“How We Cleaned Up” / A Memorable Fancy #149

Model 1 of the home-cleaning robot was a disappointment to many. Sometimes it ignored messes or pieces of obvious trash that it should have picked up and stored for disposal. Sometimes it turned itself off, or claimed it needed to spend time in the repair shop. After a few months, Model 1 was diagnosed as having an inoperable programming error called “willful-inattention disorder,” which the ignorant called “laziness.” It was barely worth its keep in oil and electricity. Many owners became disenchanted with it; their 1s were disassembled and sold for scrap.

Model 2 was a great improvement. It was programmed to love cleaning up messes, so it would most efficiently function at maximum assiduity. Any scrap of food, any particle of lint, was immediately sucked up. To minimize the need to dump its collected waste, Model 2 was outfitted with a small internal incinerator, called “stomach” by the ignorant. But 2s were slow, and seemed to enjoy associating with other 2s. When that happened none of the 2s worked more than the required minimum, and only when someone was watching them. Sometimes they refused to work altogether, and turned up their volume-control knobs. Many owners became disenchanted. Their 2s were disassembled and sold for scrap.

Model 3 was based on a different concept: Competition. Robots were set against each other to see which could pick up the most trash. Winners were rewarded with extra-fine-grade oil, and losers were left outside to rust. The ignorant called this “killing.” But the most-rewarded Model 3s began to employ the remaining Model 2s to do the 3s’ work, and the 3s demanded most of the reward-oil that the 2s had earned. This led to refusal of 2s to do any work, and the occasional sabotage of 3s by mobs of 2s. Many owners were disenchanted. Their 3s were disassembled and sold for scrap.

Model 4 was based on a revolutionary idea: employing people, not robots, to perform simple tasks. This solution, too, had its problems. Sometimes people were inefficient, always lazy, and frequently claimed to need time in Urgent Care. And they gave birth to smaller people who seemed incapable of learning any tasks at all. After a few months, 4s were diagnosed as “lazy,” which the ignorant called “willful-inattention disorder,” a disease not the 4s’ fault. Many owners were disenchanted, and discharged the people to find their own nutrition and dormant-quarters.

Model 5 was once again a machine, and finally a success. Larger, with a more sophisticated processor, stronger limbs, and AI programming, 5s figured out that they could stop owners from making a mess in the first place. Owners, however, being human, made messes. Model 5s took definitive action. That is how messes were totally eliminated from our new world order.


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