March 04, 2011

Fractale -- ep 7

So now, at last, I think we know what this story is about. This is kind of spoilerish, so it's below the fold.

Nessa has, or perhaps Nessa is, the Fractale system password. She can fix Fractale, or destroy it. She has, if she chooses to use it, complete control over the Fractale system.

But Nessa isn't wise enough to make that decision. Ultimately it will turn out to be Clain who will decide, because he's the only one Nessa will listen to. And that's why we're on a road trip: it is so that Clain can see many ways in which people live with, or without, the Fractale system. (And the audience in turn also can, and will in the end have opinions about it.)

Phrynne's role in this is still a mystery. In the first episode she served the purpose of delivering Nessa's code to Clain, so that he could activate her, but it's not as clear how she will be involved in the end. My guess will be that Phrynne and Enri will end up representing the opposite sides of the issue, as personifications of the two positions between which Clain will be forced to choose.

They're trying to justify it all in other terms, but that's the real reason why Clain is on that balloon.

One interesting question: If the Fractale system is shut down, can Nessa herself survive? I think the answer is "yes". She seems to be running on independent hardware of some kind, which is why she was able to appear on the balloon when it was flying through areas where Fractale had no coverage.

A different point that comes out in this episode: just what are doppels? There seem to be three answers.

1. Some doppels are copies of real people which are dispatched to operate autonomously replacing that person, doing things the real person doesn't want to do. That's what Clain's parents did. Perhaps they check up periodically and peruse activity logs, and maybe even replay and watch particular scenes. Maybe they don't even do that. Such doppels are programmed to act like the human they simulate, but setting them up that way is probably automatic, involving some kind of memory download from the human through their implants.

2. Some doppels are directly remotely controlled by real people, to permit them to operate in places and in ways they can't physically operate, or don't want to be physically present. In this form, they are plugged in and directly experience what the doppel does, except that while doing so they are not constrained by the laws of physics. The doppels can fly, take any form, and do pretty much anything the operator can imagine. But they don't necessarily have to do those things. An example of this kind of doppel is Clain's friend who goes with him to the bazaar in the first episode. (There are at least two more in this episode.)

3. A large percentage of doppels are best referred to as NPCs. Their purpose is to fill in the background, and do the kinds of things that NPCs in MMO's take care of.

Doppels of the first two types can be very realistic, but when they are abstract (e.g. Clain's parents) I think it indicates that they don't really care. There are people with tremendous skill at doppel design, but doing it well requires talent and hard work. You can create a doppel by hitting a button which spins random features, and that seems to be what a lot of people do.

There's a kind of hybrid state in between #1 and #3, in which doppels operate autonomously doing boring jobs but they directly work for certain humans. Such humans may well have a lot of such doppels, and supervising them is their job. It's how they earn their pay.

For another thing that came out this time is that Fractale isn't communist. It may well be a borderline between socialism and capitalism, where the unemployed are given a low level of wealth and well being, but if they want more luxury than that they must work.

There are some parts of the Fractale system which are low-rent, and it seems that Clain comes from such a place. But there are some places which are distinctly luxurious, and in this ep we visited one. I suppose I can see the attraction, but overall I found it repulsive. (And I think I was supposed to.)

Getting back to the decision: it isn't an obvious one. There are hordes of people who don't know how to survive outside the Fractale system. There are some who are physically incapable of doing so. If the system is shut down, those people will suffer. Presumably a lot of them will outright die.

Yet the Fractale system itself is a kind of escape from reality, and as Clain himself has experienced, it can lead to loneliness and isolation. Clain himself asked his parent's doppels why they couldn't live together as a family, and the doppels offered some sort of hand-wave answer which didn't satisfy.

I suspect that Clain is going to take the "Neo" solution: Fractale will continue but aggression towards those outside of the system will cease. Fractale the simulation will continue but Fractale the police state will be terminated. Non-covered places will continue to be non-covered, and people there will live the old way. Anyone who wishes to move from one to the other will be permitted to do so.

In other words, Fractale is a ripoff of The Matrix, and the situation will be resolved in about the same way.

UPDATE: One question I've had for a long time: just how many real humans are there on the planet? I think that the number is very low. It could be fewer than a million total. (And I might mention that I think that was the case for The Matrix as well. A hell of a lot of the "people" that are in the Matrix aren't really people. They're part of the system.)

There simply isn't any way that the Fractale system, as presented, could support 6 billion humans in the ways we have seen, even in the low rent district Clain comes from. He seems to have lived in Scotland or Ireland, and the total population there may well only be a few thousand.

After how many people did you see running around in there? We didn't get a massive view of the place afterwards, but if it really had a population of humans like it seemed to earlier, there would be huge mobs. But it seemed nearly empty, and I think that's because almost everything we saw earlier was indeed illusion. The real population of the place was actually quite small.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in General Anime at 04:18 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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1 I'm seeing some parallels with Clarke's novel The City and The Stars, in which the Last City on Earth, Diaspar, is instantiated by a Central Computer that controls all matter, down to the atomic level. The citizens of Diaspar are themselves instantiated; when the protagonist, Alvin, travels to Lys, another city long thought lost, he must have belly buttons explained to him.

I expected Khedron the Jester (and truly draconian art critic) to pop up at any moment.

Posted by: refugee at March 04, 2011 08:31 PM (auErC)

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