YKK Forum

What really happened in the past?

What concrete information do we have about what happened in the past? As far as I can tell, there are only 5 things we know:

The world is severely depopulated
Fertility rates are down
The oceans are rising
Strangely useful and oversized plants are growing
Robots exist

Have I overlooked something else? What could have caused the world to become the way it is? My guess is massive nuclear war. The bombs wouldn't even have to have landed in Japan to cause the first four effects. If it was nuclear war, then I'm guessing the robots came afterward. The electro-magnetic pulse from the nukes would have wiped out all the circuitry in them. It could also explain why there's a lot of old-tech still in use, since it wouldn't have been affected by the EMP.

Well, this is just one theory. Anyone else care to take a stab at it? Or me?

- martialstax
Friday, May 14, 2004

Well, here's my stab at it.

I don't think a war necessarily happened. Extinction events are ususally triggered by enviromental changes or natural catastrophies such as comet impact. I think some significant enviromental changes happened, like rise of average global temporature which caused the ice caps to melt, and maybe it triggered some sort of biological mutation to occurr.

We can safely say that the exinction seemed to be focused on mammals, so maybe the there's an enviromental change which is causing mammals to die off. I think one of the Asahino's subtle point was that the weather pattern in YKK is not the same as our world. I maybe wrong but it seemed that cold weather and snow are becoming a rare thing. A warmer world could also bring about a more abundant plant life or accelorate the evolution of vegitation, which resulted in things like the giant chestnut and "light post" trees. There maybe a dramatic rise in other kind of agents, like toxins and radiation which is causing genetic mutations.

I think it's a combination of things: global warming, high level of toxcity and a rise in average surface radiation. But what's the cause of it? From what I can gather from Asahino, I'm guessing he's hinting that we were the cause of it. The "event" was probably the result of our very efficient process of destroying natural habitats and replacing it with garbage dumps and nuclear waste sites. The advancement of our "civilization" caused the Earth to modify its enviroment to specifically kill off its biggest "virus": human being. In the process, other poor mammals died as well, but other species lived on.

This type of thinking is popular among Japanese sci-fi; there were a lot of manga focusing on "sinking of Japan" and the revenge of nature. From Godzilla to Nausicaa, it's not hard to see that it's possible for Asahino to foster the same metality.

What puzzels me is why other mammals died off while human being still remain, albeit in limited number. My theories are:

1. Mankind found a solution to prevent the immediate death of their species, so the real effect of the "event" is only declining fertility rate. Others species are not so lucky, and aside from a few house pets we decided to let the other species become extinct.

2. There was no other real biological effect of the "event" to human other than the lack of babies. Mankind lasted longer simply because we have longer life span, thus purlonging the extinction process. Aside from trying to recover fertility rate, we maybe trying to purlong the life of living human as well.

Whatever the event was, Earth's surface must have something to do with it. I believe that cus the existence of the Tappon, a self-sustaining ship designed never to land. Why can't they land? Why not make periodic pit stops? To me, they would if that's an option. Obviously, whatever the event was has something to do with the surface. Since the point of the Tappon was to escape from or reverse the effects of the Event, its unwillingness to land point the source right at the surface world.

As for robots, I very firmly believe that they only came about long after the Event. I think we only started to create these robots after we come to realize that we're sure to be extinct. Some people tried to escape by boarding the Tappon, but other may just be content with a human replacement.

I don't think EMP would have any effect on robots; I believe they are biological beings. Manufactured, but organic. Look at the effect of the lightning on Alpha; its effect on her is very simlar to that of a human. It didn't kill her, but really wounded her. Her recovery with artifical skin and hair maybe un-human-like, but she didn't fry up like a circuit board.

I think I may have to read the series once again to pickup on some very suble signs of what happened. I have a feeling even seemingly random chapters has some hidden meaning for us to explore; we're just not reading it right.

- JC
Friday, May 14, 2004


Other things we know:

* Mt. Fuji had a tremendous eruption within the main characters' lifetime. Possible factor in climate change?
* We have mutant fish (kamasu) as well as plants. The funamushi look suspiciously big too.
* Misago has been around for at least fifty years or so, since Owner's boyhood, and has been unchanged during that time. She predates the A7 series of robots. This suggests that the nature of the world has been mutating for at least that long.
* Organic structures that mimic human biology and human structures are growing (Water God, Mushroom buildings). The Water God has brainwaves. Some growths mimic streetlights. There seems to be some as yet not understood natural mimicry going on.
* Taapon was launched when Sensei was an adult - after she had cared for Director Alpha. So the disaster definitely predates that time period. Also, since the Taapon is on a six year cycle, and it would take at least three cycles to determine a pattern, Taapon has been flying a minimum of 13 years. Most likely longer.
* The water level has risen during Sensei's and Ojisan's lifetime. Again this suggests that the disaster happened when they were kids, and the effect caught up to the world while they were students.

So we have the disaster happening roughly about 60-70 years ago (guesstimate), and the world has been mutating for at least that long. The first A7 prototype robot (Director Alpha) has been around for 30-40 years. Alpha and the other two A7M2 prototypes should be around 25-35 years old. Kokone and the rest are younger.



