Psycho-Pass – 09

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 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!?


We live, laugh, enjoy and strictly believe on "more the merrier". When together, we usually come up with very chatty, conversation-based episodics and interesting posts.
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14 Responses to “Psycho-Pass – 09”

  1. BlackBriar says:

    Great post, Tag Team. Ahh, finally made some time to watch this episode of Psycho-Pass. I got my hands on Pokémon Black 2 almost a week ago and have been burning through it whenever there’s nothing important going on.

    I’m admiring Akane’s character development. She’s grown from the timid rookie she was at the beginning to someone who has the nerve to start challenging her superiors concerning her views and really tore Ginoza a new one. You can see her maturity every time she comes on screen.

    Since Saiga doesn’t fully approve of all technology by living in the outdoors and the anime is based on dystopian civilization, I’m wondering if the Psycho-Pass tech is only limited in Sibyl while there are other places and people that oppose it like Makishima. Saiga probably left because he couldn’t tolerate what the Sibyl society was becoming.

    Toyohisa Senguuji was simply creepy, to the point it made my skin crawl whenever I see him, especially with that pedo looking smile. What disturbed me was him nonchalantly smoking a pipe saying that it’s made from Rikako’s bones. I knew she was sick for her methods after killing her victims but he is far worse. On the one hand, the idea of becoming a cyborg to live longer doesn’t sound so bad but on the other, you’d lose the qualities of what makes you human. Once you make the transition, you’re, in essence, no longer considered human so one who would think the research should go into making the human body stronger and longer lasting. For example, the countless scientists doing some kind of research in Index.

    Thanks to technological advancement, a few things have made possible like wireless connections and GPS. Because going back a couple years, the things we have now were considered nothing but science fiction at best. One of the things that pique my interest is seeing if they can pull of creating a machine like the Animus in the Assassin’s Creed games (which is one of the reasons I love the franchise so much) where you can unlock the genetic memories of your ancestors based on blood relation. The theory of learning natural abilities from those who came before you is pretty interesting and you’d personally know your family history.

    • lvlln says:

      Let’s keep in mind that the Animus system in Assassin’s Creed is pure fantasy, with all the science parts completely debunked. Memory and genes just don’t work that way.

      • BlackBriar says:

        Yeah, it’s wishful thinking at best. It would have been a good way to learn about your family heritage, though. Well, we can always dream.

    • Overcooled says:

      I have Pokemon White 2, but I haven’t been playing it now that I have Persona 4 Golden. I’ll get to it soon. You liking Pokemon so far?

      She’s becoming a fine policewoman. Everything she said to Ginoza was completely within her rights too.

      Well, there are ways to avoid Hue Checks since the avatar-stealing villain totally avoided them by taking a specific route whenever he left the house. You can cheat the system if you know where to go (or not go).

      Senguuji was a real creep. A bone pipe made of human bones is so NOT OKAY. It’s funny how cyborgs aren’t considered human by most, yet they still have human components. For example, if you’re gonna be a cyborg why not get like 6 tentacles out of your back so you’ll be more efficient? Or wings? Or a tail because YOU JUST CAN? Humanity is still important to us. I don’t know if I’d feel comfortable being a cyborg even though I am technically retaining everything that makes me…me. Aside from a soul, perhaps, but let’s not get into that.

      The Animus is basically using Lamarck’s theory of evolution, which has since been proven waaaayyyy off, but it’s still cool to think that if you become an assassin your kid could easily pick it up too.

      • BlackBriar says:

        Nice. So far, I’m liking the new Pokémon installment though I don’t think I would ever consider disliking it. I’ve grown up playing many of the versions and the franchise has come a long way since its release in 1995.

        She’ll make a great authority figure and she’s taken a step away from the usual female lead stereotype. Her outburst had me cheering.

        Well, with everything that comes along, there are consequences. As if receiving a slap to the face, there are always ways to get around a sophisticated system.

        It’s amazing how demented each of these villains turn out to be. The creator really has a taste for dark things. Rikako’s bones’ getting turned into pipes is saying “karma is a bitch” for her crimes but hers didn’t seem as cruel. They were, actually, but to a certain degree. In a way, being a cyborg is asking which part of them is human and which is the robot. I’m curious as to how high Makishima’s Psycho-Pass is given that he has all these lunatics in his employ.

