Drawing: Woman’s face. Caption reads: “Plastic over a steel frame, with an advanced AI brain.”

Housekeeper short story by Iris Carden

Settle in dear reader, while I tell you the strange tale of Miranda, who just wanted a little help around the house, but discovered being an early adopter of technology had issues.

Miranda was watching tv after a busy day at work.  She was exhausted, and trying to avoid looking at the work that needed to be done around her house.

That was when she saw the ad.  AI Tech, a new startup was selling robot assistants. They looked human and could be programmed for any number of tasks.  

In her lunch break the next day, she went to the new AI Tech shop, to ask about a housekeeper.

The salesman showed her a doll, the size of a human adult. “She’s made of steel, covered with a silky soft plastic to mimic human skin.  Her brain is the most advanced artificial intelligence available now.  Once you order your robot, we can program her for whatever your needs are.  Since you want a housekeeper, we’ll give her our housekeeping program. Compared to the cost of hiring a human housekeeper, she will pay for herself in less than a year.  We have an easy payment plan, and of course, if she malfunctions in that first year, you are able to return her as long as there’s no user-caused damage.”

Miranda chose her robot, giving skin, hair and eye colour choice, and explaining the household tasks she wanted the robot to do.  She chose the name Rosie, thinking of a cartoon robot from her childhood television watching.

After work, she went to collect her new housekeeper.  

“She’s programmed for housekeeping,” the salesman said, “but she can learn.  If you want more tasks done, you just have to explain them to her.  She knows when her power is running down, and will plug herself in to recharge. Anything else you need to know you can find in the manual, or call our helpline number.”

As Miranda walked to the car with Rosie by her side, she noticed Rosie walked a little stiffly, but looked human.

“You know, we might want to get you some new clothes, so you don’t have to wear that maid’s uniform all the time,” Miranda said.

“Whatever you say, Madam,” Rosie answered.

“You can call me Miranda.”

“Yes, Miranda.”

At home, Rosie went straight to work, cleaning the house, sweeping, mopping dusting.  She washed Miranda’s clothes,  made the bed, then cleaned the kitchen.  Miranda has nothing to do but rest, while Rosie then cooked her dinner.

Things are looking good at the moment, dear reader, but remember early adopters of technology often find there are glitches.

That night, Miranda was woken by the sound of the vacuum.  She explained to Rosie that cleaning during the night wasn’t necessary.

The next morning, Rosie made breakfast for Miranda, and cleaned the kitchen while Miranda ate.

That afternoon, Miranda found the furniture polished to the point of gleaming. Dinner was cooked, and there were fresh baked bread and biscuits.

After the dishes were done, Miranda told Rosie to stop working for the night.

“What should Rosie do?” The robot asked.

“Ah, what do you do when you’re not working, recharge, relax, whatever.”

“Rosie does not need to be recharged.”

“Oh, OK, then just relax.”

“What is relax?”

“Ah, shut down until morning. That’s it, shut down until six am.”

“Shutting down.”

Rosie simply stopped moving and stood silently in the middle of the lounge room.  Miranda found it unnerving.

Another morning came, and while Miranda appreciated her home being cleaned, and meals prepared. She noticed the pattern on her plate seemed worn thin.  This was quite new china. 

“Rosie, how often do you was the dishes?”

“Fifteen times per day.”

“They don’t get dirtied fifteen times per day.”

“Rosie cleans until told to stop cleaning.”

“You need more to do.  Perhaps you could mow the lawn or weed the garden.”

“Rosie will download instructions on how to do those things.”

Miranda came home to find her lawn mowed, her plants pruned and garden beds weeded.  Perhaps all she’d really needed to do was keep Rosie busy.

Inside the house was clean, and Rosie was cooking dinner.

“The yard looks nice. Did you have enough to do today, Rosie?” Miranda asked.

“Rosie had enough to do.”

“Oh, good,” Miranda said.

When she went for her shower that night, she noticed worn areas in the enamel of the bath.  How many times did a bath have to be scrubbed before the enamel began to wear out? Was there more work she could give Rosie? Was there a way to stop Rosie working when the work was done?

After her shower, Miranda read and re-read the manual.  It didn’t say anything about a robot continuing to work even though there was no work left to do. She would call the help line when she got home the next day.

Rosie made breakfast and was already vacuuming while Miranda ate.

When Miranda got home from work, her lawn had been mowed so short there were bare patches, and the plants had been pruned down to bare stems.

Miranda called the help line. She explained the problem.  

The help desk person said: “Your robot was programmed for for working in large hotels or university residential colleges. It’s really not suitable for the home.”

“Then why was it sold to me for home use?”

“That’s the retailer, AI Tech.  I work for the developer, Technical AI.”

“So what do I do?”

“I can’t tell you what to do.  But you don’t have enough work for your robot.”

“Thank you.”

The next day, Miranda returned Rosie to the store, and cancelled her payment plan.

It turned out she could not hire a housekeeper for the amount she had been paying for Rose, but she could hire a cleaner, a human one, to come once a week, which was a great help.

So, dear reader, Miranda is much happier now.  She has help around the house, so the housework isn’t so onerous, and she’s decided she’s not going to be the first to adopt new technology in future.

I invite you, dear reader, to look out for more:

Strange Tales

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Everything on this site is the product of human, not artificial, intelligence.


By Iris Carden

Iris Carden is an Australian indie author, mother, grandmother, and chronic illness patient. On good days, she writes. Because of the unpredictability of her health, she writes on an indie basis, not trying to meet deadlines. She lives on a disability support pension now, but her ultimate dream is to earn her own living from her writing.


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