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"PAIs tend to be able to present more natural user interfaces than the expert systems they compete with, tending to be at least vaguely self-aware, and much more responsive to and on emotional levels. In particular, niche market and custom built models are limited only by legislation requiring that entities surpassing a specified set of standardized metrics cannot be considered property, and must be registered as either custom children or custom dependent employees. While the difference is clear for low end models, standards aside, most will agree that the line between a high end PAI and a designer cyborg human is exceptionally blurry."

Wetware refers to a biological system and typically refers to the human brain and nervous system. It can also come to mean bacterial computers and organic based processing agents.

In speculative fiction settings, particularly those where true artificial intelligence either does not exist or is shunned, it is sometimes the case that the brains of living beings, sapient or not, will be incorporated into machines and used for processing or command and control purposes. It varies whether the rest of bodies are retained. Related to Brain In a Jar and Man in the Machine. See also Human Resources. Compare Brain Uploading and Brain-Computer Interface. Contrast Wetware Body.

Examples of Wetware CPU include:


Anime and Manga

  • Neon Genesis Evangelion features the Magi, biocomputers whose wetware are modeled after three aspects (as a scientist, as a mother, and as a woman) of their creator Naoko Akagi. The Evas themselves are almost totally wetware.
    • Magi even has a lot of brains inside it, although this was never explained on screen.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann has Lord Genome's head sealed within a tube and plugged to the computers.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex episode 2 "Proof of Recklessness: TESTATION" had a dead man's cyberbrain wired into a HAW 206 Tachikoma-style tank. The tank goes berserk, and Section 9 must stop it.
    • The CEO of an organ-cloning facility ended up choosing to keep his brain stored in a miniature, boxy robot rather than moving to a humanoid chassis.
    • An AI-controlled Tachikoma faked having a real brain inside his chassis to distract police from the child they were questioning.
    • To some degree, full-body replacement cyborgs meet this. The only thing that remains of their body is a brain inside a human-shaped chassis. As mentioned by Batou at one point, the bodies they use are largely impersonal objects. He advised the female Major that she should upgrade to a male chassis for improved strength.
  • The Artificial Human "Fatimas" of The Five Star Stories are created to serve as living computers for the Humongous Mecha known as Mortar Headds, so their Super Soldier "Headdliner" partners can focus on controlling the mechs' movements & not wory about other stuff like its power supply or balancing.
  • The Zentradi Mobile Fortresses of Macross are each commanded by an ancient Supreme Commander who is integrally fused to the ship.
  • In Outlaw Star Melfina serves as the navigation system of the titular ship. Fortunately she has considerably more freedom then most wetware CPU's and can disconnect from the ship when it isn't in flight.
  • In Gundam Unicorn, some characters theorise that the NT-D uses a combination of the psychoframe and the pilot as a living (and highly efficient) battlefield processor. It works extremely well, but appears to verge a little too close to Ax Crazy at times.

Comic Books

Film

  • Film example that did not come to pass: The original proposal for The Matrix had the machines keep humans in the matrix in order for their brains to act as a great neural network. (Without taking the brains out of their bodies, note: the rest of the film would have been the same as what we got.) This of course makes far more sense than the physics-defying "power generation" explanation given in the completed film, but it was apparently changed because the studio thought the original reason would be too hard to understand.
    • This explanation for the Matrix survives (in the form of a passing mention) in the Neil Gaiman short story "Goliath," written to promote the movie.
    • Some fans just still pretend that this is in fact the case and that the humans only got a simplified understanding of the situation due to their limited access to information about the machines. In other words, the reverse of Fanon Discontinuity.
  • Hector the cyborg in Saturn 3. Three brains were stacked in a tube full of bubbling water.
  • While not exactly central to the plot, this imagery is used in Rock and Rule when showing the computer Mok is using to calculate the summoning of a Cosmic Horror. Then again, perhaps the fact that we're shown its partially-organic nature at the same time as it deceives him into believing that the summoning is irreversible isn't a coincidence at all...
  • RoboCop was made specifically to compete with the ED-209, which was fully robotic. The human element of Robocop would allow him to have better judgment. It is successful because the ED-209's AI proves to be... faulty.
    • The faulty programming may have been a problem but many people cant help but wonder who gives live ammunition to a robot during a product demonstration.
  • The aliens from Skyline want human brains for this reason, as far as we can tell.

