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Deus Ex is a 2000 action role-playing game developed by Texas based studio Ion Storm. Set in the year 2052, Deus Ex puts players in control of agent JC Denton, a member of the United Nations Anti-Terrorist Coalition, or “UNATCO.” JC is outfitted with nanotechnological augmentations that are customized and upgraded by the player as the game progresses. In the beginning, JC is tasked with retrieving shipments of a vaccine for the catastrophic “Gray Death” virus from the rebel group known as the National Secessionist Forces. Through these missions, JC locates his missing brother Paul, a former fellow UNATCO agent. Paul explains that he has left UNATCO for the NSF after discovering that the Gray Death was artificially created and that UNATCO was merely a pawn of the world’s elite.

Upon his return to the New York UNATCO HQ, JC finds out that Paul’s 24 hour “kill switch has been activated.” He is ordered to travel to Hong Kong in order to eliminate an ally of Paul, Tracer Tong, who is skilled enough to disable his kill switch. JC and his pilot, Jock, opt to instead travel to Paul’s apartment in New York. Paul convinces JC to defect from UNATCO and help the NSF by activating a distress beacon. Player decisions during a UNATCO raid on the apartment determine whether Paul lives or dies. Regardless of Paul’s fate, JC is captured and interred in a secret prison below UNATO HQ run by the shadow “Majestic 12” organization. It is here that JC is contacted by an entity named “Daedalus” who helps JC and his brother escape to Hong Kong.

In Hong Kong, JC gets in touch with Tracer Tong and is able to shut off both he and his brother’s kill switches. Additionally, JC is able to infiltrate the corporation responsible the Gray Death virus and stop production. JC then travels to Hong Kong where he gets in touch with an organization working against MJ12, “Silhouette,” as well as Morgan Everett, a former Illuminati member who was ousted by Bob Page, leader of the Majestic 12 and the central antagonist of the game.

JC travels to Vandenberg Air Force Base and helps a group of former Area 51 scientists known as X-51 resist MJ12 forces. It is here that JC learns that Daedalus is a actually an MJ12 developed sentient AI that they lost control of. Shortly after this, Daedalus merges with an AI still controlled by Page, Icarus, and becomes the new entity Helios. Through a final confrontation, JC stops Page’s plan to merge with Helios and enact total control over the world. The player is left with one of three ending choices: destroy global telecommunications and have humanity take a step back, merge with Helios and become a benevolent and all powerful world ruler, or kill Bob Page and maintain the current world balance with the Illuminati.

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Deus Ex paints a considerably dark vision of the near future through the use of various dystopian and cyberpunk themes and elements in both plot and setting. Illuminati conspiracies, sentient AI’s, manmade plague, and advanced human enhancement technology all come together to show a world considerably less idealistic than most prominent transhumanists would certainly desire. It is less of an examination of deep philosophical questions relating to transhumanism and more of an examination of specific and realistic issues related to the introduction of transhumanist technology.

By the time of Deus Ex, Human enhancement technologies under the term “augmentations” have already advanced to the point where it is possible to enhance ability through only the use of “nanites,” or nanorobots. The contrast between the discreetly enhanced JC and the obviously and grotesquely enhanced fellow UNATCO agents Gunther Hermann and Anna Navarre brings up point largely unconsidered in discussion over transhumanist technologies: obsolescence. Gunther and Anna were voluntary test subjects for the first generation of augmentation technology, and their physical appearances starkly reflect it. In taking on the appearance of machines, they have sacrificed much of their personal lives in service of UNATCO and the greater good. Paul and JC, meanwhile, have not had their appearances altered at all. Nano-augmentation allows for simple nanite injections over painful and life-altering surgeries. Gunther and Anna resent the Dentons for not having to make the sacrifices they made. They fear that the power and relative ease of nano-augmentations will force them out of the job, like old dogs loyal to the family but abandoned due to age. It is easy to imagine parallels to this in the real world once such technology becomes available: the first generation adopters, full of fear and resentment, lashing out at and being marginalized by successive generations.

Another point which is rarely discussed but is central to an understanding of the practical spread and implementation of transhumanist technologies is that of money. Socioeconomic divide features prominently in the plot and world of Deus Ex. Not only are the rich the ones who can essentially buy immunity to the Gray Death, but they are also the ones who advance and have access to the newest human enhancement technologies. In this way, human enhancement technology and the pursuit of its advancement is shown as holding both the potential to uplift and the potential to oppress.

The dysfunctionality of Deus Ex’s 2052 can be seen as an effect of shifting human identity. While augmentations make people smarter and faster, they also unlock the potential for great misuse. Bob Page, in his menacingly augmented appearance, is most representative of this. His desire to advance and perfect nano-augmentation technology is what leads to the creation of the Gray Death and is the primary source of conflict in Deus Ex. His plan to merge with the Helios AI and become essentially a god is the ultimate transcendence and rejection of humanity. In the world of Deus Ex, the most successful, visionary, and boundary-pushing individual is also the most evil.