their technology first is going to win. The Bios will either achieve their genetic engineering goals and be able to impose their will, or will not have achieved the ability to do so before the Cybers swoop down and impose their dominion upon the Earth.

This is pretty predictable because augmenting to such an extreme degree both implies a steadily and exponentially increasing advance in the knowledge base, but also an exponentially increasing set of skills, abilities and capabilities. If the mismatch becomes too great, then you will be faced with the situation of Imperial Japan just prior to the start of WWII, the United States outpaced Japan in every economic metric important at the time (for example, having 8-10X the annual steel production, a rather important metric if you plan to fight a naval war), so the side which can increase their capabilities more rapidly through first mover advantage will almost certainly win.

There are a few cheats you can impose as a writer. Perhaps the initial set of modifications provides a huge advantage, but unanticipated problems prevent version 2.0 mods from working properly, allowing the other side to implement their version 1.5.3 upgrades and catch up temporarily. Of course the losing side could also invoke the "Sampson Option" and bring the entire edifice of civilization crashing down by unleashing WMD (nuclear attacks are equally effective against both cyber and biological upgrades), in which case the survivors will be equally matched using sticks, sharp rocks and other advanced tools of post nuclear warfare......

  • $\begingroup$ You made a compelling argument. I will research current number of genetic researchers vs AI researchers and try to extrapolate. It would seem that, ceteris paribus, the biological technology would be slower, but perhaps given the assumption of no morality comes into play, they could skip animal testing and conduct tests in the most time effective way possible. And on a side note, your screen name tempts me to include the Thucydides trap with the two sides. Maybe one could be the hegemony and the other be the rising power... $\endgroup$ – Arash Howaida Jul 23 '17 at 2:02


The worse the terrain, the more the Bio will have the edge. Jungles, swamps etc. Cybers need more man-made infrastructure to perform optimally.

The big issue will be who controls space. Control of space gives a lot of options in terms of where you can suddenly attack. The Cybers will have the edge here.

What really matters in war: Production

Who can replace losses faster then the other team for longer? If both teams lose their armies in a battle but one team can build a replacement army in a week and the other team needs a month to spawn more troops, the war is already won. Vice versa too.

Adaption speeds and guerrilla tactics could really help decide the outcomes of battles but wars are won and lost on who can replace losses faster.

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    $\begingroup$ Note: it's not "gorilla" tactics - it's "guerilla" tactics. The "gorilla" is a hairy bipedal mammal. $\endgroup$ – wizzwizz4 Jul 21 '17 at 18:21
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    $\begingroup$ @wizzwizz4 literal gorilla tactics where pretty useful on Planet of the Apes, however. $\endgroup$ – T. Sar Jul 21 '17 at 19:42
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    $\begingroup$ @wizzwizz4 The Bios could apply Guerrilla Gorilla tactics ;). $\endgroup$ – Imperator Jul 22 '17 at 22:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Overthinks I never factored in space to that extent. That's really interesting. I believe the bios would have to use tools and suits to survive there, but the cybers would probably have a more sustainable infrastructure there. Plus they could communicate with satellites and maybe produce more satellites or even near earth orbit weaponry. $\endgroup$ – Arash Howaida Jul 23 '17 at 2:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Overthinks and as a whole, your answer paints an interesting picture, the cybers controlling the flat terrain urban centers, while the bios could fight a winning campaign from rural areas. With regards to what you mentioned about production, at first, I thought it will be a challenge for the bios to keep up with the production pace of cybers. But then again, perhaps in an over-populated earth (a few hundred years in the future) human life might be cheaper than technology. $\endgroup$ – Arash Howaida Jul 23 '17 at 2:11

Because these two technologies are distinct and you are free to advance one or the other however you’d like I don’t see why you can’t balance the two sides. One isn’t inherently better than the other at all technological levels. That said I do have some suggestions for you that I think might help flesh out your conflict.

If these two factions represent two nation states that are at war there are many other variables that matter more than the combat effectiveness of the individuals of each nation. First off, if we are in the near future is this a nuclear conflict? If it is then the flavor of transhuman probably doesn’t matter that much in the face of a nuclear holocaust. If for whatever reason it isn’t, then two other factors become more important, industrial capacity and manpower. Whichever nation can field the larger, better equipped army will most likely be victorious, regardless of individual combat prowess. For this reason I think it’s more important you consider the transhumans’ industrial capabilities rather than their combat capabilities. You could easily imagine that the Cybers have more efficient industry being capable of directly interfacing with machinery to control it. On the other hand the Bios could easily have a much larger combat effective population. Cloning, accelerated growth, and most importantly not needing to perform costly and expensive surgeries to implant their tech into workers or soldiers means their workers and soldiers could be plentiful and expendable. These factors will likely play a bigger role in the victor of the conflict then the reaction times or strength of the soldiers.