Literature

  • The 1960 story The Lady Who Sailed the Soul by Cordwainer Smith is possibly the Trope Maker here.
  • Mr. Ng from Snow Crash.
  • "The Silicon Mage" by Barbara Hambly. Written in 1988, and using floppy discs(!) Evil mage avoids death by processing other humans, then switches to a computer, in another universe.
  • In The Ship Who Sang, handicapped children are placed in titanium life-support capsules and trained as human computers for starships.
  • The Wild Cards novel Double Solitaire has Dr. Tachyon's Axe Crazy grandson (in a stolen body) turned over to the Network to become the lobotomized organic processor for a mining machine, in order to to pay off the debts of the guy whose body he swiped.
  • Some of the Berserker stories of Fred Saberhagen had the killing machines attempt to use organic brains to introduce more fuzzy logic into their tactical computers.
  • In the Nightside series, the Collector is served by a small army of robots built with Catgirl features and directed by living cat brains.
  • Conjoiner drives in the Revelation Space universe by Alastair Reynolds always contain a Conjoiner brain, who controls the reaction. Another Conjoiner who almost became one likens the experience to spending your life playing a challenging video game. However, the Conjoiners keep it quiet because they expect other humans to react badly.
  • In Dean Koontz ' Frankenstein tetralogy, Evilutionary Biologist Victor Helios uses one as a secretary named Annunciata. Annunciata finds the experience insanity-inducingly horrific, but is prevented by her programming from defying Victor in any way.
  • M. John Harrison's Light features K-ships, each one a heavily armed starship built around alien technology interfaced with a cybernetically altered human in an amniotic vat. The process of conversion is permanent and more than a little nightmarish, and most of its recipients are children or young teenagers.
  • The space-faring slavers from Vernor Vinges Tatja Grimm's World kidnap people, remove their brains and then fit them to a computer that suppresses their personality without totally trashing their intellect, to form a useful Wetware CPU.
  • The head of Gerald Metaclura is the main computer of the Generation Ship in Mayflies by Kevin O'Donnell.
  • From Otherland, the Other itself is an example, being literally the brain of a telepathic human infant jacked into a computer and used as its operating system. Further, additional unborn fetal brains were harvested and stuffed in there with it to give it additional "capacity". Naturally, it's half-insane from the cruelty and deprivation of its existence, and seeks a way to turn against its masters.
  • So many examples and yet no one has mentioned the Guild Navigators / Guild Steersmen from Dune. Their title is kind of a dead giveaway.
    • From the Orange Catholic Bible: "Thou shalt not make a machine in the image of a human mind". Leading to mentats, which are essentially humans trained to think like supercomputers. Even Paul has similar conditioning.
    • Additionally, one could mention the Titans of the Dune prequils, which are essentially preserved brains in warmech cases.
    • This is also the reason that spice is so incredibly valuable. The Corrino empire could probably survive without its Spice addicted nobles, but the substance is vital to the transformation of normal human beings into Navigators and their maintenance. It becomes less so during the Scattering, when machines are developed that replace Navigators.
