Born on that Planet: TAKASHI KURATA
February 9, 2016
Interfaces in 2036, imagined by sci-fi author Takashi Kurata, is introduced in seven segments, four from a short story and three from an interview with him. This is the second in a three-part series of the short story. Three individuals who are locked in a cylindrical paper office try to escape by using one’s solution to reboot the office, but fail. It was in that situation that another proposed the idea of using a paper gun.
A Paper Gun?
“Okay, can we try one of my gadgets?” Yoshida rummaged through his pockets. “It’s about time I got serious about this situation, or I figure you’ll get angry, won’t you.”
“Far from serious, you’re grinning”, Sasanami teased.
Yoshida produced a small folded piece of paper. “Bringing any mobile memory into here is not allowed, right? Look at this, it has that kind of last-century feel to it.” It expanded to A2-size and became standard semi-transparent tracing paper. What looked like a number of shapes of complex parts were printed on the paper in a single color, black silhouette. “It’s not possible to bring in Papel Nova that was output in a different location.” The output of Papel Nova was ultimately connected to each individual workspace and if one left that space, the data was lost as it was designed to disintegrate.
There were samples of Papel Nova sitting on top of one another on the desk. Yoshida took a sheet and put on top of it a portion of a blueprint and commanded, “Outline tracing, vector optimization.”
The Papel Nova on the bottom perceived the difference in brightness, followed the outline, and displayed the line on the surface of the paper. When the outline was copied, Yoshida said, “Cut out on the lines.” Just like Tomi had done earlier, the paper responded, and became easy to tear along the line.
The three individuals worked together to tear the paper. Cutting out the complicated outline produced a dozen or two slips of paper. Yoshida folded the pieces of paper and proceeded to assemble them with gusto. The intricate tabs formed a complicated fit that provided for rigid construction. Finally, what Yoshida grasped in his hand was the Papel Nova that had been made into the shape of a gun.
“Where do we draw the line between what is a tool and what is a weapon?” Yoshida asked. “Not being able to properly draw that line will get us into trouble.”
Sasanami kept her eyes fixed on the hand-made article Yoshida was holding. “Yoshida, did you use this kind of weapon on your planet?”
“There wasn’t anything like weapons. On our planet there weren’t any conflicts. No, sorry, I just lied. Of course there were conflicts, and even now there are.”
There was no clue to know what this meant.
Roni Yoshida was a Zingalamaduni alien. Zingalamaduni, the language of the Zingalamaduni planet, translated to ‘Our mother planet.’ This was ultimately Yoshida’s explanation; however, it actually was Swahili or some other language.
Fact was the Zingalamaduni aliens were all human and born on earth with most of them holding Japanese citizenship. The situation was such that they were simply assembled under that name.
The reason the planet was born was because of a large-scale accident where information disappeared from the government social-security system. It happened about ten years before, and involved Yoshida and hundreds of thousands of others. The people at the center of the fiasco temporarily became citizens who did not exist.
Even if individuals had kept their identification numbers, any personal data whatsoever that could have been linked to the number was gone. Therefore, government compensation was not possible, registration could not take place, and authorization was not granted.
This was particularly a great shock for people who were not regular employees. Many of them were laden with debt and lost their homes. Measures to cope with the situation came late and compensation was meager.
Yoshida said, “Small slip-ups and apathy combined to form an interesting machine and we were cut from society. What happened to us was extremely difficult to avoid.”
“And that’s why you became so thin?” Sasanami said, ribbing him.
“To say I got thin is an understatement, I became just bones,” Yoshida countered. “And the gears of that grand situation ground my bones into powder.” Yoshida was a free-lance designer and even though he had reasonable savings, he had no relatives and assistance from friends had stalled. “And to go back in time, it was determined that all of us had been born on that planet.” As a mutual support group, they had protected each other, and protested. There was some irony at the bottom of that tongue-in-cheek name. As people of the nation, they had been thrown outside. They objected strongly and demanded their rights.
