Crimes of the Future in Ghost in the Shell SAC_2045

There exists a cyber world in 2022, yet there is still more to be developed. Imagine a world in 2045, when people have hardware implanted in their bodies. When a handheld device is replaced by a cyber brain with access to a limitless network of possibilities and communication. When technology coexists equally with humanity. When people are more computer than human and potential victims of a cyber crime. Where does humanity end and technology begin? Won’t we lose our humanity if our brains are hardwired to a global network? These are all very good questions, and often times the theme of many sci-fi shows and movies, but in the world of Ghost in the Shell SAC_2045 technology is not the enemy. The enemy are the people that use technology to commit crimes. The cyber thieves, extremists, psychopaths, and criminals.

Ghost in the Shell began as a Japanese adult (seinen) manga comic in 1989 by writer/illustrator Masamune Shirow and was adapted into an anime movie by director Mamoru Oshii in 1995. Both the comic and the anime are groundbreaking works of visual storytelling responsible for the cyberpunk aesthetic we commonly see today. Since achieving cult status in the late 1990’s, Ghost in the Shell has continued as an anime television series, a live-action film, and video game adaptations. Despite the non-chronological order of the series, the story remains centered on an elite militaristic unit of cyber crime officials funded by the Japanese government called Public Security Section 9. The Section 9 team is comprised of a handful of members, yet the series primarily focuses on the exploits of their sexy field commander, Major Motoko Kusanagi, the cyborg strongarm with the prosthetic eyes, Batou, the mostly human investigator, Togusa, and the executive director of Section 9, Chief Aramaki. The team uses their technologically advanced methods of crime detection and military training to track down and arrest (or sometimes eliminate) cyber criminals.

Public Security Section 9 team members and the cast of Ghost in the Shell SAC_2045

Imagine if your brain was a computer. Imagine all the possibilities that technological advancement could permit. You could send messages, book plane tickets, update your social media, interact with friends and family, transfer money, download pornography, etc. all while casually walking down the street to buy groceries. Your hands and body would be free while your mind was busy at work performing essential tasks. Now imagine if a cyber criminal were to gain access to your cyber brain and erase all of your data, then import new data. You would become a puppet to the cyber criminal. Imagine if that were to happen to a person of notable wealth and power, like a politician or a high-ranking military personnel. The national and global ramifications of that person going AWOL would be catastrophic. How would anyone know if that person were acting under their own free cyber mind or being controlled by a hacker? Thus the reason for a cyber criminal task force like Public Security Section 9.

In Ghost in the Shell SAC_2045, the Section 9 team encounters citizens that have become “super-beings”, capable of physical attributes and intelligence that amplifies their already heightened physical attributes and intelligence (i.e. a boxer’s hands become deadly weapons or a scientist’s mind becomes extraordinarily gifted). These innocent civilians are termed “post-human”, a label assigned to them by an American NSA agent who conveniently refers to himself as Agent Smith (and whose appearance is conveniently similar to that of Agent Smith from The Matrix). Post-Humans are victims of a cyber crime in which a code is downloaded into their cyber brains, overriding their hardware and providing them with a new persona. These super-humans are used as remote controlled weapons to commit murder and assassination. I admit, this sounds like a far-fetched idea, one commonly seen in an action sci-fi blockbuster movie, nonetheless, a potential crime of a future cyber society.

Concept art of an unfortunate victim of cyber hacking

Section 9’s investigation of the post-humans leads them to the mysterious death a junior high school teacher whose impudent behavior was responsible for the suicide of a student. Further investigation leads the Section 9 team to the discovery of a software that fries a victim’s cyber brain, but only after the victim is put on trial via a global network and found guilty of their alleged crimes. This global network was designed by a disgruntled student of the junior high and is called Thinkpol. Think of Thinkpol as a blackmarket democratic body of non-elected individuals who act as judge, jury, and executioner. Imagine an online cancel-culture with the ability to not only accuse people, but also punish them. Anyone with access to Thinkpol is granted permission to execute another person, as long as there are enough votes to warrant the execution. Think of how dangerous this could be to a society. We could be witnessing the precursor of this potential crime of the future with the current online cancel-culture that destroys an individual’s reputation.

In each scenario the victim is not the real criminal. The criminal is the puppeteer, or puppet master who is controlling the victims. Another human being motivated by emotions: jealousy, hatred, greed, corruption, passion, etc. Ghost in the Shell SAC_2045 summarizes that it is not technology or artificial intelligence that is the enemy in the future, but still humans attacking other humans. Since the 1990’s, digital technology has made advancements in business and communication, transforming all of our lives for the betterment of human productivity and efficiency, yet with those advancements come a whole new set of crimes. The crimes of the future are determined by the technology of the future. The crimes may be different, but they are still motivated by the same human emotions we experience today. The major difference being that criminals of the future will no longer need to be seen, they will have the luxury of hiding behind cyber walls and code.

Ghost in the Shell SAC_2045 trailer

Should we fear technology of the future? Technological advancements will continue into the future and cannot be stopped (unless a draconian leader of the future governs that all technology be banned). What we should fear is ourselves. As technology advances will humans advance with it and put an end to crime? Crime has existed since the on-set of mankind and as long humans are emotional beings it will continue to exist. As the cyber future nears, all we can do is strive to be better human beings. But if we can’t manage that, hopefully there will be a Public Security Section 9 to monitor our cyber selves.

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