    • In Frank Herbert's Destination:Void, the Voidships are also guided by an OMC - Organic Mental Core (Herbert did despise euphemisms for crimes against humanity, but he could churn them out with the best of them).
  • Larry Niven's Known Space short story "Becalmed in Hell" has the brain jar of Eric Donovan, who was mortally wounded in an accident, installed in a spaceship designed to explore Venus.
  • The Science Fiction young reader Soviet novel Экспедиция в преисподнюю ("Expedition into the Underworld"), written by the Strugatsky Brothers under a pseudonym, features these. An evil capitalist businessman uses thousands of these aboard of his ship.
  • In William Shatner's Quest For Tomorrow books, Jim Endicott's biological mother develops a way to link human minds to create the most powerful computer in the galaxy. Her partner (and lover) only known as Delta usurps the technology and uses it to gain power for himself and influence for Earth (by offering to solve any problem the aliens have). Unfortunately, the process of running calculations is not perfect. Every time it is used, thousands of people inexplicably go insane, raping and killing anything around them. Publically, this "madness" is blamed on drugs. However, it turns out that Jim's mother later perfected the process and encoded the information in Jim's DNA (or did she?). This new process has no unpleasant side-effects but requires that the subjects be consciously aware of it and be willing.
    • Just to illustrate how powerful this "computer" is, the novels have a small fleet of human warships defeat an armada of much more advanced alien ships by taking complete control of the ships and using near-perfect tactics.
  • In the 'Biofab War' space opera series by Stephen Ames Berry, written back in the 80s, one of the most feared fates that can befall a person is to be 'brainstripped', to have their brain forcibly used as a CPU for the control system of enormous space battleships called 'mindslavers'.
  • In There and Back Again by Pat Murphy, this is the Resurrectionists' hat. They only do it to clones (and unintelligent animals) for ethical reasons; that doesn't much help the protagonists, however, as nearly all of them are clones of each other...
  • In the universe of the Hyperion Cantos, this is one of several ways to attain AI, through the creation of artificial brains and DNA-based computers (other AIs had created the TechnoCore). Many of these control spacecraft, including The Consul's yacht (that particular AI also has a sense of humor, providing much comic relief). It is also revealed that the TechnoCore uses the processing power of every single person plugged into the Internet for their calculations. And then it gets worse...
  • A large number of Philip K. Dick novella use this trope. Often to Mind Screw extremes. And often inverted to further the Mind Screw and gaslight his readers into a state of dissociative fugue. Have fun doubting your sanity.
  • In The Dream of Perpetual Motion this is what is implied to happen to Miranda.
  • In Asimov's short story The Monkey's Finger, a capuchin monkey has his brain surgically altered to turn it into a computer capable of generating stories and books of the highest literary quality. The story deals far less with the bioethical and technological implications than how it will affect writers.

