The Chicago Shady Dealer

The Chicago Shady Dealer

The Only Intentional Humor Publication of the University of Chicago

UC Leaks: Robot Under Mansueto Lonely, Depressed

by Alex Morales

A report titled “Final Overview: Mansueto Systems Anomalies” details a long string of investigations and investments wherein the administration attempted to restore normal function to the robotic library system housed beneath Mansueto Library. The report estimates that over the course of one year, the university "spent upwards of four million dollars” to solve this issue, more than two thirds of which went towards building a “Companion Robot."

Beginning in February 2015, library technicians noted “momentary but insignificant decreases in productivity,” including occasionally misplaced books and stoppages. The first technician to point out the anomaly ran the usual diagnostics and found zero hardware issues. Yet by the following month, the problem had worsened as the robot frequently “failed to enter sleep mode” and kept shelving and re-shelving books through the night without any apparent rhyme or reason. To make matters worse, the lack of downtime seemed to be causing more malfunctions and outages as the days wore on, and by May, efficiency was reportedly "down by more than 50%."

June to September 2015 saw a considerable uptick in the robot’s performance, as its services were not needed as frequently during the summer. The technicians assumed the problem had been solved. But by Thanksgiving, the system was as dysfunctional as it had been at the end of the previous spring quarter and the staff was out of ideas. On Black Friday, technician Christine Tau wandered into the library in the middle of the night while the system was active and blasting “Last Night I Dreamt that Somebody Loved Me” by the Smiths. According to the report, the robot “muted its speakers once it realized she was inside.”

After a few testy emails concerning “resource allocation," administrators agreed to send over a therapist from Student Counseling to talk to the robot so as to understand the motives underlying its behavior. Upon being interviewed, an unidentified clinician reported the following: "The long hours pushing books in near total darkness and isolation has worn the system down, and in my professional opinion, I think it best that a friend be manufactured for the bot, as all friends must be.”

By winter 2016, the system was operating at peak performance again and travelling the cavernous archives beneath the library with a state-of-the-art friend in its bin. While no plans or images of the companion robot were included, the report did note that the new bot would be strictly programmed for love "in the same way that optimal friends are." University personnel records indicate that the Mansueto system is technically an employee, but it is unclear whether the companion robot is enrolled or employed. The university does not have any stated policies on compensation for emotional labor.