Web小説 「.hack//bullet」

#68: ATOM

   He recalled the end of his conversation with Dr. Sugai the other day.
   "This machine has put a curse upon me, Dr. Sugai."
   "I think it's going to curse all of us, more than we realize."
   "Do you think anyone realizes, even a little?"
   "No. I don't think the machine is simple enough at the most fundamental levels for regular people to understand."
   "Yeah, this encryption is just the first drop in the bucket, don't you think? The distracting spectacle. Simple appliances, the basics of communication, even medicine--everything will change once reliable quantum simulations are in place. Even the internet as we know it could change if it were to be fully quantum: completely protected from interference. It's funny, really, that in my field myself and my colleagues can only talk about potentials of what could happen while we wait for the heavy lifters to figure out the basic issue of reliably housing these things. Sub zero, absolutely no force at all--don't hurt the big brain while it's thinking. Is this it, then? The singularity that SF writers love to harp on?"
   "It doesn't have to be."
   "I've heard about your brother."
   "He's only one man. I don't know if I believe in it myself."
   "That's exactly the problem, isn't it? It's rare to find a politician who speaks in ideals and then follows up on them, or, rather, the way things are set up makes it difficult for those politicians to actually execute those ideals even if they wanted to."
   "The system is designed to run the clock on people like my brother. By the time any action has been made, he'll be out of office."
   "And the youth?"
   "The youth. What good are the youth? When have the youth had a single original thought?"
   "I'm still young."
   "Not according to this world."
   "I would've said 'you don't have to remind me,' but I'm well aware--in fact, I'm rarely allowed to forget."
   "Well, you're definitely young compared to me. You remember a time before all this, don't you? When were you born?"
   "So by Pluto's Kiss you were in middle school? Then you must have some memory of the world before the current state its been in for the last damn near twenty years. The time of the Net. The actual Net--not this silly thing they insist we call the internet these days."
   "Oh, yes. My father was a firm believer in the power of the youth, unlike you. He knew that someday we would be like gods to the world through the power of an electric box. I don't think he understood its consequences, though, but I think all fathers who were like him in those days were wrapped in a sort of blanket idealism that blinded them from it. You know, there's a great VHS tape I should digitize, a home movie I mean. I'm something like four years old, and I'm using one of those old Umihara computers. The chunky ones with the CRT screens? 800 by 600 resolution: the golden ratio. He's filming me as I try to touch the screen to close the window. 'What're you doing? Use the mouse,' he tells me, but my cute little undisturbed self says it's too slow."
   "Efficiency is the name of the game, isn't it? The most common electronic device, even far more than the personal computer these days is the handheld mobile phone."
    "No, I don't think it was about efficiency. When I watch it, I can almost hear the thoughts of that four-year-old. I want to go beyond the screen. That's what I hear."
    "I've heard about that. Some kind of digitalization technology? Sounds like the occult to me. Unbelievable kind of technology that shouldn't exist in reality."
   "And yet it does. I even once created a kind of technology that would grant me that wish partially, but it was only a half-measure. I think I mean an even greater form of that--more like... more like I want to be assimilated into that machine. I want to become part of it, and only retain the elements of myself that essentially make me, and nothing more. There's this strange desire, and maybe your generation doesn't feel it, and maybe no one but me feels it, but it's there."
   The hum of the computer in the background filled the air.
   "I know this kid," Ryuuji continued. "Well, soon enough he'll be more like a man. But he gives me a special hope. In your position, as an educator, I'm sure you only know children from the tiniest facet of them: the position of an adult. I'm sure your brother, as a politician, is the same way. But this kid--I know him. I really know him. It must be depressing to have to see children the way you do everyday, I think the best of us would form a sort of cynicism around it. And I'm sure the majority of children are as bad as you think, if not worse. But this kid..."
   "This kid, that kid. Of course, every generation will have good kids, the same way every few generations will have an Einstein."
    "This kid is both at once, or at least I think he could be. Or, rather, if they were to all band together--kids like him, I mean--then the world could change."
   "How romantic."
   "No, it's only romantic because neither you nor I can see the scope or method of which the world will be changed. But I'm sure if they were to congregate, it would come naturally to them. It would seem almost like the most natural act of their lives, like nature itself made an appearance in our industrial society."
   "How do you mean?"
   "That's exactly it: I'm not sure. Because that kid and I are so fundamentally different from each other I'm sure one day he'll get tired of explaining how he's going to change the world and just do it instead. It's like he has an innate sixth sense to tell right from wrong, like Atom."
   "Now you're speaking my language."
   "I don't mean to compare myself to Dr. Tenma, creating the world's most infallible robot or something dumb like that, but I can't help but feel responsibility for that boy. Or maybe it's more like my duty to make sure he stays on the right path, at least until he becomes an adult... for the future of the world, you know?"
   He sighed.
   "It's tough being in your thirties. You don't feel old enough to feel wise, but you're not young enough to keep making mistakes. Now I'm finally as old as the adults I used to piss the hell off when I was young and brash, but I can't help but feel sorry for them for dealing with such a brat like me--it’s not like they got any more guidance than I did in how to deal with this world. I would never apologize to my professors, though, they deserved everything they got. Actually, this whole planet deserves what's coming for it, but I'll be damned before I give up trying to do something to change it."
   "Even if you have to leave it to the kids?"
   "I certainly won't be around to see it."
   "I can't agree, I just can't."
   "Ah, the follies of men twice my age. The kids will always be bent out of shape to you, won't they?"
   "It's not that. I don't agree with you."
   "I think you're in a special position, more than you know. I certainly think you have just as much power to change the world as that boy does. People your age are powerful because you know the world before this one. The world before Pluto's Kiss. You live and breathe a hybrid existence yourself. That's why I don't trust the youth--how could I trust anyone who doesn't know the world before it entered the strange caricature of itself we live in today? You, at least, know what the world should return to."
   "I don't believe the world should return to anything. It'll only keep spinning until one day it finally doesn't."
   "Then you should go to Aomori."
   "Excuse me?"
   "Find that quantum computer. If there's one in Japan, it's bound to be up there, where that R&D company is. The one with the German name."
   "Oh, that one..."
    "I think your fate lies there. I can feel it."
   "I thought you were an academic."
   "Even academics have gut feelings."
    "Then I'll go, Dr. Sugai."
   He paused.
   "Do you have any more strawberry milk?"

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