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The industrial company Astor since 2124 has equipped all "Long Hauls" (voyages beyond 3 months) with cryopofs in accordance with a new company bylaw and cost cutting measure (less resources the crew consumes). During their sleep the crew and ship is maintained by a "night shift" of androids (usually only a small group of 3 to 5) and onboard systems provided by the ships own resources.

But what I'm wondering is why. What advantage would humanoid androids add compared to the ship's own systems or non humanoid equivalents.

Note:

  • The space ships cannot just be automated due to laws passed by the Hegemony in the early days of colonization which are preserved by anti-automation lobbying. All ships are required to have at least two human operators.

  • A "working man" android would be comparable to the price of a brand new car (regular car not a luxury or sports car).

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  • $\begingroup$ Are you asking (a) Why have synthetic help or (b) why have humanoid synthetics? There are several question marks. I don't care how many rhetorical questions you have, but please indicate the one question you want answered. $\endgroup$ – JBH Apr 7 at 5:43
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH mainly (B) why have humanoid synthetics with a hint of (A) being nice $\endgroup$ – Celestial Dragon Emperor Apr 7 at 12:29
  • $\begingroup$ :-) One question at a time, please. If (B) is your primary, please remove (A) from the post. If necessary, as a second question (indeed, we prefer that you do so to maximize the value of questions). $\endgroup$ – JBH Apr 7 at 18:39
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH alright I'll try my best to edit the post $\endgroup$ – Celestial Dragon Emperor Apr 7 at 20:29
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Redundancy. Although every precaution is taken concerning the ship's onboard computer, malfunctions do happen, especially when equipment is untended and left to its own devices for months on end. (This is related to why the ships aren't automated in the first place.) It's a good idea to have an independent backup that's able to assess whether anything's going wrong with the ship's computer or hardware and take appropriate steps. One that can't possibly be compromised by whatever's gone wrong in the first place.

As a backup, an android has the advantage that it's totally independent of the ship's primary systems: it doesn't rely on the ship's computer, power, or anything else. Short of the entire vessel being obliterated, it should keep functioning even in the case of a catastrophic accident. An android would have its own reasoning capability and a full suite of sensors and tools to diagnose and repair any faults. Sure, the ship could have extra sensors, self-repair equipment, and multiply redundant computers to run it all... but if androids are available "off the shelf", and it sounds like they are, they're a vastly easier approach to take.

Plus, once the ship gets where it's going, it's presumably going to have some task to perform - offloading cargo, performing science experiments, shooting rebels, what have you. The androids can help with whatever it is, whereas the ship's specialized watchdog backups would pretty much just be sitting there. (Sure, the ship can itself also have mission modules that will help, but that would be extra equipment in addition to the watchdog. The androids can cover both roles with a minimum of redundancy.)

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    $\begingroup$ Also: any one faulty android can be decommissioned and repaired by the other non-faulty androids. It’s hard to be a homicidal robot if your peers decide you’re wrong. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Apr 7 at 19:26
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    $\begingroup$ "A meteorite had knocked a large hole in the ship. This ship had not previously detected this because the meteorite had neatly knocked out that part of the ship's processing equipment which was supposed to detect if the ship had been hit by a meteorite." ~ Mostly Harmless (Douglas Adams, 1992) $\endgroup$ – Chronocidal Apr 8 at 7:24
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The advantage of androids running a ship is that they use the same control panels, buttons, dials and joysticks as their human counterparts. Malfunctions in those interface devices can be detected and repaired during the long boring months of the journey, rather than left undetected until those last few hectic hours when ships control is returned to fully human operators.

Midway through the reentry sequence is not the right moment to learn that the flap control level is stuck and breaks off when the human pilot tries to force it to move.

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What if the error is a power loss?

Ultimately androids represent a decentralised solution to ship monitoring, meaning that the risk of failure is lessened. I'd imagine that the ship would have some automated alarms on sensors in key or critical areas - that would be done whether there is a human or android crew anyway. The last thing you need is the ship blowing up because there was a breach in the warp core that the humans somehow missed.

The point being, that if the power goes out for any reason, your computerised systems also go out. But, your androids are likely running on an internal power source, recharged from the ship on a periodic basis. You even schedule it so that the androids don't recharge all at the same time, so if something goes wrong at least one of them is around.

Put simply, a computer can't solve a problem of a screw being shaken loose; a robot can. They can also operate when the power and the computer both go out, meaning that they can manage the situation and bring the systems back online by discovering the fault and resolving it. By putting that kind of problem solving firepower into your androids, you reduce risk, increase safety and STILL cut costs drastically by ensuring that the crew are only awake for the key functions they have to fulfil.

As an aside, this is also a useful situation for catastrophic hull breaches. If your ship ends up being hit by a shower of micro-meteors for instance, your crew doesn't die unless their pods are breached. In the meantime, the androids can repair the hull (mag-seals in their feet to not get sucked out) and that means you can sell the androids as a safety measure for the crew instead of cost cutting.

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