SAO: Alicization Episode 6

SAO: Alicization Episode 6

Introduction

Before I get into this week’s episode of Sword Art Online: Alicization, I first want to make it clear that an anime can be enjoyable despite being terribly written. SAO: Alicization is one such anime. I’ll admit that I’m enjoying it, but the plot is a mess and I actually found myself laughing at how bad some of the writing was this week.

So, with that in mind, I’ll accept that some people like SAO, I’ll even accept that they like That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, but what I won’t accept is someone telling me SAO is written well unless they have some substantial evidence.

If you’ve read any of my recent weekly episode reviews, you should be aware of the format I typically take. However, today I’m going to be changing it slightly. The first part will be the same standard summary with my comments spread throughout.

The second section though, will be a breakdown of all (most) of the parts in this episode which made absolutely no sense. There are a lot of them, so I’ll probably forget to include some. You can play along in the comments and either add plot holes I left out, or try to argue in defense of some of them.

Project Alicization

Remember how I set up a couple possible scenarios for how this episode would play out last week? Well, none of them were correct. Instead, we’re taken down a route in which everyone works together because the world is a great place. Or is it?

The former JSDF officer-turned mad scientist (I don’t remember his name and it’s not listed on MAL) decides to neither imprison nor turn away Asuna. Likewise, Asuna decides to stay on the Ocean Turtle rather than getting the authorities involved.

Maybe I should have assumed something like this would happen. This is SAO after all, and for some reason I insisted that a logical route would be taken after Asuna blew her cover just seconds after infiltrating the villain’s secret lair.

We then learn that the mad scientist isn’t actually making a game at all. Instead, he’s simply using a game to create a new kind of AI which can be used in war. There are multiple issues with this plan, but I’ll get to all of those in the next part of the post.

So, now that he’s created the most realistic civilization simulation game ever, instead of doing something worthwhile with it, he decides to go the Black Mirror route and implant human consciences into the matrix. Because when has that ever failed?

Let’s back up a bit though and set the stage for adding Kirito’s conscience into the Underworld. Originally the mad scientist wanted to use human consciences for his AI, but they all crashed after not being able to accept that they were just copies (again, Black Mirror).

A Fluctlight simulation from the anime Sword Art Online: Alicization
A Fluctlight Simulation

He then decides to copy the consciences of babies, and then have them raised from the ground up so they don’t ever know the difference between the virtual world and the real one. This brings all new issues to the table which I’ll get into later as well.

However, these AI babies are all absolute followers of an AI government/cult which forbids them from breaking rules. Normally this would be a good thing, but the mad scientist wants these AI to be used as machines of war, so in his mind they should be allowed to break the rules.

If you see the contradiction there, you’re not alone. As I said, there are a lot of problems with this episode, and I’ll be addressing as many of them as I can in the second part of the post.

So, how does one corrupt absolute rule-following AI? Add an element of randomness to the mix, of course. And, what better element of randomness is there than a real human conscience? This is why Kirito was thrown into the Underworld; he’s there to corrupt the perfect AI.

And, apparently it works, because Alice then breaks the Taboo Index. But, I’m not convinced Alice’s breaking of the taboo index actually had anything to do with being corrupted by Kirito. I’m sure it did from the plot’s perspective, but from a logical perspective it doesn’t add up.

Now that we know what the true purpose of the Underworld is, we change scenes to see Asuna and the gang hanging out in their favorite game, ALO (the literal worst part of the entire SAO series). I feel like there was something important about this scene, but I can’t remember what, so instead let’s talk about something unimportant.

When Asuna tells the rest of the girls about how Kirito has two childhood friends in the virtual world, and that one of them is a girl named Alice, we could see the expressions of disgust and distress on the faces of the girls. It’s clear that they really are Kirito’s harem.

Moving on, we then learn more of the backstory of the woman who was dating the creator of SAO (I don’t know her name either and she’s not worth me figuring it out). Apparently she had a bomb implanted in her chest (because anime) so she would have an out after the SAO incident.

She knew the bomb wouldn’t go off, but its purpose was to give a reasonable explanation to police why she didn’t do anything to stop her lover’s diabolical plan. Was a real bomb necessary, or would a fake have still done the trick if she claimed she was convinced it was real?

Also, would that have actually stopped her from being charged in some way? I don’t know exactly how the laws work, but claiming you were saving your own life by allowing hundreds or thousands of others to die hasn’t been a viable defense in the past (World War II).

There are other issues with this defense, but I’m not going to get into them because that’s a tangent I don’t feel is necessary to travel down.

After this backstory, we also get a weird defense of the SAO creator from Asuna. It really seems like she doesn’t care about the hundreds or thousands of people he killed, and believes that he was just “misunderstood.” Be careful, Asuna, some people might think you’re an SAO Incident-denier if you keep saying things like that.

