Chapter 1. Autumn: Autumn in Hot Spring

Noodle shop 2

After some moments of silence, Tsubasa's father replied.
"What do you mean by saying downtown life is tiring?"
"I mean, there is too much interference, not helpfulness. For example, suppose I buy a ticket at the station. Someone at the station office watches me through a surveillance camera, and then the ticket machine loudly says, "Ma'am, I am confirming that your ticket is bound for thus-and-such station." Isn't it embarrassing? Thank you for the small kindness but leave me alone. It does not confirm the destination like this when younger people buy a ticket. Banks are also increasingly installing this kind of system, but I doubt they are safe because they let other people know that the person is old or disabled. Of course, I am old! Machines and tools should be made easier for people to use. I am angry about a system that diagnoses me as suffering from fading eyesight or hearing and transmits the information publicly. I do not want anyone to use my personal information. Juvenile crimes have spread in Japan since we entered the 21st century and many surveillance cameras have been placed in public places. Our society has lost its privacy, when someone always keeps a constant watch on others. I agree with the installation of public surveillance cameras, but cannot stand all the sensor devices that have been installed at home in order to measure my body temperature and blood pressure periodically, and to send advice messages to me without my permission. I would like to send my data only when I want to."
"She is right. I do not want to see a message like, 'your gamma-GTP level is higher this morning because you drunk 250 milliliter of sake last night,'" Tsubasa's grandfather added in support. "In this town, the system works according to people's will. It listens to people's decisions and it is not intrusive. We can control the system and feel self-confidence by using it. In addition, the system helps us when we are in need, just like a caretaker. I can trust the system and the people of this town." Tsubasa remembered the boy who looked so proud of himself at the noodle shop. The boy's parents and Ryoko had watched him closely but did not say anything. The boy could choose what he wanted and made his own decision. Most likely Ryoko treated old people and people with disabilities equally and supported their self-determination to maintain their dignity. Every system in the town supported this approach.

"Grandmother, is RUICA used at the bank or other such places in this town?"
"Yes, it is used as an assistive device with ticket-vending machines, ATMs and like."
Grandfather continued the explanation. "You cannot withdraw money with RUICA. It is just an aid. If I point my RUICA at an ATM, the ATM's information will be displayed on the RUICA with the screen adjusted to my preference based on data registered beforehand. A hearing impaired person can listen to the audio information on the RUICA using earphones. The ATM does not read the displayed information aloud nor change its screen. It's the same at any ATM here in town. RUICA maintains your privacy by acting as a kind of remote control device for any digital equipment."
Tsubasa groaned. "It is strange. Why does this small town have such a device, and there's nothing like it in Tokyo?"
Meanwhile, the noodle shop had been filling with lunchtime diners. The family with the boy had left. Ryoko quietly observed the queue forming in front of the entrance "Excuse me," she said. "Would you like to be introduced to the developer of RUICA? I am going to see him this afternoon. Shall we go together?"

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