Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
In a foreseeable dystopian future, the anime Psycho-pass presents a judicial system that is closely aligned with a Utilitarianist mindset. In the anime, citizens are punished for having a high crime coefficient, when one has an intention to commit a crime of when one is agitated and with unstable emotions, which may cause him to commit a crime out of anger and rage. This system inherently seeks to reduce crime rates and create a crime-free society by eliminating any possible criminals before they act on their intentions. This Utilitarian system justifies killing innocent citizens who have committed no crime, for the good of the society by removing people with the capacity to commit a crime. However, high crime-coefficients can be contagious. Interacting with people with a high crime coefficient may cause oneself’s crime coefficient to rise. Is it truly fair for someone to be punished just for having a high crime coefficient? Akane Tsunemori in Episode 1 of the anime states, “So you’d shoot a victim who hasn’t committed a crime yet?! I can’t accept that!”. Victims of kidnappings, assault, and rape are shown as having a very high crime coefficient due to their trauma and volatile emotions, as they would feel distressed and mentally unstable. She chooses to challenge the Sibyl system by preventing Shinya Kogami from executing a victim of sexual assault due to her high crime coefficient. Her stance comes from the justice theory of Retributive Justice, where criminals receive punishment in accordance to the crime they have committed, and not what they have yet to commit.
Minority Report is very similar to the anime Psycho-pass in many aspects. It is also set in a dystopian future where the Precrime police stop murderers before they act, reducing the murder rate to zero. The main flaw, which was identified and figured out by the protagonist John Anderton, is that in this system, once people are aware of their future, they are able to change it, thus making it inaccurate and the public would lose their faith and trust in it to maintain justice.. However, are they actually able to have the free will to make a different choice than the one that they were predicted to make, or will the contributory and preceding factors leading to that moment cause the person to make the same decision as predicted?
Given the speed in the technological advances in recent years and the introduction of Artificial Intelligence, we would soon be able to attain a judicial system that is able to analyze the psychological state of a citizen and determine whether he has the intent and capacity to commit a crime, and thus arresting or even killing that person to make the society safer. Thus, this paper seeks to decipher the implications of these judicial systems and its hidden implications on both the general society and its people, helping to also shed new light on how anime is stereotypically seen by people as something meant just for children, but it can connote a much deeper meaning in it and is definitely worth analyzing and conducting further research into.
Justice is immensely important in any society as society is dedicated to the notion that all its members should benefit, and that no one person or a specific group should have more benefits or a greater right than others. Justice administers fairness, and helps to keep society in check and prevents crime from spiralling out of control. However, I feel that justice is a highly objective and relative topic as it has a very wide range of definition as it differs from culture to culture. In this particular dystopian world of Psycho-pass, we can see how justice is warped. There are numerous aspects of justice that can be explored in this anime, thus choosing to use it as a platform for further analysis of the theme of justice and the judicial system, along with the film Minority Report, as the plot and judicial system are similar to that of Psycho-pass, and both revolve around the main theme of Free will vs Determinism.
The anime and film’s judicial system are representative of certain aspects of Utilitarianism, but is ultimately unable to justify the punishment of those accused of a crime they have not committed, which essentially deprives the people of free will and forces them to hide their emotions of hatred and anger. 1.5 Research Questions Does a crime-free society affirm the usage of a judicial system that punishes people for crimes that they have not yet committed? Does the judicial system in both films essentially rob people of their Free Will and cause them to live in a determinist society and what could be the possible implications?
There may be certain hidden meanings in the original Japanese dialogue that may not be present in the translated English version, thus preventing me from picking it out. As I would not be analyzing Season 2 of the anime, there might be certain changes and further information revealed about the judicial system that would not be analyzed. Furthermore, as both literary mediums are films which are created for the main purpose for audiences, certain impacts might be over-exaggerated. Certain aspects of the justice theories might not be covered and portrayed in the movies, which will be left out in this paper, thus the analysis of the respective justice theories might not be as comprehensive.
Many theories have revolved around the topic of justice, and how it should be upheld. One main justice theory is Retributivism Justice, which is one of the main theories of justice used by judicial systems all over the globe in the past decades in theorizing punishment. Alec Waler stated in his article that Retributivism follows 3 main principles: (1) that those who commit certain kinds of wrongful acts, paradigmatically serious crimes, morally deserve to suffer a proportionate punishment; (2) that it is intrinsically morally good — good without reference to any other goods that might arise — if some legitimate punisher gives them the punishment they deserve; and (3) that it is morally impermissible intentionally to punish the innocent or to inflict disproportionately large punishments on wrongdoers. By using retributivism to look at the anime and film, both jurisdictional systems oppose this theory, as it does not follow the 1st and 3rd principle, and thus it is wrong to arrest or kill someone who has not committed a crime yet, as they can be considered ‘innocent’ at the time of arrest.
