Psycho-Pass 03 – Self-fulfilling prophecies

Sibyl is a system that is supposed to scan and check every citizen in society, and through the psycho-pass system law and order is maintained, while every element of society works together in harmony. At least, that is the apparent aim behind this system, however, the name ‘Sibyl’ can also be seen as a link back to the Sibyl’s of ancient Greece. They were oracles or prophetesses, who were seen as possessing the lips of god, with the ability to see the future and through their rituals divine the will of god. As Heraclitus (c. 535- c. 475 BCE) a Greek writer and philosopher suggests: ‘The Sibyl, with frenzied mouth uttering things not to be laughed at, unadorned and unperformed, yet reaches to a thousand years with her voice by aid of the god’. They are beings that are viewed to be the human voices of god, and while they may provide positive prophecies, they are not entirely to be trusted. In other legends the Sibyls and other oracles are seen as dangerous, corrupt, or destructive, taking bribes in order to invoke a positive prophecy from god, but to cross them would mean certain doom.

The Sibyl system can therefore be seen in two distinctive ways. It is both a positive force, that helps to control and maintain society, and through its use society is ordered and everything runs smoothly and ‘properly’. However, if we were to look at the system from a different, and arguably more accurate perspective, the Sibyl system is flawed and destructive. It maintains a highly stratified society within which only those with the highest aptitude scores are capable of truly moving freely and without worry for their future. The Psycho-Pass system that is enforced through the use of Dominators and ultimately the Sibyl system is a way of allowing this highly stratified system and society to continue through repression and suppression. The prophecies of Sibyl that relate to crime and the aptitude for crime are also flawed and the result of what we might see as social and emotional bribes.

There has already been a case that helps to demonstrate some of the inherent flaws in a system that proposes to be capable of determining people’s emotional states. Through the first case, and now through the most recent case we can see how the system itself creates the criminals, and that through the use of the Enforcers and Dominators criminals are found and dealt with in a fast and efficient manner. The system appears to have been set up in order to create criminals through the inherent emotional and psychological stresses that it places upon people. Furthermore, the very act of chasing someone can turn him or her into a criminal, both in the series and in real life. They may of course be guilty of something, but by chasing them, and accusing them of crimes that may not be entirely accurate the compound effect of all of these circumstances can create something that arguably should not exist.

This particular episode further helps to demonstrate how the Psycho-Pass and Sibyl systems are flawed in terms of their abilities to truly police society and help those who are suffering. The scene of the murder is a Drone Factory that isn’t connected to the net, and therefore has no connection to the outside world, with every member of the staff working around the clock to help maintain what is clearly a punishing workload. The reason for this is apparently so that the facility is safe from outside hacking so that the drones and the technology within are safe from all external influences. We have already seen multiple uses for the net through the use of various consoles are devices that help the Enforcers who are essentially imprisoned to keep them entertained, however, what if these systems were taken away? A society that is built around technology comes to rely upon it, so when that technology no longer functions correctly or cannot be used, the society will inevitably panic and ultimately self destruct if nothing is done about the situation.

The Sibyl system has essentially forced every member of the Drones Factory workforce into working at this facility through the use of the aptitude system. They have no free will in their choice of work and are therefore forced to work in a live-in job without any real breaks in order to maintain a work quota set by another external government department. However, the curious thing about these workers is the apparent lack of stress of problems with their Psycho-Pass readings. It becomes clear that there is in-house bullying, with certain individuals used as a means to allow everyone else to relieve their stress and thus maintain their Psycho-Pass reading. In this respect we see the system used in order to allow such facilities to exist and maintain their workloads. The worker who is bullied would eventually be transferred somewhere else once their Psycho-Pass reading becomes too cloudy, while another person is transferred in as a means to relieve stress. The Enforcers deal those who have gone too far and are viewed as a danger to the current state of society; however, the system itself encourages and even enforces such working practices.

The murders are therefore a product of the system, and the way it effectively forces people to work in such unhealthy and destructive conditions. The idea that a persons worth can be quantified and categorised calls into question basic notions of human rights and whether this should be possible. In the universe of Psycho-Pass we effectively have no human rights, with the central computer system of Sybil essentially dictating the moves of humanity and through complex algorithms and programmes determining the worth and danger level of every individual. The constant state surveillance, alongside the idea that it is even possible to determine the criminality of an individual seems awfully familiar to the ideas and attitudes present in Minority Report. Although, in the case of the Drone Factory we see that state surveillance only stretches so far, and that despite constant scans, without a direct link to the outside world and the wider net it is impossibly to truly determine the mental state and wellbeing of those who work there.

