In the beginning of the dark prophetic vision of tomorrow; technology such as meta information collection, individually affordable cybernetics or biomemetic prosthesis, and significant genetic modification both before and after conception were those most laden with ethical peril. The consequences of these leaps in technology promised to impact society radically and promote deep cultural changes in the social order.
(ie. The promise of eugenics, or transhumanism, made widespread instead of merely philosophic).
Classic Cyberpunk plots often centered on conflict in agendas – between artificial intelligence, hackers, and the new money oligarchies known as megacorps. Set in the then immediate near future, Earth's population had collapsed unto – post-industrial urban centers called 'megacities'. '
High Tech / Low Life' Protagonists were outsiders, anti-heroes, outcasts, criminals, visionaries, dissenters, and misfits who lived on the edge of society in this dystopic future. The underlying aspect that applies to all of these groups is their subversive nature.
“The street finds it’s own use for things.” – William Gibson
This gets down to the low life aspect of cyberpunk and puts it into the context of the open source, maker, and DIY movements. The rate of technological development is so fast that we generate products that is obsolete soon after manufacture. These things lose their perceived value and are discarded in a sudden turnover of consumerism – occasionally this refuse is re-purposed and used in ways that its creators never imagined or intended. Like using a DVD player to test for HIV.
“Anything that can be done to a rat can be done to a human being.” – Bruce Sterling
We do terrible things to rats in the pursuit of progress, and we are not impervious to any of them. Many plots can revolve around drug effects or brain tampering that we have, in reality, already done to rats.