No Ant Farm

„You‘re kidding, right? You must be kidding! You can’t do this to patients. How are they going to survive a week at the hospital, with this app around? They don’t want to know! Sometimes, you’re so naive, Nerdie. Or would that be plain old insensitivity?“

She‘s joking, of course. Her face tells him as much. Wrinkles around the eyes = joke. Eyes bulging under heightened brow = anger alert, last chance to avert row. Facial expression consistency, that’s one of the many good things, about companion robots. No ambiguity, none of the messy diversity displayed by conventional humans. He’s still intrigued by her reaction, has to ask:

„What is wrong with transparency, chérie? My app will be telling them what‘s going on. That‘s always good to know, isn’t it? Aren’t we all longing for more information, about our circumstances, to feel in control and stuff, to quote a certain expert?“

He’s proud. Remembering that last bit of psychology, that’s very much unlike his former, socially oblivious self. It was an excellent idea, to integrate a social intelligence unit into her capabilities. Sometimes, this leads to boring lectures, sure. But some of the knowledge she forces onto him is valuable, does actually help him understand what’s going on.

She’s laughing now, and shaking her head. Looks cool, with her long braids.

That‘s another upgrade he doesn’t regret. The standard model comes with short, no nonsense hair, and a very basic wardrobe. Three days in, he had had enough of being reminded of his bad old school uniform days. He bought her a set of six sexy wigs, and a closet full of 2030 style velvety dresses in bright colors. An excellent idea. Looking at her now cheers him up, even if she lectures him about stuff he’s fine not caring about. And here it comes, her next lecture:

„Well done, Nerdie, well remembered, you‘re such an excellent pupil. Yes, people often do like to know stuff. Yes, understanding makes them feel like being in control. But, Nerdie Sweetie, often is not always. Let’s look at this together, shall we, to find out why your perfectly well intentioned app will be perfectly unwelcome in the real world…“

He does love being praised. If only her tone was slightly less condescending. Mental note to have another go at the advanced settings manual, to find out if there‘s a way to fine tune her advice mode. All fine and good, to learn, but preferably without being made to feel like an idiot.

„… If I‘m not mistaken, your reasoning went like this: ‚Patients in a private hospital room can‘t see how many other patients there are on the ward, or what the nurses are doing. Not seeing any action makes them assume there isn‘t any, which creates resentment. Fit the nurses with tags, create a map of the ward, show how the nurses are rushing around, ambiance improved…‘“

He can‘t help nod his agreement, strongly. Hearing her spell out his app concept makes it sounds even more convincing than his own, less structured musings. This is one hell of a good idea, and should be worth a nice pile of cash. He can practically feel the efficiency improvements. How the patients with less than urgent needs will wait for a nurse to be nearby, to call her. This alone should save one FTE* per year per ward easy. His idea is a winner!

„… Will readily admit this sounds promising, at first hear. Patients, and perhaps even the wider general public, like everybody in the area who funds the hospital through their taxes, and is bored enough to feel like watching, would be able to see how hard and fast the nurses are working. No more prejudices, about endless coffee breaks in staff rooms, no more public sector bashing…“

That’s it, exactly, that‘s how he envisages this to work. It‘s such a splendid idea.

„…  Nerdie Sweetie, would you please stop nodding? I‘m starting to worry about your neck. Thank you! Yes, you came up with a pleasant little fairy tale. Ward transparency app, as entertaining as an ant farm, and a much bigger thrill to watch. Nurse and doctor dots, different colors, of course, rushing around the map, from patient to patient. The patients in their beds, why not have them fade, each time they ring the bell, until they get cared for? 24/7 action, for free. The nurses are guaranteed to like the idea, no problem getting them to accept those tags.

We agreed on no nodding, Nerdie Sweetie, need I remind you? Thank you!

Now to the interesting part: Why is this app never going to happen? Not because of staff resistance. Their unions might object, because that’s what they’re there for, it’s their role, but the overwhelming majority of the actual staff would love to prove they’re worth their wages, and more.

And that’s our first problem, Nerdie Sweetie. If your app proves, and beyond reasonable doubt, that hospital staff work hard, how the hell are we supposed to keep paying them so badly, without feeling awkward? No good feelings that way. Especially for extremely well paid office dwellers who’d never hesitate to perform some holiday research at the desk because they’re convinced everybody else is having their moment of on the job slacking, too.

But it gets worse, Nerdie Sweetie, much worse.

How the hell are patients going to survive all the stress and hardship that comes with a disease that needs to be treated in a hospital, if they can’t rage about lazy staff?

Their anger about the bad luck that got them there needs to go somewhere. You need something, to complain about, to visiting relatives, and for the benefit of your own aggrieved self.

Fuming about incompetence is still a possibility, if you take away the laziness presumption, but that way lies an awful lot of mental hazard. If incompetence, you might get worse, and even die. Who‘d want to think about that? Exactly, zero takers. Laziness, on the other hand, will cause some suffering that can be moaned about, but mostly none of the lethal kind…“

She has got a point. Again. Her tone needs adjustement, definitely, he has to find and recalibrate those settings. But what she says sounds very much like the lack of rationality that will forever confuse him, and complicate his dealings with fellow conventional humans.

They often don’t want to know.

He’s one of them, but sometimes he feels closer to her.

He could aske her how come, but…

*FTE Definition: The Full Time Equivalent is a measure that allows the company to calculate the equivalent number of full-time employees it would have on a given period of time