Computer Kakumei: Saikyō x Saisoku no Zunō Tanjō (OVA)
July 13, 2012
Computer Kakumei: Saikyō x Saisoku no Zunō Tanjō is an OVA that by no means provides a complete story. Instead it is intended to help viewers imagine the impact that computing technology will have in the near future. Computer Kakumei was broadcast by NHK in June of 2012, and this is one of their overtly educational efforts. The short was animated by Production I.G., so even though it clearly had a limited budget, it is pretty competently done. In some ways the art style is shoujo-esque.
Computer Kakumei can’t really be evaluated on the basis of story or character, and it is only 10 minutes long, but it is interesting for what it sets out to do, which is to get the viewer thinking about the impact that technology will have on human lives in the near future.
One future technology that is prominent in Computer Kakumei is Augmented Reality (AR). Truly AR is a current technology, although the show indicates that it will go from being a curiosity or novelty to being a part of everyday life. I discussed AR in detail previously when reviewing Dennou Coil. I think the depiction is spot on. Mapping a virtual layer of information to our coordinate space is already happening.
Extending the AR idea to a virtual layer of information about people does have a problem, though. In the show, it seemed that the devices recognized people from an iris-scan, or perhaps it was just some sort of facial recognition program. That raises questions about privacy. Now the show is expressly trying to raise questions and get people to think, so a questionable use of technology like that is probably fine in this context. For clarification, I don’t disbelieve that it will be possible to do something like this from a technical point of view, but I think the social questions should throw some roadblocks in the way of actually widely distributing such a technology.
The most controversial technological advancement is the presence of an Artificial Intelligence. In the show, which takes place in about ten years, this is by no means an everyday occurrence, but the road to the future is clear. Whether humans can ever create an AI like the ones we are used to seeing in movies and TV shows is still an open question. To its credit, Computer Kakumei raises the issue expressly to provoke discussions about the most likely impacts of such technology on the human experience: what do we (the humans) do after we have created ever more advanced machines to do our work for us?
This is the crux of the show. Is there something that we (humans) can do, that computers cannot? What will the children of the future need to do to be able to contribute something to society? Low-skilled labor is becoming less and less useful to society, and robotics is increasing the productive capabilities of those who remain in the labor pool. What happens to the others? Do they need to study advanced math and science just to get jobs? Is there a place for the average human worker in the economy of the future?
Computer Kakumei doesn’t really answer these questions, but they are appropriate questions to raise. Young people of today should be thinking about whether they can contribute meaningfully to society in the near future, because many jobs that were done by humans when I was younger have already been handed over to computers, and that trend won’t stop just because it is inconvenient to us humans. Even if the economics are capable of supporting the human population without our current need for human labor, will life be meaningful when we can’t contribute to the well-being of others in society? The main character in Computer Kakumei is still trying to find her answer.