Plot: 0, Hole: A Lot

And now for the part of the post we’ve all been waiting for, the plot hole analysis. I’ll just go through each of the issues one by one in the order which makes the most logical sense to me.

  • The mad scientist thought that he could import the human consciences into the virtual space without any issues.

While this doesn’t seem much like an inconsistency at first glance, we have to remember two things. The first is that SAO takes place in the not-too-distant future, and the second is that human consciences imported into the virtual space and then corrupting is a common sci-fi trope.

Individually these two things don’t really matter, but when they’re put together you may be able to see why I consider this a problem. Anyone living in the world of SAO should be just as familiar with this trope as anyone from our world. This means the outcome should have been obvious to the scientist, and yet he tries it at least 10 times.

  • He wants to create a “new” kind of AI from the ground up.

In case you haven’t noticed, every single game which has appeared in the SAO anime is either built on top of or based on the original SAO game and the NerveGear used to play it. Because of this, you would think that they would know more about SAO and the NerveGear than they actually do.

The scientist claims that he wants to create a “new” AI which can learn and act like a real person, imperfections and all, but this has kind of already happened twice. The first instance is Yuki, the AI which Kirito and Asuna adopted. The second instance was Yuuna from Ordinal Scale.

Neither of these AI are built from the ground up as he’s proposing, but they’re arguably the same end results and were easier to create. The Underworld does the work of creating the AI for the scientist, but he still had to create the Underworld, and then it’s only by random chance that the AI he’s looking for might be created within it.

Let me use an analogy to explain this more clearly. What if we want there to be life on another planet? There are two ways of accomplishing this (there are far more, but for this analogy these two are all we need).

The first is to mold a planet so that it could support life, and then we sit and wait for life to maybe develop on it one day in the distant future. This is essentially what the scientist in Alicization is doing to create his AI. He’s creating an environment, then waiting for random encounters to spawn what he desires.

The second method is to instead find a habitable planet, and then introduce life to it from our own. This is the concept behind other fully functional AI like Yuki and Yuuna. We take something that we want and import it to the other place that we want it to be, thus cutting out the randomness.

Hopefully this illustrates the unnecessarily complicated route the scientist in Alicization is taking to create an AI similar to those which have already been created by using the technology he was inspired by in the first place.

  • The AI he creates should be capable of breaking rules.

Does the scientist want Terminators? Because this is how you get Terminators.

Seriously though, does he not understand that he can just create an AI that follows his orders? He could simply create an AI and then tell it to kill people, he doesn’t need to create and AI from the ground up with only the capability to potentially kill someone if it so chooses.

If you build an AI with the express purpose of using it for war, then it won’t have any objections to orders and will be both stable and predictable, which is exactly what you would want. However, by introducing this “human” element, the AI will become unstable and less predictable.

What if the “rule” his AI decides to break isn’t that killing is bad, but instead is that the military’s orders should be followed? What if the AI decides on its own that killing is wrong? There are so many flaws with this line of reasoning that I don’t have the time to go into all of them.

Really, the fact that the AI all listen to the Taboo Index without question should be a good thing from the point of view of the military. It shows that they won’t have a problem controlling them, but again, the scientist doesn’t seem to get that.

I wish I could say that this scientist is just an idiot, but let’s be honest, his character was written by Reki Kawahara, so what does that say about the author? Bad character writing is just par for the course when it comes to Reki Kawahara though, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

  • The AI originate from copies of the consciences of babies.

This seems to have been more thought out than the previous issue I had with the episode, but it’s an issue nonetheless. First, it makes sense because it adds the necessary human element into the mix while also bypassing the AI becoming corrupted.

However, the real issue here isn’t that the consciences of babies are being used, but rather how they’re being developed. The whole point of using these baby consciences is so they will learn and develop in their environment, but that environment is fake.

It would be one thing if the Underworld perfectly represented the real world, but it doesn’t. All these AI will know is the world in which they grew up in and not the real world in which they’ll be “working” as military killing machines.

Aside from the initial shock of being transferred from the Underworld to the real world, there’s also the issue of their pre-existing beliefs about the very nature of the world. These AI can learn and adapt, so they would be able to quickly understand their new environment, but not completely.

The concept of things like cars and airplanes would be simple enough for them to understand, but what about when they learn that dragons and magic don’t, and never did, exist? Those are things they would have known their whole lives, and now they’re being told those things are imaginary.

For starters, this may be enough to call the AI’s own conscience into question much like the human conscience when it learns it’s a copy. If it doesn’t have a mental breakdown though, it may simply go into a state of denial; these AI are built upon human conscience after all.

Maybe in the end Japan will just have an army of conspiracy theorist AI who all refuse to believe that dragons aren’t real and think that the government is hiding their existence. Conspiracy theories often lead to the mistrust of the government, and that’s not something a state military wants from its soldiers.

  • The magic system is actually the command prompt.