- dDave
Friday, May 14, 2004

Some of your calculation are based on the age of sensei and others. However, do we know how old they are/were or how long was their life span yet? I'm thinking, they're maybe older than we thought.

If extinction is what they're fighting, then it would make sense that an increase of the life span of the existing poulation would be a priority too. Maybe that's why we see a lot more older people, but not as much middle-aged or younger people. Who knows, maybe Sensei and Oji are over a hundred years old. ^__^

- JC
Friday, May 14, 2004

Is there any evidence that radiation exposure causes giantism mutatations? Except in 1950's B-movies. Just asking.

- Chris Davey
Friday, May 14, 2004

No real evidence on radiation aside from the giant veggies. Only other circumstantial evidence was the Tappon, not wanting to land. I thought the reason for the perpetual flight was to get away from the excessive radiation on the ground; but that's purely my speculation.

But the mutation could have been caused by other means, like climate change. Maybe there's just enough radiation to cause some mutation plants and species and kill off mammilian sperm cells? There are mutated fish in YKK, and those Kamas... who knows how they got here.

- JC
Friday, May 14, 2004

> Is there any evidence that radiation exposure causes giantism mutatations?

Get a pack of radish seeds. split them into two groups. put one group in the microwave on high for 15 seconds. then get two damp towels (cloth or paper.) keep the groups separate and wrap the seeds in the towels. keep the towels just damp.

I forget how long it takes for the seeds to sprout, but the microwaved group will have fewer seeds sprout, but the ones that do will grow taller than the control group.

fun stuff i remember doing in middle school. (which was long ago...) (so i might be off on a few bits too.)

- tadpol
Friday, May 14, 2004

>the microwaved group will have fewer seeds sprout, but the ones that do will grow taller than the control group.<

Interesting. You'd have to do a set of further experiments to prove the effect was genetic. Could just be a normal reaction to heat, kicking some plant hormones into action. The most interesting experiment would be to see if the effect was inheritable & followed Mendelian patterns. I kind of doubt it but it would be another fun project.
If the effect was not genetic & inheritable the irradiation would have to occur with every generation of seed.
What implications that has for the YKK world I'll let others speculate about. I'm going to bed!

- Chris Davey
Friday, May 14, 2004

My own favourite explanation of what happened is the Singularity, as described by Vernor Vinge and others, where technology's self-accelerating nature causes the rate of change to become infinite. Human and other life can't change this fast, and hence disappears, evolves beyond recognition.. or is just left behind as irrelevant.

This explained the robots as a relic of a preposterously advanced technology -- that's really my big problem with any "realistic" explanation of YKK. Alpha and co. are not remotely possible through any present or extrapolated technology. The presence of Sensei, director Alpha and other bits of historical continuity kind of messes up this idea, and I don't really see any point in trying to rationalize it.

- Smarasderagd
Friday, May 14, 2004

I think we can discount nuclear war. Just got the Ashinano Hitoshi art book from the Sasuga Bookshop (thanks guys) and I've been looking at the maps inside the covers. There's no blast damage, the buildings are decayed, but not destroyed and, most important, Tokyo Tower is still standing! We watch anime, we know that thing is the first to go in any disaster. More seriously a nuclear war would alter the climate towards nuclear winter, colder, sea level dropping, rather than the reverse as seen in YKK. The global warming seems to be due to man's influence, fading as humanity does, hence the first snow Alpha sees.

As for radation mutation... No. It just doesn't work like that. Mutations are random, 99% of them will be detrimental, some lethally so. Of the remainder 99% of those will most likely confer no advantage at all, and they only change one aspect of the creature, or a few unrelated ones. A common radiation induced mutation in plants does cause increased growth, but it doesn't do much for the plant, it's stressing it, it ultimately won't do as well as unmutated varieties. Random mutations would not produce Kamas or the living streetlights except over tens of millions of years of time, too many things have to change, in the right way, to produce a viable organism from whatever original stock they came from. They have to be engineered, deliberately.

- Andy Tucker
Saturday, May 15, 2004

Singularity, as described by Vernor Vinge, is ridicolous. I can even undestand how people even consider it. Intelligenge invoves learning, and you just can't accelerate that to infinity. It's actually a diminishing returns situation. Throw in thermodynamics and it's not even conceivable.

The Fuji-san eruption is no big deal either. It is very overdue now, and that sort of damage is way lower than the Pinatubo eruption, for instance.

A few things are clear:
Global sea rise and global warming;
Very advanced genetic engineering;
Cheap and abundant energy (to cheap to even turn it off, even);
Drastic reduction on fertility rates.
Full collapse of communications;
Full collapse of governments.

Could it be that _nothing_ is sexually reproducing? The monster fungus is just growing and cloning itself into buildings, lamp posts, sea god, etc.
The robots would be organic constructs put together from tissue grown in labs, maybe with a mechanical support lattice.
Attempts to develop male robots failed (maybe the same reason that caused the fertility problem?) and the whole project of bootstrapping mankind with artificial people failed.
Pessimistic, isn't it? But the sea is rising, and sperm counts are dropping dramatically. Scary.

- Z
Saturday, May 15, 2004

Z, you seem to be arguing with someone other than Vernor Vinge, since I can find no semblance of his ideas in what you just said.

