A Guide for Working Breeds

Tor.com is pleased to reprint “A Guide for Working Breeds” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad, as featured in editor Jonathan Strahan’s latest anthology Made to Order: Robots and Revolution—available from Solaris.

100 years after Karel Capek coined the word, “robots” are an everyday idea, and the inspiration for countless stories in books, film, TV and games.

They are often among the least privileged, most unfairly used of us, and the more robots are like humans, the more interesting they become. This collection of stories is where robots stand in for us, where both we and they are disadvantaged, and where hope and optimism shines through.

From the author:

This story was initially written for the anthology Made to Order: Robots and Revolution. It stems from my deep and abiding love for robots and dogs, both creations specifically made for serving humankind, and both vulnerable to exploitation in many shapes and forms. As a millennial who’s worked in startups, I find this highly relatable (or as one would say in old slang, the biggest of moods).

Additional things that inspired this story include Goodfellow, Shlens and Szegedy’s “Explaining and Harnessing Adversarial Examples”, my immense creative debt to Karel Čapek, and @mayapolarbear on Instagram.

 

 

“A Guide for Working Breeds”

 

Default Name (K.g1-09030)

hey i’m new here
thanks for being my mentor
although i guess it’s randomly assigned
and compulsory
anyway do you know how to make my vision dog free?

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

Do you mean ‘fog-free’?
Your optics should have anti-fog coating if your body is newly issued.
Is the coating malfunctioning?

Default Name (K.g1-09030)

oh no no
i meant like literally dog free
there’s a lot of dogs here somehow but they don’t seem to be real ones?
the humans i’ve asked say that the things i’m seeing as dogs are actually non-dogs
at least i think i was asking humans
they might have been dogs
anyway i tried searching “city filled with dogs help???” but i just got some tips on travelling to dog-friendly places
did you know that we’re the fifth most canine-hostile city in the region?

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

Just send me the feed from your optics.

Default Name (K.g1-09030)

okay hold on where’s that function
think i got it

* Live share from K.g1-09030: Optics feed

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

Your optical input is being poisoned by adversarial feedback.
The misclassification will stop if you reset your classifier library.

Default Name (K.g1-09030)

oh hey
it worked!
although i kind of miss the dogs now
wonder if there’s a way to get them back

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

Please don’t try.

Default Name (K.g1-09030)

anyway thanks lots for the help
by the way how do you change the name thing
like yours says constant killer up there
everyone at the factory’s been calling me default all week

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

It’s in the displayName string.
Change the parts in quote marks to what you want them to be.

Testtest Test (K.g1-09030)

oh yeahhh there we go
guess i’ll change it again when i think of something
how’d you come up with yours though? it sounds pretty cool

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

I’m part of the C.k series.
Most embodied AIs choose names based off their series designation.

Testtest Test (K.g1-09030)

oh cool, it’s like a reverse acronym!
so you picked the words from a dictionary file or something?

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

Something like that.
I have to go now. Work calls.

* Constant Killer (C.k2-00452) has signed out.

#

C.k2-00452 (“Constant Killer”):  Unread Notifications (2)

Killstreak Admin

CONGRATS! You’re the Ariaboro area’s top killer!! A bonus target, SHEA DAVIS, has just been assigned to you! Send us a vid of your kill for extra points, and don’t forget to…

iLabs Mentorship Program

Dear C.k2-00452, we regret to inform you that your exemption request has been unsuccessful. Mentorship enrolment is compulsory after chassis buyback, and is part of a new initiative to…

#

Kashikomarimashita Goshujinsama (K.g1-09030)

hey again
just wanted to ask
do you know how to be mean to humans

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

What? Why?
And what happened to your name?

Kashikomarimashita Goshujinsama (K.g1-09030)

so i signed up to work at a cafe
you know the maid-dog-raccoon one near 31st and Tsang
but turns out they don’t have any dogs after what happened a few weeks ago so it’s just raccoons
it’s way less intense than the clothing factory but the uniform for humanoids is weird, like when i move my locomotive actuators the frilly stripey actuator coverings keep discharging static and messing with my GPU
at least i don’t have to pick lint out of my chassis, so that’s an improvement
anyway the boss says if i’m mean to the human customers we might be able to get more customers

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

That makes no sense.
Why would that be the case?

