2018 May 1

5 minutes: Stop that! You know I don't like it!

Luke shouted at his brother, poking his fist into his side.

Matthew cringed a bit, pulled back, but the smile didn't leave his face. He continued to blabber something I couldn't quite make out, but could tell was meant to annoy his brother.

That just made Luke even angrier, louder, more physical.

Matthew wasn't really afraid though. He still towered over Luke, due to their age difference, so Luke's responses rarely bothered him, merely fueling his desire to continue being annoying.

Looks like I'd have to intervene again. It's almost reflexive at this point, though I suppose by the time they've grown, this would hopefully disappear.

Civility was lower on the list of functions to be programmed into the soon to be common every day customer service robots whose main job would be to gather information from patients. Accuracy of health history, replete with relevant past surgeries, diagnoses, current medications both prescribed and over the counter products including vitamins was number one on the list. Any allergies, laboratory tests, X-rays, scans, procedures or vaccinations were to be included with dates.

The programmers thought no problem. The doctors and nurses thought how efficient. The staff who usually did this work thought they might lose their jobs. The patients thought this will never work. The robots thought nothing...or so everyone assumed.

The medical data company was eager to introduce the robots on the heels of electronic vein scanning, which worked sometimes but sometimes didn't, spread germs unless sanitized properly before and after each doubting patient, mostly the elderly who were rightly skeptical. The customer service robots, heretofore to be referred to as CSR-2018s were awaiting distribution in a warehouse somewhere in the USA, heavily guarded, until yesterday.

Truckloads of CSR-2018s were dispatched to a select area of medical complexes to begin working alongside the humans they might or might not someday make obsolete, at least in customer service. Minimal training was provided to the humans; two days and two nights were given to acclimate and set up the CSR-2018s. This was done without external fanfare. Memos were sent to employees. Office parties were set up with high quality catered food, champagne and chocolate fountains, like an upscale art show opening.

The programmers hoped for no problems. The doctors and nurses hoped their jobs would be easier. The staff who usually did this work hoped for problems so they wouldn't lose their jobs. The patients had mixed reactions from interested to amused to outraged. The robots thought nothing...or so everyone assumed.

Yesterday, at a university associated medical facility with hefty alumni contributions as well as government grants to defray costs, an undisclosed number of CSR-2018s began working with no need for caffeine, morning pastries, pleasantries or cubicles decorated with baby photos, plants, or standard issue pens and computers. Phones started ringing. Patients started arriving. What could possibly go wrong?

SciFiQuest 3018: A Dystopia for the Rest of Us

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