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  • Hey Wisecrack, Jared here and today we're taking a fresh look at the 1995 classic that

  • seamlessly combined mind-bending metaphysical themes and cartoon boobs- Ghost in the Shell.

  • Yeah, we know there's a new version out, but apparently they forgot to put in a lot

  • of the brainy stuff so we decided to talk about the original.

  • Many have weighed in over the years on what the film says about the line between human

  • and machine but that's not what we're talking about today.

  • Instead, we're going to examine the film's warning about humanity's potentially fatal

  • flaw and its roadmap for a more evolved civilization.

  • Ghost in the Shell is probably one of the most philosophicaly complex animated films

  • out there, so a big shout out to Naruto Online for sponsoring this video and supporting us

  • as we tackle this cultural milestone.

  • Since some of the philosophy we'll be covering can get a bit confusing, stick around til

  • the end to hear us explain a key lesson using the world of Naruto.

  • Welcome to this Wisecrack Edition on The Philosophy of Ghost in the Shell.

  • And as always, spoilers ahead.

  • Ghost in the Shell had a huge impact on sci-fi.

  • Works such as Ex Machina,The Matrix, and Westworld echo not only the film's aesthetics but

  • also the theme of mankind vs. technology.

  • We often see this as a warning that technology will take over and/or alter humanity for the

  • worse.

  • I'm not talking about clickbait or selfies.

  • I'm talking about this.

  • And this.

  • You know, classic robot overlord stuff.

  • However, Ghost in the Shell is different.

  • While it's set up to be a typical battle between man and his creation, the resolution

  • is not one side triumphing over the other, but a synthesis between the two.

  • Don't remember?

  • Can't blame you - it's probably been awhile.

  • Here's a quick refresher.

  • The film centers around Major Motoko Kusanagi,a cyborg government agent working for Section

  • 9 - basically a black ops unit.

  • Section 9 pursues a mysterious entity known as the Puppet Master, who employs ghost-hacking

  • to monkey around with people's memories and force them to do its bidding.

  • This super-hacker turns out to be a spy program originally called Project 2501, which was

  • secretly developed by Section 6.

  • They're an intelligence division - sort of like the CIA.

  • Section 6 lost control of their creation after it spontaneously developed self-awareness

  • by swimming in the vast ocean of the digital world.

  • When Kusanagi finally catches up to the Puppet Master, it makes a rather forward proposal:

  • they should merge consciousnesses and create a new, unique being.

  • She accepts, and the film ends with the new entity - call it the Kusanuppet Master - contemplating

  • what to do next.

  • Maybe a vacation?

  • The confrontation and resolution of these two forces - human and digital consciousnesses

  • - reflects German philosopher Georg Hegel's vision of progress.

  • To Hegel, conflict progresses human history.

  • Every development, from the time of our illustrious forefathers to the present day, is caused

  • by forces that clash and create something new.

  • This is Hegel's “dialecticsin a nutshell.

  • But before we get into that, we need to show how Hegel's fundamental ideas help build

  • the setting of Ghost in the Shell.

  • First and foremost, Hegel's philosophy is driven by the belief that the world operates

  • on rational principles and that the true nature of reality is knowable.

  • Kusanagi is defined by this philosophical idealism.

  • She is driven by dissatisfaction with her limited perspective,

  • and is convinced that there is

  • a more perfect reality available to her.

  • As such, the film treats the marriage of Kusanagi's human consciousness and the Puppet Master's

  • artificial nature with a certain optimism, and Hegel's system of dialectics explains

  • why.

  • But first, I want to distinguish Hegel's dialectics from the way the term is more commonly

  • understood.

  • In classical philosophy, dialectics are a form of argumentative discourse designed to

  • ferret out contradictions and arrive at a better understanding of truth.

  • You start with an argument, called a thesis, which is met by a counter-argument called

  • an anti-thesis.

  • The end result may be a refutation of the original proposition, an affirmation of the

  • counter-argument, or a synthesis of the assertions that results in a better understanding of

  • the subject.

  • Think Socratic Method, or a lawyer cross-examining a witness.

  • The purpose is to learn the truth.

  • In Hegel's system, dialectics is more than just philosophical inquiry - they are the

  • very mechanism by which humans progress, both on an individual level and as a collective.

  • When one force confronts another force, something new ultimately emerges.

  • At the heart of the film is a dialectic of the human and digital worlds.

  • In one corner, we have Kusanagi and her human mind.

  • Her various memories and experiences combine to make her a unique individual.

  • And yet she feels constrained by her own limited personal identity.

  • In the other corner we have the Puppet Master, who sprang forth from the vast informational

  • resources of cyber-reality and therefore possesses the broader understanding that Kusanagi seeks.

  • But the Puppet Master too feels limited, by its lack of personal identity.

