We have cyborgs in the future, but we still have to deal with pop-up ads.
|As a science and technology geek, I’ve been predictably having fun seeing the near-future science fiction in Psycho-Pass. Though its totalitarian dystopia based around Sibyl feels far-fetched at times, it has done a good job keeping most of its plot elements plausibly not too far in the future. In particular, a couple things caught my eye in this episode that were actually happening today, which is why I’ve asked Overcooled to let me jump in on this post.|
|It’s good to have another science geek on board with me so we can both focus on our own particular interests and thus cover more ground. Plus, it’s fun. Never underestimate the importance in having fun! Believe me, there is plenty of joy and merriment to be had talking about this week’s slow yet revealing Psycho-Pass episode…tag team style!|
lvlln // Early in the episode, we got a proper introduction to who appears to be one of the current main villains of the series when the proud cyborg Toyohisa Senguuji was interviewed on television. His little spiel about everyone being cyborgs was interesting – I had expected him to make the traditional glasses comparison instead of bringing up the internet as expanding our brains, which is a slightly more abstract but no less valid way of making the same point. But it was his comment about waiting for immortality to be achieved that got me interested, because that was the same thing that many futurists are saying right now, such as Raymond Kurzweil, who maintains a ridiculous health regime in the hope that he live long enough to see immortality invented.
Now, Kurzweil specifically comes at this from his belief in the technological singularity. The concept of technological singularity doesn’t have a strict definition, but it’s generally regarded as the idea that sometime in the (invariably near) future, technological advancement will give rise to intelligence surpassing that of humans, meaning that everything that takes place after is inherently unpredictable, because us measly humans cannot possibly understand the thought process and logic of such a superior being. It’s a romantic thought fueled by the observation of the exponential rate of technological advancement today. Innovation isn’t just happening faster than ever before, it’s getting faster at a faster rate than ever before, so if immortality is ever in humanity’s future, it’s just around the corner, right? Unfortunately, the foundation for this belief is shaky, as it’s based on such vague concepts like “accelerating technological innovation” and ignores the details, such as the fact that there is no known path for us to achieve immortality given the state of biological science and medical engineering. In the end, technological singularity and the “era of immortality” are little more than wishful thinking wrapped up in pseudoscience.
A more obvious example of pseudoscience came in the middle of the episode with the psychologist Saiga’s cold reading of Akane. Cold reading gets romanticized a lot in fiction, with Sherlock Holmes being a particularly famous and heroic example. However, cold reading happens plenty in real life, and it is done primarily by “psychics” to con people out of their money, or magicians to entertain. Cold readers usually start by making general statements that are likely to connect to the subject in some way, then tailor their next statements based on the subject’s response (a good example on the wiki page is, “You had an accident when you were a child involving water.” This is great, because it can cover many scenarios, but if you did, say, almost drown in the pool as a kid, it can seem precisely suited to you). In this episode, we saw Saiga make some statements about Akane, such as that she’s from Chiba, she can’t swim, her parents are alive, and they’re worried about her getting a boyfriend as well as her line of work. While Akane is impressed that Saiga got so much right, these were just guesses based on observations of her speech and physical characteristics, as well as her profile based on her age and social stature, and the common knowledge that police work in general is dangerous. These are just guesses based on probability, spoken with full confidence.
Psycho-Pass being fiction, of course Saiga was spot on in all of them, but most cold readers won’t venture such specific guesses that early on unless working with many people at once, so as to increase the chance of landing a hit. Famous douche John Edward is one example of someone who does this, as he utilizes a studio audience. Some frauds have decided that even this is too risky and use “hot reading” in which they use cold reading techniques along with information about the mark gathered beforehand. One such example is faith healer Peter Popoff.
Perhaps by now it comes as no surprise to you that I’m a member of the skeptical movement. That is, I promote and believe in the idea that we should analyze all claims from a rational, evidence-based perspective. As a member of the movement, I’ve been exposed to a lot of pseudoscience and fraud (not 1st hand, thankfully!), and it was interesting to see 2 such topics presented in this show back-to-back. The activist in me wishes that Urobuchi had taken some time to criticize these things as being unscientific chicanery, but I do realize that that isn’t his responsibility. That’s why I decided that I had to get my word in here, and I hope if you weren’t thinking about these already, you are now.
Overcooled // It was only a matter of time before they brought some actual psychology into Psycho-Pass, without me purposefully looking for it with tinted goggles on. I love how Kougami continues to work his information network using not only dangerous prisoners but highly intellectual experts of clinical psychology. He’s got all kinds of contacts from different circles and I hope he continues to get an edge with these specialists. In fact, I wouldn’t mind seeing more of Saiga and hear the actual lecture he gives Akane. lvlln already explained the cold reading aspect of things, but I took a more psychology-based note from his little display since psych is one of my majors. Our professors just love to tell us about all the wonderful, everyday applications for psychology. Criminal profiling in the police force is one of those applications.
