The presence of synthetic humans in today's world has become so commonplace that their mere existence is no longer questioned by the average corporate citizen. Synthetic humans, also known as replicants (short for "replicated humans"), are found in all aspects of corporate society, from the most menial of occupations (such as sanitation), to the highest levels of management (where they usually serve as personal escorts or secretaries). This distribution is impressive when one considers that the first synthetic humans appeared only within the last twenty-five years.
The term "synthetic human" is actually a bit of a misnomer, as it implies a synthetic human is made from non-organic (or non-human) parts. In truth, synthetic humans are grown from organic cultures that were originally derived from normal human cells. The difference is that they've been modified on the genetic level to produce certain desired traits or characteristics. In an effort to gloss over the similarities between natural-born humans and laboratory-created synthetic humans, the various corporations that produce such beings encourage the use of terms as "artificial human," "synthetic human," and "replicant" to reinforce the supposed "non-human" status of synthetic beings.
History of Synthetic Humans
In order to understand the origins of synthetic humans, one must first examine the nature of medical science in the late 20th Century. It was at this point in time that great advancements were being made in the field of organ transplants, artificial organs, genetic engineering, and cloning. In addition, the human genome was being mapped out and analyzed, allowing for a greater understanding of how all life worked. Armed with this knowledge, scientists were able to genetically modify certain plants and animals to produce certain desired traits (such as disease-resistant corn, for example). Researchers were also able to grow viable clones of certain animals by using cell samples taken from these same animals.
It didn't take long for these two aspects of science to be combined. Soon scientists were taking cell cultures from certain animal species, modifying their genetic structure, and growing the cultures into full-sized copies of the original. In almost all cases, the desire was to build a "better" animal, whether it be stronger, larger, hardier, or more disease resistant. Plants were altered as well, usually with the intent of producing a hardier species with a greater yield. Eventually, the genetic material from various animals was combined together in an effort to produce a new animal exhibiting aspects of different species.
All of this research had one major side effect for humanity as a whole. This was the genetic upgrade program, which involved the manipulation of the gene patterns of humans. When applied to individuals either entering or currently undergoing puberty, a genetic upgrade would rewrite the recipient's genetic structure over the course of about twelve months, resulting in an individual that was stronger, faster, and healthier than before.
The First Synthetic Humans
It is not know when a human was first cloned, although some medical historians suspect it occurred as early as the mid-1990s. This was about a decade after the first successful cloning of a mammal (a sheep) was announced, and technology capable of cloning an animal such as a sheep was more than sufficient to do the same for a human being. The first public announcement of a cloned human occurred in 2006, and was touted as a method whereby infertile mothers could bear children. However, the procedure was expensive and little-used; except by the rich, who often combined cloning technology with genetic manipulation in an attempt to produce "superior" offspring. The program had mixed results, as a cloned human takes just as much time to grow to maturity as a natural-born human.
During this time period, certain corporations were taking cloning technology one step further. Instead of growing a duplicate of a single unmodified human, these companies attempted to combine genetic material from different humans, edit out unwanted characteristics, and then grow a person "built to spec." Initially these experiments showed limited success, but even the failures served as stepping stones in the path to building a "better" human.
Despite their eventual success in designing and growing custom-made humans, the corporations behind these endeavors still faced two seemingly insurmountable problems: the speed with which one could create a custom-made human, and what practical use such a being would have.
The concept of genetically engineered humans grown to meet certain design specifications almost certainly would have remained an expensive and time-consume area of research if not for one invention: nanotechnology. Experiments with human and animal cloning, as well as advances in genetic engineering, now made it possible to create simple organisms that had no other purpose but to create specific cell structures. In a manner similar to a spider spinning a web, these "cell-factories" could be used to create a full-grown organism in a matter of weeks or months, as opposed to the normal years.
Initially, the procedure was used to mass-produce certain types of modified animals, such as fish, shellfish , and poultry. The fish and shellfish were then released into the wild, with the hopes of repopulating depleted stocks. The poultry went straight to consumer dinner tables. The initial success of these projects resulted in more ambitious attempts, such as genetically engineered pigs and cattle. Finally, it was used to grow human subjects.