- dn
Sunday, May 16, 2004

Note that in the Afternoon publications, there's a little sidebar usually on the 2nd or 3rd page of the comic intended for new readers to explain the series. It says "ondanka to suii no joushou de suibotsu shi tsutsu seikai". "ondanka" means global warming. I don't know who writes this text, but if it's Ashinano then we can know for sure that global warming was part of it.

- Chris Kern
Sunday, May 16, 2004

Firstly, let me apologize for the tone of my previous message. It didn't want so sound rude or inflammatory. I sorry if I offended anyone.

Vinge says that the tech singularity will hapen because:

1)There may be developed computers that are "awake" and superhumanly intelligent.

2) Large computer networks (and their associated users) may "wake up" as a superhumanly intelligent entity.

3) Computer/human interfaces may become so intimate that users may reasonably be considered superhumanly intelligent.

4) Biological science may provide means to improve natural human intellect.

The problem with this reasoning is the huge sequence of "ifs" that he conveniently casts aside. The major one is that turing-machine based computers are fundamentally different from intelligent organisms and most likely can't have intelligent behaviour.
The "waking up" and building of intelligence can't come of itself. Intelligence is a dependent on learning, which is dependent on experience, which you can not accelerate at will.
Item 2 assumes a amazingly uniform network where every machine is fully trusted by all others. Can't possibly happen in the real world.
Item 3 assumes that the human interface of the computer is the computer, when in fact it's a presentation layer over the real processes on the computer. It's a simulation. If you make the software self-modifying feeding back the interactions with humans, there would be a huge source of errors that the machine itself won't be able ot fix The more a machine interacts the harder it is to separate the data from the noise. Evolutionary processes are very wasteful. For every hit there's a mass of misses.
Item 4 is outlandish speculation. He could just as well talk about anti-gravity.
On the hardware side, there's the technological limits to Moore's law. We are seeing it now. Intel lost both on the Itanium and the Pentium 4 on performance estimates, heat management. Not to mention that we are getting very close to the minimum number of atoms needed for a logic gate.

So the prospect of an intelligent machine making ever more intelligent machines, and mankind becoming irrelevant after making its very last invention, is quite absurd. Of course, there's the added problem of attibuting the an artificial intelligence the motivations of humans, which are quite devoid of pure logic. What's being proposed is an artificial emotional construct, and that's even harder to propose than an self-aware intelligence.
Amazingly enough, here is a connection with YKK. Kokone said that the base of the robot's AIs are emotions collected from humans. All else was acquired thru learning like a normal child.
"Artificial emotion" is an oxymoron. They must be real and true to be valid. Even if they can make an artificial human, it needs the emotional "load" of a real human.

Finally, Vinge himself says, "There are the widely respected arguments of Penrose [19] and Searle [22] against the practicality of machine sapience"
So these guys shot down the idea 10 years ago but it keeps coming back...

Well, sorry again, this time for the long rant :-)

Pedantic last observation: What these people (http://www.aleph.se/Trans/Global/Singularity/) are describing is actually an "event horizon". A singularity is a completely different thing.

- Z
Sunday, May 16, 2004

You said:
that turing-machine based computers are fundamentally different from intelligent organisms and most likely can't have intelligent behaviour.

That's because we build Turing-machine computers. They are simple and predictable and always give the same results for the same stimulus. This is important if you're processing tax records or doing other simple information-processing where predictability is necessary. (There are other things that such computers can do, and I'll discuss them later). It does not mean, though, that we will never develop non-Turing computers. Neural networks are one step along that way.

You said: amazingly uniform network where every machine is fully trusted by all others. Can't possibly happen in the real world.

Doesn't have to be every computer in the world, but large clusters already trust each other ([email protected], for example). An [email protected] project would get a lot of people to connect their home networks to supply CPU time.

You said: the human interface of the computer is the computer, when in fact it's a presentation layer over the real processes on the computer.

This is unclear, but I think wrong. What Vernor was speaking about was intelligence amplification, and the first stirrings of this are already here. It's called Google and Mathematica and Autocad and others of its ilk. It will only get better.

You said: (Bioscience intellect amplification) is outlandish speculation. I would quibble with the word "outlandish". We already know of some chemicals and drugs that improve the ability to think and remember things in certain circumstances. Improvements are likely if enough effort is put into the research. Right now though it is speculation but not necessarily outlandish.

As for Moore's Law, its imminent death has been predicted for decades for various reasons -- resolution limits due to photomasking with visible light, for example. UV then X-rays then epitaxial beams fixed those "limits". Heat dissipation? The money going into diamond substrate research is already curing that "problem". Atomic limits to computing? Do several overlapping tasks with each small group of atoms (the qubit is an early example of this).

As for Penrose and Searle they invoke magic as a limit against AI -- brain cells are not just chemical factories with electrical potentials but are somehow "different" and don't obey physical laws because they're "quantum". This doesn't pass the smell test to biologists but sounds good to philosophy majors and humanities grads.

What Turing computers can do (and real work on this is being done right now) is deep simulation. It takes a lot of CPU power and a lot of time to deeply simulate even "simple" processes but they can be done with stunning levels of accuracy. Aircraft are already being designed, built and flown in computers and the manufacturers have nearly 100% confidence levels that the real aircraft will perform in exactly the same way as the models, confident enough that they don't make prototypes any more. The first plane they build is for a customer, not to be used as a flying testbed as they had to do in the old days.

