Management: While my opinion of the show is positive overall, this essay, by no means, is meant to serve as a comprehensive review, but rather, as an articulation and analysis of some of what I feel is this series’ most integral and interesting themes. This essay, in particular, is a breakdown of Episode 9 of Psycho-Pass, “Fruit of Paradise.”
This essay also takes ideas from Donna Haraway’s “A Cyborg Manifesto.” Her beliefs, however, are not meant to be completely representative of mine.
A Cyborg’s Manifestation
The realm of fiction has explored many a possibility of civilization’s and humanity’s potential via the presentation of an alternate present or a near-to-far future. One of these possibilities is the existence of cyborgs, beings part-human, part-machine. Science fiction tales have debated, in a way, to the extent their settings allow whether cyborgs are classified by some current physical ratio of organic to inorganic, or the presence of mental consciousnesses in light of completely or almost completely mechanical and electronic bodies.
Writers have used cyborgs, like other science fiction elements, as an extension of physical human progress and evolution — heightened physical strength and reflexes to life longevity. At the same time, the concept has also been used to define or grapple with human limits. The most visible features of the Gunslinger Girl cast in this low-to-high key push-and-pull dynamic of conditioned cyborg assassins and adolescent little girls. The crime procedurals in Ghost in the Shell: SAC every-now-and-then have its characters musing over if and how much humanity they have lost to attain prosthetic and cyberized bodies needed to work their jobs or even function.
And then we have Psycho-Pass, where in the context of a news interview in Episode 9, “Fruit of Paradise,”the traditional conceptualization of a cyborg claims that flesh-and-blood interviewer, her flesh-and-blood audience, and even I, typing this piece, and you, reading it, are cyborgs.
A Cyborg’s Manifestation of Reality
Psycho-Pass can be an uncomfortable series to watch. It’s bars hold in gore, mutilation, and trauma. What’s perhaps most discomfiting, however, is that the perpetrators of these gruesome actions derive their logic from desires told over and over within the pages of human literature and history.
One of these desires is that for immortality, the desire to escape the otherwise inevitable decay of one’s mind and body so that one can simultaneously avert death’s uncertainties and pursue life’s pleasures. It is this desire to forever be able to pursue these other desires, Toyohisa Senguji confesses to the woman interviewing him in the daylight outside a cafe, to be the reason for his transformation from a flesh-and-blood person like her to a cyborg like him, the only parts still organically him being his brain and spinal cord. And he wants to be altered further, hoping to live long enough for the scientists under his payroll to completely cyberize his brain. The interviewer questions him on the seeming unnaturalness of his desires. The seeming unnaturalness is not the desire for immortality, per se, but by the drastic means by which Senguji has taken to achieve it.
The majority of human beings tend to believe on a fundamental level that their humanities are tied to the flesh-and-blood of a human body, and to discard it, or at least a significant portion of it, seems tantamount to surrendering those humanities. It’s a clear medical breakthrough to replace one’s limbs and organs with cybernetic parts, but 50%, 30%… even 20% cyberization seems a bit much, even by medical necessity. Senguji’s nearly 100% cybernetic, and he had all that work done to him willingly. He might have benefited from the extra years to his life, but at what cost?
According to him, nothing important. His mind’s as fresh and sharp as ever. In fact, he claimed that he’s never felt this good since he was young, and to the age old reluctance of surrendering one’s every day functions to technology’s embrace, he pointed out the interviewer’s quite the cyborg herself. After all, she depends on technology, long distance communication, transportation, and even dress, in order to work in today’s society. People need to work in order to get a living. So in the event that she can’t access any of that technology (due to a disaster, perhaps), she can’t work. She can’t obtain a livelihood. Without a livelihood, eventually, she can’t live.
Being a cyborg is her social reality, as much a cyborg is Senguji’s his social reality.
A Cyborg’s Manifestation as Human
But does that make the interviewer, her audience, I, typing this piece, and you, the reader, unnatural? We all utilize and rely on the digital in some shape or form in order to get through the day. Yet, according to Senguji, how is that different from the non-digital tools, the non-digital technology we make a habit of using, from the books we read and the pens we write with, to the guns we use to hunt and the knives we use to butcher? The pipe Senguji smokes is considered technology.
Our human desires may stay constant or remain fundamental, but human beings from time immemorial are creatures of change. We adapt and evolve in order to better survive and better flourish, from the branches we once fashioned into spears and the rocks we chipped into axes to our present laptops and smartphones. We have always used technology, however primitive, as an extension of ourselves to achieve our goals. Societies today, made, comprised of, and in service to human beings, are a testament to that. Societies’ components are just more technology. To not use technology would be, in fact, unnatural, and it would be unnatural still to deny seeking further enhancement with more advanced technology, which includes the alteration of one’s organic body with inorganic parts. Humans are cyborgs. It is our social reality.
But Senguji’s a sociopath, like all of Shogo Makishima’s associates, including Makishima himself, if the specific materials he used to craft his pipe are any indication. Couldn’t his cybernetic transformation from flesh-and-blood have warped his thinking? However, it’s later revealed he was like this before, and that’s besides the point, because if that was true, what does that make Shogo Makishima?