Live Action TV

  • Doctor Who
    • "The Girl in the Fireplace" had this as the Monsters of the Week's aim with the titular girl.
    • In "Bad Wolf", the Daleks use one to control the operations of Satellite Five.
    • There's another Dalek-aligned one in the classic series serial "Remembrance of the Daleks".
    • The Daleks themselves are basically squid-like aliens from the planet Skaro who are permanently encased in a virtually indestructible R2-unit.
    • In the classic series, it's implied the Logopolitans interface much more intimately and directly with their computers. They also have gigantic brains protruding from the back of their heads.
    • Parodied in the New Adventures novel SLEEPY, where the Mad Scientist who has built a telepathic AI insists that neural nets are completely unnecessary. Apparently one of his rivals tried to create an intelligent computer by hooking a cat's brain to a mainframe, and got "a computer that wants to play with string and sit on your newspaper".
    • The Cybermen:

 The Doctor: It's a human brain jammed inside a cybernetic body, with a heart of steel.

    • The people in "The Long Game" have ports in their heads to input information and process it. Adam, a temporary companion, gets one himself, which is why The Doctor throws him out of the TARDIS.
    • "The Talons of Weng Chiang" gives us the Peking Homunculus, which is powered by the brain of a pig. A particularly vicious pig.
  • The much-reviled episode "Spock's Brain" of Star Trek: The Original Series.
    • Enterprise had a space station that stole brains to keep itself running.
    • Star Trek: Voyager has neural gel-packs to assist in certain computer functions that require that organic touch.
  • In Andromeda the Consensus of Parts used human neural matter to satisfy the requirement for organic intuition to navigate the Slipstream.
  • In Babylon 5, the Shadow starships all used captured lesser races members as pilots fused with the hull.
  • Lexx's 790-model cyborgs consist of robotic heads attached to the decapitated bodies of executed convicts. A small cube of human brain tissue is used to give the drone its higher functions, such as the capacity for a (rudimentary) personality.
  • In Dollhouse people sent to "the Attic" have their brains networked to make Rossum's supercomputer.
  • The Cyberax arc of Bugs was basically The Matrix, only without the need for it as the wetware is clinically dead.
  • In the new Battlestar Galactica, the Cylons' ships-- or at least their FTL drives -- are controlled by "hybrids," human-looking women who lie in a tub full of goo hooked up to cables that look a lot like the ones in The Matrix; Razor establishes that they were created by experiments involving vivisected humans. The hybrid constantly babbles a stream of partly-technical, partly-prophetic-sounding, partly-nonsense words, but doesn't seem conscious in any real sense most of the time. When the Cylons give the order to make an FTL jump, the hybrid gasps "Jump" orgasmically as the ship does so. When such an order is about to be given at a very significant moment:

 Hybrid (crying out in apparent pain): Mists of dreams drip along the nascent echo and love no more. End of line.

Number Five: The Hybrid objects.

Number Three: She doesn't get a vote. Jump the ship.

Hybrid: Jump!

  • The Borg Queen in Star Trek is one of these; not merely an ambassador like Locutus but a being that functions as the hub of the collective consciousness.
  • Walter can step inside Automan and temporarily fuse with him.
  • Pilot from Farscape is symbiotically joined to Moya a leviathan. While Pilot controls the crew's life support systems and pilots the ship, Moya is capable of moving on her own and can disregard Pilot's instructions if she has to.
  • This, crossed with And I Must Scream, was the ultimate fate of Wade in Sliders.
  • Moloch, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who was a demon whose essence was put first into the Internet and then into a robot body.
  • In Total Recall 2070, Alpha-class androids (still on the prototype stage) use cultivated neurons. Alpha technology is not yet fully understood, as android inspector Farve experienced weird "connections" with people under an Alpha Mind Control implant.

Tabletop Games

  • Used extensively in Warhammer 40000, in which non-sentient servitors (robots with human brains for CPU) are very common. Also, some ship captains are permanently wired into their vessels, and in the novel Storm of Iron, there is a tech-priest who has discarded everything but his brain and wired himself into the main computer in the facility he commands. The Space Marine Dreadnoughts, fighting machines piloted by mortally wounded super soldiers permanently encased in a life support sarcophagus might also count.
    • Indeed, this is compulsory for the Imperium - any significant levels of AI are explicitly forbidden, due to a Robot War sometime in the 20 or 30,000s. The most intelligent solely artificial machines in common human use are the Land Raider tanks used by the Space Marines. Anything over that has either a human operator, or a human brain.
    • In the Horus Heresy novel The first heretic, a marine explains to a civilian why they're attacking a planet that has robots: According to him, "mineral" intelligences always have thought patterns incompatible with organic ones, which inevitably leads to rebellion.
  • The Gamma World Tabletop RPG had Think Tanks, which were human brains connected to computer systems.
  • In Deadlands: Hell on Earth, automata are machines with zombie brains (controlled by a demon) wired in as the CPU. Cyborgs are Harrowed (ensouled undead), some of whom go so far as the Brain In a Jar route.
  • The Mi-Go in Cthulhu Tech use human brains like this. The consciousnesses inside them still function however, and are allowed to form social networks so as to remain sane and productive. You just know this'll come back to bite those aliens in their collectively non-existent ass someday.

Toys

  • The various biomechanical races of the Matoran world in Bionicle all have some organic parts, but we don't know if the brain is one of them. The Bohrok, though, play this dead straight, being robotic drones "driven" by organic Krana parasites.

