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What would be a good reason for androids to have a need to eat and drink (not necessarily human food)?

The human body requires food and water in order to refuel and sustain itself, but in the case of androids, you could make arguments such as:

  • Could they just have reactors with very long operation times?

  • Could they just plug themselves into a wall socket or some sort of generator?

  • Could they just drink gasoline? (lol)

Androids in my setting are combatants that operate in the field, with minimal resupplies (an open-world game with survival mechanics), and I need some good reasons to transplant human survival behaviors onto them.

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    $\begingroup$ "What would be a good reason for androids to have need to drink (not necessary human food)?", followed by the counter-argument of not drinking "they just 'drink' gasoline" is weird and contradictory ^^'. $\endgroup$ Apr 7, 2023 at 21:52
  • $\begingroup$ Its sounds funny tho $\endgroup$ Apr 7, 2023 at 21:53
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    $\begingroup$ What's wrong with it being the same reason we need to eat and drink? I.e. fuel and self-repair. $\endgroup$
    – biziclop
    Apr 7, 2023 at 22:04
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    $\begingroup$ This point aside, note that psychological behavior ("I must not die") is not the same as its resulting physical behavior ("I have to munch food in order to not die"). Are you allowed to tell why your androids need to have human survival behaviours in its physical aspect, not only its psychological one? I feel like knowing a bit more about your world's intentions (ie. as a game designer/artist) could help pinpoint the issue's actual constraints and so give better answers. $\endgroup$ Apr 7, 2023 at 22:06
  • $\begingroup$ "Are you allowed to tell why your androids need to have human survival behaviours in its physical aspect, not only its psychological one?"well yes I have couple ideas such as androids being partially organic and having a internal self-repair system $\endgroup$ Apr 7, 2023 at 22:07

7 Answers 7

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Androids eat and drink like humans, despite the inefficiencies, for several reasons:

  • One fuel source for both the humans and the androids, simplifying supply lines
  • Hiding from enemy forces which of your forces are androids
  • Encouraging humans to work well with androids by making them seem more human
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  • $\begingroup$ I think that last one is worth emphasizing. Even with your human coworkers, when you want to be social and part of the group, you eat lunch together. If you want humans to perceive androids as equals, this is a great place to start. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Apr 8, 2023 at 1:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Cadence . . . any one of us could be one of them. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Apr 9, 2023 at 10:48
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This isn't a hard one. There are numerous things that an android might need to keep functioning.

We already have fuel cell technology that can convert sugar into energy. This has been suggested as an alternative to batteries, but the tech is currently more expensive and less reliable. Something like an android, however, could readily extract energy from concentrated sugars. Water would be a natural method to keep the sugar in solution, and they could also use human-ish systems to purge leftover materials.

Additionally, they might need to "consume" lubricants, hydraulic fluid, electrolytes, and even materials for basic maintenance and repairs. They might need a way to reload consumable resources.

Having excess ports in a framework can be inconvenient. There's a good reason that most animals combine their in/out areas where possible. Self-cleaning mechanisms can be difficult to construct, so you don't want to have to have any more openings than necessary. Our stomachs and intestines are actually a complex chemical sorting mechanism. The android's sorting mechanisms could be a lot simpler, and it could shunt input to different reservoirs, but having a common port has its advantages.

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Androids are Versatile

Why do we have androids in the first place? Why not just a moving arm on a trolley like that robot arm guy who is Iron Man's best friend?

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Why not just a software AI with access to your files and internet? Like that yappy orange guy who is Iron Man's second best friend.

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The reason is androids are versatile. They can do anything a person can do. Androids are used for jobs where new unpredictable tasks will suddenly appear. Tasks like, say, climbing a ladder or walking on gravel. Or licking an envelope. In line with versatility, the androids are fueled using the more available fuel source -- carbs and oils.

The android might be needed somewhere with no power grid or access to gasoline. But that place probably has access to bread. Since otherwise, people would have no interest in it, and no reason to station the android in the first place.

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Because human-fit food & drink is more readily available than specialized high-tech android fuel. You mentioned these are field combatants that don't get resupplied often. If supplies run out, then depending on your setting, foraging for berries and tubers may be easier than finding gasoline and compatible charging stations.

Another thing, jumping off Mary's answer:

One fuel source for both the humans and the androids, simplifying supply lines

Your androids were designed to eat human food because humans can't consume android fuel. If a squad loses all their android members, then leftover android rations become dead weight.

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Androids are synthetic, not robotic.

You're androids are synthetic lifeforms that were made in a factory, but are not pure robots in the traditional sense. They have organic components that require organic nutrients. For example, they may require organic brains because their creators haven't perfected AI, or because they required traits that cannot be reliably programmed such as empathy. Or because it makes them easier to integrate into a military run by people.

The could also have brains that are cloned from experienced soldiers with all of their knowledge and experience because it's easier to copy from one organic brain to another than it is to copy from an organic brain to a machine.

It could be that the enemy is simply really good at destroying robots using EMP weapons, or by hacking them, and by building organic androids wearing body armor, or with armored implants, you can make them less vulnerable to countermeasures.

Or maybe people simply don't trust AI due to past bad experiences and so your androids are controlled by human brains grown in a lab with human feelings and emotions.

If I remember correctly, Robocop needed food for his organic components, and his organic brain was considered superior to an AI one.

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Pros of drinking fuel:

  • Way faster than plugging the android into socket and waiting for recharge. One gulp takes couple of seconds; same amount of energy transferred via cables might take minutes.
  • If needed, the android can also carry extra fuel. Sockets don't have this advantage. If some everyday stuff can be used as [emergency] fuel, the android can refuel itself even more easily when need arises.
  • Reactors need fuel, too, and there might be no such fuel that lasts long while providing enough energy to power the android without being heavy or potentially dangerous. If you can refuel easily, you save space and reduce weight and risks of accidents.
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Androids are versatile in what sort of hydrocarbons they can derive power from, specifically for reasons of a survival scenario. It is generally easier to come by human edible hydrocarbons in the wild than refined petrochemicals or enriched radioactive material, after all.

As for water, the androids can use evaporative cooling for heat management in hotter climates, or to reduce their thermal signature. This means they need to refill on water every now and then.

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