Along those line if you do feel the sides are unbalanced you can change the resources each side has access to to bring them back in line. Cybers too strong? Give them smaller borders, a smaller population, and fewer natural resources than the Bios. There are many ways to balance the conflict beyond the capabilities of the transhumans.

  • $\begingroup$ tho, Individual power matters way more than the amount of soldiers in warfare.... English men destroyed the samurai even though they were outnumbered by many times $\endgroup$ – Evi Jul 21 '17 at 20:26

Have you played Stellaris? They recently introduce a mechanism that provides for both of these (and psychic for a third option). Essentially you can build to a race that are robot containers for an intenlligence that originated from an organic source, a race that has opened their minds to psychic realms, or a society that has designer genetics for creating genetic offshoots for a specific task.

In the robot case, the advantages are a population that is good at everything, and the population is immotal (leaders have life spans, regular citizes don't but its assumed the population units represents more than one individual) and they can now live on any world habital world regardless of previous habitability. The trade off is that the empire creates conditions that could foster a galaxy wide computer virus that causes robot populations to rebel, they must delibertly create new populations, and there is no way to make specialized designs (this last one is getting fixed in the next update).

Conversely, genetics in Stellaris is represented by a series of traits each race can get, which give bonuses to different values. You can have at most five traits and each one costs a cetain amount of "Gene points" at game start you have two points and can get more by taking negative traits. All societies can research genetic techs to a basic degree which gives you more points and allows you to remove but never add negative traits and add but never remove positive traits and a few more points. Specializing gives you even more points and the ability to both add and remove any traits and ultimately to give you even better versions of some traits, especially those that affect production values.

In game, Genetics and Robots get along alright, its Robotics and Psychics that don't get along (they have requirements that are counter to each other and produce a negative opinion of each other).

To my mind, Genetics would be more fine tuning individuals to tasks where as robots would make good generalists. Remember, genetics realistically works if you can show that the trait exists in nature. Titanium bones are unrealistic as there are no organisms that can break down titanium materials that would be used in bone production. It's actually probably very toxic to consume titanium (however, carbon nanofibers are a bit belieavable as carbon is essential to life so creating a genetic instruction for a cell to produce nano-tube protiens is much more plausible. Still not likely for bone, but how about bulletproof skin as a trade off?).

Robotics offer a wider range of techonogical interfaces to do things not possible in nature and can be modular and quick to change and update software.

Ideally, the mindset of a biological ascendant is "we aren't perfect, but we can fix the parts that we don't like and be better". Robotics would be "Our bodies are our first tool and we need to improve the overall functionality and features offered by this tool" These are not in and of themselves incompatabile idealologies but adding values such as My body is a temple could complicate the matter. In addition, both sides could frame the more unfortunate implications of the noble philosphy. Bio-augmentation cuts close to eugenics ("They want to breed a master race that makes humans redundant") where as robotics has some authoritarian elements to it ("They say they are just patching vulnerable software, but what if they patch how you think or even take away your will to question them."). And of course, those can be spun a different wah. Bios can charge that they are pro-Individual ("We allow anyone to express their best parts and fix the parts they don't like. We can make your body the body you always were meant to have.") where as robots can say they are very tolerant (Our society is not racist. There are no black men or white men. We are all Tin Men.").

