Part 21: Takeshi - Second Day - Part 9TrackKlamauk
Looking around I saw that I was the only one that was surprised. Coco and Pipi were looking up at Sora with impressed looks on their faces. Tsugumi's face was blank. The Kid looked clueless and spaced out.
"Geez! Oh well."
You was laughing at my bewilderment.
"Enough fun at my expense. Tell me what's going on..."
"Sora, sorry to bother you, but could you introduce yourself again?"
"Yes. Of course."
The punctured can had stopped fizzing. Sora took a step forward toward us, carefully as if avoiding the sandwich, and straightened up. After a slight bow, she spoke.
"I am Sora Akanegasaki... My official name is 'LM - RSDS - 4913A'. I am an artificial intelligence, or AI, program in charge of guiding visitors around LeMU."
"I have been programmed as one part of the LeMMIH system. If you call me from any nearby terminal, I will soon appear anywhere within LeMU. My image reaches you through a network supporting this RSD system throughout the complex. I think that there are few places in the world boasting this kind of technology."
"RSD...this really is rare. I've never seen an example of it this sophisticated."
"It's one of LeMU's big attractions."
"So that's why Sora disappeared during the blackout?"
"Yes. I'm sorry to have caused you undue concern..."
I had finally lost any sense of what was going on. The conversation had taken off and left me behind.
"Simply put, it is an image display system that uses a semiconductor to shine a laser directly on your retina."
The Kid gave a big nod. But nothing about her explanation sounded simple to me.
"And it is supporting such an advanced personality."
The surprising thing was that Tsugumi was actively pursuing the conversation.
"LeMU is fairly perfectionist when it comes to virtual space technologies. My existence is one manifestation of that."
"Doesn't that require a big system?"
"Yes, but it is much smaller that it would have been 20 years ago."
"How big? Where is it? I'd like to see it."
"Uh...I'm sorry, but I'm not allowed to say. It is a secret."
"You weren't given the details?"
It seemed to me that the conversation was getting more and more technical....
"It seems you have motivation and a will of your own. That you are programmed for your own way of thinking..."
"That is simply the selection of responses from a massive bank of sampling data the results of which I give back."
"Random... Oh, I see. You are a learning program in which positive responses are saved in that way and reused."
"That is correct. I have been designed with specific emphasis on the functions of curiosity and concentration. Morphological analysis from my audio input very likely operates at a speed and a level of precision without peer. There are also a number of special technologies used to create me. However, the specifics of these are industrial secrets which cannot be revealed..."
"I see. There are things about you that normal AI can't explain, but I think I get the picture."
I really didn't get it at all. It was a headache more than anything.
"By the way...Sora... If I told you that I were actually a man, would you believe me?"
Tsugumi tossed this bizarre question out of nowhere.
"Don't anybody jump in just yet...I'm asking Sora. So, would you believe me?"
"Well, what if I said that I were over 20 years old?"
"That is possible."
"I'm single. I'll probably stay that way. It's what I believe."
"That might well be true."
"Actually, I just learned that Takeshi had a sex change three years ago. It's true."
"That I cannot believe."
"Hee, hee... You really are quite amazing."
Tsugumi laughed a little.
"H-hey, Tsugumi, whaddya think you're doing?"
I had to ask.
"I wanted to see... If Sora can tell when people are lying. To see if she can determine the truthful information from non-truthful even when she has no background data. She can. She does more than compare and reference data with data in her memory but has been programmed to factor in 'chance' and 'intuition' to make her own judgments. The system is designed to make choices based on updated information and boost its efficiency by rewriting itself. This is an incredibly advanced level of technology."
Helloooooo, Turing test!
"Is that right?"
"Yes. My system uses state-of-the-art technology. But I am not very good at lying.... My lying function is underdeveloped."
Sora laughed at herself.
"But when you introduce yourself you say that you are a system engineer. That's a lie isn't it?"
