This series is deeply engaged with economics. While it is generally less direct most events in the early episodes deal with economic disparities to one extent or another. Nowhere is this more direct and consistent than in the opening theme.
Even as we watch a beautiful 3d print build of the artificial body of ‘The Major’ being completed rapidly onscreen the opening lyrics are focused on the power of money. ‘Money make the world go round’ is the central theme of the well, theme song. It talks about this money and society being a game of monopoly. This is central to the themes that are explored in the episode and to larger elements in the series.
Transhumanism does not lend itself to any single political or social ideology except that we should seek to better the world we live in by embracing and developing ever better technologies to achieve those goals. There is a certain sense of egalitarianism inherent in the idea of building a better world and one of the substantial concerns we see across much of dystopian science fiction is a disconnect between the haves and haves nots. Money, and its attendant power and influence, are a central part of how any technology is accessed and distributed.
This is one reason why we do not see as many people taking advantage of body modifications in the series as might be anticipated. Indeed episode two focuses on the capture of unmodified individuals. They have gained access to high tech weapons systems of military grade but only thanks to an individual whom they refer to as the ‘good one percenter’. A reference to a term that has become quite popular in current parlance to refer to those at the top of the economic pile.
After being largely defeated by the protagonists the remaining trio of rebels take off in a large tank that, apparently, has a walking mechanism. This is a nice touch that demonstrates important technological advances without going out beyond expected rates for the near future. Much of the remainder of the episode is a chase scene with the most interesting elements focusing on the protagonists attempts to stop an AI driving UAV from firing into a walled district for the wealthy.
The AI that the UAV uses is quite impressive as are its tools. A cost analysis would be worth doing on such a system since all the efforts of the protagonists still manage to fail even after the major literally shoots out its engines at point blank as a last resort. Having dodged or destroyed locked missile strikes, proved unhackable, thwarted cabling, and more there is a serious question as to why more groups aren’t using fleets of smaller craft with similar AI systems. This would lead to far fewer people in harms way and an opportunity to achieve relatively easy victory by overwhelming defenses by sheer numbers.
Whatever the case the money spent on the weapons pays off and the downed UAV manages to fire off its last missile with no one near enough to stop it. Yet another case in fiction of the heroes failing to make sure their enemies are completely defeated. In the shot following this missile we get an especially good view of the difference between the wealthy insulated space and the war-torn countryside of Southern California.
This is immediately followed by the arrival of the US government in the form of helicopters with special forces military types and their leader. Commentary by the protagonists suggests the individuals in the combat unit are also highly enhanced. This makes perfect sense as the government has historically, usually been at the pinnacle of technological advancement. Whatever the status of a people, governments lead the way in acquiring and developing powerful new technologies.
This tends to be because governments like to be the place where the most wealth accumulates. That wealth is disbursed in ways that favor the consistent survival and expansion of that government. A central part of that is having the edge over other governments in military and economic capabilities.
Governments also like to keep their best and newest technologies secret. This plays into a consistent argument we see within transhumanism about creating a more egalitarian system for producing and distributing technologies. Specifically that the best technologies go only to the rich and disseminate later down the line. This is the same way with governments and more or less follows the same trends. A great example of this has been GPS systems. Developed in secret by government contractors it has only gradually been permitted to be used by the public and allowed incremental improvements in accuracy and availability. We see this with all the effective technology that the heroes of former section 9 are packing or have embedded.
So in the end this episode really doubles down on the financial theme. Those with the money really are making the world go round. Whether that is the people who are the superwealthy who are choosing to arm people for their cause with fancy technology or the governments putting their own soldier in the field with the latest and greatest. Or those somewhere else on the spectrum who are given those technologies to use.