All things are conceived…even robots


In a jolly fine dystopia every story has a beginning. If you have been following along you will be aware of the Consumer Research Drones and their role in tactical marketing however you may not know that they were conceived by an amalgamation of a man named Ian and a rather cunning AI algorithm.
Despite how it sounds it’s rather less messy than you may imagine!


Legitimate design

This is the first outing for Theo Morris as an author for Digital Taxidermy, for those that do not know Theo is also the designer of the Consumer Research Drones and so I think we can take his word on where they come from, hopefully we will be hearing more from Ian and his drones in upcoming episodes.  

So without further ado here is episode 3 from ‘A jolly fine dystopia’


urban clearance and tactical war droid minatures for 3d printing


The Birth of the CRD


Ian was the chief customer preference analyst in the Homeware and Gardening department. It was his job to discover, evaluate, and present to senior management the underlying preferences and desires of ordinary citizens. Specifically, it was his job to extrapolate the desires of ordinary citizens in relation to their soft furnishings and garden decorations.


The Attainment and Efficiency algorithm had calculated that his reports should be submitted on a monthly basis.  

Ian’s job was one that had been allocated to human operatives, rather than AI, because it involved a level of cognitive engagement that was thought to best ameliorate the signs of mental degradation.

Ian was not sure of this calculation. He was also fairly certain that there was an AI that re-ran all his analysis. It had been months since one of his product recommendations had been accepted.

The central problem that Ian faced was collecting good data. He knew he was a good analyst. He knew he could crush all resistance with correctly targeted product recommendations. His arts and crafts inspired wall hangings had sold amazingly amongst the aspirational, middle-income, service industry employees. He knew another hit like that was within his reach. It was just that his sales data hadn't quite been up to the ‘required standard’ recently.

If he could just find out what people really thought.

Understanding the underlying cognitive associations and psychological biases was the key to marketing success.

Everyone knew that 18-35 males associated water fowl with sexual potency. That was why the ‘Duck themed dinner and date dining set’ had sold so well.

Sadly, consumer insights like that were few and far between. The analytical survey bots never delivered insight like that anymore.

The problem, Ian believed, was that people just lied. No matter how many competitions they could enter or how many free endorphin shots you offered them, they just lied. Ian knew he'd done the same thing. He'd just click through the survey pages so that he got to the freebie. How do you motivate the public to tell the truth?

The real truth was, you couldn't!

The civilian population was untrustworthy scum who couldn't care less about market analysts.

Ian sobbed.

It was useless. His monthly data drop was past due and he had nothing. Not even a novelty pond ornament. He knew he would get reallocated at his next performance review and he couldn't face it. He lived for homeware.

It has always been his only love, but he just couldn't deliver.

He stood up from his desk and checked his knot one more time.

He had joined together some prototype curtain tie backs into a 2 meter length of rope. The knot at the end slipped just as it should.

Carefully, he moved the chair and tied one end of the ‘rope’ to the ceiling truss.

He wouldn't be missed. At least that was something.

Just then, his productivity console lit up. It was a message from the efficiency algorithm.

Ian knew it wouldn't change anything but he decided to check it anyway. At least it would remind him of why he wanted to escape.


++Greetings Valued Colleague++

Firstly, let me acknowledge your hard work and dedication. Our company has continued to grow and this is down to the continued efforts of you and your coworkers. Thank you

We have some exciting news for your team that we know is going to inspire you. As of 12 o’clock mid-day, the Homeware and Gardens division is going to assume responsibility for Slum Clearance and Lifestyle Improvement Department. Our strategic planning algorithm has identified an efficiency overlap between civilians who have been directed to upgrade their living conditions and the Homeware and Garden department. We believe that we can maximize sales in this group of ‘currently’ transitory individuals by inspiring them to live aspirational on-trend lifestyles.  

To help you with this exciting challenge you will be allowed full access to the Slum Clearance and Lifestyle Improvement Department’s resources and intellectual property.

We understand that change can be difficult and that's why we have also allocated you a 3 and ½ hour session with the counselling AI. It is essential you ensure that all emotional issues raised by this restructuring are dealt with during this session.

We look forward to seeing the great work you will achieve as a member of this newly amalgamated team.


Best wishes,

++ The Efficiency AI ++


Ian sat down.

As he did, images of the resources and IP from the Slum Clearance and Lifestyle Improvement Department flashed onto the screen. Plans for prefabricated organ recycling units, mind wiping booths and ‘aspirational’ housing all scrolled past his eyes.

This was now too much.

It had been too much before but it was definitely too much now.

How the hell was he supposed to run two departments? He was failing at running just one! Even worse, what the hell did he know a about slum clearance?!

The AI knew nothing.


No, back to plan A he thought.

Time to go!

Soon all this would be over.

Just then, an image caught his eye. It was a set of urban neutralization drones.

They had been designed to use a combination of extreme physical force and the latest psychological conditioning to forcibly encourage people from their squalid little homes and buy into a new gentrified way of life.


These drones gave Ian an idea.

What if...

What if he combined these drones with his own survey algorithms?

What if he could send them out into the field to find out what people really wanted, what they really dreamed of?

Offering the public free stuff wasn't working but maybe fear would motivate them.

He knew he would tell the truth if he had an energy weapon aimed at his head.

In fact, he would tell them any truth they wanted.


He untied the makeshift rope from the truss and sat down at his desk.

This was great idea!

Tactical market research teams!

That'd get the answers he needed!

The ideas of merging Homeware and the Slum Clearance Department had seemed ridiculous but now he realized it WAS genius.

That sly old efficiency AI, maybe it did know what it was doing.


The security camera dome in the corner of his cubicle smugly twinkled to itself.



By Theo Morris


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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.


(C) 2020 Theo Morris, Digital Taxidermy – Storytime Collective


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This story or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review with full accreditation.