9 CommentsPsycho Pass / By Scamp /

Psycho Pass episode 9 – Oscar Pistorius the cyborg

I’ve noticed that the opening for Psycho Pass includes a shot of Kougami fighting another version of himself, much like the opening to Future Diary. Assuming the imagery used means the same thing, we can therefore conclude that Kougami is a time traveller. This is technically a spoiler for Future Diary, but if you were able to make sense of the plot to Future Diary, you are one of a privileged few.

If you’re going to make someone the spokesperson of future move to full cyborg bodies, I’d recommend not using this guy. His mechanical swap from blank face to smile was creepy as hell. I wonder how much of that was down to his mechanical parts and how much is because he’s just generally a creepy dude. Also, how predictable is it that Psycho Pass brought cyborgs into the plot. I’m not complaining, and the way they’re talking about the subject is indeed fascinating, but it’s part of the cyberpunk rulebook that you must have cyborgs.

Something I’ve been thinking about ever since Zero Punctuation brought it up rather tangentially in a review of Deus Ex Human Revolution is that we already augment our bodies with machinery. Isn’t that what the wheel does? We do not move that quickly, especially when required to carry heavy loads, so we have augmented ourselves with circular supports. OK we didn’t replace our actual legs with wheels, which is the sticking point. But we’ve been doing that for people who do not have what is seen as the ‘perfect body’. I’m not just talking breast implants here, where the benefits are just visual. We blast people’s eyes with lasers so their eyesight is up to scratch, and even without lasers we add machinery to their body to artificially improve their eyesight, namely glasses. It’s gotten to the point that an athlete can be disqualified from competing in professional competitions because his replacement legs are better than actual legs (yeah he was allowed in eventually but the point still stands). It hasn’t gotten to the point where athletes have started hacking off their own legs and replacing them with blades to improve their performance, but considering what else they pump into their body to gain an edge, hacking off their legs seems like a more sane option.

Psycho Pass is not moe.

Despite having seen more than my fair share of cyborg humanity stories, I’ve never seen it concentrate on the idea of trying to achieve immortality through mechanical parts. We die because our bodies fail, so we replace our bodies with entirely mechanical parts and we live forever. Except do we? Because we don’t know what exactly it is that makes us who we are. That whole idea of the ‘soul’. It comes from the belief that our personality and memories can’t really be stored inside that squishy mess of a thing we call a brain. It does, as various medical patients have proven. Getting injuries to specific parts of your brain can severely change your personality. There was a story circulating tabloids in England a while back about a big buff rugby player who got into a motorcycle accident, took a blow to his head, and when he finally woke up he started talking differently, became a gay hairdresser, dressed in skin tight white t-shirts, and generally lived up to the gay stereotype as accurately as he possibly could.

So we can accept that our personality lives in our brain and is dictated by these biological mechanics that we don’t fully understand but at least have a grasp on. But if we can replace all our other body parts with mechanical pieces, as we’re already getting the hang of with the heart and lungs and so on, could we replace our brain too? Kaiba was based around a fascinating concept that your personality and memories were something you could move from body to body, which led to a world where poor people would sell their memories of learning to play the piano to rich people, and the rich would swap bodies to whatever was in fashion at the time. Kaiba is a goddamn great show and everyone should watch it, but it also wasn’t particularly bothered with the accuracy of its science fiction. Psycho Pass was partly bringing up the point that if we could create prosthetic brains, could our personality and memories and ‘soul’ be transferred over too? If we could, would we just be robots, since all of our parts are machinery? Does that mean robots are now humans, since they’re completely indistinguishable from humans that have gone full cyborg?

Cyberpunk man. It’s deep shit.

I think I’ve worn my own brain out with this post, so I’ll just finish off by saying that Akane losing her temper was fucking awesome.

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8 Comments

  1. Posted December 8, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    The idea of immortality through mechanization is a somewhat large focus of the latter half of Texhnolyze.

    What really struck me about his whole speech was his mention that his nervous system was all that was left of him that was still human. That just filled my head with all sorts of creepy imagery of doctors extracting a brain and a whole bunch of stringy, dangly nerves from his body, carrying the slimy mass across the room, and threading all the little nerves into wire slots of a robot body and eww eww eww Anyway, the idea that that bundle of nerves was all that made him who he was is a genuinely disturbing thought. Interesting reference to Kaiba you bring up on that topic.