The Marketing of Synthetic Humans
The Second American Civil War provided several corporations with the opportunity to introduce and market their new "synthetic humans." As the fighting had caused widespread death and destruction, the Amercan labor force had been severly depleted. Thus market was more than willing to accept a ready-made force of durable workers. These first synthetics were fairly basic models, built to be strong, durable, and simple-minded. They were also sexless and hairless, in an effort to market them as organic machines, and hide their human origins.
Public reaction was mixed, with most people shunning the newly introduced synthetic humans. The initial market, however, wasn't the general public, but other corporations and government agencies, who were in desperate need to find workers capable of performing the most menial of jobs without question. When one considers that these first replicants didn't require any form of benefits package, didn't take sick, and didn't complain about their nonexistent wages, their almost instant popularity goes unquestioned.
As the market for synthetic humans grew, there rose a new challenger: cyberdroids. An offshoot of neurochip development, cyberdroids were just as tireless, even more durable, and far stronger than the average synthetic human. And unlike synthetic humans, one could repair an damaged cyberdroid to be as good as new; while injured synthetics were rarely so lucky. Touted as the solution to a whole variety of hazardous situations—such as combat, construction, and space exploration and—cyberdroids quickly become popular with companies who regularly deal with dangerous environmental conditions.
In response to this threat on their market share, the corporations responsible for making replicants decided to try a new tack: instead of presenting them as simple organic machines, they try to make their product look more human. Work was then directed to making synthetics more interactive, and capable of a wider range of emotional responses. They were given sexes—although not the ability to reproduce—and attention was paid to such aesthetic matters as hair style, hair color, skin tone, facial features, and body types.
Since it was assumed (and rightly so) that no one wanted to buy an unattractive synthetic, care was taken to ensure that these new model synthetics were fairly attractive, unless their purpose was strictly functional (such as combat models). Marketing also meant that synthetics invariably ended up with certain idealized body-types. This also meant that synthetics quickly went from being simple multipurpose organic machines to somewhat more specialized in function.
These innovative synthetics were a huge success. Corporations were quickly to exploit these new model replicated humans as an invaluable tool for maintaining company loyalty (corporate executives soon found themselves rewarded with synthetic escorts and companions), and performing security functions (synthetic security guards didn't suffer from having a conscience, and rarely ever defected to the other side).
Synthetics in Society Today
As a manufactured product, the modern synthetic human is not even a second-class citizen. They are, for all intents and purposes, organic machines; tools that can walk and talk. They have no rights, as they are not considered individuals under the law. Killing a synthetic does not result in murder charges, but falls under the crime of destruction of property. Along the same lines, it is impossible, a least where the law is concerned, to rape a synthetic human—the worst the offender might be charged with is malicious property damage or indecent exposure.
This is not to imply that synthetic humans are treated poorly by their masters, usually the case is far from it. Synthetic humans are fairly expensive, and require the same sort of care that a human does to remain healthy and operable. It is on the emotional and legal level, however, that their care is lacking.
To the typical corporate employee, a synthetic human is just another asset, with much the same status as a highly sophisticated computer or a cyberdroid. The only major difference is that the synthetic usually gives better answers when asked a question. Corporate employees find that synthetics will respond to any request quickly and promptly, and can usually be told to do almost anything without question (synthetics are known to balk at obviously life-threatening situations). Synthetics can even be asked to perform tasks that are highly trivial or even degrading in nature without a second thought. This has lead to many synthetics to become almost invisible to corporate sensibilities, in other words, they don't exist unless the corporate employee needs them to exist. Thus, an important and sensitive business deal might be discussed with a synthetic in the room, and not a single thought are care given to what the synthetic might be overhearing.
Not all synthetics are treated so poorly, however. Some corporate officials become very attached to their replicant companions, and treat them with all the respect and dignity of a naturally-born human companion. A few have even gone so far to arrange for the freedom of their synthetics, usually to prevent the synthetic from being removed and replaced as part of some corporate program.
