Psycho-Pass 17: Cog in the Machine Called God


They say that one day, science may be able to solve everything in this world. Perhaps, there is a limit to human knowledge, and by extension, progress: there could be one day where the world has reached its maximum level of advancement. In a sense, Psycho-Pass takes this reality and runs with it: regarding the truth behind the Sibyl System. Not merely a system run by pure advancements in cybernetic technology, but one literally incorporating human brains. It grants these minds increased processing speed through parallel computing, a concept explored in manga such as the Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. Simply put: together, they are god.

Psycho-Pass has always been about the fallacy of utilitarianism. Heralded often as the best system, its ultimate flaw lies in the definition of the ‘majority’. Just as the rioters from the previous episode moaned, those who never suffer under the system, do not understand its faults. Likewise, here we could say that 247 minds sacrificed their material beings to serve the country. It is the ultimate Yellow Prison project. From death row prisoners, to the cogs in the machine of society. With advancements in human-body technology even the loss of one’s original body is no longer anything to be worried over: it can simply be replaced.

Strangely enough, the system, despite its cold nature, somehow seeks to emulate mankind: the bodies feel pain, the system headed by human-like mascots, and even the complete abandonment of a standard gun to one that makes shooting seem like the wielder was an unwilling party – the system renounces its status as god, and presents itself as something that is ultimately human. This is what Kouzaburou embraced: the system is a hidden god. Yet here we see a triumph of the individual mindset over that of the utilitarian: the idea that one’s own personality, one’s own self should ultimately be of greater weighting than anything else, even the fate of society as a whole.

Psycho-pass is set in a futuristic, modern society. Technology has advanced to the point where it all becomes sci-fi: morphing guns, holographic technology, cyborg bodies. Through the use of the Sibyl System, society reaches maximum efficiency by making all possible decisions preemptively: the whole of society is but its own engine. Everyone is deemed to be a part. Everyone is assigned a role, and by extension, a fate.

This is exactly how Makishima becomes an interesting character: he is aware of his individualistic tendencies, his strong personality and the exact problem of the system. And in some aspects, perhaps this system is but a reflection of our current society: one that seeks to minimise tradition, maximise efficiency and eliminate risk. One that is becoming encroached by the advent of technology, technology that seeps into everyday conversation and practices. A society that is constantly advancing in terms of technology but seemingly retreating in terms of the progress of the human mind.

We are a society that wants to eliminate risk. We are utilitarian. We want to ensure the greatest success by doing what others have done: to follow set paths, like instructions, to the end point. When have we decided that society is a machine, not a collective? This is exactly what makes the episode so hard-hitting: what are we all, but cogs in the machine called God? For it is ultimately we who decide our own fates, yet we all work together to make it out of our own reaches.

PS: It’s interesting to note how they say that they are the only country governed by law. What has happened to the rest of the world? Have they all paid the price for not adopting the Sibyl System?

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4 Responses to Psycho-Pass 17: Cog in the Machine Called God

  1. GoodbyeNavi says:

    I’m interested to know where that newspaper clipping is from; nice quote.

    “PS: It’s interesting to note how they say that they are the only country governed by law. What has happened to the rest of the world? Have they all paid the price for not adopting the Sibyl System?”

    I’ve been wondering this myself. The hacker was a foreigner and he didn’t mention his background. I’m glad that we’ve started to see more of Makishima’s motivation. Is he a “bad” guy? Then you would have to define what is “good” and “bad”. This show definitely gives me a “They Live” vibe.

  2. Nopy says:

    I’m also curious about what happened to the rest of the world. Maybe everyone in that city thinks that they are superior because of the sibyl system but don’t see how they have lost everything.

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  4. Stacy Jensen says:

    On the other hand, the later Romanticists might be horrified at the artificial design imposed upon nature. The ideal garden in the Romantic period might be planted in the ruins of an ancient cloister or churchyard. Wild ivy might be encouraged to grow along the picturesque, rough-hewn walls. Rather than ornamental shrubbery, fruit trees would be planted. The flowers might be loosely clustered according to type, but overgrown random patterns caused by the natural distribution of wind and rain were considered more aesthetically pleasing. Even better, rather than planting a garden, a Romanticist nature-lover would be encouraged to walk in the untamed wilderness, clambering up and down the uneven rocks and gullies of a natural stream. Many Romanticists who inherited Enlightenment gardens simply tore the structures down and allowed the grounds to run wild. Nature was considered something larger than humanity, and the passions it inspired in its untamed form were considered healthier (more “natural”) than the faint-hearted passions originating in falsely imposed human design. Cf. aufklärung . To download a PDF handout that lists the major literary movements or periods in chronological order, click here . To download Kant’s definition of Enlightenment , click here.

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