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"Real science opens windows for us to look through. We're right at the footsteps of the most interesting scientists around."
- Larry Niven

Manna  
  A software program that autonomously manages restaurants or other service industry businesses.  

The scariest thing about Manna is that anyone could implement it using present-day technology.

The "robot" installed at this first Burger-G restaurant looked nothing like the robots of popular culture. It was not hominid like C-3PO or futuristic like R2-D2 or industrial like an assembly line robot. Instead it was simply a PC sitting in the back corner of the restaurant running a piece of software. The software was called "Manna", version 1.0*...

Manna was connected to the cash registers, so it knew how many people were flowing through the restaurant. The software could therefore predict with uncanny accuracy when the trash cans would fill up, the toilets would get dirty and the tables needed wiping down. The software was also attached to the time clock, so it knew who was working in the restaurant...

Manna told employees what to do simply by talking to them. Employees each put on a headset when they punched in. Manna had a voice synthesizer, and with its synthesized voice Manna told everyone exactly what to do through their headsets. Constantly. Manna micro-managed minimum wage employees to create perfect performance...

From Manna, by Marshall Brain.
Published by Self in 2002
Additional resources -

Software doesn't stand still - new features are always being added.

As the Manna software evolved, it gained more and more responsibility. From the start Manna was able to schedule employee hours. Manna printed a piece of paper for each employee to put on the refrigerator -- it told you your hours for the week. In version 2.0 they went further. They connected Manna to the telephone network and the public email network. So Manna was able to begin calling and emailing employees and reminding them to show up on time. If an employee didn't show up, Manna could call in a replacement. If the store became unexpectedly crowded, Manna could call in reinforcements.

I'd tell you more, but you should read it for yourself at Manna by Marshall Brain.

Manna is the logical extension of software that has been in use for decades by employers with telephone customer service operators. The operator follows a branching script, reading questions and then entering customer responses. The "customer service representative" is really just a friendly front end for the software. These systems can make anyone who can read equal to a real representative with five years of experience with a product.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Manna
  More Ideas and Technology by Marshall Brain
  Tech news articles related to Manna
  Tech news articles related to works by Marshall Brain

Manna-related news articles:
  - Hyperactive Bob Fast Food Management Robot

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