For example, they are useful for criminal interrogations where you may be dealing with mentally unstable or fragile individuals who need to be handled carefully. You need to avoid touchy subjects that will set them off and lightly tread towards topics that will get them to reveal information. Profiling is especially important for psychopaths, who are so incredibly charming and seemingly normal that they can easily get you dancing to their own tune. You have to be able to spot someone like that to know if they are flat out lying to you or not, or else you could be letting a potential murderer back out on the streets. The Dominators just spit out a number, and therefore can’t tell you what someone’s intentions are or their personality. Learning this sort of thing from Saiga is still highly applicable for Akane’s current job on the police force.
Saiga’s lectures on profiling are so deep that they make people’s hues get cloudy and cause their criminal coefficient to rise. Assuming this isn’t because tests, exams and deadlines are all very stressful, then he must really be digging deep into how the human mind works. Learning about how the mind works makes you more wary about your own cognition and maladaptive thinking patterns. The mind is a very complex thing to try and think about, and you can turn yourself into some dark, dark corners if you keep at it long enough. It’s also very easy to start diagnosing yourself with all kinds of things. More than once I’ve had profs warn us not to try and diagnose ourselves with major depression just because we’re sad one day if our goldfish dies…and that’s in a society where your mind isn’t constantly being monitored and evaluated like a piece of meat. Everyone living in the era of the Sibyl System probably becomes scared straight learning about psychology since it unearths all the bad things that can happen from just a few stray thoughts.
Yes, he even knows about your date!
I wonder if it’s just Saiga’s lectures in particular that cause such mental instability. Profiling doesn’t sound like such a depressing and life-changing subject to study. Do other courses have even greater effects? Do they just not teach things such as psychology any more for fear of stressing people out? If they still do have psychology classes, I imagine they are a little different from current ones. Not just because technology has advanced, but because there is a huge stigma on people with high criminal coefficients. There is most likely more of an emphasis on things like “stress care” and “maintaining mental health” to try and push people to stay healthy. Course curriculum may be strictly regulated to stay on more positive topics (such as the aptly named “positive psychology”, perhaps). I doubt any prof wants their course being cancelled either for being risque, so they have to be careful. I wonder if there are any other restrictions put in place to keep civilians within healthy criminal coefficient levels. No violent movies? No heavy metal? No uncensored versions of gory anime?!?!
We’re now starting to see that the measures people take to stay sane are getting drastic. Let’s not forget that people are actually dying from taking too many stress-care drugs, out of fear for the alternative of becoming too anxious. Even the police force is guilty of using Enforcers as shields. I originally thought they were there mostly to do the physically dangerous portion of the job since no one cares as much if they die – but it looks like they also serve as mental protection. It’s sad that Enforcers have to be treated as sub-class citizens just because everyone else is so desperate to keep their heads above the water. That’s just how strong the pressure to stay sane is. Strong-willed people like Akane don’t mind exposing themselves to stressful situations but more paranoid people like Ginoza will go out of their way to avoid any chance of becoming cloudy.
And then no one was surprised that I chose this picture.
I actually felt really bad for Ginoza, despite the fact that his exterior remains as icy as a glacier. He goes off on people and micromanages to the point of being anal, but he has a reason for all of it. As much as he seems to be a guy who’s all about business, his reason behind almost everything he does can be linked to something emotional. He is trying to protect Akane and himself from slipping down and becoming Enforcers. However, his fear borders on paranoia because of what happened with his father, so he’s constantly on edge and snaps at everyone. Yet another example of how the Sibyl System can actually make people more stressed. The poor guy has his father’s high criminal coefficient constantly hanging over his head, and he’s actually been ostracized for it. It blows my mind that you can discriminate against someone just for being related to someone with a high criminal coefficient. The criminal coefficient rating is already just a prediction. Saying someone might obtain a high criminal coefficient is essentially a prediction of a prediction. That’s just silly.
All in all, another great episode. We’re always given so much to chew on, even in episodes where there’s not a lot of plot progression. The introduction of cyborgs was a complete change from the focus on the Sibyl System. It was a pleasant surprise! I can only imagine what else is yet to come in terms of eerie yet absolutely intriguing sci-fi topics. That doesn’t mean I’m bored of the Sibyl System, of course. The more that’s revealed, the more this world seems to be kind of messed up in how it functions. Ideally – this system could be used for great things. Unfortunately, it’s just creating a new form of discrimination and actually causing people to fall into cautionary hues because they’re so worried about..you guessed it…their hues. Anyways, now that we’ve got a ton of background info, Shougo should be raring to have a go at Kougami. I’m curious what his criminal coefficient is. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if it’s within perfectly normal levels and he’s beat the system somehow. That would make him a truly difficult villain to catch, now, wouldn’t it? Ah, the power of charisma!
See you next week! After all, who can say no to those murderous, puppy dog eyes!?