Wetware is slang used describe the human element of an information technology (IT) architecture.  

Wetware can be contrasted with software and hardware, two other components that affect the success or failure of an IT system. The term wetware was inspired by the fact that the human brain is composed of about 75% water.

As a noun, wetware is sometimes used as a synonym for human capital or personnel -- the programmers, developers, systems administrators, cloud and IT architects and other employees that directly affect how an IT system functions.  For example, a project manager might say “Before we can move forward with this project, we’ll need more wetware.” 

Wetware is also used as an adjective to describe something that involves human needs or activities. For example, before standardizing on an OpenStack cloud deployment schedule, a DevOps team might hold several wetware meetings to define the project’s scope and budget. Or a team member who requires additional training may be sent for a wetware upgrade. 

Because human beings are less predictable – and sometimes less reliable -- than software or hardware, the term wetware is sometimes used in a derogatory manner as a synonym for human error, as in the sentence “After examining the audit logs, we concluded the problem had to be wetware.”  The term meatware may also be used in this way.

In neuroscience, wetware is used to describe the human brain’s biologically-based information processing capabilities. The term is also used to refer to biologically-inspired computer systems.

See also: biorobotics, DNA storage


This was last updated in September 2014

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