The human nervous system can be simulated by computer in a crude fashion today. In a few years time a better simulation will be possible, then a better one. It might never be possible to draw a line and say a system has become intelligent once it achieves certain criteria, but it is unlikely there are any real limits in hardware to such a simulation behaving in such a way that the responses to external stimulation must be considered intelligent. They might be slow (see Vernor's novella "True Names" for an example) but they will exhibit all the trappings of an intelligent being to another intelligent human being. No, I am not referring to the Turing test here.

Vinge's "Rapture of the Nerds" Singularity means the entities that intelligently manipulate spacetime are not comprehensible to us in the same way bonobos don't understand commuting to work or calculus. Unless we are those entities, remodelled or assisted, what happens after the Singularity is "magic" in the Clarkean sense.

So we return to Alpha and Kokone and Nai and he rest of the A7 series (are there any A6s left, or A5s? Were they all recalled to the factory and scrapped, traded in for this year's model? I hope not). I lean towards the idea they are not robots in the classical sense but people substitutes, vat-grown or bio-assembled, with vastly extended natural lifespans but not necessarily physically immortal. Their mental processes are not really different from humans; they may be designed to avoid the chemical routes to madness and insanity our frail evolved systems possess but they eat, drink, think, enjoy, feel sadness, live. They are people, people we designed to succeed us, people we hope are better than us. They are not true AIs but then again can you truly say that Alpha is an unintelligent mechanism?

- Robert Sneddon
Sunday, May 16, 2004

I still can't see Alpha as a (partially) biological being - the operation (the process?) of applying new skin and hair to her after the lightning accident cries "mechanical" for me. Those of you who have the first series of the anime should give it a whirl again - the machine that produces the tissue to cover Alpha's brand marks seems to come straight from a plastic foil producing company.
I don't buy the radiation theory, but agree with those calling the enormous fruits and the Kama biological engineered.
The global warming due to todays exessive fuel/coal use is a constant theme in our worldwide political debates, and a raised vulcanic activity - think of the whole Pacific Ring Of Fire http://pubs.usgs.gov/publications/text/fire.html going off after a major tectonic catastrophe - would pump enough CO2 into the atmosphere to make for a nice global greenhouse effect, too.
Fertility of mammals can't be at level zero 'cause there are at least the two kids/youngsters and a cat, all under twenty. There are almost no middleaged adults shown in the countryside, beside Ayase and his friend - they are probably in the city because of jobs - and as usual the elders stay behind.
For me YKK is much more a mirror of nowadys social and cultural development, spiced up with puns like the ubiquitous, everworking vending machines and the manga/anime classic of female android beings. Trying to beat sense into every little detail seems as fruitless to me as explaining Neon Genesis Evangelion.;-)

- Rainer
Monday, May 17, 2004

For those who really want to know how radiation affects people, I would highly recommend 'Hadashi no Gen' ("Barefoot Gen"), a timeless manga masterpiece based on its author's real experience at Hiroshima.

You will find nothing in "Gen" that can be related to YKK but the reason why people don't agree with the radiation theory.

You can get "Gen" from sasugabooks.com, amazon.com and other bookstores.

A review by theblackmoon.com:

- kGo
Monday, May 17, 2004

Hmmm... Yes, we may well be guilty of rather massive overanalysis here. WE may know the precise effects of a nuclear war or radiation poisoning or the practicalities of scientific advancement, but there's no need to assume that Mr. Ashinano knows, or cares if he does (though I'm sure he's quite capable of researching these if he wished to). He is telling a story here, not providing a detailed extrapolation of socio-political, environmental and technical trends over the next 100 years. If he wants radiation to have produced street light plants and flying fish with shades then it does. If he wants near-human robots to be possible then they are. It's his world after all, it doesn't have to operate on our rules.

- Andy Tucker
Tuesday, May 18, 2004

>If he wants radiation to have produced street light plants and flying fish with shades then it does. If he wants near-human robots to be possible then they are.<

Although I don't think he's offered any explanation of the strange life-forms. The radiation theory is fan speculation. You're right though, what matters is the slightly melancholy beauty of the world he's created & the setting it provides for the characters. Not the exact nuts and bolts of how it works. Pondering on that is a secondary pleasure. For me anyway.

- Chris Davey
Tuesday, May 18, 2004

I am coming around to the idea that several things have happened, but they are only tenuously linked together. They just happened to occur at roughly the same time.

For sure: the sea levels have risen. The coasts are flooded and some coastal towns have been inundated.

For sure: the human population has dropped quite precipitately, given the number of abandoned houses and the lack of traffic on the roads. There are children around, not just Makki and Takahiro; some of the towns have quite a few children.

For sure: Mt Fuji has a bit missing.

For sure: there are some biological oddities around.

For sure: there are robot-people around.

The sea level rise may be due to global waming, possibly due to human activity, perhaps due to volcanic or other "natural"
activity or a combination thereof. This is not the sort of thing that would necessarily cause a lot of deaths though.

The lack of human beings might be due to a fertility crisis; disease or pollution. It doesn't seem to have been the result of a war, nuclear or otherwise, looking at what's left in the countryside and in the surviving towns.