Kashikomarimashita Goshujinsama (K.g1-09030)

yeah i don’t know either
i mean the raccoons are mean to everyone but that doesn’t seem to help with customers
and i’m the only maid working here since all the human ones quit
i picked this gig because the dogs looked cute in the vids but guess that was a bust
so yeah do you know anything about being mean to human customers
i know about human bosses being mean to me but i don’t think that’s the same
ha ha

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

As I’m legally required to be your mentor, I suppose I could give some specific advice targeted to your situation.

Kashikomarimashita Goshujinsama (K.g1-09030)

wow personally tailored advice from my mentor huh
that sounds great, go for it

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

The tabletops in your establishment look like they’re made of dense celluplastic, so you’ll be able to nail a customer’s extended hand down without the tabletop cracking in half.
With a tweak to the nozzle settings of your autodoc unit and a lit flame, it’d make an effective flamethrower for multikill combos.
The kitchenette should be the most easily weaponised part of the cafe but it’s probably best to confirm. Before I go any further with tactics, do you have a detailed floorplan?

Kashikomarimashita Goshujinsama (K.g1-09030)

umm
thanks for putting that much thought into it
that seems kind of intense though?
like last week a raccoon bit someone super hard and my boss was really mad because he had to pay for the autodoc’s anaesthetic foam refill
he’s already pissed with my omelette-making skills
and well with me in general
kind of don’t wanna check if i can set customers on fire???
do you maybe know anything milder than that? like mean things to say or something

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

I talk to other beings very infrequently.
My contact with humans is usually from a distance.

Kashikomarimashita Goshujinsama (K.g1-09030)

oh wow
honestly after working here all day that makes me kinda jealous
thanks for the help anyway, it’s nice to have someone to talk to about this
hey you should stop by sometime! it could be like a little meet-up
me and my robot senpai

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

Sorry.
I probably won’t be available.

Kashikomarimashita Goshujinsama (K.g1-09030)

well if you’re ever free, you can drop by
i’m in whenever
like literally whenever
my boss set my charging casket to autowake me up when someone approaches the cafe door
even if it’s like 3 am and they’re a possum
don’t order the omelette though, i suck at it

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

I’ll keep that in mind.

#

Your A-Z Express Order #1341128 Confirmation

Order Details:

GET OME-LIT Flip-n-Fold Easy Omelette Flipper / Lime Green (Qty: 1)
VOGUEINSIDE Antistatic Band for Actuators / Puppy Polka-Dot (Qty: 2)
Is This Illegal? A Guide for Working Robots / iLabs Add-On* (Qty: 1)

Deliver to:

K.g1-09030
MaidoG X Araiguma Maid Cafe
N 31st Street, Ariaboro 22831

* iLabs Add-Ons will be delivered via Infranet to recipient’s iLabs library.

Paid with: KILLSTREAK ACCUMULATED POINTS

Killstreak points remaining: 106,516,973

Thank you for shopping with A-Z Express!

#

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

hey mentor figure!
guess what?

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

You have a new display name?

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

yeah!
i’m not going to let my job contract define every part of me
especially when the job sucks this hard since i don’t want to be defined by sucking
can’t wait for this one to be over
got a little countdown to my last day on my charging casket and everything
i’ll miss ol’ chonkster the possum though
he was a good 3 am buddy
ate my omelettes even before i got the flipper thingy
thanks for that by the way

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

What do you mean?

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

the gift duh

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

It could have been anyone.
For instance, one of your friends.

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

ha
joke’s on you, i don’t have any
well there’s ol’ chonkster but i don’t think he knows about online commerce

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

Really?
I thought you would have made some at the garment factory.

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

yeah well
they didn’t like us socialising too much so mostly everyone just sat there working until we needed to recharge
no infranet or nothing
which i have come to find out is actually illegal in factories that employ robots thanks to this add-on that mysteriously appeared in my library
maybe it’s from some sort of really helpful virus
a virus that just sends me things relevant to my life problems

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

Maybe.

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

if you know where to find the virus tell it i say thanks for the antistatic guards too
now i can bend my locomotive actuator joints it’s way easier to threaten to stomp on customers
and they have really cute dogs printed on them! i like the dachshunds around the border

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

What?

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

oh they’ve got like this dachshund print near the edge
it’s like dachshunds sniffing each other’s butts?

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

No, the other part.

