Psycho-Pass, episode 11-13
As every viewer suspected, the Sibyl system is flawed. But that flaw isn’t just a technical detail, that it doesn’t accurately measure everyone, or a moral dilemma about “thought crime”, like in Minority Report, that it incriminates people who didn’t do anything, but a huge elephant in the living room that Makishima pointed out in episode 11:
“And how do you define a crime to start with?”
You have a neurological scanning system that can find criminals. Good for you. So who are criminals? What makes someone a psychopath? A deviant? Harmful to society? Who gets to decide what is moral, and what is immoral?
You can define “crime” as an opposition against an official legal system, but then some of the greatest figures in history were criminals, including MLK, Gandhi, Jesus Christ, George Washington, and Spartacus.
You can define “crime” as breaking the Golden Rule, and you will end up excusing many violent or otherwise harmful men genuinely believed that the system that they are using is just. Freed slaves who then held their own slaves, or “survival of the fittest” believing killers who would have accepted getting killed by someone “fitter” with no hard feelings.
You can define “crime” as trying to decrease the amount of suffering in the world, but then you enter the shady area of moral dilemmas, and the needs of the many vs. the needs of the few, and ideologies about exactly how much freedom the individual deserves and how much control counts as tyranny that is harmful in itself.
You can define “crime” as something that is opposed to your Holy Book, but there are so many holy books, and so many interpretations…
In the end, you can’t just write any simple definition of crime, and arrest everyone whose brain disagrees with your definion, in a way that you end up only arresting evil people. You will need some sort of personal standards, a free will to decide what is good and what is bad, who lives and who dies. And it has to be more than just a blind acceptance of established authority. Akane has to find her own reason what makes Makishima evil, something beyond “well, he kills people, and killing people is bad because Sibyl says so”.
And it’s even more confusing if we start discussing mental illnesses: What is a mental illness?For that matter, what is an illness? A condition that makes you weaker than the mainstream society?
Required reading: The Country of the Blind by H.G. Wells.
Summary: It’s a short story, about a traveller, who finds a hidden community of people whose ancestors have been blind for centuries, by now, they are even born with closed eyelids and without properly developed eyeballs. He thinks to himself “In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king”, so he starts to try convincing the blind people that he has this superpower of “seeing” things. Yet, as the blind people work in the coolness of the night, he can’t prove that he is a more effective worker, in fact he is barely keeping up with them, since he isn’t used to dealing with darkness. The same happens in their homes, on which they had no reason to build windows. Their roads, their tools, and all their surroundings are built in a way to be helpful to blind people, and not particularly helpful to seeing people. Even when he finally tries to physically attack them, they overwhelm him, and force him to admit that he is just delusional about his vision.
As he eventually gets used to being integrated into their society as a weirdo with his weirdo “vision”, he falls in love with a girl, and asks for her hand in marriage from his father. The father and the daughter both agree that she is only accepting his proposal, if she is willing to visit the local doctor, and try to get cured. The doctor investigates him, and concludes that his brain is being affected by two abnormally swelled tumors at the front of his skull, that need to be removed to end his hallucinations.
What makes seeing people “healthy”, and blind people “ill”? That we arrogantly built a world of printed texts, touchscreens, traffic lights for the majority, and then we called everyone else “ill” for having different requirements?
What makes, autists, schizophrenics, paraphiliacs, or anti-socials “sick in the mind”? That they are too uncomfortable for the neurotypical majority to deal with? That we built a world where they don’t have a place? Huxley’s Brave New World, and Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, both dealt with something like this, that could be called a psychological version of The Country of the Blind, about sane (by or standards) protagonists being treated as insane by an insane(by our standards) society. Psycho-Pass also implied a very similar word, showing people who are being locked away for their passion for books, music, their old-fashioned views, that are no longer accepted in mainstream society, therefore they are illnesses.
Makishima seemed to be really concerned with showing Akane that she has a free will, even genuinely risking his life for it, and accepting her judgement and punishment as long as it’s truly hers.
Akane clearly has the same ability as Makishima, based on her clear Psycho-Pass. What the authority calls being “criminally asymptomatic”. It’s named like just another disease, for disturbing the comforting common knowledge that good and evil were already decided for us. But it represents much more than that: It shows that some people able to grow beyond that state, and get into one where they can write their own rules. Some of these rules might be horrifying for us, as it is the case with Makishima. If he was right about Akane, she will soon also start writing her own set of rules. And we might find it horrifying, or righteous, or incomprehensible, or stupid.
But it’s almost certain that they won’t align with Sibyl’s rules.