The Mt. Fuji event might be a singleton thing, not related to anything else.

As for the biological oddities, they might be the result of, for want of a better word, hobbyists. The Watergod, the "streetlights", Kamas, even Alpha's giant sunflower could be the results of small groups of enthusiasts playing with neat bio-engineering toys in the same way today people hack computers together which are massively more powerful that anything a government could afford forty years ago. We see something like this with Sensei's Unlimited Hydroplane engineering team. It would, today, take a serious engineering effort by a big company to build a prototype watercraft capable of flying wing-in-ground at 620kph. Sensei's team seems to consist of a couple of dozen people at most.

The robot people thing could be a similar hobbyist operation, with limited funding run by enthusiasts. The organisations involved would be quite small, hence the loss of records about the robot projects over the years. I think even Taapon might be the result of such a group rather than a government project.

The YKK world seems to have mostly done away with big governments, hence the Balkanisation of Japan. This is maybe the result of the mental shift in people that has led to the Age of Evening Calm. Without the big organisations we are left with hobbyists -- I assume that's where the scooters come from, for example, small backyard workshops, not giant factories. In this future world biology might have become a backyard hobby too.

- Robert Sneddon
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Hmmm... after reading everyone's post, I see a lot of good points. I am now really heavily discounting radiation, since radiation poisoning will kill all living things, not just a few type of mammals. There's definately mutation going on that's conducted by nature. I don't believe human bio-engineered anything else but robots and maybe the kamas. Why mess with plant life when they're abudant and in no danger of exinction. Plus, these giant oddities seemed to bring out either awe or wonder from people, like the himawari and the light posts; don't think they know they are engineered. Plus, in the manga, especially the chapter about house-like plants, Ayase seemed to suggest that nature're trying to replace what's been lost; doesn't feel like he believe human being's behind these phenomenon.

Well, climate change triggers biological adaptation, we know that for sure. All these plant mutations could just simply be the result of global warming and some other major enviormental changes. However, it's clear that except for a house cat, we have not seen a single mammal in the manga or anime other than human. Mammals are gone, and human fertility is declining. What's the reason for that? Some sort of biologically toxic agent like a virus which targets only warm blooded mammals reproductive cells? What's on the surface world that is killing mammalian fertility rate, and yet the Tappon scientist believe doesn't exist in the stratosphere? Is this "thing" airborn ? Or is it in the soil? I think this is the biggest mystery of the YKK world; one which we may never know the answer to.

As for the hobbyist idea for robot creation, I'll buy that. Since there are no more formal goverments, every project can be considered private, there for a "hobby" for somebody. Why build these robots? Well, it's also clear to me based on what the manga's showing, that their job is to be the "chidren of humanity", the specie which will replace us when we're extinct from this hostile world. Unlike the dinosaurs, the last dominate specie of the planet, we can actually control the look and makeup of the next dominate specie of Earth so they will persist our cilvilization. I think that's a worthy hobby for many bright scientists like sensei.

As for makeup of the robots, I think it's possible their DNA can't grow human-like skin and hair, thus the need for machines. They eat organic matters for survival; they don't use gas, oil, or electricity to keep going. They only have different reaction than us to foods, and they need much less of it. They learn and grow (at least mentally) like biological beings, not programmed overnight to have all the info they need. I still think they are the result of DNA experimentations; mixing human DNA with species which are compatible with the current world; animals such as marine life and birds. At least this would kinda explain the existence of the misago.

- JC
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

I agree with JC, however as to the world change, all the clues point to Global Warming, the oceans rising being the major clue.

- Roy Zhou
Sunday, May 23, 2004

I have a feeling that Ashinano-san started with a clear reason why everything in Alpha-san's world is the way it is, and I'll bet it's pretty sad. He's just going to leave it in the shadows until near the very end (whenever he decides that might be).

In the meantime, we're going to look for a pattern in the raindrops, but never get a sense of the size of the storm.

- steven
Sunday, May 23, 2004

The predictions about global warming say that climate change will lead to famine. Since this will be a gradual process, the prognosticators think that there will be many struggles for dwindling resources. I suspect the author also expects war and strife as the planet becomes more hostile.

That would explain the severely depleted population. Global warming would just drive the current population into smaller areas. Many would starve until a new equilibrium was established. The population of Alpha's world, however, is fary below the carrying capacity of the land. The land is under-utilized. That suggests that the population was reduced by some other means than starvation.

Then there is the condition of the infrastructure. Many buildings would be destroyed by fire if they were simply abandoned. Steel and concrete buildings would take much longer to fall apart on their own. I think something knocked down most of the buildings. That something could be the eruption of Mt. Fuji or it could be the result of war.

- Loran
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Here is a time table of events leading up to the story. I think it is a work of fan fiction. If I am reading the Babblefish translation correctly, the suggested reason for the state of Alpha's world is a shift in the axis of the world. This is a periodic problem. Every 500 million years of so, the earth tumbles in its orbit and the poles end up in a new location. The shift results in huge tectonic changes and climate change.