Speaking of how magic isn’t real, it was revealed to us that the magic system in the Underworld is actually just access to the command prompt. So, this begs the question, why would anyone give the AI access to the command prompt which controls their world?

It would be one thing if these AI were all predictable, but as I’ve just explained, they’re based on actual human consciences, the most unpredictable thing imaginable. It’s obvious that at some point one of these AI is eventually going to exploit this feature, and in fact, one did.

We learned that the Taboo Index is actually the result of one or more AI tampering with the command prompt. And, if you recall, the Taboo Index is the one thing preventing these AI from becoming anarchists as the scientist wants, so why would he give them the tools needed to create it?

It’s time for another analogy. Let’s say there’s a mouse in a maze which has two exits: A and B. You really want the mouse to go to exit A, which represents anarchy, but you don’t tell the mouse that or give it any push in that direction.

You then leave a trail of food through the maze ending at exit B, which represents civil government. Again, you haven’t told the mouse to go to exit B, but you’ve set up a scenario in which it’s inevitable that the mouse does go to exit B, instead of the exit A you hoped for.

That’s essentially what the scientist has done with the Underworld. He wanted to create anarchist AI, but then gave them all the tools necessary for them to create a civil form of government instead of anarchy. None of his actions make any sense.

He probably also gave the AI admin privileges on his home PC as well.

  • Kirito’s presence in the Underworld corrupted Alice.

We’re told that since all of the AI follow the Taboo Index absolutely, they’ll never develop into the anarchist AI the scientist wants. To remedy this, instead of removing the Taboo Index or “magic system” it was created with, he decides to put an actual human into the Underworld to corrupt the AI.

He believes that the human, in this case Kirito, will influence the AI with his human-unpredictability, thus causing the AI to also veer away from the teachings of the Taboo Index. But, as I mentioned in the first part of this post, I don’t believe that would actually happen based on the setup we’re told.

When Kirito was introduced into the Underworld, he had all of his memories of the real world suppressed, which essentially makes him a blank slate, no different from the baby consciences the AI were created with. This means he would be just as influenced by the Taboo Index as any of the AI.

And, in fact, we see this to be the case until Alice is taken by the Integrity Knight. Alice’s kidnapping is what triggers Kirito’s human-unpredictability to manifest. As we see before that point, he’s just as much a devout follower of the Taboo Index as Alice and Eugeo are.

Because of this, it’s unreasonable to assume that it was Kirito’s presence which caused Alice to choose empathy over the Taboo Index for the split-second she did. We have no evidence that this empathy was a result of her interactions with Kirito, and in fact it seems just as likely that Kirito learned the empathy he showed when she was kidnapped from her instead.

This is a simple case of “correlation does not equal causation.” Just because Kirito was present when Alice developed empathy doesn’t mean his presence had anything to do with it, especially since there is no other supporting evidence pointing toward that hypothesis being correct.

  • Kirito will make a full recovery because he’s the hero of SAO.

This isn’t really a plot hole, but I couldn’t help myself from laughing when I heard this due to both the absurdity and irony of the statement. First, the fact that Kirito is the “hero” of SAO (the game) has nothing to do with whether or not he’ll make a full recovery from his brain damage.

I think the point the nurse was trying to make was that he’s a “fighter,” but it came across as, “he beat SAO, so he can’t be killed by something like brain damage.” If that’s the case, then I should be immortal, because I’ve beaten quite a few games in my day.

Next is the dramatic irony. Not only is Kirito the “hero” of the SAO game incident, but he’s also the hero of the SAO series. And, since he’s the hero of the series (and the series is SAO specifically), we, the viewers, know that he’s going to make a full recovery.

So, not only could the nurse’s comment be read to mean that he can survive anything because he beat SAO, but it can also be interpreted as Kirito making a full recovery specifically because he’s the protagonist, which is obviously what’s going to end up happening.

That may have been the best line in all of SAO. I like to think Reki Kawahara added that line in for that express purpose, but that may be giving him too much credit.

Conclusion

So, what did you think about today’s extra long Sword Art Online: Alicization episode review? I didn’t think it would end up being this long, but I had a lot to say so I figured I’d just put it all out there. I’d like to read your comments on some of the points I brought up, so leave them below.

If you enjoyed this extra long post, let me know by clicking the like button ❤ down below as well (I just learned I can add emoji to these posts). You should also follow me on Twitter @DoubleSama.com to keep up to date with all of my various posts.

Speaking of my various posts, I have my next non-anime related post planned out, so if you’re interested in that, stay tuned for upcoming details in this week’s Weekly Update over at Patreon.com/DoubleSama.

There’s also a community Discord server for those who would like to get in on the discussion in real-time. The Discord server is open to everyone, but there are tier-specific roles for patrons, which is just one of the multiple benefits to becoming a patron.

My much shorter review of the next episode is available here.

Loading Likes...

Leave a Comment

Bitnami