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By (February 18, 2009) ()

A bathtub.  It could have sensors to monitor the flow, temperature and duration of the water, obviously, but it could also measure the change in the water going down the drain, how dirty it is, and the weight of the person using it. If it were a helpful object, it might be maternal (to evoke memories of one’s mother washing you as a baby) – culturally, most of us probably have more positive associations with mothers in this context. It could be trying to make sure you’re cleaning yourself properly and that you are comfortable and leave feeling good. It could use voice to give you instructions (“clean x a little more”) – that might feel more natural than a display, though it might take some getting used to.  It could also adjust water temperature automatically, or keep it on or turn it off depending on what it senses your needs are (as a non-human communication).

If it were a selfish bathtub, it might complain or refuse to work if you don’t clean the tub often enough.  If it were environmentally conscious, it might only give you as much water as it thinks you need, and not waste extra hot water either.

To make you do what it wants, in terms of making the person be clean, it could use praise/flattery of your appearance and smell when you’re clean, and shame or ridicule if you stop before you’re clean. 

It would be hard to really disguise itself as human, but if it had a voice and the voice was realistic enough and responsive enough, people could suspend disbelief enough to follow its instructions.  The design of the standard bathtub is vaguely anthropomorphic – the faucet handles as eyes, the spigot as a nose and the drain as a mouth – along with the various liquids going in and out.  So a radical redesign could exploit that, perhaps.

February 18, 2009

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