"In a polar region there is a continual deposition of ice, which is not symmetrically distributed about the pole. The earth's rotation acts on these asymmetrically deposited masses [of ice], and produces centrifugal momentum that is transmitted to the rigid crust of the earth. The constantly increasing centrifugal momentum produced in this way will, when it has reached a certain point, produce a movement of the earth's crust over the rest of the earth's body, and this will displace the polar regions toward the equator."

Albert Einstein From The Path of the Pole by Charles Hapgood

Here is an excerpt from a news article about rapid evolution 500 million years ago:

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology think they have solved part of the mystery of the "evolutionary big bang" that occurred half a billion years ago. At that time, life on Earth underwent a profound diversification that saw the first appearance in the fossil record of virtually all animal phyla living today. With relative evolutionary rates of more than 20 times normal, nothing like it has occurred since. In a paper published in the July 25th issue of Science, the Caltech group reports that this evolutionary burst coincides with another apparently unique event in earth history--a 90-degree change in the direction of Earth's spin axis relative to the continents. Dr. Joseph Kirschvink, a geologist at Caltech and lead author of the study, speculates that a major reorganization of tectonic plates during latest Precambrian time changed the balance of mass within the Earth, triggering the reorientation. Thus, the regions that were previously at the north and south poles were relocated to the equator, and two antipodal points near the equator became the new poles.

"Life diversified like crazy about half a billion years ago," says Kirschvink, "and nobody really knows why. It began about 530 million years ago, and was over about 15 million years later. It is one of the outstanding mysteries of the biosphere. "The geophysical evidence that we've collected from rocks deposited before, during, and after this event demonstrate that all of the major continents experienced a burst of motion during the same interval of time."

David Evans, a co-author on the paper and graduate student at Caltech, notes that it is very difficult to make large continents travel at speeds exceeding several feet per year; typical rates today are only a few inches per year.

"Earth has followed a 'plate-tectonic speed limit' for the past 200 million years or so, with nothing approaching the rates needed for this early Cambrian reorganization." Evans said. "Some other tectonic process must have been operating that would not require the continents to slide so rapidly over the upper part of Earth's mantle."

- Loran
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Re: Loran

> Every 500 million years of so, the earth tumbles in its
> orbit and the poles end up in a new location. The shift
> results in huge tectonic changes and climate change.

Yikes. As a geologist, this sort of thing makes me cringe. Loran's info is only slightly off, but I just had to reply;

There are two axes of the earth, 1) the axis it rotates upon, and 2) the magnetic axis. The rotational axis had never changed, or more correctly, the continents have drifted in relation to that axis of rotation. The magneic axis is another story...

The magneic poles have wandered quite a bit over geologic time, and have often switched polarity. This does not result in any physical geologic phenomenon. None. No earthquakes, floods or dogs and cats living together. What it *does* do is make the earth more susceptible to cosmic radiation, which we are currently protected against by the magnetic field.

cosmic radiation *could* reach a point that it would sterilze the planet of life, but now we are beyond my field and into biology. I pray this didn't sound like an attack on Loran in any way--it wasn't. But as far as theorizing about what happened, I thought you all might like to know...

- Ian Darrow
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Me no geologist. Me plead ignorance. Dumb as rock.

Seriously, what is the story about the continental movements? Were there times when the continental plates moved about more rapidly than they do today? Big shifts in the plates would account for volcanic eruptions and big earthquakes that would knock down buildings.

Could the shift in the magnetic poles cause all the effects shown in YKK?

- Loran
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Me geologist too. Me know rock stuff.

Continental drift hasn't changed it's rate all that much, most of the time the speed your fingernails will grow can give it a good run for it's money. It is responsible for much of the volcanism we see today though. We do have supervolcanos, like the one under Yellowstone, which blow every 100,000 years or so (Yellowstone is overdue) and when they do... Well, let's just say that the rest of the world gets to know about it. There have been other supervolcanic episodes, the most notable is the Deccan Traps in India, where truely huge quantities of lava are thrown out, last time that happened was the time the Dinosaurs went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous, 65 million years ago. Thing is, all the dust should create a nuclear winter effect again, a cooling, partially offset by the volcanic gases that may create more greenhouse effect.

Magnetic pole reversals are a function of an underlying instability in the way the planet's magnetic field is set up (we should sue somebody, damned sloppy). It can go millions of years without changing, or less than 100,000 years. The average is 200,000 years. It's been 780,000 years since the last one so, again, we're overdue. Currently the magnetic field is wandering and weakening rapidly (geologically speaking) so we may be on the verge of another reversal.

How fast a reversal takes to happen is slow on a human time scale, around 5,000 years, but probably not less than 1,000 years. The effects are only theoretical. Our magnetic field collapses, so our shielding against solar radiation should fail and we get increased doses, but recent research shows that the charged particles from the sun, interacting with the upper atmosphere, will actually generate a new magnetic field that will afford a fair bit of protection. Over the past 300 million years we've gone through 400 of these, so they are survivable by life, civilisation is another matter though. Go see the film "The Core" for a more sensationalist view. Good film anyway.

As for magnetic reversals in YKK, well, I've never seen Alpha use a compass, presumably Nai has one on the plane though (or maybe he just relies on landmarks). One effect should be increased auroral activity as more solar wind gets through the geomagnetic shielding, but we've not seen that. As to electromagnetic effects on the robots of YKK, well the lightning bolt didn't seem to do much to Alpha, so they might be immune. But if that's the case why does Kokone get a cheap thrill every time she switches her scooter on?

