Psycho Pass & Shinsekai Yori: a just social order is possible. Somewhere at Lothlorien. Probably.



It's hard to reason about the social justice, and it's even harder to put it into practice. The general formula is that someone's freedom should be limited to achieve some kind of equality or order. Probably, a story about an absolutely fair society would be boring, and no one would author such stories, even if a way to build a utopian society would be known. Undoubtedly, the authors of the both stories discussed below tried to show us what a society may appear from particular limitations of freedom, and in the both cases the result is hardly fair. Let's try to sort out the details [spoiler warning].


Psycho Pass: anti-distopia


Firstly we see a high-tech Japanese society of the near future governed by the AI named Sybil. Sybil is able to analyze individual's psychic, to rank person's abilities and use this information to put everyone into a place he or she fits better with. This forms a society of a delicate harmony which no one could have dreamed. Sybil is also able to calculate a crime coefficient based on person's stress level and emotional state to distinguish potential criminals from law-abiding citizens. Special police units comprised of detectives and enforcers are put into duty to catch the criminals tracked by the city-wide surveillance system, and this proves to be quite effective. At the first glance, this is the utopia mankind has dreamed of for millennia (there is the price though: the need in comprehensive automatization and international isolation). But something is rotten in the state of Sybil.
Some people, especially the ones with not so high Sybil's grades, are unhappy with their place in society, and there is even a class of the potentially criminal people (they haven't done anything criminal yet) who are oppressed by the system and held at the special facilities or work as the enforcers. It already looks enough unfair now, but there is a thing even worse: rare criminally asymptotic individuals who could not be tracked by Sybil and thus able to do anything awful. Towards the end of the story we learn that the protagonist is also one of these people (so, in contrast to other citizens, she have the propensity to sacrifice herself for the justice), Sybil is a cryptocracy comprised of the criminally asymptotic brains (who have rejected their criminal human wishes and accepted Sybil's code of justice), and because Sybil values their individuality and ideas, it always needs more and more brains (as Sybil says, it would never be complete).
You would easily find that this picture is obtained from a deconstruction of a classical distopia, where some values are inverted: in "Psycho Pass" the system actually cares about the social prosperity, the dogs of the system are honest men of law and a criminal is fighting for freedom. But the result is still the same. As it was noticed by Makishima (who read many books about the society of the past), people's lives have no value in such social order because people can not choose their destiny by their own hands. Along with the comfort this brigs solitude and depression, so at the very end Kogami, being inspired by the book of Marcel Proust, decides to sail away from Japan. Akane stays with Sybil; this is the only thing she could do, because the system could not be dismantled from within (only destroyed), and its sudden destruction would bring only greater social disaster.

There is an interesting morals in this. Along with the "1984", the story shows us some basic abstract states a social system could take:
  • A society of the absolute mutual trust; without a self-protection mechanism it's absolutely vulnerable to anomalies, so it's practically impossible.
  • A society of a high social order such as the society of Sybil or Orwellian Oceania; it's always in a some kind of harmony or order, but it have to contain some amount of highly polarized injustice (so it's important on which side you are), the anomalies are rare but have high amplitude and may seriously harm stability of such society.
  • A society based on the principle of equality; it's relatively stable, the injustice is distributed mostly evenly, the anomalies are usual and have average amplitude.
  • A society of the absolute social disorder. Most likely it would quickly form a totalitarian variant of the society of the second type.

Shinsekai Yori: a semi-fascist semi-totalitarian traditionalist hell


Shinsekai Yori is a story (set in 1000 years in the future) about an attempt to engineer a society based on a principle of equality, and about how this attempt was failed but not without a chance of a recovery.
Sometimes in our days it was discovered that humans are able to express psychokinetic abilities, and that marked the beginning of the collapse of the modern civilization. Despotic slave empires ruled by the PK-users have emerged on the ruins of the vanished world, but an independent group of scientists who preserved the most of the available knowledge also made their move.
The idea was to create a stable society of PK-users based on genetic selection and ethological means empowered by an ethics based on death-feedback. The PK-based feedback puts the same amount of damage to a PK-user that he or she inflicts to an another human being, so no one would confront anyone other directly. People without PK-abilities (who are not possess the feedback) were genetically transformed into a genus of monster rats, so they could not be considered humans anymore and participate in the society of PK-users. All this is resulted in a relatively stable and progressive industrial human society, but it was cursed with two harsh PK-related illnesses: Raman-Klogius (fiend) and Hashimoto-Appelbaum (karma demon) syndromes. Raman-Klogius syndrome mutes the death-feedback, so a sick man may kill others with impunity. Hashimoto-Appelbaum syndrome results in a heavy drain of PK through the unconscious, and this may result in a unpredictable transformations of the surrounding environment.
To deal with this, children younger than 17-yo have been deprived of human rights (and thus the right for life), and the system of education was reformed to perform a severe selection on the children. The education in the new world includes two stages: the PK of the children who are attend Harmony School and still not learned the norms of ethics is sealed. When it awakes at puberty, a child graduates to the Sage Academy where he or she trains the PK (if the PK does not awake, a child is eaten by a copycat; Saki's PK is awakened to late and the cat was about to hunt her). It seems that children at the Harmony School do not know that they are PK-users and the awakening of PK at puberty is explained as the visit of spirits to them. Supervisors at the Sage Academy reject children with deviations in their PK to prevent the appearance of fiends and karma demons. The system is proven to be very effective against the fiends, but it's also too paranoid (as it was shown, the problem probably could be solved just by a more thorough psychological testing), so many of healthy children were rejected along with the potential fiends. Such cruelty to children made Maria and Mamoru to escape the village and perform the suicidal plot with their child in the alliance with rats (at Saki's prophetic dream Maria has said that she has to die, so this probably was her own plot).
This education system has also produced a yet another profound effect on society, it has shifted priority from the use of technology to the use of PK, so the society has transformed from an industrial one to a set of closed traditionalist agrarian communities with some limits on technology (probably due to lack of widespread industry) which are governed by ethical committees and largely influenced by the religion. 
Despite the fact that human communities were in parity with monster rats, the rats were not considered as equal to humans, and some humans even manifested unwarranted aggression against them. There was a turning point in the life of some rat colonies, during which they overthrew the monarchy and embarked on the democratic path of development. This way of development implies a kind of society based on a principle of equality; in this state the society of rats is not bound by the same conventions as the semi-totalitarian human society and could be considered as a more progressive one. After the rats had mastered long ago forgotten human technology (the concrete buildings and the weapon of mass destruction) and obtained their trump-card (a human child with the inverted death-feedback) they attempted to overthrow semi-fascist human oppression. Finally the rats have lost and have been brought to the brink of extinction.
Now this is Saki's turn to return the human rights along with the principle of equality into the human society and make peace with the rats by treating them as equal beings, so they would have no reasons to oppose humans. Her first steps on this path were the organization of the museum of these terrible events and the transformation of copycats into the domestic ones, although it's hard to imagine how she would actually accomplish her mission. It seems that she was specially chosen by the former head of the ethical committee to liberate society of this trap by paying more attention to technology.

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