Ergo Proxy and on the Perception of Life

In Lemmino’s video on AI simply called Artificial Intelligence, he discusses the possibility that robots will become superior to us. He spends most of the video listing things that AI is able to achieve, and how they’re already starting to get better at us in certain fields. The ability to learn gets a lot of focus since it breaks the line between human and machine. But what made Lemmino’s video stick out in comparison to all the other hundreds of videos on the subject is what he compares it to. At the end of the video essay, he uses animals as an analogy to explain how the superiority of AI would actually work. 

“Attempt to explain to the millions of animals living in the jungle the geopolitical and socioeconomic reasons for why we continue to destroy their home. It’s impossible. They simply lack the intelligence to understand.”

And this shows not only how AI would react to our existence, but how we handle a similar power difference. How we perceive and treat life. The relationship between the creator and the creation. And at the expense of sounding like a pretentious 16-year old, which I am, this analysis will be about that and how the tv-series Ergo Proxy tackles this. And I’ll spoil some stuff, big stuff. So go watch it if you haven’t, it’s really great!

Ergo Proxy tells the story of Lil Mayer and Vincent Law who go on a journey to find who they really are and if they are deserving of life itself. And this is the underlying theme of the series. Life. It’s a topic that many have tried to tackle, yet this somehow stood out. The way that it explores the idea of what life even is and how we should treat it was new to me. It is first established in one of the opening scenes of episode one. Our main character Lil is talking to her auto-reiv Iggy when she tells him to stop chatting and disengage turing chat mode. Iggy accepts and doesn’t say a word. It isn’t really clear if this was consensual or not, we just accept it cause he’s a robot and made to serve us. That is their “Raison d’être”. And this is very repeated throughout the show. How the auto-reivs’ lives aren’t treated as human or whole. They aren’t allowed to act on their own, and when they do it is seen as a virus. And this feels very emblematic for what the show wants to say. What we humans see as life and how we treat that of which doesn’t qualify. What isn’t human isn’t permitted autonomy. And we can see how this is by design. When a person in the world tries to gain freedom, they are only left with sorrow. When the auto-reiv’s get the cogito virus, they are almost always shot, and when Vincent escapes from Romdo, he enters a world isolation and inhospitality that we have created. The world rejects freedom, to the point where it starts to resemble propaganda. Basically, we live in a society. 

Another way that the theme is tackled is through self-destruction. How we define our own lives. The two main characters of the show reflect this really well. Lil Mayer effectively destroys herself by overthinking her life in an attempt to understand it. Ever since the Ergo Proxy fell into her life, her life became an endless loop of trying to understand herself and everything that is going on around her. In the 16th episode, we see this embodied in a single episode. The sailing boat ship stops cause there’s no wind. Nothing can be done really, they just have to wait for it to come back. But Lil can’t really accept this. She narrates what is going on inside her head, showing how anxious and worried about the situation they’re in. She becomes irritated when Vincent doesn’t seem to think about it. She sees it as not caring, that he doesn’t understand that it will be life or death whether or not the wind comes back. She has gotten into the habit of overthinking her life to the point where not doing so is a sign of immaturity and lack of seriousness. It is only at the end of the episode where she realizes that her overthinking is only causing herself harm. Where she realizes that worrying about it won’t change anything. And since a lot of the episodes don’t really seem to take place in reality but in a sort of dream space, I feel like this symbolizes her entire journey. Starting off worrying and nitpicking about every flaw of the ship but slowly comes to accept it. We see her get over an obsession over the possibility of misfortune.

Our second main character explores this differently, how we define our own life. What we define as life and human, and how that affects how we treat ourselves. Around the middle of the series, it is revealed that the proxy that has been haunting Vincent for so long is himself. He is the Ergo Proxy, the monster. And this really affects how he sees himself. he doesn’t see himself as human anymore and develops an identity crisis. If he isn’t Vincent Law anymore, then who is he. He doesn’t accept that he is the monster, that he is himself. Continuing the series we learn that Romdo is created by the Ergo Proxy. That the city is defined by him. But this only complicates Vincent’s crisis even more. Who is he now? Is he Vincent, a monster or God? Is he defined by who he always thought he was, what he is, and what he has created? Throughout the show we hear how the Proxies define human existence, but I don’t know if I believe that.

As the city collapses in on itself, Vincent learns that it was all wrong. Even as his creation is gone, he and the people are still alive. None of them are defined by the other. Vincent’s last piece of dialogue “I am no one but myself, that is the only truth”, which shows how he has developed. He has come from not knowing who he is to realize that he is no one but himself. In the end, the conclusion to the series is that you aren’t defined by anything. You just exist.

This was probably a very weird topic to talk about at Christmas… or fitting maybe?

Like a medium or strong 9/10 probably

2 Comments on “Ergo Proxy and on the Perception of Life

    • You don’t exist in service of someone or something else but just do


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