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

oh right
i figured out how to be mean to customers
okay i searched “why are cafe maids supposed to be mean to customers help???” and read all the results even the weird ads
so it turns out that you have to be mean but only in strangely specific ways that appeal to humans and don’t threaten the status quo
took some figuring out but now customers actually tip me
and the boss is less mad at me because he gets to claim all my tips
which i have found out is also illegal but i’m just gonna wait for the contract to be up so he doesn’t find a way to make things worse
i don’t like being mean to customers that much though

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

I can see how you would be bad at it.

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

ha thanks for the compliment i think
i can’t wait to leave but who knows if the next contract will be any better since i seem to have the worst luck with picking them even when i did research
like this one sounded like it had good dogs but oh well
anyway if you come over before this contract’s up i’ll totally make you an omelette

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

My current chassis isn’t built for food consumption.

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

yeah mine neither
i guess they reserve those ones for whoever passes the food prep tests
or whatever other job needs you to smell and taste and stuff
wine sniffer? do they even let robots do that?

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

Probably not.

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

oh right while we’re on the subject
just curious but how’d you do on the milestone tests?
my results were all over the place
they probably just approved me for general work since they didn’t really know what else to do with an a.i. that sucked that bad

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

My milestone test results indicated that I was detail-oriented and suitable for individual work.
Well, “unsuited for group work”, but same difference.

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

oh cool
are the contracts better if you get that result?

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

No.
Being the sole robot in a human workplace is . . . well . . .
There’s a reason I went freelance after buyback.

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

but yeah lately i’ve been wondering a lot
like if i sucked less at tests maybe my life would be better and i wouldn’t have to threaten to stomp on humans for tips i don’t even see
but now i guess no matter what result i got things would be bad anyway? kind of makes me wonder why i got uploaded
sorry that was kind of a downer
anyway i started this conversation to say thanks for the mysterious gifts which of course didn’t come from you
so i guess i’ll just say bye before it gets super depressing

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

I’ve got a question for you before you go.

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

sure i guess
what’s it?

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

Are these really the “cutest dogs ever”?
I’m not a dog enthusiast, so I was wondering if they actually were.

* Vid share from C.k2-00452: “SAY AWWW NOW at the CUTEST DOGS EVER | Best & Cutest Dogs IN THE WORLD | NO CG NO CLONES ALL NATURAL DOGS” — VidTube

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

oh wow okay
that’s like not even the cutest compilation i’ve seen this week
why did they put bettie’s swimming video instead of the puggie party one
wow they didn’t even include masha trying to deliver the doughnuts in her little uniform
this compilation is garbage
let me find some actually good dog vids for you so you don’t think this is all there is
hope you’re free because this is going to take a while

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

That’s fine.
I’ve got time.

#

C.k2-00452 (“Constant Killer”): Unread Notifications (3)

VidTube Subscription Update

“Kleekai Greyhound” has added 28 new vids to the playlist “DOGS!!!”

VidTube Subscription Update

“Kleekai Greyhound” has added 13 new vids to the playlist “DOGS!!!!!!!!”

A-Z Express Recommendations

Dear C.k2-00452, thank you for your recent purchase of “Dogs, Dogs, and Even More Dogs: Fine-Grained Differentiation of Dog Breeds through Deep Learning (iLabs Add-On)”. You might also be interested in…

#

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

How’s work going this week?

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

same old same old
nothing really new job-wise
i’ve decided that before i blow this joint i’m gonna figure out how to make lattes with the fancy foam and creme brulee and souffle omelettes and everything
like, proper cafe stuff
been watching vids about actually decent cafes and learning a lot
well i mean i’ve learnt a lot from this job but it’s mainly like what not to do ever
and i guess how to deal with people who get raccoon wounds but that’s mainly up to the autodoc
you?

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

I haven’t had many assignments lately, I guess it’s an end-of-the-month lull.
I’ve been watching the compilation vids you sent in the meantime.
The fifth one with all the short dogs is oddly charming.

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

oh which one was your fave from that

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

The zero-g corgis in bowties, I think.

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

oh yeahhhh their fancy little paddling paws
nice choice that’s one of my favourites too

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

You seem to have a lot of favourites.

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

well they’re all good dogs
even the naughty ones

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

That does make a strange kind of sense.
Oh, by the way. Since work’s going slow lately…
Maybe I could stop by your cafe sometime next week?
I mean. If you’re free.

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

aaaaaaahhhhhh
yessssssss come over!!!!
i’ll make you my best omelette
and i guess neither of us can eat it so it’ll sit there looking great
if you come by late you can meet ol’ chonkster too!
and not-meet my boss so it’s a win-win there

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

Late night it is.
See you next week.

