Tag Archives: Robots

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

Ronnie Roofer

“Come on, Seedie, good boy, we can do this, one more effort. Less than two hundred square meters to go, you can’t fail me now! We can do it. This will be one more wonderful roof garden, all green, and capturing lots of carbon to deliver oxygen, like the Amazon reloaded in Nigeria. We can do it, Seedie, you’ve got what it takes, you’ve got it in you, one more effort!”

Ronnie is glad there isn’t anyone else on this roof. Would be annoying, to be overheard talking to the robot like it was a dog. It’s the right size, walks on four legs, the planting end could be mistaken for a head at a distance, and the rear stabilizer for a tail, but that’s it, for similarities. 

Seedie is an emotional moron, would never wag its tail in joy to celebrate one more outing. It’s scientifically clever, hard to beat at soil analysis and melioration. It’s well balanced, able to fearlessly stalk along steep roofs that Ronnie’s excellent head for heights considers too dangerous to access. But Seedie is an emotionally blank. 

Seedie doesn’t yawn and moan about lack of sleep in the morning. It never inquires about Ronnie’s last night, to force him into a big brag about an endless series of romantic achievements that of course never happened. Nor does Seedie counter with an even bigger brag. No bragging, no groaning, no yawning, no calling for breaks. Seedie just does the job, without ever clamoring for a raise. Seedie is the team mate from hell, a blank striver.

But Ronnie is as close to tears as a tough guy dares admit, and to himself only. They have been working together for eight years. Seedie was Ronnies first brandnew Roof Planting Mate.

When he started at the firm, directly after his roofer course at the Lagos University for Applied Environmentalism, his manager didn’t trust the novice with proper tools.  Ronnie was forced to work with a semiautonomous model so outdated and hopelessly inefficient he had to go online for help, and in his own unpaid time!

Couple of days and posts later, Ronnie had become a card carrying member of the Roofers for Bright Skies union. A senior activist, code name GetDone, had explained how to proceed, and his trick worked like magic. It was actually quite simple.

One confidential chat with the owner of the three roofs Ronnie was in process of transforming into a tomato-cum-herbs jungle, to inform him of state of the art rooftop planting practices, sent the client calling the firm to yell for proper modern tools, or else bye bye contract.

Right on the next day, Ronnie had barely made it onto the middle roof with his museum exhibit of a hopeless tool, Seedie was delivered. A brandnew, state of the art, autonomous roof planting robot, straight from the manufacturer. Ronnie hadn’t been the star student in his coding class for nothing. He did it, all on his own. After a mere three hours of setup and configuration, Seedie was ready to go and prompty did a marvel. Together, they achieved more in one day, and it wasn’t even a full one, than Ronnie had gotten done in his whole first week.

The client was so pleased he tipped generously, a traditional appreciative practice that is unfortunately getting rarer and rarer, with all the explanations one has to provide since the switch to ecash only. Some kinds of digitalization really don’t qualify as progres…

But Ronnie has bigger worries to tackle right now. Never mind a few missed tips. Him and Seedie, they have been such a great team, right from their exhilarating first day.

And it’s not just all the work they’re getting done. Ronnie spends more time with Seedie than with his family, and he can always tell him anything, without fear of disclosure.

No problem to talk to Seedie about his betting wins and losses, both best no shared at home.

No risks in uttering doubts around the excessive passion at his neighborhood Liverpool fan club. Seedie doesn’t freak out when told that, honestly, it’s but a game, in the end, no need to go crazy about each and every match.

Even wondering aloud about setting up his own firm, to specialize on medicinal plants like cannabis and poppy for rooftop greening, is perfectly possible and safe in Seedie’s presence. 

Ronnie has of course made sure to deactivate all spy functions. He attended a union workshop on how to safeguard privacy in the presence of AI tools, in his own unpaid time, at his own expense. A very wise move. Not even his pretty professional expert self would have guessed just how many data could have been gathered by something as innocuous as Seedie, the settings permitting.

Ronnie and Seedie, they’ve seen a lot, over the past eight years, and now Seedie is falling apart. If its malfunctioning gets any worse, if they keep missing targets due to repair downtime, Ronnie will have to call management to ask for a replacement.

Even thinking about this betrayal breaks Ronnies heart. Two years ago, Seedie would have had a chance to get updated and come back an old fashioned but robust tool with a couple of years to go. But nowadays, after the sudden switch to the new ambient quantum cores, no one will bother. The tech unit is sure to declare Seedie scrap, have him dismantled and recycle the components. 

Ronnie didn’t see the switch to ambient quantum cores coming, despite hearing about some of it one the news, and he hates himself for his mistake. He doomed good old Seedie.

There must be a way to keep going, for a couple more months. Weeks. Days. Hours.

Pretending not to notice the minimal progress since his last cheer, Ronnie once again goes:

“Come on, Seedie, good boy, we can do this, one more effort. Less than two hundred square meters to go, you can’t fail me now! We can do it. This will be one more wonderful roof garden, all green and capturing lots of carbon to deliver oxygen, like the Amazon reloaded in Nigeria. We can do it,  Seedie, you’ve got what it takes, you’ve got it in you, one more effort!”.