Steins;Gate and the Trolley Problem

Note: this post contains heavy spoilers for the original Steins;Gate anime.

If you had the power to change the natural course of things for the better, would you do it?

What if, even if the changes were a net positive, they ended up hurting someone?

This is the question posed by the Steins;Gate anime, and ultimately by the trolley problem, a thought experiment in the field of ethics. In the trolley problem, five people are tied to the tracks of a runaway trolley. You stand at a lever that, if pulled, will divert the trolley to another track, saving the five captives. However, there is a single person tied to that track. The problem asks people whether or not they would do nothing and let the five people die, or whether they would pull the lever, killing the one person.

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An illustration of the classic trolley problem

On paper, it’s easy to approach the problem from a purely utilitarian standpoint (cue the sounds of Gen Urobuchi breathing heavily), i.e., the correct choice is the one that results in fewer people dying. However, the model can be tweaked to amplify the moral ambiguity of the choice. One popular variant is the “fat man” variant, where instead of pulling a lever, you choose whether or not to push a fat uninvolved bystander onto the track to slow the trolley. Or the “fat villain” variant, where the fat man is not an innocent bystander but the man who tied the people to the track in the first place. However, they all ultimately ask the same question: is saving five lives worth taking one life? While these variations ultimately make the choice easier or more difficult by adding context, it simply emphasizes that ethical choices like this one aren’t always as simple as black-and-white as they seem. Continue reading “Steins;Gate and the Trolley Problem”

Digicast 13: Bolgmon Spelled Backwards is Nomglob (Frontier Part 1)

The Frontier train has no brakes, and apparently neither does this podcast. Tom, Buggy, Chris, and Maddy have perhaps their least unified discussion yet as they discuss the codification of Digimon archetypes, Zoe’s hat, the sexual appeal of squidgirls, and whether or not Bokomon can be given the same Jar Jar status that Neemon can. Plus, of course, their usual digressions, such as Moon Moon Moon, unintentional Troll 2 references, and Crispin Freeman’s hentai career.

Also, Tom edited this one. Everyone thank Tom for taking over editing and doing a good job! Continue reading “Digicast 13: Bolgmon Spelled Backwards is Nomglob (Frontier Part 1)”

Getting Along with Hopelessness: The Existential Joy of Girls’ Last Tour

Part 1: Zetsubou~, Zetsubou~, Zetsubou~

…So there was no hope after all. All those years, toiling away alone…. But well, now that I’ve failed…I feel so relaxed.
~Ishii, Chapter 16

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Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryouko, localized as Girls’ Last Tour, is a series by Tsukumizu that focuses on Chito and Yuuri, two girls driving around a post-apocalyptic world in a Kettenkrad, continuously moving, scavenging for food, shelter, and fuel wherever they can find it. It’s a Sisyphean existence where nothing is gained or accomplished past being replenishing their reserves to keep moving. They have no purpose beyond continuing their own existence.

Most stories set in a post-apocalyptic, posthuman world  would focus on the existential despair and dread of being alone in the world, without purpose, and constantly confronted with mortality. However, when Girls’ Last Tour delves into these ideas, it does so in a way that I can only describe as “existential joy.” Continue reading “Getting Along with Hopelessness: The Existential Joy of Girls’ Last Tour”

Digicast 12: Kari’s KFC Adventures (Tri Part 5)

Most Digimon podcasts get their Tri episodes out in a timely manner. We are not most Digimon podcasts. Tom, Buggy, Chris, and Maddy growing increasingly frustrated with this episode of Tri until it goes from 0 to 60. And even then they’re still pretty frustrated with it. Also, this is the first episode Chris became editor for! Continue reading “Digicast 12: Kari’s KFC Adventures (Tri Part 5)”

Juni Taisen, Battle Royales, and Survivor Edgic

Juni Taisen is, in my opinion, about the worst possible way you can write a battle royale storyline. It’s entirely predictable, and while many battle royales are, that’s because they usually have a clear protagonist, unlike the ensemble cast that Juni Taisen has. And yet, in spite of this very complaint, I actually find Juni Taisen incredibly interesting. Continue reading “Juni Taisen, Battle Royales, and Survivor Edgic”

The Last of Us and the Importance of Player Agency

So I just recently finished The Last of Us (yes, yes, I’m years late to this party) and I am…upset about it. I was really enjoying the game until the ending, at which point everything completely fell apart for me. I’ve never been the type of person to think that something needs a good ending to be good, but at least in this case, The Last of Us’s ending ended up sullying the whole experience for me.

Obviously, spoilers are going to follow. Continue reading “The Last of Us and the Importance of Player Agency”