- Andy Tucker
Thursday, May 27, 2004

"Yes, we may well be guilty of rather massive overanalysis here."

I'm afraid I agree.

While it's always fun to wonder about Ashinano's world and how he's made it the way it is, too much complex analysis on what is essentially circumstantial evidence runs the risk of hindering and confusing peoples view of Ashinano's world, rather than help explain it.

- Leodhais
Thursday, May 27, 2004


In the story "Connections," Sensei talks about a time "afte the first great tide receded." This suggests to me that:

1. There was more than one disaster.
2. There was a relatively sudden sea level change or tidal event.

The sea level change shown in the story "Sandy Beach" was a slow process probably caused by human industry. The events refered to in the "Connections" sound like a sudden event that had temporary impact and was repeated.

So, what impact would a caldera eruption in Yellowstone have on Japan? I have no education in this, but my layman's understanding is:
1. A sudden explosion could create a massive tidal wave.
2. The debris would create a nuclear winter for a time.
3. The release of gases would create severe global warming.
4. The event could coincide with other volcanic events.

This would be a triple whammy that would ruin everybody's day. Alpha's world is:

1. Warm, not cold.
2. Getting colder

So if the condition of her world was the result of volcanic activity, then

1. the sea level rise was due to industrial global warming
2. the infrastructure damage is done by tidal waves
2. the depopulation is the result of nuclear winter blocking sunlight for a time
3. the debris is gone, the CO2 emissions are down, and things will slowly get better.

Unless, of course, the folks are just waiting for the next anticipated disaster.

- Loran
Thursday, May 27, 2004

Hey, some of us live near the Yellowstone caldera. ;p

I'm not sure it's clear whether the changes are world-wide or just restricted to Japan. It does appear that Fuji had erupted, and that could indicate the island of Japan actually sinking.

Personally, I try not to think about it too much. I prefer to think of YKK as a series of beautiful moments. ;p

- Dave Thespork
Thursday, May 27, 2004

Well, I've already said that any points we make here are actually irrelevant to the story. It's just fun to argue about the whys and wherefores.

Also us scientist types get to show off. ^.^

- Andy Tucker
Friday, May 28, 2004

"I prefer to think of YKK as a series of beautiful moments."

Yes, the message seems to be that by living in the moment we can acheive real happiness and freedom. The story shows us people getting on with their lives inspite of the horror and sadness in the past.

That said, I still want to figure out what happened and where the characters are going.

- Loran
Friday, May 28, 2004

Well, it's only been 300 years since the last eruption of Mount Fuji, so another one in the future wouldn't be too unlikely...

- The Other Dave
Saturday, May 29, 2004

> I prefer to think of YKK as a series of beautiful moments.
It definitely is that. At the same time I cannot let go of the feeling something big has and is still going on right under our noses. The atmosphere is close to that of Twin Peaks in many ways.

> Well, it's only been 300 years since the last eruption of Mount Fuji
Moreover we are also overdue another major Kanto earthquake. The last one in 1923 killed more than 100,000 and the next big one is by some expected to claim of the order of 1,000,000 though very much depending on time of day.

Oh, and has anyone seen the moon in YKK so far...?

- C_P
Monday, May 31, 2004

YKK is an exercise in meditation.

To wonder at their past or future is futile. We will find out what we find out.

True enjoyment of YKK comes from putting an end to striving.

- Fred Wolke
Monday, May 31, 2004

C.P. asked about the moon. Fortunately, it is still there.


- Loran
Tuesday, June 1, 2004

Chapter 40, "Moonlit Night Watch," shows the moon in several scenes:


and in pages 126-130. The moon may very well be in other chapters, but I remember the night scenes from this chapter in particular.

- K.D.
Tuesday, June 1, 2004

I guess we'll have to wait until september 2009 to find out the deal with the Tarpan, but I generally agree with the rest of you on the global warming thing.

Oh, lack of communication with the Tarpan is highly likely, even if they have the technology. Anybody remember V'ger in Star Trek 1 trying to contact earth by radio code? Or go with the more simple solution. The Tarpon may be trying a coded frequency, but the decoder was lost.

BTW: We've got another one of those supervolcano's out here in California too, but not many here realize it. Center of the caldera is around Calistoga, and the rim of the crater is the mountain peaks around it. At least, that's what the tour guide told me a few years ago.

- thistledown
Wednesday, June 9, 2004


Personally, I doubt if any code has been lost. The members aboard now have been there since the Taapon launched. Given the advanced tech needed to keep Taapon flying, rigging a radio transmitter has got to be a relatively simple thing.

My guess is that Taapon has a radio silence policy.



- dDave
Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Radio silence makes sense. It reminds me of those lyrics from "Wooden Ships."

Horror grips us as we watch you die
All we can do is echo your anguished cry and
Stare as all your human feelings die
We are leaving
You don't need us

It is possible that conditions on the surface were a lot worse in the years leading up to the story.

- Loran
Wednesday, June 9, 2004

A radio silence policy would put a very interesting spin on the conversation between Director Alpha and the old woman in "echo". Leaving the ship might well be a complete betrayal of its (still unknown) mission--and telling Alpha to do so a tacit acknowledgment that their mission has either failed or was a mistake in the first place.

