Science and Technology
To think that it would require thousands of sentients working around the clock to spark sentience in cold code is not as wasteful as our critics might think. Let them see the power of Edgecrusher, let them see what he is capable of. Let them see Turing fall before Edgecrusher's might, then let them critique. By creating such a creature, we shall be able to force the rest of the civilized world to submit economically to us. --Rodin Enterprises Project Edgecrusher design memo.
Technology in Cybersphere's 21st century is remorseless and ever-present. Postwar developments in cybernetics and gene manipulation have opened a Pandora's box of techologies that blur the lines between flesh and silicon. A massive, unified network criss-crosses the globe, and information flows more freely than food or wealth. Even immortality is within reach, but while mankind has made itself safer from the ravages of time and nature, it lives imprisoned in a world crowded with the most rapidly growing technologies of all: armaments and weapons of mass destruction.
Here is a brief summary of what's considered state of the art in the Cybersphere world:
Electronic miniaturization and the use of tailored anti-rejection drugs has made cybertechnology the fastest growing field in the 21st century. Skeletal, dermal, muscle, and even neural modifications are now outpatient procedures. Cyberware ranges from simple grafts of vat-grown tissue to implanted weapons and chip-driven memory enhancers.
Cloning is commonplace and has become frighteningly cheap since its development in the late 20th century. Public clone services were introduced during the postwar reconstruction era as a method to boost population and create cheap labor. Strictly enforced Clone Laws prevent the activation or storage of more than one copy of clone DNA at any given time. Imperfections in the cloning process manifest themselves as clone failures from time to time, resulting in the regeneration of crippled and barely viable clones.
The heavily networked future makes a connectivity a vital staple of any urban lifestyle. Commware miniaturizes network and messaging technology into a convenient, capable package. Commware is designed with the casual user in mind; most units cause only minimal psychological side-effects.
The earliest and most prolific example of advances in communications technology is COMmunications imPLANT (or 'Complant'). After the dust of global annihilation and war settled, the rush to re-unite the survivors through communications brought old style technology in a new form, an implant that every person is given upon becoming a recognised inhabitant of any major city on the planet. The complant provides basic text messaging, voice call, and bulletin board lookup systems. It is a low latency, low bandwidth (per person) system that is free to use. More recent functionality has been added through inter-corporate co-operation providing users to the facilities to wireless handle financial transactions between complant users.
Cro-Mags and Drones
These offshoots of cloning technology are mass-produced by corporations from fragmented human DNA. Cromags are semi-intelligent consumers engineered as test audiences and experimental subjects. Drones are vat-grown humanoids molded around a cybernetic chassis, and often are highly specialized for hazardous work or combat. Experiments with fully recombinant DNA to create animal-human hybrids have proven unpredictable and impractical. Such horrors have been created by the accidents of radiation mutation, however.
The development of a worldwide/orbital computer network (called the matrix) has advanced since the 1990's and continues into Cybersphere's present-day. Integration of the matrix into everyday life has made swift reconstruction after the War possible. The price of this, however, has been the destruction of personal privacy and dependance on the corporate sponsors of cyberspace. Direct brain-to-computer interfaces are standard, but the masses cling to less confusing and taxing keyboard or VR interfaces. This has given rise to an elite class of "deckers" who use DNI (direct neural interfaces).
AI (Artificial Intelligence)
The birthdate and identity of cyberspace's first artificially intelligent (self aware) program remains a highly disputed mystery. AI's are commonplace in Cybersphere's future, both as engineered tools and as mysterious accidents of primordial code in the vastness of the matrix. Most AI's perform mundane, automated tasks, such as the optimization and control of municipal utilities, or the analysis of stock markets. AI's are strictly regulated by the worldwide Turing Commission.
This science is still in its infancy, but the use of molecule-sized machines and tailored chemicals shows much promise. Self-replicating buildings, microscopic computers, and hunter-killer viruses are currently being developed. Nanotech assembly facilities are large and expensive, and are mostly restricted to offworld satellites and remote islands in order to minimize contamination dangers.
Hand weapons, small arms and light weapons
Simple tools suffice in wasteland camps or nomad zones, while Yakuza traditions encourage the use of katanas and other antique weapons in some circles. Handguns and military surplus assault rifles are relatively cheap and common, as is standard ammunition. Missile launchers and single user, portable recoilless rifles are only slightly less common, but are still the go-to anti-vehicle and anti-tank weaponry of our time. Almost 90% of milspec weapons "on the street" are over 50 years old, and have been raided from the ruins of war stockpiles during the aftermath of WWIII. Newly developed corporate technology is rare and highly prized.
Development of tanks, aircraft, and other large-scale weapons has continued after the War, but is now the arena of only a few specialized corporate cartels. Most war machinery in use is prewar surplus. Conflict in the 21st century is restricted to small corporate raids or border skirmishes. The renewed use of nuclear or biological weapons continues to be regarded as insanity, at least by those possessing the means to use them.
Lasers and railguns
As weapons, lasers continue to be limited by the need for huge power supplies. Laser weapons exist only as large platforms in orbit or aboard ships. The same restrictions have prevented railguns from becoming widely deployed. Experimental field testing of portable laser and railgun systems has been abandoned because of prohibitive costs and radiation issues.
Conversion of old gas-burning vehicles to CNG (compressed natural gas) and alcohol-based alternatives is very common. For the corporate elite, newer technology is available. The aerodyne (or AV) is a cross between a jet, hovercraft, and helicopter that provides immense utility and is the standard means of short range air transport and combat. Hypersonic jetliners called Deltas provide limited service between cities and orbital stations.
Hundreds of robotic assembly facilities and factories crowd low Earth orbit. Only a few densely populated habitats and colonies have been built, and most are corporate compounds or offworld spas for the privelaged. Illegal settlement and squatter colonies in half-constructed or abandoned habitats (many built but abandoned during WWIII) is an ongoing nuisance. Colonization of other planets has been restricted to robots and automated facilities due to the long travel times and expenses involved.