    That scene where Akane has had enough of Glasses-kun’s crap was really refreshing the way it was presented. She just gives him a piece of her mind and gets it off her chest in a collected, professional manner, not beating around the bush or being all exaggeratedly tsun-tsun about it.

    • Scamp
      Posted December 9, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      That’s a good point about Akane’s rant. There was definitely nothing tsun about it at all. Just a good old fashioned professional rant

  2. Moomba
    Posted December 8, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    In the end it all comes back to whether or not the soul is real and whether you choose to believe in its existence. Really, the soul as it stands today is something that people cling to in the hope that there is a continuation beyond death. If there is no soul – if as science suggests, our personalities and selves are nothing more than a pattern of electrons – then we cease to exist entirely once the body dies. The soul is a way around that.

    Whether mind transference is actually possible is probably something we’ll never actually be able to properly confirm. It would essentially mean the death of the current ‘you’ and the birth of a new identical clone of your brain patterns. This new you would, of course, believe itself entirely to be you and wouldn’t actually be able to attest to whether or not the original had died in the process. But then again, some people compare this idea with sleeping, where you essentially wake up as a slightly different person. It also depends a lot on what you consider to be the ‘self’. So who knows!

    Science can already create memories (or so scientists claimed to have discovered a couple of months ago). We can already screw with personalities through various methods. The only real mystery is the ‘soul’ if it exists at all.

    One of the things I loved about Time of Eve was that it explored humanity and robots. What really is the difference? If there’s no soul, we are already essentially nothing more than highly advanced organic machines. Even if artificially created, is a robot with sufficiently high enough intelligence and a sense of self actually any different to us?

    Also:

    Psycho Pass is not moe.

    Blasphemy!

    • I dream of Sammy
      Posted December 8, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

      It would essentially mean the death of the current ‘you’ and the birth of a new identical clone of your brain patterns.

      A meaningless distinction.

      See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_Theseus

      Even if artificially created, is a robot with sufficiently high enough intelligence and a sense of self actually any different to us?

      Although I know you’re trying to ask a much more mundane question, i have to answer: Yes, they most likely are very different. Because our higher thought patterns are still influenced by many of the more primitive brain functions which we call emotions, instincts and so on which arose through natural needs of evolving liveforms subjected to a highly competitive and deadly environment.

      An artificially created entity would not have any of those unless they were specifically designed that way, which probably isn’t easy. Of course they might still learn to emulate the appropriate responses to human behavior. But the way they reason internally could be quite alien to us.

      • Scamp
        Posted December 9, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

        I wonder if those primitive brain functions would still remain intact if we replaced our entire body would machinery. For example, there would be no need to have a sex drive if you were a cyborg, so is that completely gone?

        In my mind, the two things that make up the ‘soul’ are your personality and memories. I understand some absolute basics of how personality works in the brain, but not memory and how it is formed and stored. So I don’t know whether a copy of your brain would have the same memories. Although a body without memories seems like it would lack essentially everything that is not instinctive body movements.

  3. zleihsh
    Posted December 8, 2012 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    Those above bring up such good points of “being human”. Nice ~

    Also, yes, SCAMP, I agree w/ you, that old, cyborg man (right now, I am not sure he is a man anymore) is just creepy. Why did they have to show his disturbing smiling face again, and again? But enough of that, O.M.G Ouryou’s bone!! WOW! just wow, I really did NOT see that coming, not at all!! the sweet sweet irony – Gen-sama, I bow before your ruthless/creative genius.

  4. shytende
    Posted December 8, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I undertand why we didn’t see his face completely before…
    First the statues, then him… Psycho Pass is definitely far creepier than any horror show…
    I thought the opening was more about the fact that Akane and Kougami are more similar than they seems at first view. I’m pretty sure than tere are two Akane for a second or so at the very end of the opening…
    Akane is moe done right.
    This show is really becoming fujoshi bait…

    • Posted December 9, 2012 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      It’s no surprise that this show would become fujoshi bait, considering the artist is most famous for drawing beautiful men in Hitman Reborn.

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