As argued by Immanuel Kant, that punishment given to the offender should be proportionate to the crime that he committed, stating “Judicial punishment…must in all cases be imposed on him only on the grounds that he has committed a crime”. Retributivism is also a subset of Kant’s own deontological theory, which believes that the “rightness or wrongness of an action does not depend on the consequences but on whether they fulfill our duty”. Certain actions are judged as absolute wrong, even if it produces positive consequences or helps more people. Actions like murder, theft or abduction are all actions that are considered wrong. In the case of both Psycho-pass and Minority Report, the act of arresting someone innocent is considered absolute wrong, judging from a retributivism and Kantian point of view. The citizens with a high crime coefficient should not receive any punishment as they have not yet committed a crime, and that they should only be punished once the crime has been committed, as it is only then that they can be punished due to them committing a crime. Even those who have the capacity to commit a crime or endanger others, he is still innocent until he commits the crime. However, can the guarantee of a crime-free society be enough to punish those who has the intention but not yet committed the crime yet? Furthermore, high crime coefficients can be contagious. Is it fair to punish those who have high crime coefficients due to the impact of others, or even the system, as it might mess up some people’s lives after being flagged for having a high crime coefficient, as they would feel stressed and would be desperate to decrease the crime coefficient to prevent himself from being killed/arrested, thus creating a snowball effect and cause his crime coefficient to rise even higher?
This is where the theory of Utilitarianism, comes into play. It strongly opposes Kant’s theory and retributivism. The Sibyl system and Precrime mirrors Utilitarianism justice, where actions are right in the proportion that they promote happiness, wrong as they promote the opposite of happiness, pain. Killing someone is wrong, but killing someone to save many others is justified through Rule Utilitarianism. The rightness or wrongness of an action considers its consequences following a rule of conduct. In the anime, people with the capacity to commit crimes are killed/arrested. By looking at it using Utilitarianism, it is justified as the death or arrest of that person is able to prevent crime and murders from taking place, which is better for society. As stated by John Stuart Mill in his book, “Thus, to save a life, it may not only be allowable, but a duty, to steal, or take by force, the necessary food or medicine, or to kidnap, and compel to officiate, the only qualified medical practitioner”. The precrime division in the movie Minority Report also seeks to arrest to-be murderers before the murder takes place on the basis of removing “criminals” from the streets and creating a safer society without any criminals also to prevent them from committing the specified murder/crime in the future. Likewise in Psycho-pass, the arrest of those with a high crime-coefficient, people who are deemed to have the capacity and intention to commit a crime, bring about a crime-free and safer society. From a modern day society standpoint, it would be absurd to arrest someone on the basis that they would murder someone that the accused might not even know as of now in the future. However, the arrest is justifiable under Utilitarian justice as it makes the society safer for the rest of the citizens.
Free will vs Determinism
One of the main themes inherent in both the movie and anime is the theme of Free will vs Determinism. One of the main flaws of the Sibyl system as pointed out by John Anderton is that “Once you know your future, you are able to change it”. However, will people really act differently if they are given the opportunity to choose again? This brings in the theme of determinism, where people always make the same decision even if he is given the chance to choose again, as the Determinist standpoint believes that all behavior is caused by preceding factors and is thus predictable. For example, a starving boy will still choose to steal food to fill his stomach, even though he knows that it is wrong, but his hunger will urge him to steal food. This is the basis of the Precrime system, where one can be put behind bars for a murder that he will commit in the future, as it is assumed that he will definitely commit the crime due to the presence of certain preceding factors based on the theory of determinism. There is no leverage in the judicial system for the possibility of the accused having a change in personality or events, which might alter certain outcomes and cause the murder not to take place, thus taking a metaphysical determinism standpoint, which believes that determinism is true and it is incompatible with free will. This theme is also shown in the anime, where citizens with extremely high crime coefficients are immediately killed, without giving them a chance to lower their own crime coefficients with the determinist assumption that they would murder someone before being able to lower their crime coefficient and are too dangerous to the society.
However, the Sibyl system allows for those with a moderately high crime-coefficient are given the chance to go for rehabilitation, for them to get better and lower their crime-coefficient. When street scanners flag down citizens with higher than normal Psycho-pass, street drones are deployed to offer the suspect the opportunity to go for therapy. The suspect has the free will to either accept it or reject and become a latent criminal. Arrested latent criminals with extremely high crime-coefficients are also able to become enforcers to help the police arrest more criminals. This portrays how flagged citizens are given a chance to lower their crime-coefficient, unlike Minority Report where predicted murders are immediately flagged as a criminal to be arrested, thus having no free will to make a decision resulting in a positive change in their lives in the time period between the Precogs identifying the murder and the time the murder actually takes place. “We arrest individuals who broke no law” was what Danny Witwer felt about the Precrime system. Dr. Iris Hineman, the creator of Precrime, argues for the system by saying “And yet a chain of events has started, a chain that will lead you (John Anderton) inexorably to his murder”. This encapsulates the theory of Determinism (Bob Doyle), where every event or state of affairs, including every human decision and action, is the inevitable and necessary consequence of antecedent states of affairs, that everything is pre-determined and cannot be changed. However, what this system fails to take into account is the person may refrain from committing the crime due to “last-minute moral improvement, a standpoint which opposes this theory.