I was recently surprised to find an entry on the Jason Bourne films on the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction website. These films, while exciting and extremely well made do not at first glance appear to have any identifiable science fiction aspect. They would more readily be classed as action/thriller/spy genre pieces, yet the SF Encyclopaedia asserts

Bourne now applies an expanding repertory of seemingly supernatural skills – including unarmed combat, instant memorization of any map, uncanny sense of location – to the task of keeping himself and Kreutz alive; and it becomes increasingly clear that he is not a simply a well-trained assassin but a Cyborg. Bourne is a Superman, and his trajectory will be one common to that breed: a redemptive transformation from Antihero to Hero, during the course of which successive fracturings of his amnesia will uncover new grounds both for remorse and for revenge. After much agile mayhem, The Bourne Identity climaxes in a confrontation with Conklin, who tells him he is a defective Weapon, and that he cost a nonrefundable $30,000,000 to create, a sum which, even after inflation, dwarfs the development costs of Steve Austin (Lee Majors) in The Six Million Dollar Man (1973-1978), a comparison no experienced viewer of sf film could be expected to miss.

the whole entry on the Bourne films can be read here https://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/bourne_films

It seems very strange to me that one line of dialogue can be conflated into the assigning of an SF tag to this film. The inference, especially from the sequal films in the series is that there is nothing more to Bourne and Project Treadstone except hyper trained soldiers. Additionally much has been made of the gritty/grounded approach to the filmmaking that seems very at odds with a science fictional reading of the images.

The Bourne Legacy with its characters gaining their abilities via pills and genetic enhancement can be described as having SF content (but only to a mild degree, again the emphasis would be on reinventing the spy genre) This is however explicitly different from how Bourne was trained. So how does the SF encyclopaedia come to its conclusion that Bourne is a cyborg? The entry as a whole would appear to be self contradictory as the paragraphs on the further Bourne films actually state that there is little SF content in them. Are there scripted but unfilmed scenes that indicate that Bourne is a cyborg? Cut scenes? Or is there some definition of cyborg that I am not aware of that can be applied to these films? The entry on the SF encyclopedia specifically related to Cyborgs does not mention the Bourne films and the notion that a man acting like a machine qualifies as a cyborg seems to be over reaching things. Is this a case of the SF encyclopaedia needing to better edit an entry?

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    He's not a cyborg. Operation Treadstone was creating brainwashed super-soldiers. The CIA then moved on to Operation Outcome then moved on to genetically-engineered and brainwashed super-soldiers.
    – Valorum
    Oct 11 '21 at 5:32
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    In this case they're just wrong.
    – Valorum
    Oct 11 '21 at 6:05
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    @Valorum if you want to write that up as an answer I would accept it!
    – skyjack
    Oct 11 '21 at 6:29
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    It seems to me that that paragraph (dunno if applies to the whole entry) was made more on a mocking/over-exaggerating tone rather than a serious one. It looks like a criticism on the extreme habilities the character posesses.
    – Josh Part
    Oct 11 '21 at 16:02
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    This article was written by John Clute (the '[JC]' at the end), who is famous for, amongst other things, quite creative use of language. I suspect that he is using "cyborg" in a rather expansive, verging on metaphorical, sense here, meaning something like a person enhanced beyond the limits of strictly human ability. If this is what he is doing, i think this is a poor choice in an encyclopedia. Oct 11 '21 at 17:25

No, Jason Bourne isn't a cyborg

Cyborgs are defined as having a blend of biological and artificial components. A common definition is:

a person whose physiological functioning is aided by or dependent upon a mechanical or electronic device

Can this apply to Jason Bourne?

What we know of Jason Bourne is that he was a part of Operation Treadstone.

Treadstone is known for its intensive training and conditioning regime, but not for any mechanical upgrades. Even with its retcon in The Bourne Legacy to being part of the "Beta Program", it is only known for genetic enhancement, not for using cybernetics.

Also, the cost of the program to create or train somebody does not factor into a cyborg definition. Somebody with a pacemaker can be defined as a cyborg, but a top athlete is not - no matter how much time and effort is spent training them.