        The theory that the Animus presents is interesting. Too bad it’s not practical. Gaining new abilities that are close to home and personally knowing a bit of history. The downside to that would be the threats of your mind unraveling from constant hallucinations in real time and your memories colliding with your ancestors, being unable to separate which belongs to whom. Similar situations that were present in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (Hallucinations) and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (Genetic memory collisions).

        • Overcooled says:

          It’s getting a bit repetitious after all this time (for me) but it’s still pretty good. I’ve been a long time Pokemon fan too.

          Haha, I wouldn’t expect any less of Urobuchi Gen. Rikako got her just desserts and I bet the cyborg will be next (…I haven’t watched the most recent episode quite yet so if that actually happens already then lol sorry). It’s like each villain always trumps the last one. If Makishima is the last one to be revealed, what will his criminal coefficient be? I want to know as well. Will it be super high, or will it be average since he’s never actually gotten his own hands dirty and doesn’t intend to?

          It would be cool! I wonder if my ancestors did anything interesting for me to learn from. If you go far back enough, there has to be something, right? I don’t know if I’d like having my past mingle with my present and screw up my mind though. Not exactly the best trade-off…

  2. lvlln says:

    Hm, the anti stress drugs makes me think of Brave New World, an obvious inspiration for Psycho-Pass (perhaps by proxy only through Equilibrium), for the government mandated drug soma, which proved to be fatal in too high a dose. And thinking of another dystopian future movie Children of Men, I’m curious if people use marijuana to reduce stress, as there is no chance of overdosing on that. In Children of Men, one of the characters dryly pointed out the hypocrisy in the government banning marijuana, but still distributing a kit for committing suicide, and perhaps the rise of the totalitarian society in Psycho-Pass involved banning recreational drugs too.

    • Overcooled says:

      I remember soma. The anti-stress drugs are a lot like soma in that they keep everyone calm, happy, obedient…and are deadly in overdose. The ones in Psycho-Pass are probably just regular depressant-type drugs where soma has a hallucinatory quality to it.

      Hmmm, never seen Children of Men. It sounds interesting though, especially the suicide kit part. Marijuana could reduce stress, but it also has some unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that are very stressful. So if you started taking it, you’d have to keep on doing it.

      I know alcohol and drugs aren’t used very often in their physical form in Psycho-Pass, but I was under the impression that they were legal if taken through government-approved doses that can be obtained through some other means. It’s not actually banned, is it?

  3. Highway says:

    I have a hard time describing this society as ‘totalitarian’, or even as dystopic as just about everyone else seems to think it is. Are there things that are anathema to the way I think as an American? Yes. But I don’t see the Sibyl system as quite as much of a yoke around the neck of the people living in this society. Do people overreact to it? Certainly, but people overreact to aspects of current society, too.

    I guess it comes down to this: Urobuchi is not convincing me that the Sibyl system, and the society it’s connected to, are as oppressive, capricious, and unfair as what I associate with a totalitarian society. People are steered by officials to professions that match up with their aptitude. What’s wrong with this? This happens in plenty of countries considered relatively ‘free’ today. Perhaps the worst part is that people’s freedoms are preemptively restricted due to being classified as latent criminals. But even then, it’s not seeming to be that oppressive: People are treated to keep them from going over the edge, and the people who do go over the edge are treated about the same as the people who go over the edge in our society. I’m guessing that the incarceration rate is probably a lot lower than the US’s shameful incarceration rate (you want an absolutely despicable system? The US drug war has contributed to almost 3% of the adult population in correctional facilities) because Akane doesn’t even know what the ‘prison’ is like, and she’s gone into that field.

    I think the thing that is most problematic for me with considering Sibyl ‘broken’ or bad is that it’s not being shown at all that it’s *wrong*. THAT was the big problem in Minority Report and in James Halperin’s The Truth Machine (which I would recommend to the people who like this show). The closest we’ve seen to it getting ‘broken’ was the guy in the robot factory who wasn’t caught by only hue checks. Primarily, it’s being evaded, much like in Blade Runner. So it’s hard for me to get on board with total condemnation of this society and the Sibyl system.

