08 December 2017

Psycho-Pass Dilemma

So a few weeks ago or so I've binge-watched the whole Psycho-Pass anime both season one and season two and I really enjoyed. Though one part of an episode from season one stuck with me. One I found particularly interesting.

But first.

What's Psycho-Pass?

Psycho-Pass is an anime that ran 2012 to 2013 its genre is Dystopia, Crime Thriller, and Cyberpunk and it plays in a futuristic society where it's actually possible to read the Psycho-Pass of people. This Psycho-Pass contains information about your psyche using stress levels and emotions. It is represented in a number as well as a color or hue going from "crystal clear" to blue down the rainbow to red followed by brown and black. The worse your psyche is the more likely you're to become a criminal. So with a Psycho-Pass of 100 you're considered a latent criminal and with a Psycho-Pass of over 300 you're considered a serious threat to society.
Anyways the story follows a young graduate that got perfect scores in all areas but decided through gut feels to become a detective at the Public Safety Bureau's Criminal Investigation Division, whose job it is to kinda hunt down latent criminals as well as to protect society from threats. To do this they use investigators or detectives to solve the situation and command the squad to solve the situation as optimal as possible. There are also people called enforcers, these are latent criminals or previous detectives, whose Psycho-Pass went over 100.
These enforcers are treated like hunting dogs, hunting the suspects or criminals down under the command of the detectives.

And If They Catch Those?

The same system that detects the Psycho-Pass of people is also used on a type of gun called Sybil's gun. The divisions of the Bureau use it to take down the suspects or criminals. The gun reads the suspects Psycho-Pass to decide on which action to take:
  • Below 100: No action is required, the gun will be locked.
  • Above 100 and below 300: Safety is unlocked, the gun will paralyze the target
  • Above 300: Safety is unlocked, the gun will shoot a projectile that eliminates the target
Alright. I think this is all you need to know about the anime for now. So before I move on to the actual part in the episode I have to go deeper into it. This means SPOILER ALARM!

Okay, I think this is not visible enough yet.


Don't tell me you haven't been warned.

Problem In The System

So in episode eleven of season one, we come to an interesting point. After the young inspector, Akane Tsunemori chases after Shogo Makishima and her friend and approaches them she tries to use the Sybil gun to read his Psycho-Pass for the gun to take the respective action. However, she quickly notices that something is off. Shogo Makishima's Psycho-Pass is below 100. Mixed in the confusion of how the Psycho-Pass is mismatched with the actions Makishima has taken and is still taking she tries to figure out a way to solve the issue. Retrying over and over again to use Sybil's gun.

Coming To The Dilemma

So after some small talk (yes, I call it small talk here, sue me xD) Makishima gives Tsunemori a test. He throws down the shotgun he was carrying and tells her that he's going to kill her friend giving her two options. Either pick up the shotgun and shoot him or stand there do nothing.

That Ain't A Dilemma The Choice Is Obvious!

You might think. But if you think the choice is obvious you're not invested into the anime or situation up to this point. The problem is. If we're living in a society that has used systems to check whether or not a person is a latent criminal or a criminal for several years we get used to it. Especially if we're born in such a world. With this system in place, anyone who actually uses guns to shoot people (with the exception of using Sybil's guns) is probably going to be considered a criminal. Oh, and don't take that lightly. In the real world, you're getting into jail for a few years and then out if they think you're safe to be around. In Psycho-Pass it's different. Once you become a latent criminal or a criminal you're marked for life. You lose your job and you're brought into a facility where you're supposed to recover. However later in the anime, we're told that it's not so easy to get cured. You're most likely going to be locked up in there spiraling down to a point where you can't recover if you haven't already reached that point.

Aha! Now We're Getting At It!

So the choice is simple. Try to use the Sybil gun. At some point his Psycho-Pass must go over 100, right? Right!?
Or use the shotgun to shoot him, saving your friend but ruining your complete life and additionally knowing you have murdered someone.

Wait, Shooting Someone With a Sybil Gun Also Kills

Yes, but there's a small difference. The gun decides how to treat the target. Not you. So you just pull the trigger. If they are dangerous it will kill them. If they are latent criminals the gun will paralyze them. I already marked the interesting parts bold: you're not directly killing or paralyzing them technically. This system also helps the carriers of the guns to keep their Psycho-Pass clean.

Familiar Dilemma

Wait a minute. Being the active killer? Being the passive killer? I know this from somewhere.
If you know this, you know it right. The Trolley Dilemma or Trolley Problem.

The Trolley Dilemma has five people stand on a railway for some reason and another person stands on the other railway. You have a switch in front of you. If you do not flip the switch the trolley will go the railway the five people stand on, killing them. If you flip the switch the trolley will kill the single person on the other railway path.

The answer is easy. Flip the switch since one person dying isn't as bad as five.

Lucky us, this isn't the end of the Trolley Problem. It goes one step further.

Second example: 

You've got a trolley again and it goes just one way: straight.
There are five people on the railway for some reason that surely die if nothing is done. However, you can move a person with more curves (trying to make it sound as politically correct as possible) onto the tracks stopping the trolley saving those five people.

The Dilemma

In both cases, you kill a person. However, by flipping the switch you kill inactively.
By pushing the person you actively kill a person.
Would you do it?

In the Psycho-Pass Dilemma, we do not compare one person to five people. Here we compare the life of a precious friend to your own life. Would you save your friend but live an empty life in pain being locked up? Or would you let your friend die and save yourself? Can't decide? Then your friend dies as well. Oh, it's timed too. You have only so much time to do it. Additionally, you have to kinda calmly goal and shoot him. So you need to be sure about your actions.

To top things.. I've already mentioned being born into this system. Now imagine you're born into this system and used to it for all the years you've lived and everyone is too. By using a normal gun instead of the Sybil gun you're basically destroying the foundation of your beliefs.

The Decision

So in the anime, Tsunemori tries her best fighting herself over what to do end up missing her target with the shotgun broken down under the dilemma of fighting a system she believes in that does not seem to be perfect.
The more interesting part is... how would you decide?

I have to say that I don't know how I would handle the situation it's hard for me to imagine my reaction to it and I sure hope this will not be the case for me.
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I'm a B.Sc. Games Engineer and I created this blog to share my ideas, theorycrafting, thoughts and whatever I'm working on or doing.