So while Jason Bourne may be a super-spy or an enhanced human, he is not a "cyborg", as he has no "mechanical or electronic device" which aids him.

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    In the original film he's got an implanted tracker thing with bank details on it.
    – Valorum
    Oct 11 '21 at 10:35
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    I resisted answering because I didn't have very much by way of solid evidence to back this up, either from the films or the source novels...
    – Valorum
    Oct 11 '21 at 11:04
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    @Valorum "he has no 'mechanical or electronic device' which aids him" is key here. My call would be the tracker with banking details was "stored" in his body, it didn't enhance his healing factor, strength, intelligence, speed, balance or any other physical or mental attribute. IMHO if this makes him a cyborg then any soldier carrying shrapnel is a cyborg :) Oct 11 '21 at 11:17
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    @BinaryWorrier - lol. I was merely pointing that out as an aside. My bigger concern with this answer is simply the lack of evidencing.
    – Valorum
    Oct 11 '21 at 12:14
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    It is hard to prove a negative. Oct 11 '21 at 12:34

Yes, Jason Bourne is a cyborg.

There is a difference between a well-trained but otherwise mundane assassin and Jason Bourne. He may not have a metal skeleton, computerized brain, or glowing red eyes, but he's described as being far more capable than any baseline human. Whether that change from baseline comes from prosthetic technologies that are inside him, chemical technology that he absorbed, or social technology that was used on him, or some combination of the latter two categories doesn't really change the fact that he's not mundane.

I think the SF Encyclopaedia oversells his abilities a bit, but he does possess amazing combat skills, both with a weapon (any weapon) and unarmed, defeating other combatants with more normal training in fights where he's significantly outnumbered. He has extreme physical abilities, near or at human limits: "I can run flat out for half a mile before my hands start to shake". He does heal quickly - he's no Deadpool or Wolverine, but a few hours or days after a sprain, bruise, or gunshot he's back in fighting shape (in-story, not just because of a trope). He's extremely intelligent in multiple ways: in memory skills, scanning maps, license plates, train timetables, and other data quickly; in observational/situational awareness skills, looking at crowds and traffic and instantly recognizing what he's looking for; in linguistic skills, fluently reading and speaking many languages; in social/strategic skills, accurately predicting the actions of other people, blending into crowds, and planning his own actions. Also, he's suffering from typical cyborg mental issues; his amnesia, conditioning, training, and original mental aspects fighting it out within him as if he had rogue programming running in his brain.

Is Captain America a cyborg? Is Batman a cyborg? Or are all three just human? These characters are at or just beyond peak human levels thanks to technological efforts that enhanced them beyond their baselines. Some of these abilities may be purely training, but training can add to a person. Perhaps, by some definitions, cyborgs need permanently installed robot parts, but at least they shouldn't be considered baseline humans.

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    Most (all?) of these could be explained as just a normal human having completed a lot of training and operating at his peak (especially if you take into account typical movie handwaving of details). Also, how are "amnesia" and the like "typical cyborg mental issues"?
    – Null
    Oct 11 '21 at 18:59
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    Being peak human or enhanced or whatever doesn't automatically make someone a cyborg. The word "cyborg" is a portmanteau of "cybernetic" and "organic", implying that one must possess both qualities in order for that term to apply. Hence, even someone as powerful as Superman doesn't qualify as a cyborg, since despite the range and magnitude of his powers (vastly exceeding those of Jason Bourne), he lacks any cybernetic components. There is actually a Cyborg Superman, but he's another character entirely. Oct 11 '21 at 19:19
  • No Captain America isn’t “just human.” He was given a genetic super soldier serum that had nothing to do with cybernetic enhancement; he is also not a cyborg. Oct 12 '21 at 0:13
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    "Perhaps, by some definitions, cyborgs need permanently installed robot parts" -- I would suggest that by the definition this is what it requires. Google states (using the Oxford dictionary) the definition to be "a fictional or hypothetical person whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by mechanical elements built into the body." If you are implying that definitions exist for which this is not true then it would be helpful to cite them. Oct 12 '21 at 1:40

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