Image source: Bandai Visual on YouTube
Technological advancement can be a quirky beast. Very often, new developments can open a new can of ethical worms that the world must deal with. But what if that new development puts into question the very concept of self?
ID-0 is a complicated science fiction space adventure that takes place in a world with such a technology; something so useful as to be the very foundation of humanity’s expansion into the universe and simultaneously a Pandora’s box of ethical and philosophical questions.
[Note: This article contains spoilers for ID-0.]
In ID-0, the expansion of the human race into the universe relies on the discovery of a new element, Orichalt. By utilizing the resonant teleportation properties of this red crystalline mineral, humanity obtains warp technology and an entire industry emerges based on the search and mining of Orichalt.
Another useful byproduct of Orichalt is the Mind Trance System. By entering special pods, people are able transfer their memories and consciousness into a mechanical body called an I-Machine. This allows them to conduct dangerous operations in places that an ordinary human could not go. Thanks to the backup function of the Mind Trance System, if an I-Machine is destroyed, the operator suffers no damage, save some memory loss of their mechanical body’s “death.”
However, this technology has led to emergence of a bizarre and morally questionable practice, Ever Trancers. Ever Trancers are people who have chosen to abandon their mortal bodies and remain in their I-Machines forever. Five of ID-0’s seven starting primary characters are Ever Trancers.
This brings up the philosophical question of self and identity. If an Ever Trancer has no human body, then can they call themselves human? What defines them as themselves? If someone can move their consciousness to a machine and back again, does that mean the machine was “them” temporarily? If the machine can exist without the human body, then is the individual dead or alive? Where does one end and the other begin? If an I-Machine is destroyed, who is the user that comes out of the pod? Then there’s remains the elephant in the room. The Mind Trance System makes a backup of the user’s consciousness in case their I-Machine is destroyed. Does that mean it’s possible for someone to exist as two people at the same time?
Image source: TVアニメ『ID-0』公式 on Twitter
Despite being such a risky and ethically questionable technology, it’s obvious that in the world of ID-0 the benefits of Mind Trancing far outweigh the drawbacks. Obviously, Ever Trancing is highly illegal. However, as seen from the events of the series, it’s really not all that hard to do. The main character, Maya Mikuri, almost becomes an Ever Trancer herself in the very first episode when her mechanical body is abandoned with her consciousness still inside it and an error prevents her from returning to her body.
Of the five Ever Trancers of the mining crew that rescues Maya, four became Ever Trancers for their own various reasons. The fifth, Ido, remains a mystery. There is no difference in the way the characters treat each other, be they I-Machine or human. One Ever Trancer even has his human daughter as part of the crew. The characters all treat the issue in a nonchalant manner. Still, one can’t help but wonder if they ever sit and stare into the vast emptiness of space and wonder who or what they really are.
ID-0 is not currently streaming with English subtitles. However, it will be released on Netflix outside of Japan sometime in the future.