I wrote this scenario for the Future Problem Solving 2012-13 Practice Problem 2 – Robotic Age in October 2012. It’s the precursor to my final Robotic Age scenario, although the two aren’t linked.


Dave woke up to the refreshing alarm tone of his MyPhone. He leapt out of bed as the handset, which was surgically implanted into his forehead and connected to his personal cloud, began to read out his latest emails.

Message Received: October 31st, 2036; 03:47am
From: Fiona Lee, SVP of Finance, Scitech Corp.
Hi Dave,
Just wanted to verify with you our goals for next FY. Hope I can talk with you sometime….. I’m currently at the Asian factory, analysing the production and QC. Draft goals attached.

A holographic message appeared in front of Dave’s eyes, accompanied by the voice of his device: Do you wish to connect with Fiona now? Dave hesitated a moment before replying ‘yes’.

A dialling tone filled the room as one wall of his apartment kitchen switched over to a live video feed. After a couple of seconds, Fiona appeared in front of him, 3D rendered in what had been made to look like another room before his eyes. They conversed for a while. Graphs, figures and video floated before him in 3D, responsive to his hand movements and touches. As the conversation drew on, Dave began to think about breakfast. A quick swipe over the intelligent-granite worktop of his kitchen and a screen appeared. He was on day 20 of his 2 month diet. The intelligent personal assistant suggested a quick ham and mushroom omelette and a cup of dark coffee. Dave hit ‘go’. The coffee machine in the corner whirred into life and the fridge door swung open. Inside, glowing lights highlighted where the eggs, ham and mushrooms were. As he retrieved them, the fridge alerted him Stock of fresh vegetables low. Add shopping to your To Do list? Dave grudgingly accepted the offer. The hob had turned on already and he quickly found the frying pan, which had been carefully stored away in the right place by his intelligent kitchen assistant that doubled up as a dishwasher and cook. Today however was a little different. It had malfunctioned the day before and Dave felt lost without its expert guidance on how cooked his omelette was. In the end, he managed to get it a little burnt but it was OK.

Fiona continued as the CEO of Scitech joined in on the conference call. He congratulated Dave on his hard work as a strategic member of the company and announced that he would be able to keep his flexible job for another three years. This reminded Dave of the layoffs that had been happening all around the company as human staff had been replaced with robots and machines that did their jobs far better, but had ethical questions. Thinking of this, it made him glad to think that he had such an important role in the day-to-day running of the business. He finished his conversation with Fiona and then forwarded the Goal Statement to the CEO for final approval.

He settled down into his chair in his home office and began his daily life, planning the outlook and goals of the company. Various prototype technological aids fresh from the development labs helped him in his work, as he tested their ability to handle jobs like his. At midday, his MyPhone beeped again, alerting him of the impending product launch of Scitech’s new AI system that he had worked on at 1:30pm. Grabbing just his jacket and his MyPad, he left the building.

Sensing his departure, the lights in his apartment went off. Small cleaning bots appeared out of motorised mouse-holes in the walls. Automated windscreen wiper like cleaners polished and dusted his several video screens as other bots industriously set about tidying up his accumulated mess. A cloud based control panel monitored all the bots and their tasks and complex algorithms calculated every movement.

At the product launch, he got the usual quizzing about the product and its features from the various journalists in attendance. He was well prepared for these, having been randomly quizzed on them by his MyPhone in advance to make sure he was up to speed. What he wasn’t prepared for however, were the ethical questions asked by many of those present.

Dave isn’t sure about the issues with the computer-controlled world his company is creating. He asks you, the Future Problem Solvers to use your six-step problem solving process to analyse the situation and come up with an action plan for the increasingly robotic world of 2036 and beyond.