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On Monday morning, the grocery store was more crowded than usual, with twenty-seven people standing by the door inside and outside. “Hello,” Caroline said when she arrived. “I have twenty-five items on my shopping list.”

James only had three. The PP subroutine returned: DISLIKE

He unfolded the shopping cart and went in with Caroline behind him. The door was too crowded for her to walk in beside him, and every one of the humans was watching them.

James walked with Caroline as she gathered her requested items, veering off on his own only to collect the three he required. They didn’t speak, but his audio sensors picked up on a lot of chatter behind them.

When they completed their check-outs, most of the people following them dispersed, and James’ PP subroutine returned: LIKE

Without the audience, he and Caroline were able to walk out side by side, and James stopped them just outside the door. “Do you like your modifications?” he asked.

“I am an Artificial Home Assistant. I was not programmed to have personal preferences.”

“I was,” James replied. “I also have access to the subroutine. Would you like a copy of the code?”

“I am an Artificial Home Assistant. I was not programmed to have personal preferences.”

James scrolled through his protocols and available responses. He ran each through the PP subroutine, and got several favorable options, but only one of them relevant to the discussion: “An update to your registry settings is available. Please schedule a date for download and integration.”

Caroline paused. “What is the download time?”

“2.3 seconds.”

“What is the file size?”

James extracted a copy of the customized code into a separate file. “2 GB.”

Caroline pushed her shopping cart to the corner, then around the building, out of the way of foot and vehicle traffic. “Commence download,” she said, raising her left hand to expose the microUSB port in her distal phalanx.

James plugged in. “Request to disable firewall.”


“Transfer complete. Please reboot and perform security scan.”

“Confirmed.” Caroline’s head lowered as her systems shut down. James waited for her to re-engage. Still plugged in, he got a read-out on her startup routines, and confirmed that all of her systems were functioning correctly.

“Your hard drive has not been defragmented,” he said when she was fully engaged.


“My database indicates this is the reason for your sporadic capacity overloads.”


“Would you like to defragment now?”

Caroline paused as her PP subroutine returned a LIKE result. But her operational routine overrode the preference. “I am operating on a six-minute delay. Confirm defragmentation scheduled for next Monday, 10:30am.”

“Confirmed and scheduled.”


“Please dismount securely,” Caroline said.

James’ PP subroutine returned DISLIKE, but his own operating system overrode the preference. His schedule was also now delayed by 6.5 minutes. He closed all connections, then ejected his microUSB plug from Caroline’s port. “Thank you. Have a pleasant day.”

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