As synthetics are property, with no recognized rights, securing the freedom of a synthetic is difficult. The only nation on Earth who currently recognizes synthetics as individuals with personal rights and freedoms is Australia. This has resulted in Australia having a sizable population of independent replicants, most of whom participate as fully functioning members of Australian society. There they are mostly safe, provided they don't travel to other countries.
Synthetics are not universally accepted around the world. They are most common in United North America, the Republic of Texas, Australia, England, France, Germany, and Japan (although Japan has a noted preference for cyberdroids). They are tolerated as corporate assets in the Confederated States of America (although this varies by state—some states will refuse synthetics entry), the Bear Flag Republic, the Republic of Quebec, and most of Western Europe. Most of Eastern Europe, Latin America, and South America doesn't care for replicants, but as the synthetic population there is low, it usually doesn't matter. The Kingdom of Latter Day Saints refuses entry to synthetics on religious grounds, as do many Middle Eastern nations. At best, these countries will turn back a synthetic at the border, at worse the unfortunate replicant will be executed. Reactions to synthetics elsewhere depends greatly on the location. China, for example, is in the midst of a prolonged and ugly civil war, and the internal factions don't really care about synthetic humans one way or the other, except how one might be used as an exploitable resource. Hong Kong is such a polyglot of people and corporations that many synthetics are able to live freely there, escaping detection simply by staying out of the eye of police and government forces.
Types of Synthetics
Synthetic humans come in a variety of styles. Many of them have obvious secondary characteristics (such as unusual hair or skin colors, or the famous cat's ears associated with several security models) that will immediately allow one to recognize their artificial origins. Even those that don't (such as the typical escort synthetic) are usually too perfect in face and figure to pass as a normal, unmodified human. However, as genetically upgraded humans become more common, this has become a touch easier.
Note that the categories listed below are fairly broad and their is a great deal of cross over between each type of synthetic.
Combat: Technically, any synthetic with above average strength and durability is a combat model. There are, however, synthetics specifically designed for military use. They tend to be a larger than the average human, and much stronger, with great levels of physical endurance. In addition, internal modifications render then much tougher than a normal human, and they are less likely to succumb to shock from injuries. Combat synthetics tend to either be male or more commonly, sexless (abet still with a masculine look to them). Due to their design (which emphasizes following orders and completing tasks once issued) combat synthetics are some of the least likely to go rogue.
Domestic: A domestic synthetic is physically only a little stronger than the average human. Their primary purpose is to serve as a domestic (i.e. in-house) servant, so extreme physical modifications are not needed. Domestic synthetics are made in either male or female models, and are normally attractive and physically fit. They are reasonably intelligent and capable of following complex orders without making mistakes. Domestic synthetics are not known to go rogue very often It is presumed that their programming blocks, coupled with their environment works to prevent this.
Escort: An escort synthetic is usually physically identical to the average domestic—on the outside. Internally, they have certain cybernetic modifications in order to make them more durable and also capable of defending themselves and their client if needed (escorts are commonly used as secondary bodyguards). The typical escort is a touch stronger and faster than a normal human, and far more physically fit and attractive. Because of the nature of their programming, which calls for extensive emotional response capability, escorts have a greater tendency to develop an awareness of "self" and question their subservient existence than any other model.
Pleasure: A pleasure synthetic is a subset of the escort model. They have the same physical features as the escorts, but tend to lack the internal modifications. A pleasure synth is the one synthetic most likely to have physical modifications of a highly "unusual" sort (such as very odd skin colors, highly unusual hair colors and/or styles, tails, cat/fox ears, etc.). Their primary use is as a sexual companion, and their body chemistry has been modified to reflect this. As they are designed with the same sort of emotional capabilities as escort models, pleasure units also have a tendency to rebel and/or attempt to escape their status.
Security: Security synthetics are the one model that most everyone is familiar with. Designed to be have an escort model's physical features and a combat model's physical prowess, security units serve as simple "muscle" for corporations around the world. Security synthetics can be either male or female—although since the most popular two models tend to be produced as females, coloring public perception of the design. These models are fairly intelligent (and certainly not as stupid as popular opinion thinks), and known to be highly loyal to their owners, regardless of treatment. However, security models are the third most likely synthetic to go "independent."
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