Video Games

  • Starcraft has the Protoss Dragoons and Immortals - the broken bodies and brains of half-dead soldiers, wired into walking tanks so that they can continue to fight.
    • These are directly inspired by the previously mentioned Space Marine Dreadnoughts.
    • The Adjutant was one originally. Female human, head connected to various wires and bits of machinery, presumably to aid in briefing the player in missions. It has been retconned to be entirely robotic, probably to make the "good guys" less squicky.
  • In Homeworld, the mothership would have needed an unworkably large bridge crew to handle all command and control tasks, and they could not make an AI to deal with them. Neuroscientist Karen S'jet came up with a plan to use a brain for the task and volunteered to be fitted into the ship.
    • She reprises her role in Homeworld 2 in the new mothership The Pride of Hiigara a century years later. Obviously, Hiigarans live a lot longer than humans.
      • It's mentioned in the Backstory that Karen's interactions with the Core in the first game changed her, including extending her lifespan.
  • In Half-Life 2, the Striders actually have organic brains, which the player gets to see when Dog rips one out in a scene in Episode 2. Probably the same goes for other Synths used by the Combine.
  • Prey has a similar premise.
  • Sansha's Nation drones in Eve Online are controlled by humans brainwashed and cyberneticaly-altered for that purpose.
  • The Aurora Units from Metroid Prime 3. Unfortunately, being part biological leaves them wide open to Phazon...
    • Not to mention Mother Brain.
    • Metroid Fusion has a security drone that has an organic CPU, which allows it to become infected by X parasites.
  • In Vega Strike 'Verse "Pseudo-AI" is used for most tasks where a "true" AI would be too expensive and a simple computer isn't creative enough. PAI Wetware is one of legal goods, a thousand times or so cheaper than AI cores. The Rlaan as proponents of Organic Technology carry it further and creep out the humans by equipping armed drones with pet brains.
  • The Strogg from Quake couple their computers with organic beings, including a factory that mashes humans into Stroyent that has a creature's digestive system working as part of it and a gigantic brain with cybernetic implants in it as their main communication system processor. They're also fond of "Stroggifying" enemies in a method more brutal than the Borg, implanting cybernetics via surgery without any anesthetic whatsoever.
  • CABAL the evil supercomputer from Command and Conquer apparently is the "Computer Assisted Biologically Augmented Lifeform"; it draws some processing power from human beings. At the end of Firestorm CABAL is apparently keeping Kane alive.
    • More specifically, the Biological Augmentation appears to consist of a roomful of Kane clones all hooked together. At the line "Our directives must be reassessed," the individual Kane appears to have merged with CABAL.
  • At the end of Deus Ex, you are given the choice of merging your character's consciousness with an AI called Helios. The sequel shows that this was the canon choice.
    • One ending of the sequel involves this happening to Everyone.
    • In Deus Ex Human Revolution, the fact that Panchaea required this of three women (who are obviously still conscious of their fate when you find them) was one of the factors involved in Hugh Darrow's Sanity Slippage.
      • And in "The Missing Link" DLC you witness the horrific process involved in creating them.
  • The Biodrones from X-COM: Terror from the Deep look an awful lot like brains mounted in flying saucers. They are. Human brains, literally butchered into obedience, and fitted with a sonic weapon where their voice box used to be so they can scream their targets to death.
  • In the various Fallout games there are "Robobrains", basically a brain in a jar connected to a robot body. From their voices in Fallout 3, it seems only women's brains are used.
    • Some of the in-game characters claim that monkey/ape brains were supposedly used (unlikely considering the brain is too small for that). Others, that criminals were utilized as human resources. One way or the other, chances are the brain has only been reprogrammed to sound like a woman, so yeah...
    • And then the Player Character meets some jars in Fallout: Tactics... and may join them.
      • Apparently, the designers of the Vaults figured that a pornstar's brain is a good choice to run a computer.
    • Mr. House in Fallout: New Vegas essentially turned himself into this, to make himself effectively immortal.
      • And then there are the Think Tanks of Old World Blues, robots powered by the brains of Mad Scientists so that said scientists can do experiments After the End.
  • Joker expresses this fear regarding giving control of the Normandy to EDI in Mass Effect 2:

 "See, this is where it starts, and when we're all just organic batteries, guess who they'll blame? 'This is all Joker's fault! What a tool he was! I have to spend all day computing pi because he plugged in the overlord!'"

