Note: The associated image is from Ironage.media, specifically their prompt 'The Upgrade'
A single, simple little word, belying a topic that has polarized Humanity since some time after the first successful mechanical prosthetics were made and attached to whoever needed them. Since the days of Ancient Egypt, through the Renaissance of Europe, to the technological wonders of the Industrial Revolution, and the earliest computers of the late 20th century, our minds raced along at the possibilities, not limiting ourselves to merely improving the prosthetics for the benefit of the crippled, lame, or injured, but to take ourselves even further, to test and break the limits of the human body through technology. A lofty goal, long since achieved.
Nowadays, hydraulic muscles drive titanium-steel alloy skeletons; VR and AR setups are mapped directly onto one's very eyes, and with barely a thought, any information you want will find itself front and center in your mind. And some poor souls dared far too early to 'optimize' their minds. I hardly need to speak on the shambling husks that those experiments brought into the galaxy, mindless automatons in human guise. Those abhorrent experiments were conducted far from the light of any star, Sol, or any other Humanity now calls their own.
But, over the last 5 centuries, augments have simply become part of life for almost everybody. Who doesn't want a body that can survive a car crash or even last for a few moments in the vast black expanse of the stars? Certainly, all the Spacers we rely on to ferry us, our belongings, and rare and exotic materials between our 100 planets have taken on augmentation most fervently, leaving many barely as human as they are machines.
However, dear reader, I would be remiss if I didn't share pressing information with you, and it is absolutely imperative that you hear me now.
There have been several quiet reports, internal inquiries, military-funded tests and ceaseless rumours of a steadily growing problem with augments and those who own and use them. Most in the corporate and civilian worlds are reported as a glitch, a program error.
'Just reset your augment, like turning 21st-century computers off and on again.'
The more salacious and challenging, if not impossible, to substantiate reports warn of a 'Ghost' in the machines many of us have fused our bodies with. Some say that it may even constitute a consciousness within the augments wiring, whether it's a rogue program, or as some wilder speculations suggest, it may be the lost, deranged mind of one of the victims of the experiments mentioned above on 'upgrading' cognitive capacities in the 2280s. A mind, alone, has perhaps wandered the infinite halls of the Intergalactic web for almost 2 centuries now if you believe them.
Whatever may be the case, if you even suspect that your thoughts are not wholly your own, you may not actually be crazy these days."
- Rebecca Sclavo, a reporter for The Martian Herald, published electronically on May 29th, 2453.
Archived on Alpha Centauri(B), Toliman, The Planetary Library and Databank, June 31st, 2536, into 'The Collected Warnings on Augmentation and Emergent AI'.
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