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Cyberpunk 2077 and Humanity

Cyberpunk 2077 and Humanity

Cyberpunk 2077 is a game which really brings into perspective the line between what can be considered human and what can’t. Due to the overabundance of cybernetic enhancements within Night City, many people tow this line, and I’d like to discuss the many places that line can be drawn. This is all purely theoretical, as very little of this can be proven. However, I felt like sharing my thoughts on the subject.

Cyberpsychosis is probably the first and most straightforward situation where someone could be classed as losing their humanity. After a variable amount of cybernetics installed, victims begin to suffer increasingly bad symptoms: starting with simple things, such as distancing from family and emotional outbursts, all the way to violent acts. Throughout this process, the victims often lose any sense of self and become purely indulged in a fantasy of strength and a disregard for human life. This could be seen as the deterioration of the soul, which one could class as the main thing keeping a person human.


The simple existence of the soul could be an incredibly useful defining feature of what makes us human, yet it isn’t quite so simple. There are many different beliefs about what the soul is, from religion to scientific answers. However, it is a relatively unified belief that the soul is where our identity and personality reside. During the side-quest “Sacrum Profanum”, you help a monk — who has been forcefully given cybernetics — rescue another monk who is about to receive the same treatment. There is never much detail as to why they are so against cybernetic enhancements, aside from it being “against their religion”. It can be inferred that these are Buddhist monks, due to the discussion of the Pratimoksha, along with the monks' names — Bhikkhu — a name for an ordained monk within Buddhism. The Pratimoksha is a set of rules or vows a monk takes upon being ordained, and while there aren’t specific vows, it can be assumed that the Buddhists within Night City vow not to get any cybernetics. I believe that this is due to the Buddhist belief anatta — the belief that people have no true self. The addition of cybernetics to the human body could be believed to interfere with this belief due to it being unnatural.

images cyberpunk2077 missions side job losing my religion sacrum profanum cyberpunk 2077 losing my religion side job monk bhikkhu

There are a lot of different arguments surrounding the souls positioning within the body, from the heart to the brain, to even being an external manifestation. For example, Plotinus, an Egyptian philosopher, believed that the soul exists in two parts. It was theorised that the soul had to exist externally from the body, as it defines the idea of an afterlife. However, it requires a body also. Through this thought process, it can be said that no matter what happens, a cybernetically enhanced human will remain human for as long as they have a body. However, taking this theory further, Descartes, a French philosopher, believed that the soul dictated our ability to think and separated us from animals. He also believed that the soul and the body had to have some form of physical connection and dictated this to be the pineal gland, as every other structure in the brain is paired aside from it. Following this, it could be believed that there is essentially no limit to the level of cybernetics a human could implant to remain human; as long as the pineal gland remains, the soul will stay intact, and they will keep their humanity.

Scientifically, there are still no theories proving the existence of the soul, as the majority contradict our current scientific views on physics. This is due to the fact that within the current realm of physics, there is no room for the existence of anything spiritual, as it would majorly disrupt everything we currently know, yet this hasn’t stopped researchers trying to figure out if there really is anything to this idea. The closest theory to a soul within neuroscience has to do with our connectome — the unique neural pathways in which our nervous system is built. These are all unique, growing as we do, and are all affected by different emotional and physical stimuli. This could be believed to be our soul in the modern day, and within the Cyberpunk universe, our soul grows and moulds itself around us, even with the existence of cybernetics.

Relic Database CP2077

Despite all of these theories, Cyberpunk 2077 may have one singular concept which breaks down any and all of these theories: engrams. An engram is a digital copy of a person's brain and personality, yet this opens an entirely new pathway for problems. Copying a human personality into data allows these engrams to be edited, fundamentally changing the person, which would entirely change the logic of a soul.

There are so many ways in which our humanity can be seen and measured, and Cyberpunk 2077 really takes these ideas to their absolute theoretical limits. However complex and difficult these ideas may be, there are definitely a lot of ways to look at them within Night City…

Jacob Sanderson

Jacob Sanderson

Staff Writer

It's not an obsession if it counts as work...

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