It does feel to me as if Taapon (Tarpon?) has intentionally cut itself off from the world. Were they hoping to insulate themselves from whatever has caused the fall in population below, and form a living city in the sky? Or did they expect the human crew members to die one by one, until Director Alpha is left alone, immortal, safeguarding the ship for eternity?

Perhaps we're seeing a conflict of views on the role of robots--are they servants who will carry out the orders of their dead masters once humanity is gone, or children who will find their own path?

I find myself thinking of the phrase "nakama hazure" on [v6, p20]. I wonder if I could have translated that better? It seems more significant now than ever.

- dn
Wednesday, June 9, 2004


Hmm. The only other thing I can think of is "I wonder if we're out of it..."



- dDave
Wednesday, June 9, 2004

I don't see a problem with the translation. Or am I missing something?

Another possible translation I came up with is:
"Are we the odd ones out?"

- kGo
Thursday, June 10, 2004

Is it possible she meant:
"Is the worst over with?"

"Out of it" could mean that the anticipated period of collapse and death is over. It could also mean she thinks the people of the Tarpon are missing out on the reconstruction.

- Loran
Thursday, June 10, 2004


The Japanese phrase in question literally means "outside the group". It's a phrase with a strong resonance is Japanese.



- dDave
Thursday, June 10, 2004

Ah! So I wonder what her idea of the group is. Does she simply mean outside the human race or outside a certain group of people (the robot developers, for example)? Was she just feeling like an outcast or did she long for the company of other robots?

- Loran
Thursday, June 10, 2004

"We" refers to the people on Taapon.
"The gourp" is the people all over the world.

"Are we no longer part of the world?"

- kGo
Thursday, June 10, 2004

I think that the question being asked is, at its root, what the world is. Is Taapon an independent world of its own? Or are they cut off from the real world, down below?

I suspect that Taapon was founded with the deliberate intent of being cut off from the world below. Director Alpha's seemingly innocent question may well have undertones on the order of a bishop wondering if this God fellow really exists after all.

- dn
Friday, June 11, 2004

"As for the Taapon. Well, if it is, as I've theorised, a last-ditch flying archive, it's intended to be up there until civilisation has rebuilt itself. The crew obviously expect to die up there. There may be a psychological reason that the crew is barred from communicating with the ground, they have to cut themselves off from the world below emotionally as well as physically. Listening to cries for assistance from below may inspire desperate attempts to help, that may endanger the Taapon and it's mission. Perhaps the Taapon was intended to be unmanned (apart from the A7M1) in any case and the crew got stranded when the shuttle (which would have the com gear, was unable to take off again)."

From a post I made some time ago, copied across from the vending machine thread.

- Andy Tucker
Friday, June 11, 2004

Here's something interesting: first privately financed manned space flight occured this morning


"Taapon" sounds much cooler than "SpaceShipOne", though, eh?

- Yan
Monday, June 21, 2004

Like I've theorized before, the Tappon was a self-sustaining airborne city cut off from the ground world for the purpose of extending the human species.

I believe that mankind discovered that source of the mammalian extinction is near or on the Earth surface, that human being living on the surface will eventually extinct. Tappon was created to forever leave the surface world and carry a small segment of humanity living in the stratosphere, with the hope that these people would procreate. If there's any reason for radio silence, it would be to forgoe the temptation to land for the inhabitants of the Tappon, for if they were to carryour their mission, they could never land as long as there's living human onboard.

The project was a failure, however, since we saw in "echo", that there's very few people left alive on the tappon; no children was born and aside from D-A, soon everyone on board soon will die of old age.

I don't see a point in a dead city in the sky preserving human civilization in a library format. I think the people in YKK are smarter than leaving a static monument for the aliens to excavate eons later. They created robotic replicas of themsevles and taught them the way of the humans, and use them to extend our civilization. Instead of a tomb, we leave a (semi) living legacy to this planet.

- JC
Monday, June 21, 2004

Death of all mammals?

I'm not entirely sure that is right, it could be that there are are not any left in this region due to a lack of a critical mass of people to care for them and a clearly aging population. (specifically talking about farm animals here).

Certainly we know cows have survived somewhere due to the fact you can still get milk (at least near the start of the series) as this is how Alpha knows about her intolerence to animal proteins.

It is hinted that conditions do vary substantially between countries but due to poor comunications and isolation it is not clear how the conditions vary, although it is quite likely that this is where a lot of young adults have gone.

I tend to see the Tarpon, as others have mentioned, as an observation post to see how things will progress and with a strict no interference policy, the crew being volunteer exiles in the service of this cause.

As for Alpha and the others they seem to me to also be observers, seeing how the world progresses and each cronicling the changes. Certainly this is what Alpha's master seems to have had in mind.

It is unclear how far in the future the series is set but it could be further than we think. There seems to be a lot of artifacts of lost advanced technologies, particularly biotech, (it is fair to say that even the Tarpon seems to have a slightly biological feel to it) which have been either abandoned or forgotten.

As the society declines earlier, simpler (safer?) technologies have reappeared (been salvaged?) but only in limited quantities.

- Thomas Edge
Tuesday, June 29, 2004

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