In this episode we have a clear analogue to the current drone wars currently being fought by Noble Peace Laureate Obama. In real life I make robots, so this is a topic I’ve thought about a fair amount. Whenever I tell someone what I do, the first things people say are often 1) Will robots take my job? 2) Will robots bring about the singularity and bring humanity to destruction? 3) Something about Isaac Asimov, and 4) That sounds an awful lot like those killer drones.
The common argument is that technology itself isn’t inherently good or evil, it’s how you use it. And drone technology itself is useful in many ways— they can be used to search for lost people, to monitor the environment, and so on. They can also be used to gun down defenseless people from the skies. And this is where I have an issue with the way drone technology is being used.
Drones make war risk-free, from the perspective of the group with the superior technology. There is no danger that the “warriors” will be injured sitting at their desk. What’s more, the images they see when operating the drones give them a separation from reality. It feels more like they’re playing a videogame than that they’re murdering people. Psycho Pass takes this to the extreme, in that the “players” don’t even realize they’re killing people, they think they’re just playing a cute game with a chicken and witches.
And that is the essence of the problem: that drones make war easy. What’s the big deal of starting a war if the only people who can possibly die are not soldiers, but criminals? No one even has to watch them die, or clean up the mess afterwards. There’s no reason not to go to war with all our enemies all the time!
And that’s exactly what we’ve done.
The Sibyl system itself is an extension of this same idea of self-denial of responsibility. No one has to make decisions about what’s right or wrong or what justice is. The computer does it for them. If someone gets a bad Psycho Pass reading? Well, it’s terrible, but that’s what the system decided. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. It just happened. To those other people we refuse to look at, except through the lens of a virtual system.
The society becomes so demonic that the people in it prioritize the survival of the system over the welfare of its people. This is quite literally true in the world of Psycho Pass, where the drones are free (I should say intended) to shoot humans, but where strict controls are in place to prevent the drones from shooting other drones. The drones, and by proxy the system itself, is worth more than human lives.
We see the same thing in the real world, where the drone captured by Iran caused widespread concern, but drones kill people frequently without it seeming like a big deal.
Judgement is coming. Let’s hope. Although I imagine this guy’s idea of judgement might be worse than the status quo.