Through the eyes of Akane we see the competing perspectives and attitudes towards the Psycho-Pass system. She wishes to get on with the Enforcers, seeing them as important individuals who have the necessary skills to help solve crimes and track down the suspects. On the other hand, Ginoza sees them as nothing more than ‘hunting dogs’ convenient tools that can be used or disposed off if they become too troublesome. Furthermore, their experience and abilities continuously calls into question elements of the Sibyl system. They understand the situation that they are in and through some simple observations and able to accurately determine who the criminal is, even though they are unable to use their Dominators. To him anyone who has been labelled as a Latent Criminal is less than dirt, the dregs of society and without any real merit other than to be used as tools. His anger at Tomomi’s informed guess can therefore be viewed as a reaction to the ability of the Sibyl system to accurately determine who is a criminal being called into question. Ginoza is constrained and controlled the system that he claims there are there to uphold, but as Kougami points out, the order that Ginoza talks about appears to be the very same order that has allowed three people to die in one year without anything being done about it.

On the other hand, Akane demonstrates her naivety by wishing to trust the Enforcers and believe in them as if they were normal human beings, which they aren’t. They have been gradually turned into a destructive force by the Sibyl system and while characters such as Kougami may claim that they want to be detectives instead of simple killers, their actions suggest otherwise. Kougami’s willingness to abuse and insult their suspect in order to determine if they truly are the killer demonstrates a crude attitude towards their jobs. Or perhaps, a realistic attitude – they know that their only reason for existing right now is to enforce the Sibyl system and maintain order through the apprehension of latent and real criminals. The methods that they use are rarely called into question, so such a direct and crude method is perfectly understandable, if shocking.

Kougami once again demonstrates the brutal and destructive nature of his job and the system itself to Akane, but through his actions Akane is also shown that in order to find out the truth there are times when you need to put your life on the line. This is something that Kougami and the other Enforcers continually do, they are playing a game of life and death, but if they were not to play it, that would also mean death. By choosing her current job Akane is now seeing parts of society that in any other work place would remain unknown to her. Through her eyes we see how immensely stratified society under Sibyl has become and how easy it is for people to be turned into criminals through the inexorable pressures that such a system can place upon them. The Psycho-Pass system doesn’t solve anything and instead creates problems for the CID to investigate – criminals are created through the self-fulfilling prophecy that Sibyl portrays.

The eventual capture of the murderer along with destroying the out of control drones is not a true end to anything, rather it is merely tidying up rather than attempting to solve the underlying issues of such a system. We see through this case how the Sibyl system is used in order to keep society working through direct and indirect force. One particular person carried out the murders in this episode, but we can also see them as a direct consequence of a system that allows such things to happen. As Ginoza points out the job of CID is merely to enforce the rules and regulations of Sibyl and the Psycho-Pass system, but in doing so they are only really covering over the cracks instead of looking at the underlying problems within society itself.

About illogicalzen
An Illogical anime fan in a very Zen-like way.

8 Responses to Psycho-Pass 03 – Self-fulfilling prophecies

  1. JoeAnimated says:

    Great write-up. The whole Sibyl and Psycho Pass system presents such an interesting ethical dilemma. Hopefully, this show can move to being a real Sci-Fi thriller, and not rely on moe faces and fujoshi bait.

    • illogicalzen says:

      I do find the Sybil and Psycho-Pass systems fascinating, and you can draw numerous parallels with various works by Phillip K. Dick or those influenced by his writings. To me the system is entirely flawed and we are seeing its flaws through the eyes of Akane, a character that is an elite and who has never had to deal with, or worry about the intricacies of this system until now.

      However, I still find the series entirely derivative, and there are times when I could honestly be reading a Phillip K. Dick book, watching one of the films based on his works, or in the case of this weeks episode, watching Ghost in the Shell. The ideas are fascinating, but nothing has really been done with them really – this week did however see the series take a step forward and turn into a mediocre anime with a few wonderful elements. Not overly bothered with the moe faces or general bishounen either – I have never honestly seen the issue with the current style of animation, so any issues surrounding the idea of ‘moe’ tend to have very little impact upon how I view a series. Overall though I feel that Psycho-Pass suffers because it has taken or simply borrowed entire sets of ideas and plot devices from other works, and instead of integrating them into another narrative just pushes them together and hopes for the best. It is these ideas, along with the aesthetic and thematic elements that keep me entertained, rather than anything inherently good about the story.

  2. s2012k1993 says:

    You are right that PP system can add stress to people, changing them into criminals. My question is how is that different from the myriad of ways our own society with its rules increases stress and makes one commit a crime. Medical students take drugs because of the stress the competitive environment puts on them. Insecure teenage girls fall into prostitution when a “loverboy” persuades them into the business. I thought the justice system’s only job is to catch criminals and punish them for their crimes. It is the job of the family, one’s education and the like to teach one values critical to one’s survival in the world.