"That is simply a 'setting' of mine. That is how my profile in the mainframe computer reads."
"...Oh. So that's how it works."
In the end, I seemed to be the only one who was flabbergasted that Sora was the product of AI. You was an employee at LeMU so of course she knew. Tsugumi was always cool as a cucumber. I wondered why she knew so much about LeMU. I guessed that she'd looked up a lot of the information in advance.
Coco didn't seem to care one way or the other whether Sora was a hologram or not. She was just laughing and playing with Pipi. That the Kid didn't seemed surprised, well I put that down to his circumstances....
It seemed like it was about time for the sun to be setting. In the dark depths of the ocean my sense of time had eroded. I checked the time on my PDA, finally making sure it was night.
Still, nothing in LeMU changed.
No one new showed up to visit us. But things hadn't taken a turn for the worse, either. There didn't seem to be any impending danger of floor or collapse. We each spent the time as we pleased. We had long forgotten that we were trapped.
Honestly, I was a little confused. Sora was AI...
I wanted to know what RSD was.
It might be something I shouldn't even bother worrying about, but I wanted to ask Sora about it. Without really understanding what she was all about, I didn't think I would know how to act around Sora.
"You got my interest perked...and I want to know more about you."
"I understand. But rattling off a bunch of jargon won't do much good will it? I might just confuse you more."
"Well, I'm no technician. If you start throwing out a bunch of technical terms, I'll just get lost."
"I see. So you were completely 'lost' when I was conversing with Tsugumi?"
"Yeah. I had no clue what you two were saying..."
I scratched my head. I realized that I was blushing.
"Oh, I'm sorry...did I say something wrong?"
Sora look apologetic.
"No, that was a good comeback."
"A good comeback? What is a good comeback?"
Sora looked confused.
"Uh...it's when you say something to needle the person youre talking with or make a sharp or witty comment that makes them feel awkward."
"Uh, I see. Gee, I'm really sorry, Takeshi."
"You don't have to apologize. It didn't hurt my feelings or anything."
"Are you sure?"
"I don't mind. It was fun. Okay?"
"Uh, uh...making a person feel awkward...is funny? That seems to be a contradiction."
Humor does not compute.
"It is, but it's not. It depends on the time and the place."
"That's difficult. It is hard for me to comprehend the concept of 'nice comeback'..."
"Forget about it."
Knowing that Sora was a product of artificial intelligence, I was impressed that she was even able to register a joke. I wondered if I hadn't tossed that can of cola to Sora if I would still be thinking that she were human...
"Uh, to get back to what we were talking about...can you tell me more about RSD?"
"Yes. Let's see.... Let me try to explain using specific examples."
Uhh that should be from the Control Room to the rest area.
As we walked, Sora started speaking.
"Takeshi, can you see me?"
"Yeah. I see you no problem."
"And I can see you as well. I am standing right next to you. You're sure?"
"Yes. I'm sure. Positive."
Suddenly Sora faced me and reached out toward me. And then...
Sora's hands slipped without resistance into my chest. Reflexively I tried to grab her arms. Only my hands met with nothing. My hands were in front of my chest, but there was nothing there.
"Yes... So you are seeing me. However, I am not right next to you."
Saying this, Sora pulled her hand back.
"The display device is not actually a display. Rather, a weak laser is aimed at the retina."
"Retina? You mean my eye?"
"Yes. In the ceiling of each room and corridor are semiconductor laser output devices. So the image is being directly reflected on to your retina."
"Yes. My image."
"Directly on my retina..."
"Holographic screens typically allow for the objects behind them to be visible... This system uses the eyeball as a virtual screen and continuously sends an image synthesized with the background scenery."
"It sounds like your voice is coming from where your mouth appears."
We arrived at the rest area and I sat on a nearby bench. Sora continued standing in front of me.
"Sora, why don't you sit down?"
"I don't get tired so I'm fine standing."
