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"There's a tendency to think that maybe if we can just throw enough hardware at the AI problem, then evolution can take care of the rest. Certainly that's how God went about making us."
- Rudy Rucker

Chairdog  
  A chair that is alive and partly sentient; it shapes itself to the person sitting in it.  

In The Tactful Saboteur, Frank Herbert describes a chair in common use in this alternative world. This short story shows the variety of Herbert's creativity; he not only imagines interesting machines and devices, but also thinks about the possibilities in genetic alteration of existing species to serve basic needs.

At this point in the story, saboteur extraordinary Jorj X. McKie meets with Pan-Spechi Panthor Bolin.

He indicated a chairdog against the wall to his right, snapped his fingers. The semi-sentient artifact glided to a position behind McKie. "Please be seated."

McKie, his caution realerted by Bolin's reference to "uninhibited conversation," sank into the chairdog, patting it until it assumed the contours he wanted.

From The Tactful Saboteur, by Frank Herbert.
Published by Galaxy in 1964
Additional resources -

The chairdogs seemed to be able to sense the mood of the person (or being) sitting in it, reacting to stress with mild massage. Don't you wish you could find an ergonomic chair that worked as hard as a chairdog to make you comfortable?

Obviously, we're a long way from being able to genetically modify a complex animal like a dog. However, this invention has clear roots in the past. A chairdog reminds me of horsehair chairs; my grandmother had one in her living room. I can only hope that the hair on a chairdog is more comfortable. The "grain" on her horsehair chair was in line with how you sat in the chair, and the net result was that you were constantly sliding out of the chair; it was impossible to retain an upright position.

Here's another look at chairdogs from Herbert's Whipping Star:

The room's standard model chairdogs had been well trained to comfort their masters, McKie noted. One of them nudged him behind the knees until he dropped his bag and took a reluctant seat. The chairdog began massaging his back. Obviously it had been instructed to make him comfortable while someone was summoned.

My daughter wants to know if there are different breeds of chairdog; maybe a small bichon chairdog for her. I think I'd need something based on a Great Dane...

Take a look at the entry for suspensor chair, from Dune, also by Frank Herbert.

Comment/Join this discussion ( 6 ) | RSS/XML | Blog This |

Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Tactful Saboteur
  More Ideas and Technology by Frank Herbert
  Tech news articles related to The Tactful Saboteur
  Tech news articles related to works by Frank Herbert

Chairdog-related news articles:
  - GloFish First Genetically Modified Pet Update
  - WAO-1 Therapeutic Face Massage Robot
  - Meat Chairs And Chairdogs
  - Smart Chair Follows You Like A Chairdog

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