    • illogicalzen says:

      Not entirely sure about the rest of the comment, but with regards to the first part, there is little difference between the two. Psycho-Pass has clearly borrowed a significant amount from Phillip K. Dick and all the films and series that have been influenced by his writing. He may have been writing about an imaginary dystopian future, but a lot of his idea were comments on the world around him, therefore the idea of stress creating criminals clearly has basis in current societies and cultures.

  3. windyturnip says:

    Where you see flaws and cracks, I see a rather intricate plan. When faced with a force it can’t eliminate humanity looks for a way to control it. Instead of having murder occur spontaneously among the general population, the Sybil system directs it. In order to protect the whole of society, it singles out and “sacrifices” a select few.

    Instead of abiding by Blackstone’s ratio like our society, the world of Psycho-Pass adopts an (almost) opposite approach. We can call it wrong, but it’s possible it leads to a less criminal society at the expense of some individual rights.

    Most western countries are experiencing a similar issue right now. Our basic civil liberties are being removed in order to increase security and stability. It’s a scale that has been tipping back and forth for centuries.

    • illogicalzen says:

      You appear to essentially be suggesting that a totalitarian (fascist) dictatorship is fine if crime is kept down, which is pretty terrible really. The idea that in order to protect society the Sibyl system sacrifices a few for the benefit of the rest os fundamentally wrong and a terrible thought, no one should be sacrificed for the benefit of another, especially not in the ay you are suggesting. You cannot direct crime, rather crime happens because of the situations and a specific context, such as slums having high crime rates due to the living and social conditions. Furthermore, murder or other crimes are hardly spontaneous, they may not make a lot of sense sometimes, but crime doesn’t just ‘happen’, and to suggest otherwise would be naive.

      The society in Psycho-Pass does not have less criminals, arguably because of the Sibyl system it has far more. The system is creating criminals in order to justify its existence, and it is also fundamentally flawed in the way it operates. During this episode we can see that much like in current societies big business and government uses the current systems to their advantage. The murders in this case are as a direct result of the Sibyl system and how it has been abused in order to maintain the production at this Droid Factory. It is clearly an intricate plan, but one that is full of cracks, wholes and ways to be abused – and as we are now seeing it is questionable if the system even works properly since there are numerous criminals who use it for their own ends.

      • windyturnip says:

        I’m playing the role of devil’s advocate here. I don’t think fascism is a good idea at all especially when it comes to a state’s justice system.

        But if a system sacrifices a few people in order to create an overall net benefit, what is wrong with that? The Sibyl system is extreme, but where do we draw the line when it comes to something like this? Taxes are generally sacrifices by a few for the benefit of all, but they are accepted without question. Both of these technically violate basic human rights, life and property respectively, but one is unthinkable while the other is commonplace.

        Do you really think that the Sibyl system creates more crime than in prevents? And isn’t that an arbitrary classification to begin with? The definition of a crime is determined by a legal system so if you change the legal system, of course crime is going to change as well. I think a better gauge of success would be the security of the people. In that case, I would argue that the Sibyl system provides more adequate security to more people.

        • illogicalzen says:

          Devil’s Advocate or not, your arguments dont make a lot of sense.

          Firstly, tax is not a necessary evil but a social responsibility, without it, public services such as transport, fire stations and hospitals wouldn’t be able to function properly. Tax also allows people with learning, behavioural and other disabilities to be helped and be given the same sort of chances as anyone else. Of course if you live in countries like America where public services are almost nonexistent in some places this may not make a lot of sense either. So in this respect your argument about tax holds no weight, and doesn’t really work as an example next to the Sibyl system as presented in Psycho-Pass.

          Secondly, while there are always arbitrary lines between ‘good’ and ‘bad’, they are nowhere near as arbitrary as in Psycho-Pass. In the series you could be a perfectly normal citizen, but after one particularly stressful day or bad luck your Psycho-Pass level could rise and you could be treat as a potential criminal by the system and brought in for ‘rehabilitation’. Also, if Akane wants to make a difference she effectively has to ruin her life by becoming as much of a criminal (at least in the eyes of the system and administration) as the enforcers. This strict differentiation between good and bad is ridiculous and causes far more problems than it could ever solve. With this sort of system it seems clear that there would be more ‘criminals’, at least according to how the system operates than without it.

          Also, the idea that security is a good way to gauge the success of a society is ludicrous, the more security you have the more likely you are to have a dysfunctional society with more criminals. The Sibyl system may provide security, but it is much like a police state where those who overstep the boundaries are branded as dangerous and taken away. In this respect, the higher the security your society has, the more likely you are to have a society that will inevitably rebel, thus the more damaging it becomes.This is the very essence of dystopian stories and cyber-punk, they are exploring current day societies in a more extreme setting and demonstrating the potential consequences are certain decisions. I mean, our current society has high security, but there is not much to choose between the world now, and the world in the 90s, it is all rhetoric in the end.

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