"I understand that, but it makes me uneasy. It makes me feel like you're straining yourself or something."
"Is that right? Then excuse me..."
Sora slowly sat down to the left of me. I didn't feel the bench move under her weight.... But looking at her, she was definitely sitting.
"We were talking about my voice."
"Have you ever heard 3D sound?"
"Have you ever listened to music using headphones?"
"Of course I have."
"When you do, where does it sound like the music is coming from?"
"Hmmm. Inside my head I guess."
"That's right. Most people hear the sound as if it is reverberating inside the center of their head toward the back. But the sound is not actually coming from inside your head."
"I guess not."
"But if you could apply this knowledge and adjust the volume from the left and the right to accurately simulate this reverberating sound... Then you could create the illusion that a sound was coming from any direction - above or below, left or right."
"I see. Oh...so you mean the voice converter!"
I still had both of them in my ears. I removed them. They were about the size of the tip of my little finger. In front of me, Sora's mouth moved soundlessly.It was like I couldn't hear her voice. But that wasn't all. Then her image started to get a little fuzzy.
When I replaced the voice converters, Sora returned to normal.
"The image's position is based on the location of the voice converters. So wherever you stand and whichever direction you face... LeMMIH is constantly using sensors around the complex that monitor the position of the voice converters to the millimeter. So that when I am 60 feet behind you... My voice will sound as if I am exactly 60 feet behind you. When I am to the right, it sounds to the right. When to the left, it sounds to the left. When I am under you, it sounds..."
"Under...when you are under...?"
Can A.I.s even make Freudian slips like that?
"Anyway, that is how it works. Do you understand?"
"Takeshi, now try to face a little to the left."
I faced to the left as she said. Sora stood and moved around to my right.
"Just a moment ago I said that LeMMIH is constantly monitoring your position and the direction you are facing... At the same time, LeMMIH is also monitoring the position of your eyeballs. So that even if you move, I still appear in the same place. This means that LeMMIH scans the image onto your eye in this way."
"So you can be made to suddenly disappear or reappear in another place?"
"Do you want to see it?"
"...No...I think I'll pass."
I heard someone coming running up to us.
The small footsteps were those of Coco and Pipi.
"Hey, Takepyon, have you seen Sora around?"
"What're you talking about? She's right in front of you..."
"Right in front? But there's nobody here."
Coco tilted her head questioningly as she said this.
"Oh well. See you later."
After looking around us, Coco left. Sora was still standing right next to me. Coco hadn't been able to see Sora. No, that wasn't it.
"So that's it... So your image was not being scanned on to her retina."
"There you go. You're quick on the pick-up. Normally, my image is scanned on the eyes of all five of you. It is coordinated so that it looks to everyone like I am in the same place, doing the same movement and saying the same thing... But it is also possible to show you something else. For example..."
"Oh, Sora, there you are."
Coco's voice came from behind me. Looking back I saw Coco looking toward the flowerbed and speaking.
"Oooh, so to Coco, it looks like Sora is in front of that flowerbed, huh? Hey? Sora?"
I didn't see Sora anywhere.
"Yeah. That's why I wanted to talk to you. Huh? No, no. That's not what I..."
"Oh, I see. You want me to bring it?"
Coco was continuing her conversation with Sora.
"Okay. I understand. I'll go tell Nakkyu. See you later."
Coco ran off somewhere. Pipi followed her.
"So I can do this kind of thing as well."
Sora suddenly appeared before me.
"Waaaa! It's kind of like...you're a ghost."
"Yes. I hear that a lot. Being in the same place and looking at the same thing, only some people can see it and some people can't."
"I've never seen one, but if ghosts really do exist... I imagine they exist much the way that I do."
"Hmmm... Now I get it... But there is something that bothers me."
"What is that?"
"Sora, so you can't be in more than one place at a time? For example, you couldn't be in one room talking to me and another talking with Coco?"