So the take away from all of this is... I should never be allowed to write propaganda.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm also a fan of Stellaris, and I love seeing it mentioned here, but... you haven't really answered the question here. How would these two factions actually match up with each other? I would note that benefits gained from machine pops are more direct: better armies, better bonuses, which could be countered by the gene enhanced pops because of their subtle advantages with such a large selection of traits, and the ability to have different strains of the same species, with different traits. $\endgroup$ – kirkpatt Jul 21 '17 at 22:30
  • $\begingroup$ @kirkpatt: I would think that the biological have the advantage of stealth to them... A robot would easily set off the metal detectors or maybe something picking up the electro-magnetic componants... You could sneak a dangerous biolgical weapon past security checkpoints much easier. Robots could be detected better (especially if they have electro-senses.). Also, the human brain currently is capable of a theoretical storage capacity greater than any computer interface on the market. A brain enhanced brain would be better than a computer enhanced brain. $\endgroup$ – hszmv Jul 24 '17 at 14:40
  • $\begingroup$ According to this CLEARLY polished and SUPER credible site, the human brain's capacity is probably somewhere around 3-ish terabytes. We hit 10 terabytes in hard drives a few years ago, and everyday storage gets bigger and more efficient. A robotic society would have a pretty easy way to deal with bio-stealth: If you can't interface with the other person digitally, shoot them. Easy enough. Yes, robotic pops are probably detectable by some sort of electric sensor, but fully bio humans would be detectable by heat sensors, or failure to interface. $\endgroup$ – kirkpatt Jul 24 '17 at 14:57
  • $\begingroup$ @kirkpatt A more recent Scientific America Article puts it at about 2.5 petrabytes. Here. And while computer storage does increase faster (double every two years), it's not believed to be sustable at those rates for much longer. Meanwhile, the Human Brain storage is due the shere number of connections between neurons, and the proposal here is to add more connections, which could increase the human brain storage capacity much faster than computer asisted. $\endgroup$ – hszmv Jul 24 '17 at 18:24
  • $\begingroup$ I believe you are referencing Moore's Law which applies to efficiency and speed for processors, not storage. The end of which, by the way, is frequently refuted. With an entire civilization thinking with the processors we would have in the future, without being distracted, having to worry about silly human issues, I would be totally surprised if the cybers weren't at the very least able to stay neck and neck with the bios. $\endgroup$ – kirkpatt Jul 24 '17 at 18:49

The most extreme victory tactic I could think gives a victory to The Bios. Engineer an immunity to a very advanced airborn patogen that their bodies can create and release to melt the tissue of anyone without it's immunity. However, to counter that the Cybers could just have some airtight form of armor to stop it from ever reaching their biological parts. By focusing on their "purity", I believe you're damning The Cybers to defeat because, as long as they're matched in battle, The Bios can always resort to cloning to create more soldiers and replenish the population. The only way I could see The Cybers win is if they worked similar to Doctor Who's Cybermen or Star Trek's Borg and began assimilating their opposition to bolster their ranks.

Apart from that, the truth is that they are as well matched as you desire them to be.

  • $\begingroup$ The trouble is, cloning takes time. Whilst a biological creature is growing, a factory line can be assembling troops fast enough to destroy the incubation facilities, even if those incubation facilities housed more of what would become better soldiers. Whoops! Looks like it just became balanced again. :-) $\endgroup$ – wizzwizz4 Jul 21 '17 at 18:24

I'd say you need to really pin down what abilities each side has, and where they're located, for a start, because right now, this question seems too vague to have a clear answer.

And to integrate my comment:

Are nanobots a thing? If so, I'd expect the Cybers to integrate them into their tech... And then use them as weapons or something...

Good weapons against things made of metal, would be liquid mercury, to weaken the metal? And it's also poisonous.

But, liquid mercury can be protected against with anodizing or a plastic coating... Although, such protections may be inadvisable with cyborg parts, perhaps.

In any case, mercury is still poisonous to the organic components, but there are methods to absorb it and render it harmless.

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    $\begingroup$ That can be prevented with an anodized oxide layer, or plastic coating on the metal. Many substances absorb mercury and leave it harmless. $\endgroup$ – Donald Hobson Jul 23 '17 at 12:58

When reading your post, i remember the RPG Cyberpunk, wich has more or less, among others, two nations that look like the ones you described.

Yes, I believe it works, because bio engineering and nano technology pretty much aim at the same things, and the buffs you gave to each team are ... pretty much the same. And that's also the problem :

They are the same.

Apart from how they got beefed up, they are the same. I don't think the story can work if you don't have more teams than that. If none of them really represents a threat to each other (they pretty much have the same strengths), i don't see why there would be such a conflict (maybe at first, but after a while, everyone would have settled down and dealt with it). If you decide to keep the conflict alive, I don't see how would any team win more than the other, since they all have the same bonuses :

  • better reflexes
  • more strength better
  • learning better
  • longevity/immune system

I may edit my answer if you have more scenaristic arcs than what you gave us in mind, but if you didn't, as I said, I don't see why would they simply keep fighting.

  • $\begingroup$ The OP could answer this better, but I think the conflict is completely ideological. $\endgroup$ – Michael Jul 21 '17 at 14:05
  • $\begingroup$ the problem is stll there. They have pretty much the same strengths. If he doesn't wants to unbalance the fight willingly, then it's just going to be WW1 all over again: everyone slacks in forts for 10 years, and then everyone goes home, because nothing useful comes out of it. $\endgroup$ – General Baguettson Jul 21 '17 at 14:17

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