Friday, May 1, 2020

Microstory 1355: Division (Part 2)

Magnate Representative: Thank you all for coming back in after lunch. Well, not all, I suppose. I see that Magnate Customer 5 is no longer with us. That should be okay. So, I think we have the Smart Solutions thing squared away. Of course, nothing has been decided, but you have all been such a big help to us so far. We greatly appreciate your contribution. We’re not done with you yet, though. I want to talk to you about Robotics. This part is the reason you signed nondisclosure agreements. We haven’t so much as hinted that we’re planning to jump into this field, because it won’t be officially happening for another two years, but we do want to hear some initial thoughts, because our main goal is supporting the average consumer. Plenty of robotics companies are going after disaster relief, and manufacturing, and of course, the military. We’re interested in the kind of automation that makes life easier for the individual. Does that all sound exciting?
Magnate Customers: [in unison] Yes.
Magnate Customer 6: Sort of.
Magnate Representative: All right, good enough. First off, if you were to own a personal robot assistant—let’s say that money is no object for you—what kinds of things would you want it to be able to do for you?
Magnate Customer 2: Cook me dinner.
Magnate Representative: Okay, cooking. Before we hear from anyone else, would you be more interested in a free-standing robot, or would you rather purchase a smart kitchen, where the appliances work together to build something for you.
Magnate Customer 2: I’m not sure I understand the difference.
Magnate Representative: A free-standing robot would, ignoring any dexterity limitations, be able to do anything you would. It would open the fridge door, take out the ingredients, open the containers, etcetera. A smart kitchen requires you to set some ingredients up, and then machines carry it down the line, as needed, sometimes going back and forth. The latter is less intelligent, but the technology is more readily available. As of yet, no one has built a robot that could theoretically move around the world wherever it wants, and fulfill natural-language requests.
Magnate Customer 4: I would sure rather have the proper robot. If money doesn’t matter in this scenario, why wouldn’t you?
Magnate Customer 6: I’m not certain I would like this humanoid thing in my house, wandering around, listening to everything I do.
Magnate Representative: Okay, so privacy is a concern of yours. You don’t want it to be too available. You would want it to be there when you ask for it, but out of the way when it’s not needed.
Magnate Customer 6: No, I don’t think I want a robot at all. I would much prefer the smart kitchen idea, and a smart bathroom, and a smart garage. I still want to be the one in charge, who has to make everything run. I wouldn’t feel comfortable with this android who can make its own decisions, and also climb stairs. You know what I mean?
Magnate Representative: I understand. Does anyone else share his sentiment?
Magnate Customer 3: I do a little.
Magnate Customer 1: Yeah, me too, but I think I could get used to a little robot friend. This is two years from now at the earliest, right? We already have smart speakers that help us manage information. I imagine the tech will become gradually more and more—shall we say—intrusive? By the time a proper robot rolls around, it probably won’t seem like much of a leap.
Magnate Representative: Ah, that’s a good segue into my next question, which is about robot companionship. Technology will one day allow us to program robot personalities, which mimic human behavior. Would you want that, or would it freak you out too much? Would you rather the machine just do what you ask, and nothing more.
Magnate Customer 6: You all know where I stand on this matter?
Magnate Customer 5: When you say robot companion, do you mean...?
Magnate Representative: We’re not talking about sex robots. I didn’t think you came back after lunch, Magnate Customer 5.
Magnate Customer 5: I’m everywhere.
Magnate Representative: Well, again, this is a family friendly company. Let’s only talk about helpful, privacy-conscious, and platonic robot assistants and/or friends.

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