Topic: automation vs slavery in a dust-chocked environment
Kenny (and anyone else), I'm still trying to clean up my slavery scene set in the distant future.
I originally chose shovelling truckloads of rich topsoil as the slave task for my two characters because I wanted it to be backbreaking, sweaty work in an insanely hot warehouse/spaceport environment near the Imperial palace. I considered having them load or unload ships with other cargo, but felt that the entire process of moving pallets full of goods from inside a warehouse into a ship's cargo hold or back out could be entirely automated by installing repulsors and a computer in every pallet. The pallets could pretty much move themselves.
I tried to justify dirt as the choice as it can easily get into any exposed repulsor mechanisms, preventing full automation. However, once I switch to four-wheeled utility carts for the soil, automation again becomes a possibility, albeit with the requirement for ongoing maintenance of the automated equipment in a dust-chocked environment. I originally kidnapped 60 people in an earlier chapter (a reasonable number of people on an instellar transport), who are now spread out throughout the spaceport toiling away. I feel the immediate scene works best with two guards, so twelve slaves in one warehouse seemed like a reasonable number for them to guard. I should add that as soon as you put humans to work in that hothouse, you need electric fans (and tons of water) to keep them from dropping dead immediately. The fans would definitely kick up a ton of added dust.
The options seem to be:
a) Say something like "Using AI-driven equipment to scoop and load soil aboard ships was simply less economical than feeding synthetic slop to slaves due to the high cost of buying, incessantly maintaining, and replacing machinery that could readily operate in a dust-chocked environment."
b) Put enough "droids" to work (100?) shovelling and loading dirt that it requires a sizeable team of slaves just for the maintenance (cleaning dust/dirt out of the exposed parts of the machines).
Technically, I think the idea of having to constantly maintain automated equipment in that environment could be virtually eliminated by simply sealing exposed joints/circuits with flexible material, like rubber or even Saran Wrap (TM). :-) So, really, neither option is truly reaslistic.
Obviously, in that distant future, the cost of "feeding synthetic slop to slaves" could be as little as I want, therefore potentially cheaper than automation. That suggests option a.