After the situation had improved, inhabitants of the planet maintained cohesiveness. Later, there were other people who were added. And even at the present time, the group was helping people who encountered adversity.
Two years prior. While walking back through town a little tipsy after the last train had departed, Tomi found a spaceship that had landed in a sub-divide of what was supposed to be a vacant lot. He stopped and through inebriated eyes looked at the spaceship. From the streamlined body of the ship was a glow of light that appeared like that from a stylish lamp. He moved close and slid his hands over the surface. The spaceship was made of Papel Nova.
The spaceship’s door opened and a voice came from inside. “Welcome! I’ve been waiting for you.” And there was Yoshida.
“I did think of evil methods. I need to make sure that it is not inadvertently used for evil purposes.” Strewn about the spaceship were a lot of hand-made Papel Nova articles. It took time to realize that the scattered objects were being exhibited. The spaceship was actually a gallery. “And if one can imagine that something dangerous may happen, you have to tell the company, hoping that a countermeasure will be devised.”
And there at last it occurred to Tomi that Yoshida had always been waiting for him. And before his eyes, it was the person who had promised to meet him in the near future on a social media exchange just a few days earlier.
Presently, Yoshida said, “Being skeptical is our job.”
External Section Advisor: Industrial Designer was written on Yoshida’s access pass.
“We keep a distance so we can criticize without being hated. We haven’t become enemies, but we are also not completely allies.”
The people from the Zingalamaduni planet were loosely associated with the volunteer corps and provided an external perspective in running groups.
“You can be quite obnoxious,” Sasanami said, grinning.
Sasanami was also there as external advisor, but as a representative of the volunteer corps, which used Papel Nova in various ways.
“Using a destructive technology in a prosthetic way.” While trying to convince himself, Yoshida pulled the paper trigger. The sound of a smack was heard as a small slip of paper shot from the hand-made article and bounced off the wall.
“At what point is interaction, and from what point is intrusion? The minute boundary between those two is what we are aiming for.” The grin on Yoshida’s face widened. “When we want to achieve a substantial manipulation, we have to make absolutely sure to adjust the electronic input as well as the physical input. This I find quite intriguing.”
Tomi responded somewhat absent-mindedly, staring at the wall. “I think that way would be stronger for machines and humans.” The spot where the paper slip struck the wall was flickering with patterns, showing a sign that something might begin. “When a strong impact is concentrated in a small surface area, it absorbs the physical shock and a short code is transferred to the Papel Nova’s fiber devices, showing the vulnerability….”
After that was said, Yoshida opened his eyes wide. “Huh, it won’t pass through?”
The flicker ended and nothing happened. Tomi’s face had a mix of satisfaction and just a touch of disappointment. “In my environment it worked, well…. I’m really frustrated.”
Even though that was the case, a big smile came to Yoshida’s face. “Sorry, but I had already applied protection to it.”
Tomi responded with an expression that showed some pride. In Yoshida’s hand, the hand-made article was torn apart and had become a mass of scrap paper. As it fell between his fingers and continued to deconstruct until it became a powder scattered on the floor. “Wow great, it can even recognize who is firing and can take defensive measures!”
Yoshida let out a cheer. After that his face inadvertently became serious, and he asked Tomi sincerely for what he wanted. “Is this sending a alert to the outside?”
“Ah,” Tomi said in a small voice as his face puckered up. “No, it’s not being sent. This was only set up for demonstration purposes.”
“Oh well, close but no cigar!”
“Should be about time for the guard to make his rounds. I wonder if we should start banging on the walls.” Sasanami’s voice came through with a hint of anxiety. Tomi could not stay still and wandered back and forth in the room.
Yoshida’s eyes seemed to be focused in the distance as he pulled on his beard. “Listen to this, I just realized something. A human is considered an information container, right?”
Tomi’s face lit up. It was the way a face lights up when you realize something that doesn’t make you happy. “That’s it!”