Web Original

  • In Ilivais X, the Phonos Weapons (which include the titular mech) are supposed to use their pilots like this. While they CAN be used with motion control, they tend to be controlled via mind synchronization. The four pilots are altered to be fragile, intelligent, and highly emotionally derailed, because the intent is that they stay in their unit until they are destroyed (which, given their effective regeneration and the pilots' immortality, may well never happen), turning into sentient processors for their machines.
  • SCP-763
  • Common in Orions Arm, though the prevailing idea is that wetware can only get you past the second singularity or so. The lums of the Red Star 'M'Pire went and disproved that by creating the Silk God, a completely organic archailect possibly of the fourth toposophic. However, being the size of a solar system, it's still a lot less efficient than diamondoid-based inorganic fourth-toposophic 'J-nodes', which are only as big as large gas giants.

Web Comics

  • Narbonic had an arc called "Professor Madblood and the Wetware Interface, in which Madblood used Dave's brain to power a giant robot.
  • Carbon computers in Among the Chosen are carried by female, transhuman hosts by means of artificial pregnancy. It is not clear whether the computers have a personality of their own or is an extenuation of their host.
  • In Sequential Art Quinten R&D has four "organic processors". Unusual in that they aren't Brain In a Jar type, but squirrel girls with radio-implants linking them into Hive Mind called "Think Tank".
    • Also, rather than being part of the computer itself, they're here to audit it.
  • In Axe Cop, Wolver Man's cyborg pet Iron Spider Cannon is driven by a mouse brain wired into its circuits.
  • The ψiioniic, Sollux's ancestor in Homestuck, ended up becoming something like this. Thanks to his powerful telekinetic abilities, he was enslaved by Her Imperious Condescension and harnessed as the living battery for her flagship. It's unclear how much consciousness or control he has left in this state, but since the rest of the ship appears inorganic this trope still applies.

Western Animation

  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Welcome to the Chum Bucket", when SpongeBob refuses to work for Plankton after Krabs lost his contract in a poker game, Plankton puts his brain in a robot chef. Funny how he didn't consider that a robot with SpongeBob's brain would be just as stubborn as SpongeBob.
  • The Heads in Jars of Futurama interface fairly well with robotics when plot demands.
    • This includes Richard Nixon's head borrowing Bender's body to get elected, and in the first 'movie,' Hermes (who had been decapitated) controls the entire Earth fleet, using his Super Bureaucracy Skills, for a Theme Song-Boosted CMOA.
  • In Phantom 2040, Maxwell Madison was murdered only to have his memories downloaded into a computer, to which his wife uses/abuses to resurrect him in the body of several a biot (over time). Most attempt to commit "suicide" than stay with the psychotic woman, however.
  • The Jonny Quest the Real Adventures episode "DNA Doomsday" involved an organic supercomputer that was built from the DNA up to be a perfect data processing system. When a simulation is run to test the system, a serious error caused the organism to go on a rampage and try to test the simulation in real life. The simulation? Is it possible to destroy the military base that the computer was being built in.
  • In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2003, after being severely injured for his failures, Baxter Stockman goes through a series of mechanical bodies, losing more and more of his real body at each step.
    • Also played with during the first Fast Forward season of the series, the turtles find the journal that Cody Jones had used to learn about them. Once the temptation to read it becomes too great, they read a series of entries centered around each of the turtles. Donatello's entry (much to his horror) states that, after an accident in deep space, his brain is placed into a robot known as the Serling unit. Fortunately for the turtles, it turned out the journal they were reading was a fake prepared by Splinter and Cody when they knew the turtles couldn't resist reading it.

Real Life

  • Hybrots are robots with partially organic CPUs made by spreading rat neurons suspended in a nutrient solution on a computer chip. They've only lived a few weeks to a couple months so far, though with better life-support they could live up to two years.
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