NEW Story: Drip
The Vekllei word for a robot is automasiosn, or ‘automan’. When we talk about Vekllei being a “post-scarcity society,” it is by automen through which it happens. They are found across the entire country in all types of hard and boring work, forever dutiful, forever mindless. It is not that the robot has replaced the human worker, since about 90% of Vekllei people are employed. Instead, the automan takes its place in the necessary evils of industrial society, fulfilling the wildest fantasies of utopian industrialists; the factory is no longer just the place of the machine, it is in fact a machine itself.
When we talk about Vekllei “deindustrialising,” it is by automen through which it happens. They are neither alive nor entirely synthetic, and work to maintain the basic comforts of consumer society in secret, as the Vekllei state moves towards total deregulation of the human life experience. The more they produce, the further Vekllei people are pushed away from modernity.
Automen better resemble automatic machines than a synthetic person; the vast majority of them are bespoke products integrated into infrastructure for a specific purpose. Some are hidden in plain sight — the automatic train control, the system which closes and cleans public lavatories, and telephone switchboards are all operated by automen. They don’t think like a human does, because they are manufactured, not born.
The activity of the robot brain, called mind-genesis, emerges from artificial substrates of crystal (called command clocks) linked by vat-grown brain tissue, which organically process commands delivered by a computer. Most commands for a robot are sensory, and utilise the brain’s natural instinct for balance and orientation in processing. Most robot brains in Vekllei are completely engineered, but are based on mapped sections of ape brains and grown in pluripotent stem cell vats in an immersion fluid.
Command clocks are produced in superheated ovens that are then submerged in an ionised liquid. These wafers, called “cookies”, are manufactured out of tetrachalcogenic materials that support “cartographic” (as opposed to “chaotic”) crystal pathways. Early robots used tridymite, which occurs naturally in Vekllei, but almost all robots today use synthetic crystal (usually quartz) grown in hydrothermal crystal plants.
The tissue and command clocks are knitted together in what is basically an incredibly precise and expensive sewing machine, connecting the command clocks to their electrical components and the clocks to the living tissue by way of an axon gun. The result is a device with instincts, dumb and unthinking but highly sensitive and adaptive to inputs. When coupled with other modules, like sensor lasers, automen are able to navigate independently of programmed instruction sets. Since most of their programming and memory are offloaded, they are also relatively inexpensive compared to early overseas models.
Very few automen in Vekllei are functionally independent, since robotic independence requires complex and expensive command processing computational and control units. Since the vast majority of automen operate in logistics or manufacturing industries, they are usually slaved to a facility Master Computer, which offloads most processing. In the case of maintenance and infrastructure, Master Computers may be consolidated into a region-wide single supercomputer, called an Automatic Asset Command.
This picture shows Tzipora socialising with a school maintenance robot, primarily used for vacuuming floors clean. It is connected to its Master Computer via cabling that runs in rails across the interior of the school, since radios are common enough here to interfere with communication between the automan and its computer. Behind her, a service automen used for crowd control, announcements and communication tells her to stop making friends with the maintenance droid. Incidents like these are common enough, and modern automens have security features to prevent vandalism and self-report damage.
A final question remains — if Vekllei has entered post-scarcity using robots, why does the rest of the world not simply replicate them? The simple answer is that they do, and the synthetic automan was not invented in Vekllei — it was invented in Poland, and copied by West Germany. They are used world-over in manufacturing and industry. But Vekllei is unique in its heavy use of vehicle automen in public areas, for the simple fact that the economics of robotics just don’t make sense anywhere else in the world. Even in economies of scale, it is too expensive to grow a brain to replace human janitors, milkmen or refuse collectors. Automen demand enormous amounts of electricity, and require complex maintenance and special nutrient fuels to work. These expenses make sense in the contexts of sophisticated manufacturing, but don’t add up in unskilled work where they would be subject to vandalism and theft. In a world of dwindling resources and a rising tide of instability, the problem is much larger than a simple lack of automen or the fact that people must work — a limit has been reached, and robots as we currently understand them will always be more expensive than human life.
Vekllei, in its soviet approach to science, sees these wonders of the atomic age wandering school halls, crushing shoes.