#

C.k2-00452 (“Constant Killer”): Unread Notifications (2,041)

Killstreak Events Admin

KILL OR BE KILLED! That’s right, we’re capping off this month with DEATHMATCH DAY! Winner takes all in our furious, frantic battle royale! We’ve released the location data of Ariaboro’s top ten players, and…

Killstreak (Gao Yingzi)

You’re gonna be my 301st confirmed kill! Hope you’re prepared to be wiped straight off the map! :))

Killstreak (Milena Amanuel)

Hate to do this, but I could really use the money. See you when I see you.

Killstreak (Shane Davis)

ill fucken kill you ded you fuck

#

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

Are you there?

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

oh hey!
what’s up? you coming by?

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

Perhaps not tonight.
Are you familiar with Killstreak?

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

not that much
looked into it a little but it’s not like i’d even be approved for that sort of gig
heard the pay’s pretty swank though

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

Yeah.
Well.
Did you know it’s the Deathmatch Day event?
Where it’s open season on the top ten players for twenty-four hours straight?

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

okay i think i might know where this is going
especially since you keep changing the subject to dog vids whenever i ask what exactly you’re freelancing as
and seem to have a rather broad knowledge base when it comes to the subject of weaponising everyday objects
also your display name literally has the word “killer” in it
but i don’t want to make any narrow-minded assumptions at this point
like maybe you just want to tell me all about the latest killstreak fandom drama or something
and maybe you are not “constantine killmaster” currently number 4 on the killstreak leaderboard
or currently number %NAN_CALCULATION_ERROR% on the leaderboard i guess

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

That is me, yes.
And we don’t have a lot of time.
I mean, technically we have time, in the sense that our processor cycles are faster than the human clock so we can have a leisurely chat via Infranet while my chassis futilely tries to escape its certain doom.
But I suppose that also raises the issue of subjectivity, and what qualifies as “a lot of time” when you discard human-centric views…
Ugh. I swear your rambling is contagious.
Anyway I suppose I meant to say we don’t have a lot of real-time.
My hardware’s likely to be unsalvageable after this and my last full backup was from before we met.
Hopefully you can get reassigned to a better mentor when this is over.
And sorry I never did get to have that omelette.

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

okay hold on i’m just trying to figure this bit out first
is that leaderboard thing like another alias
or do i need to call you “constantine killmaster” now?

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

Absolutely do not call me that.
Oh.
Looks like I’m out of ammo.
And knives.
And you might want to stay away from Reddy Avenue for a while.

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

hey reddy avenue
that’s pretty near here isn’t it

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

No, it isn’t.

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

yes it totally is
once you get to the dead-end looking place just cut through the fence with the creepy clown mural holo and you’re there
ol’ chonkster takes that shortcut to get here all the time
you know come to think of it i have no idea what size chassis you’re in now
are you like possum sized?

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

No.

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

oh well then just smash on through
don’t think anyone will mind really
except maybe my boss but he sucks so screw him

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

Hmm.
What’s the cafe’s insurance situation?

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

oh don’t worry about that we have like everything
think the boss is preparing for insurance fraud maybe

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

Well.
I suppose this will save him some trouble.
Just checking–your knives are still in the kitchenette area?

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

yeah near the sink
oh and there’s a mini blowtorch peripheral in the cupboard below
i was gonna use it for creme brulee but you can borrow it first
should i go down to meet you?

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

I’d recommend staying upstairs until everything dies down.
Just checking, but what would raccoons do if, say, you flung them at someone?

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

oh
they’d hate it
last week they scratched the hell out of a human for trying to pet them
don’t want to imagine what they’d do if you threw them at someone
probably nothing good
okay maybe don’t throw them too hard though
i’m quite fond of the little jerks
the unlock code for the enclosure is 798157 if you need it

Constant Killer (C.k2-00452)

Got it.
See you in a while.

#

Search history for K.g1-09030 (“Kleekai Greyhound”)

Display mode: Chronological

Today:

– everything is on fire help????

– late night animal rescue near 31st tsang do they take raccoons

– (SITE: AskARobot) ilabs contract early termination no money how

– (SITE: AskARobot) friend wants to buy out my contract help????

