Deus Ex Human Revolution: An Argument against Augmentation

Considering that the question “How prevalent should augmentation technology be within our society?” is one of the key components of the setting of DE: Human Revolution, the “anti-augmentation” factions within the game do a surprisingly poor job of arguing against it.

The main supporters of either a ban or significant restrictions upon augmentation technology are the lobby group “Humanity Front” and the terrorist organisation “Purity First.” As you might have gathered from their names, their key objection to augmentation technology is more (pseudo)-religious and moralistic than anything else. That the “purity” of the human body is inherently good is taken as axiomatic in most of their arguments, particularly those of Purity First. Even amongst the more articulate Humanity Front the arguments tend to be against the negative side effects of augmentation, rather than why successful augmentation is itself a bad thing. I never found these arguments to be very compelling- a situation exacerbated by the ludo-narrative dissonance the game presents at times; and yet there is at least one much more powerful argument in favour of heavily regulating and restricting augmentation technology (as usual, there are serious spoilers after this point).

Our first argument against augmentation starts not with the question “What if it fails/has unforeseen side effects?” but rather “What if this technology is successful? What impact will this have upon society?” In the context of modern Western free-market democracies the answer is unsettling: it will entrench and exacerbate economic inequality like never before. The moral justification for free-market capitalism has always relied upon the assumption that the playing field is more-or-less a level one; that a perfect market will maximise competition and therefore reward optimal behaviour/traits in an essentially meritocratic way. Whilst the availability of education and inheritance can both distort the “level playing-field” in this system, it clearly pales in comparison to the effects of augmentation in DE:HR, as Jensen discovers in one of the side quests (https://youtu.be/XleGcKfgN4M?t=452).

There are other arguments against augmentation as well. Consider the fact that most large scale augmentations (limb replacements, mostly) can amount to arming the augmented individual in question- nothing so dramatic as the Typhoon augmentation (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jrm3kM8-9Lo), but far more of a problem for governments given that it’s rather unreasonable to disarm someone if the potential weapon is their actual arm. Then there’s the impact on health policy: to put it simply, widespread and successful adoption of heavy augmentation would inevitably stunt research into competing treatments for many ailments(through a lack of demand if nothing else), which would enormously impact those who were unable to be augmented (such as the inventor of the technology, Hugh Darrow).

All in all, I don’t think any of these arguments would make me reject augmentation technology outright. They would however make me cautious enough to demand oversight and regulation, and able to understand the viewpoint of those opposed to the augmentation. This is unlike the arguments presented in the game, which are no competition whatsoever for the lure of technology such as the Icarus Landing System.

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