What is "Human" in the Ninth World?

The definition of "human" stretches pretty far in the Ninth World, but just how far? By our standards, some of the Focuses, or even some of the possible power source choices for Type would start to raise questions over whether they're still human, but here, there's no question -- a cyborg or eight-foot-tall gene-engineered super soldier who can control magnetic fields might raise a few eyebrows or face some discrimination, depending on the community, but no-one's actually going to say they're not human.

 

On the other hand, there is a limit to how far it stretches -- the fact that Mutant exists as a descriptor is evidence enough of that. Even by Ninth World standards someone can just be too different to still count as human.

 

So where's the line drawn? "Standard" Descriptors, and Types and Focuses, regardless of combination, are obviously human... but beyond that, it gets fuzzy. Is a from-scratch bioconstruct that basically looks, acts like, and is vulnerable to all the same things as a human still a human? What about an advanced intelligent machine that deliberately mimics a human as closely as possible for whatever reason, even simulating appropriate damage from poison or similar? And given that humans were completely absent on Earth for an unknown period of time, do we know for certain that any humans of the Ninth World aren't one of those or some similar option, anyway?

 

And what about strange biological traits or features? Are they still human if they don't physically age past 20? 16? 12? If, despite leading to ultimately similar function and vulnerabilities, they have drastically different internal organs from the norm? If they're capable of a form of asexual reproduction? Or same-sex reproduction?

 

Where exactly does the line end up being drawn?

Comments

  • It’s one of those circular arguments, are we motivated by social conditioning or biological instruction?

    I’d splash out and say both and add that shunning people because of a perceived threat is a trope that’s going to turn up regardless of how strangely humanity has been stuck back together (unless fear of mortality has inexplicably vanished).

    The average inhabitant isn’t going to be worrying about strange existential questions of humanity, if indeed they could even spell existential. But if your town gets repeatedly burnt down by crazy machine creatures, you and your neighbours might have a poor reaction to the person walking around with prior world tech embedded in them.

    In other words, how people react to people is going to be distinct to a region and its particular troubles, and up to the GM to arbitrate. There’s no one line in a world as weird at the Ninth, there’s lots of lines, all over the place; try not to trip.
  • I have two answers for your question.  One is that the term "human" probably wouldn't even exist on Numenera.  The book already states that days are longer and years are shorter.  It also goes on to say that terms like day, week, month, and year probably wouldn't exist in that world.  We use these terms because it's easier than explaining to your players for the fifteenth time that a quark is a day and a quid is a month.  Simple examples, I know, but it illustrates my point.  The fact is that ninth worlders probably wouldn't consider themselves as "human" and "not human".  The book makes this distinction because we live in a world with them, and the game is played by people of this world.  I have always figured that with as much genetic diversity and manipulation involved in the human DNA code at this point, it would be impossible to decide what's "human" and what's not.  It would really boil down to culture.  Even in the Steadfast, communities are isolated and technology is generally primitive.  This means that what is acceptable enough to be considered a person (A term I've taken to using in my game to help alleviate some of this confusion.) in one town is considered a mutant or worse in another.  Even people with weird mutations that look totally inhuman would be treated as people in a town where they grew up and used those powers to aid locals.  However, in the next village, he's just another dangerous mutant.  Perspective is everything in Numenera.

    The second answer I have is actually a question.  Why worry about it?  Numenera is defined as a weird world.  Why should we even attempt to apply our concepts to a world as diverse and colorful as Numenera?  In a world where transdimensional entities, unrecognizable deformed mutants, aliens, and living machines all share space with humanity would you be worried about defining such things?  In a place where even humans can become tentacle, covered in lights and metal, or suffer stranger changes, would you even classify all humans as human?  If you want to do that, you might as well say that anyone who looks like us is human, and anyone who doesn't isn't.  That's how mankind has done it up to this point, and it will probably still be doing things that way a billion years from now.
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