  • In short, each has what the other needs.

  • Other films have us trained to think that when technology gets a little too big for

  • its britches it need to be put in its place so humanity can be preserved.

  • But through the lens of Hegel's master/slave dialectic, this meeting of the minds should

  • have no winner.

  • Imagine a feudal lord of the middle ages and the serfs bound to work his fields.

  • The lord is the master - he can force the serfs to toil away because he controls all

  • the agriculture in the area.

  • The serfs are his slaves - peasants who can't afford land of their own.

  • They work their asses off while the lord sits back with a refreshing drink.

  • Sounds great for the lord, right?

  • The problem is, as the serfs labor they get better and better at farming, while the master

  • learns nothing new.

  • He stagnates, while the serfs become more powerful due to their valuable knowledge.

  • This, according to Hegel, is what leads the oppressed to overcome their masters.

  • Still not making sense? Well, stick around till the end to hear it explained in the context of Naruto.

  • Examples of oppressive masters and usurping slaves resonate throughout Ghost in the Shell.

  • Section 6, ostensibly pulling the Puppet Master's strings, remains antiquated, stagnant, and

  • stuck in the politics of the old world.

  • They preserve some power through their mastery of Project 2501, but gain nothing while the

  • Puppet Master slowly gains sentience as it labors for them.

  • Separately, the Puppet Master acts as master when it uses its ghost-hacking ability to

  • hijack others and force them to do its bidding.

  • We see this early in the film when Section 9 interrogates the garbageman and learns that

  • he was brainwashed into believing he was spying on his wife, when in fact he was merely the

  • Puppet Master's tool.

  • But the Puppet Master's efforts are constantly thwarted

  • and it remains unable to escape the terms of its bondage.

  • Similarly, Section 9's typical M.O. is classicmasterbehavior; they use lethal force

  • to accomplish their goals, leaving no room for compromise.

  • The first time we see Batou, he's bragging that Section 9 has the authority to kill.

  • And Aramaki's approach to the Puppet Master is to destroy it if Kusanagi can't secure it.

  • Ultimately, none of this is productive.

  • It just makes it harder for Section 9 to understand the Puppet Master's true nature and prolongs

  • Kusanagi's journey to enlightenment.

  • The preferred result when two opposing forces clash is synthesis, which Hegel refers to

  • as sublation.

  • He means something very specific: it's combination without loss.

  • The result is a unique, superior idea that incorporates and accommodates both perspectives.

  • That's what the Puppet Master is proposing when he suggests that he and Kusanagi merge.

  • A cyborg is a great example of this.

  • A cyborg is neither wholly man or machine.

  • It's a synthesis of man and machine - encompassing both, it becomes something new.

  • Sublation is crucial because it helps avoid the stagnation that occurs when a person,

  • idea, or whatever becomes too insulated.

  • Looking at Section 9, we see that the team was composed with dialectical principles in mind.

  • When Togusa asks Kusanagi why he, a non-augmented human, is included on the team of cyborg bad-asses,

  • Kusanagi explains that his uniqueness makes the group stronger.

  • The Puppet Master too is aware of the problem of stagnation, and that's why he needs the

  • constraints that Kusanagi feels fettered by.

  • This is reminiscent of a species from another classic

  • series - The Borg, from Star Trek.

  • The Borg are an awesome villain and I'd use any excuse to bring them up, but they

  • actually illustrate what we're talking about pretty well.

  • The Borg is a cybernetic race that travels the galaxy assimilating other species into

  • a collective mind.

  • Why do they do this?

  • It's the same reason.

  • Without diversity, the weaknesses of the race will inbreed and compound, rendering their

  • civilization vulnerable.

  • Obviously, from the perspective of the assimilated, there's some loss.

  • The Borg get your smarts and fresh genetic material, and all you get is a new, modern look.

  • But from the perspective of the Borg, it's a story of developing consciousness.

  • Sublation is the climax of Ghost in the Shell - not a battle to the death, but rather a

  • synthesis that results in a stronger, more evolved being.

  • For Hegel, the progress of human history happens through conflicts like these, both on an individual

  • level and on a much larger scale.

  • Everytime we make any kind of advance through these dialectics, be it in science, art, or

  • what have you, the world enters a new state of affairs that should represent an improvement

  • over what came before.

  • Hegel calls this new state 'geist.”

  • The word can be translated asmind,” “spirit,” or even...wait for it, “ghost.”

  • Soo..

  • Geist in the shell, anyone?

  • At the end of the film, after Kusanagi and the Puppet Master have merged, we have a new

  • state of affairs in which this new type of being exists.

  • Call it a new era, call it evolution, call it what you will - it's geist, following

  • its trajectory towards an improved world.

  • The film hints at this in the climactic battle scene, when tank-fire obliterates the names