    • lvlln says:

      Scamp made the point on The Cart Driver, and I agree, that it’s very important that the Sybil system work as intended instead of being revealed to have a flaw. A flaw would be a cop-out, a way of condemning the system based on a technicality without actually condemning its principles. I loved Minority Report, but only as a high octane action thriller, not as a proper exploration of the concept of pre-crime (Gattaca does a better job of that IMHO).

      And I think whether or not the system is totalitarian is separate from whether or not it’s good or whether or not it makes everyone happy. The totalitarian nature is due to the fact that people are deprived of making choices; the fact that the choices that the system makes for the citizens are theoretically the best possible choices doesn’t enter into it. Merely losing that agency, regardless of results, is enough to classify it as totalitarian. As for dystopia, perhaps it’s not as bleak as, say, 1984, but there seems to be plenty showing how injustice pervades the society, such as the self fulfilling prophecy of a man being driven to crime in the 1st episode, as well as the rape victim becoming targeted in the same episode purely due to her heightened stress.

      • Highway says:

        I wonder how much it actually does deprive people of those freedoms tho. I don’t know if it’s been said that someone who insists on doing some vocation is prevented from doing so any more than they would be prevented now (for instance, if someone wanted to be a firefighter, and could not meet the qualifications for it now, they’re not going to be a firefighter). That still obtains in our ‘freer’ society. Just because you might want to do something doesn’t mean that someone else has to give you the opportunity to do it. We really haven’t seen anyone who has been in the pattern of “I really wanted to do X, and Sibyl prevented me from doing it.” And that makes some sense, because people don’t get attached to things that they just aren’t suited for in the first place. The most we’ve seen is that some people do things that they end up finding boring or uninteresting, but to me, those are the same kind of people who bounce around in jobs now because they can’t find what they want to do, and can’t actually make themselves become something better, even if part of them might want to.

        Now, there’s a different argument to be made whether the society is more of a fascistic or communist society, where the state is the main holder of the means of production. If that state used the Sibyl System to determine where people should work and what they should do, then it would be a tool of that ‘oppression’, but even then, it wouldn’t be that the Sibyl system is what’s totalitarian, it would be the society that is using it, which would likely do so with or without the Sibyl System.

        And regarding injustices, there will be those in any society. The closest thing to a flaw with the Sibyl System that I’ve seen is what you point out: the temporary elevation of someone’s crime coefficient caused by an immediate event making a transition between one type of enforcement and another.

        • lvlln says:

          The conversation Akane had with her friends in episode 2 indicates that the Sibyl system does directly prevent people from making choices with regards to their career.
          Of course, as you said, limitations exist now based on one’s aptitude for certain subjects, and employers are not required to offer jobs to someone, but employers still have the option of taking a chance on that person, and that person has the option of pursuing education and training in order to break into the field. That option is taken away when a central organizer deems someone unfit to serve a certain profession, and though the results may be similar, it is completely different from someone failing to get into the field due to getting rejected by multiple independently acting employers.

          Also, the injustices from the 1st episode are injustices brought about specifically because of the Sibyl system. It’s not a flaw in that society, it is that society working exactly as intended.

          • Highway says:

            That wasn’t my impression of that conversation at all, and still isn’t when I go back and look at it. If it prevented any choices, it’s because the choices they were going to make were ones that the employer was limiting them based on their scores. Again, the same as now. So yes, it has a limiting factor, but it’s one based not on discrimination by the Sibyl System, but on more ‘perfect’ information by those making the hiring and firing decisions in the marketplace of jobs (and by those looking for the job). So the fact that better information exists for screening does make a difference. It comes down to a situation where theoretical choice may be restricted, but actual choice is, for the large majority of cases, unaffected. The argument really is whether the harm to humanity’s psyche of having their theoretical choice (but really not actual choice) restricted is worth the possibly quite large gains in efficiency.

  4. Highway says:

    And not to be terribly uncaring, but in earlier posts we’ve discussed how something like the Sibyl System could come to be implemented society wide like in Psycho-Pass. The first thing I thought of when I saw the news of the two elementary school violent attacks in the last two days was “*THAT* is how a Sibyl System gets implemented.” The promise of catching people like that before events like that happen is a powerful incentive to human beings who are tremendously poor judgers of relative personal risk. On average, over 2.5 times more people will die just today due to vehicle accidents. But the specter of the random attack is a far more powerful psychological effect.

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