"Theoretically it is possible. However, the way that I am designed, I can't do that."
"I imagine it is to help maintain an image of reality for visitors. So that there is only one 'Sora' in the world. Without that kind of setting, visitors would get confused."
"That, and it was the policy of my designer. The policy of my designer was to create me as a character with an independent personality... That reminds me, I have heard the same thing about the 'United Land' characters. There is only one of each character in the park. Like in a story...there can't be any one character in two places at the same time..."
It seemed strange that Sora, who could teleport anywhere instantly was walking... Maybe she was doing it to humor me.
"I was wondering about the laser retina scan... So if I were in a place that the laser couldn't reach, then I couldn't see you?"
"Of course not. But... The scanning devices are located in every room of the complex and there are mirrors embedded in the walls, ceilings and floors to reflect the images. So almost no matter where you are, I can be displayed."
"So there are no blind spots..."
"That's the way it is designed. However, there is one major flaw."
"I am only 'seen' when someone looks at me."
"I mean, that I cease to exist when no one is looking at me. For example, if all five of you were here and you all closed your eyes at once... At that moment, I would cease to exist."
How does one casually do that?
I covered the view forward looking down near my feet. There was no sign of Sora next to me. It was as if she had vanished, or never been there in the first place.
The outline of Sora's sandals blurred dimly in the water.
"Someone has to 'see' me. I have to be seen to exist. Vision... That someone's eye actually creates me. Takeshi... When you close your eyes, I disappear."
"Well, Takeshi... LeMMIH is calling for me, so I will leave and then come back shortly."
And saying that, Sora disappeared. Only the three-dimensional hologram depicting LeMU hovered silently in the darkness.
But from the center of the ocean it was only slightly darker than before. Fortunately, the damage to LeMU hadn't worsened. We had a light dinner at the chicken sandwich shop and gathered in the Conference Room.
My yawn spread from one person to the next.
"Still... Everybody looks so sleepy..."
"Well.... There's really nothing to do either."
The only person that seemed completely awake was Coco. Everyone else was slouched in chairs, just spacing out. There was no impending danger. No new developments. The situation we were in remained unchanged, and it somehow felt as though time had stopped.
"Takeshi, you're such a slob..."
You said this, in a tired sounding voice.
"And stop dawdling..."
"Look, there's no reason to go wandering around the complex now, right? We're just...going have to wait for help to come anyway, right?"
"Yeah...I suppose... Alright...I'm off for a little bit..."
Twisting her neck around, You stood up.
"Hey, Nakkyu, where are you going?"
"Nowhere in particular. Just a walk..."
"I've got to move around or I'll get tired..."
"Oh! I know, let's run a race!"
Coco's eyes lit up.
"You don't want to...?"
"No, I didn't say that."
You made a face, but she didn't look like she was in a bad mood.
"Then, then, how about tag!?"
"Alright. I'm in. But tag with two people doesn't sound very fun."
"Want me to play?"
The Kid stood up.
"May I participate as well?"
Sora approached Coco and the others.
"Yeah! Let's play together"
"Alright! I'm gonna win!"
I couldn't tell why, but everyone was excited to play. I supposed everyone was bored....
"Hey, where do you wanna play?"
"Hmmm. How about...in this room?"
Coco looked around the Conference Room. I surveyed it, too. Tsugumi sat alone with an annoyed expression on her face.
"You never shut up..."
She lazily stood from her chair and walked briskly to the corner of the room...
Tsugumi returned to her original seat and again sat down slowly.
"It was too bright for me to concentrate. Some people want to rest..."
"Well, that doesn't mean you just go turning off the lights! Just because YOU want to rest..."
"What about you?"
"Don't you want to rest...?"
"Oh, yeah. Hey Takeshi, you wanna play tag?"
I may have to start either holding off on updates until new pages or start breaking them up a bit more because the amount of images on each page is starting to get kind of ridiculous.