|How I dream of the future|
Sera Lewis (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Production editor, IBM
April 1, 2002
David Brin's new cyberpunk novel
has us thinking about what we would do with an army of little clay golems battling the busywork that eats our days.
The novel is set in a near future where people replicate themselves (much like a Notes database, come to think of it) into cheap dittos, tech-heavy clay blanks designed to resemble their original, but color-coded for specific tasks. The dittos are like perfect clones; they share your personality traits and even your memories, right up until the moment they leave the oven and go about your business. You can grab them at the end of the day and upload their experiences, but do it quickly; after 24 hours, dittos dissolve.
So, what would we pass off to someone who looked and responded like us, but was disposable?
Conference calls, for sure. We might have to choose a blank tailored for concentration, though, because ours always fails after about 15 minutes of the blathering that seems to take the place of thoughtful presentations once you get more than, say, three people on the line. Better yet, we could set one up to start screaming "Get to the point, you idiot!" and then claim some kind of error in the download. We suspect that clay people might actually get more accomplished than the real ones do.
A set of corporate drone dittos could attend face-to-face meetings. These could feign attentiveness while processing e-mail in the background. Heck, they could process e-mail on a laptop right there and REALLY blend in. These might also take on crafting polite responses to both the beloved readers who want to sell us their wireless cameras, porn sites, and various body enhancements and the less-than-beloved lawyers who want us to take down whatever we put up. Between meetings, they could make sure we're in line with all the latest management mandates, and write up those required formal lists of all the things we're going to commit to doing this year.
We'd also delegate database entry. Those lovely library views that list all the articles in the developerWorks library? Hand-entered by a team of professionals, here in the office. It takes all of about half an hour a week, but we hate it with a passion previously reserved for, well, conference calls. This ditto would certainly need a taste for repetition and a skill for paying attention to detail that some of us don't have in the original. This ditto could also take on link-checking, file-fixing, and spam-busting in its spare time, and could work on all those page view statistics our bosses love to read. Hey, we could throw in filing expense accounts, and make its short life truly miserable.
We'd set another ditto to formatting XML files. This one could make sure all our tags actually are well-formed, and that our XML converts without a hitch. It could also look for, install, and debug software upgrades for all the handy little tools that are supposed to save us time but actually end up fighting with each other all day.
Hmmmm ... we need someone malleable, able to do repetitive tasks, and able to fix arcane interactivity problems, who would vanish without a trace after a while. Then it hits us ... this technology is available today! Co-op, anyone?
|About the author|
Sera Lewis is the production editor for IBM developer solutions. In real life, she mentors lots of co-ops, and never ever makes them take her place on conference calls. She does, however, make them do her database entry, at least until they wise up. You can contact Sera at email@example.com.