From a New Oppression: Winter 2013

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I feel the story of Psycho-Pass is a key to unlock a certain understanding from From the New World. I guess in order to talk about it, there will have to be some spoilers.

There are some key elements in Shinsekai Yori that keeps it beautiful–like this ever-present human darkness. It’s like every given life that is born to society, society plays Russian roulette with statistical odds in the production of a monster. The monsters in Shinsekai Yori are world-destroyers in the most literal sense. A character refers to it as a nuclear bomb, and I think most of us would agree. It becomes the nightmare scenario where even if 99.999999% of mankind is perfectly upstanding and good, all it takes is one bad apple to ruin everything.

In the same way that is the exact same perspective from Psycho-Pass (if in that society, humans are much worse on average). In order to play this numbers game with statistics (which already assumes a lot of different qualities about the human condition that you and I might not agree with) we can skew the odds heavily in society’s favor if everyone just give up on something. In Psycho-Pass, it’s the obvious flaws with the Sybil system. It does a clumsy job of illustrating it for us, but they’re spelled out plainly.

In Shinsekai Yori, the scheme is much more sinister. It’s so sinister, that we don’t even get a good look at it. It’s so well-disguised, we can call it simply, human evolution. It’s when we de-evolve ourselves to limit the conscious capacity to commit murder, to hypnotize our children so to limit the power of their minds, and ultimately kill the potentially dangerous elements of our society in the form of children-killing-by-committee. We never really got a up-close look at all this, except maybe the scene where Saki goes over the details of her terms with the Ethics Committee chief. We never really get a close look of the hypnosis  or the way these visual triggers were genetically added into the strains cultivated at the village they were living in. We don’t know how the memory manipulation were done besides what we could guess by inference. It’s not really the focus of the narrative, but these things are pretty important.

Of course, it may only seem like “de-evolve” from the perspective of a world where not everyone is a live bomb ready to go off. In some ways, the scenario in Shinsekai Yori is what engineers called an edge case. You can look at it in the context of, say, gun control, or in the context of an effective way to prevent crime. You could also look at it in the case where how can power and responsibility coexist. There are a bunch of different ways to tackle the same framework underneath. It’s in this overarching context that I examine the stories about Saki and Satoru and Maria and all those kids, in that the values we perceive to be important to cherish and reinforce in life may run against these survival, political, societal, and even evolutionary forces.

Unfortunately, this also means in a season where I’m watching Psycho-Pass and Shinsekai Yori at the same time, Psycho-Pass is more like Psycho-Passe, and if it isn’t for Urobuchi’s sensual murders I probably would have already dropped it out of the weakness for themes. Of course, I don’t think most people are approaching Shinsekai  Yori as an ethics experimental pressure chamber, and Psycho-Pass has other redeeming values too, but for me I can’t take all this Mole Rats business any other way.

Actually, an experiment is a good way to phrase it. The fantastic setting is oozing with realism in Shinsekai Yori. There are pluses and minuses to this approach, that said, but it feels like after 17 episodes the experiment has finally began.


8 Responses to “From a New Oppression: Winter 2013”

  • Houienkai

    This sounds like me and Busou Shinki as an edge case for sentient robots as consumer product.

    • omo

      I think Busou Shinki would make a major use case for sentient robots actually. As far as speculative fiction goes, it’s a common topic, both that and the ethical quandaries in Psycho-Pass and Shinsekai Yori. It’s just that ethical quandaries are edge cases most of the time.

    • Houienkai

      I meant by edge case is that the ethical quandary here. Remember the ep where the two biker shinkis realize their master sucks? What if they didn’t, and they hurt a human in the process? Do they get charged because they’re sentient or do they get treated as weapons when they catch the shitty master?

      Also, if this were the Shinkiverse would congress be summoning John Brennan and the Obama administration for its use of UAAs (Unmanned Aerial Arnvals) in its Shinki program?

    • omo

      I see what you mean, except ethics about sentient robots is sort of a “hey this is all made up” sort of thing. I guess we could read into it as statements about naturally-occurring subservient relationships I guess. Some of the ethical problems explored in Psycho-Pass, being perhaps passe, happens in real life.

      Not so sure about SSY…

    • Houienkai

      Ah yeah you’re right about the PP thing. Haven’t seen SSY so can’t say.

      Addendum: If a Military Shinki launched a predator missile to take out an Al-Qaeda guy but also took out a nearby wedding, would it be called to testify by congress?

    • omo

      Would it? Who knows. But testifying before congress is kind of an arbitrary sort of thing.

  • JELEINEN

    For me I think Psycho-Pass works better because the people are still essentially us (and the big reveal only re-enforced this). Whereas, I think Shin Sekai Yori is a great thought experiment, but it also feels a bit like an extreme version of the kinds of arguments comic book fans have when discussing what kind of laws a world with super heroes shoud have.

    • omo

      Shinsekai Yori is kind of like that, yes, and that’s why I think it’s far more interesting. I would probably say SF fans rather than comic book fans, though.

      Because honestly why would you ever pick something you’ll hear in an Ethics or Philosophy 101 classroom over something you hear in the comic book shop? I guess you probably shouldn’t answer that.

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