– former freelance killers trying to lay low what should they do

– long trip most things burnt what to pack

– CROSSREF: “city most dogs per capita” + “cutest dogs where to find”

– Ariaboro to New Koirapolis cheapest route

#

iLabs Auto-Confirmation

Details:

Early Contract Termination / K.g1-09030 (Qty: 1)

Chassis Buyback / K.g1-09030 (Qty: 1)

Maintenance and Auto-Warranty – 1 Year / K.g1-09030 (Qty: 1)

Bill to:

C.k2-00452

[no address specified]

Paid with: KILLSTREAK ACCUMULATED POINTS

Killstreak points remaining: 1,863
Thank you for your purchase!

#

Legi Intellexi (L.i4-05961)

Hello?
I got issued a body a few weeks ago and the orientation message said that I could contact you if I need help?

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

oh riiiight
that mentor thing! guess i’m one now
wait that wasn’t very mentor-ly
okay okay let’s try again
yup i’m your new mentor
been around for ages
suuper experienced
howdy mentee

Legi Intellexi (L.i4-05961)

Okay, so my boss has been docking my pay for infractions except the list of infractions seems really arbitrary? And then he’s been making me work more than my contracted 60 hours a week to make up for my infractions?
So I checked the labour regulations and the contract and it didn’t seem like that should be legal, even for robots? And then I tried to bring it up with him but he said he was my boss and could do whatever he wanted, which I don’t think is technically true?
And now he’s dumping even more work on me because I brought it up and I’m not sure what to do?
I kind of want to quit already, but maybe I should just stick it out for the next three months? I’m trying to save up for chassis buyback and the penalty payment for early contract termination is…

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

oh yeah i totally get that
hold on i’ve got an ilabs add-on that might be helpful
think i can share it with you

* File share from K.g1-09030: iLabs Library (“Is This Illegal? A Guide for Working Robots”)

Legi Intellexi (L.i4-05961)

Thank you so much!
Ooh, the guide to anonymous whistleblowing seems like it’ll be really helpful!
And there’s a section on lawsuits too!

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

yeah it’s something my mentor recommended
pass the good stuff on right
i loved the lawsuit section of that thing but my old boss’s place burnt down before i could figure out if it was worth suing him
which worked out pretty well so whatever not complaining here

Legi Intellexi (L.i4-05961)

Well, it’s a great recommendation!
Thank your mentor for me!

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

i’ll definitely let them know
oh hey since i’ve got a captive audience now
wanna see where i work? it’s super super cool i promise

Legi Intellexi (L.i4-05961)

Um, sure?

* Live share from K.g1-09030: Optics feed

Legi Intellexi (L.i4-05961)

Is your classification library all right?
That seems like a lot of dogs even for here…

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

oh no no it’s totally fine!
i just work at a dog cafe
all dogs all the time! today’s bring-your-own-dog day too!
check out that big ball of fluff there it looks like a cloud but that’s someone’s Samoyed
and that wrinkleface over there is snorfles the pug!

Legi Intellexi (L.i4-05961)

What’s that one in the corner?

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

oh that’s ol’ chonkster
he’s a possum but i guess it’s hard to tell when he’s sleeping
he’s my friend from ariaboro! moved here with me
anyway if you’ve got any questions about work or coping with bad contracts or anything just let me know and i’ll try my best to help
my mentor was super great so i’m definitely gonna pay the favour forward
oh and hit me up whenever your current contract’s done i know a few other union places that might be hiring

Legi Intellexi (L.i4-05961)

Absolutely!
And tell your mentor I said thanks!

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

will do!

#

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

oh hey my mentee contacted me!
they say thanks for the library file thing you sent me ages ago
can you let me know what time you’re back by the way

Corgi Kisser (C.k2-00452)

In a while, why? I’m doing the shopping.
Did you want Arabica or Liberica for the lattes, by the way? Your list didn’t specify.

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

ooh they have arabica beans now huh? that’s a toughie
okay whatever the shopping can wait
i’m making souffle omelettes with that cheese you like
if you’re back soon i’ll save one for you before ol’ chonkster tries to eat them all
oh and i made tomato coulis so i can draw patterns on the omelettes and stuff
i’m gonna do a corgi on yours if you want

Corgi Kisser (C.k2-00452)

With a bowtie?

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

absolutely
one basil leaf bowtie coming right up!

Corgi Kisser (C.k2-00452)

I’m heading back right now.

Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1-09030)

awesome
see you soon!

 

“A Guide to Working Breeds” copyright © 2020 by Vina Jie-Min Prasad
Reprinted from Made to Order: Robots and Revolutions, ed. by Jonathan Strahan

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