I was 19 when I first heard the questions asked, “What would happen to humanity if replicators were invented?” Such are the things that happen while watching repeats of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine with other bored college students that a decent amount of discussion came out of it. Like many absurd hypothetical scenarios, the answers revealed more about the respondent than anything else.
Much has been made of the world of Fractale. The residents of the world are assured of seemingly absolute freedom, provided they give information to satellites periodically throughout the day and take data updates when “festivals” are scheduled. The more common opinion seems to make this world out to be dystopian. As it’s still early days, it’s hard to completely grasp the condition of this world.
Returning to the replicator question, the answers generally cover a wide range of possibilities. The general nature of the question is revealing about how one views humanity as a whole, though in this case it asks what a person would think would happen if any incentive to work vanished. The most common response to this seems to be positive with a world peace and an end to global hunger being the immediate effects. Those who think harder about this tend to grow more bleak in their view. Global nuclear holocaust was one such answer, others have included genocide and endless war.
In this case, I want to focus on the first answer I heard to the question. Humanity would end within 30 years with a whimper. The person assumed that given absolute freedom and comfort, people would isolate themselves and fatten themselves up on an endless supply of food before dying of heart attacks or similar ailments. To this day, it is among the bleakest opinions I’ve ever heard given on anything.
While not so grim, I would place Fractale more in that category. The human population in the series has clearly dropped dramatically, probably now in the millions rather than billions. To it’s credit, the series has also done an excellent job creating moral ambiguity.
The group Lost Millenium could be seen as a simple group of terrorists as Clain commented when he first heard what they were about. One could also take the view that they really are trying to liberate humanity from their own technology and rulers who are suppressing them. The idea of one group trying to use force to bring their own interpretation of freedom onto another group that believes it has freedom is a quite interesting paradox.
Three Directions and the Impossibility of the Ideal Solution
The way I’ve read the series to this point would lead me to believe the Lost Millenium are the true villains of this piece. The 3rd episode lays out three different ways people of the Fractale world can live.
The first is the predominant method, where people are free to do whatever they like provided they integrate into the Fractale at regular intervals. That these take names like prayers and holy festivals was probably intended, but it serves as a way to make these data collection and updates into customs rather than tasks. Slapping a date and a period something should be done has a way of doing that. In addition, those who are part of this system do not have to worry about medical care, nutrition or the need to work for sufficiency. The downside is family structures based entirely on the whims of a group of people at a certain time. This would probably seem dystopian from the perspective of any viewer.
On the other side is the Lost Millenium way, which is almost certainly a reaction to the Fractale system. This group has defined freedom as not being part of the system at the cost of modern medical treatment, education and food. What makes them more dangerous is a persecution complex. There has yet to be any evidence of anything compelling people to stay within the Fractale system apart from socialization. They don’t entirely reject modernity in the fact that they depend on devices to see Dopples.
Finally, in his stay at the camp, Clain got to experience living with a group of people who live entirely different than he did, while enjoying food that wasn’t from a tube. He is clearly the link between the two extremes in that he likes experiencing new things like running for no particular reason in that 2nd episode, he lives in a single location and he has a love for older technology. At the same time, he does this in the context of still being connected to Fractale.
Clain probably represents freedom as many people would want to experience it. He has the best of both worlds until he gets involved with the Lost Millenium’s attack on the festival. Unfortunately, he now finds himself caught in the middle of an ideological fight where there is no compromise, even if he represents compromise himself.