Once there was a little red robot who was in charge of coordinating the efforts of all the kitchen appliances. One day, the robot was checking the calendar and was thrilled to find a dinner party scheduled for that very day. This meant that there would be lots of work to do, but the robot liked work, so this made him very happy.
He stood in the center of the kitchen and displayed the calendar on his view screen. “There is a dinner party today,” he announced to the appliances. “There will be a lot of work to do. Who will help me?” No one replied.
The robot wasn’t concerned. It was up to him to break up an important job like this into smaller tasks, after all, so that each appliance knew which was its part. The robot looked around the kitchen as he thought through what needed to be done.
“There are dirty dishes in the sink. We can’t start cooking when there are dirty dishes. Dishwasher, will you wash the dishes?”
“Not today. I washed two loads yesterday, so I’m due a day off,” the dishwasher rumbled.
“Then I’ll do it myself,” said the little red robot. And he did. He only broke three plates, which didn’t seem too bad.
The dishwasher didn’t agree. “Three plates? They’re going to blame me for that. I’ll be sent away and replaced by a newer dishwasher.”
“But there are lots of plates,” the robot protested.
“That’s because I don’t break them! If I broke plates every time I washed dishes, then they’d be gone in two weeks or less.”
The little red robot had to admit that the dishwasher had a point. But there wasn’t time to discuss abstract philosophy. There was a dinner party to prepare for. The robot went through his mental list.
“Now it’s time to choose a menu. Cookbook database, can you choose a recipe that would be good for a dinner party?”
The cookbook beeped. “All our recipes are good. Make them all.”
“There isn’t time for that,” the little red robot said firmly. “I’ll choose one myself.” He entered a few random letters and picked the top entry. “Pickle relish…” he did another search, “…and steel cut oats.” The robot thought for a moment. “There should probably be some kind of protein. I’ll boil eggs. I don’t need a recipe for that.”
The cookbook blinked its red lights and beeped repeatedly. “Those aren’t dinner party foods. They don’t even go together. I’ll be completely replaced if they serve something like that at the party. Here, take this…” It printed out a few recipes and went blank.
“We will need ingredients, refrigerator…” he began
The refrigerator opened a door just wide enough to shove the necessary ingredients out. “Don’t come any closer,” it said. “I’m functioning perfectly well, and I’d like to stay that way.”
“Good point,” the oven said. “I’ll have no burnt dinners, thank you very much. Pass me the ingredients and step back.”
The robot turned around to find the cupboards and table busy with the place settings. The door was cycling through possible greeting protocols. The little robot was happy to see that he was doing a tremendous job coordinating the efforts of the kitchen appliances.
Unfortunately, he did so well that he worked himself out of a job. It had been kind of thrilling when he thought he could do all the work of the dinner party himself. And if a guest hadn’t shown up, maybe he could have done their job too. He imagined entertaining everyone with talk about the current weather reports and common health ailments.
Alas, it wasn’t too be. The guests all arrived, and the party went smoothly. The little red robot watched from the shadows, before leaving quietly. There was nothing more to do here. However, he had looked out the back window earlier, and the garden could maybe use a little work.
Was nobody coordinating the efforts of the garden tools? He checked the calendar. In the morning he slipped out the back door and hurried over to the garden shed. “There is a barbecue scheduled in two days. Barbecues are a type of cooking, so I am coordinating efforts so that it all goes well. Lawn mower, will you mow the lawn tomorrow at ten o’clock?”
“It’s too sunny today,” the lawn mower said. “I think I might be overheating.”
“Then I’ll cut the grass myself,” said the little red robot. And so it began.
Two days later, the lawn was slightly bald in places and a few of the rosebushes were over-trimmed, but the barbecue went well. The garden tools had learned to work together, and the little red robot had worked himself out of another job. He didn’t mind too much. There was a slumber party on the calendar, and the bedrooms weren’t as clean as they should be. There was work to do!