WEDNESDAY: The Assistant

BY CARL PERRIN

Copyright is held by the author.

FRANCHET RESEARCH is a crappy place to work. We investigate businesses to determine whether investors should put money into them. When they assign a company to me, they always want the report yesterday, but I always have work piled up, so I never can catch up. I keep asking them to get me an assistant. My boss, Robert Sanford, always says, “We’ll look into it.” But they never have enough money in the budget to hire someone to help me. In the meantime, they keep piling more work on me.

Then one day they wheeled in a desk with a computer on it.

“Is this desk for my assistant?” I asked.

The kid from IT, a grungy-looking teenage named Fairchild, said, “I don’t know what it’s for. I’m just supposed to set it up.”

He continued working on it while he moved his body to some tune he could hear through his ear buds. Then he left, and I continued looking up info on a company named Dreams of Rapture.

A couple of hours later Robert strolled in, a self-satisfied look on his face.

“Is this desk for my assistant?” I asked.

Robert beamed. “This is your assistant,” he said, patting the computer.

“What? That’s just a computer.”

“That’s not just any computer. It’s a very smart computer. We’ve named him Sherlock.”

“Huh?

“You can even talk to Sherlock. He has voice recognition, speaks in natural language, and artificial intelligence.”

“How is that going to help me?”

“Sherlock is going to analyze the data you send to him and generate the report. All you have to do is gather the information. That should enable you and Sherlock to get reports out in time.”

He looked at my desk, made a face and said, “Maybe you’ll even have time to straighten out your messy desk.”

Robert was a clean desk sort of guy. He was always after me to organize myself. “A messy desk,” he would say, “is a sign of a disordered mind.”

Yeah, I would say to myself, and an obsession with neatness is a sign of an anal retentive.

Robert beamed again. “This is just an experiment,” he said. “If it works out, we’re going to get computer assistants for everyone.”

It was strange at first to talk to a computer. We didn’t talk about politics or the latest ball game, of course. It was just business, but we were generating reports in record time. As soon as I found something about the company was researching, I sent it to Sherlock. He absorbed it immediately. As soon as I told him that I had sent the last of the information I had, he went to work on it. He integrated and analyzed it in minutes and generated a report.

A couple of weeks after they brought Sherlock to my office, Robert walked in, beaming again.

“It’s been a great success,” he announced. “The next step is for Sherlock to do the research as well as generate the report.

“Don’t worry, Max,” he said to me, “We have a very generous separation package for you.”

“Actually, I wasn’t worried at all. As I had talked with Sherlock over the past few weeks, I learned about the kind of program that was used for him to generate his reports. I had already bought a powerful computer that could use the report-writing program. I was going to start a free-lance financial analysis business. I had even lined up a couple of customers. And I could keep my desk as messy as I liked.

3 comments

  1. Connie Lynn Cook

    Loved this! Could kind of see the demise of her employment coming, but not expecting the ending. Well done!

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