Fully intentional, the 15th episode of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig features the Tachikoma prominently, just as episode 15 of the first season did. While nowhere as evocative as that particular episode, ‘PAT’ takes a melancholic, if playful reflection on the nature of individuality.
By the end of the first season, the remaining Tachikoma did develop a rather advanced sense of self, to the point that they can think in terms of self-sacrifice, in a thrilling battle against an armed powered armor (they were decommissioned and unarmed by that time as a result of Major Kusanagi’s orders in episode 15).
The episode is so rich in conversation and discussion that I am quite overwhelmed by the content. Much like that episode in the first season, I could not watch any further unless I write about it.
Now I don’t think the above matrix is particularly insightful on its own, I just found it convenient to arrange the information relevant to individuality relative to the particular characters (and I thought a simple table would be boring).
In the previous 15th episode, the Tachikoma were given a sinister character when Batou’s “Personal” unit camouflage itself in order to eavesdrop on a conversation between the Major and Batou. This indicated willful disregard of an individual’s right to privacy, as well as protocol within a quasi-military unit. This is hardly reassuring behavior from an autonomous weapon system.
Here in 2nd Gig, Batou was asking for a Tachikoma to accompany them, and his personal unit exhibited greed, or at least a sense of entitlement by insisting that he be the one to accompany them. What’s really interesting here is that this unit made a false claim that it has completed its maintenance. We find out that it hasn’t been given its machine oil yet.
What this episode tells us is how the Tachikoma already display sapience, but it also suggests a lack of moral sense, or a willful disregard for it. I’m almost certain that an AI is programmed to be forthcoming and truthful, but in this case Batou’s unit used its sapience to judge that lying is better.
It’s a small detail, but for me it gave the episode a level of dread, layered between levels of melancholy and curious reflection.
One’s mistakes and errors, one’s failures, and one’s sins… these are important elements of individuality too are they not?
Another development is how the Tachikoma can ‘pop into’ their own virtual forum. Here they converse in ‘real-time’ but they also claim that in here, time does not exist. I find the idea both amazing and ridiculous. But what does time do to the sense of self, individuality, and collectivity?
Here’s an idea: The Secret Powers of Time
I can’t even begin to imagine how timelessness in this virtual space impacts the Tachikoma’s AI development. What would it mean for me, if I had access to this place, wherein I could indefinitely call “time out” while I level-grind in intelligence?
Or, if I had all that time, would I just end up finishing the rest of Ghost in the Shell?