The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

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9:56am on Friday, 24th June, 2005:

AI in Everyday Life


My PhD is in the subfield of Artificial Intelligence known as Planning. This concerns the stringing together of primitive actions such that they change the world from its current to state to some desired future state. The primitive actions are often described in terms of conditions (what must be true for this action to execute) and effects (what changes occur once this action has been executed). In general, the aim is for plans to be optimal, which means that they use as few resources as possible. If there are no resources but time, and if all actions take the same time to execute, the optimal plan is the one which takes the fewest primitive actions to get from the starting state to the goal state.

I actually used this to optimise my Friday chores. How sad is that?

Every Friday I'm at home that isn't a public holiday, I have three goals I need to achieve:
1) Empty the bins.
2) Put on the weekly wash.
3) Take in the milk.

Here's an abstract, MUD-style map of the layout of the house, so you can see where I have to go:

Here's my plan as I developed it, with the location I'm in after executing an action listed in [square brackets]. The plan is optimised for number/weight of things I have to carry and distance I have to carry them:

Get up, get dressed, clean teeth etc. [Main bedroom]
Take the laundry bag with all the weekly washing in it out of the laundry basket. [Main bedroom]
Go to the bottom of the stairs. [Front door]
Put down laundry bag. [Front door]
Open front door and bring in the milk. [Front door]
Put down milk. [Front door]
Go to garage, where the used carrier bags that we use as bin liners are kept. [Garage]
Pick up seven carrier bags and return to front door. [Next to front door]
Put 5 carrier bags at the bottom of the stairs. [Next to front door]
Put the other 2 carrier bags in my pocket. [Next to front door]
Pick up the milk and the laundry bag. [Next to front door]
Walk through the kitchen to the utility room where there's a bunch of stuff to do. [Utility room]
Put the milk in the fridge. [Utility room]
Put on the washing and leave the laundry bag on the floor. [Utility room]
Take one of the carrier bags from my pocket and swap it with the non-empty bag in the utility room bin. [Utility room]
Take a big black bin bag (required by refuse collectors), a white, swing-bin liner bag, a small sandwich bag and a piece of string from the drawer in which they are kept. [Utility room]
Put the piece of string in my shirt pocket. [Utility room]
Open up the black bag and put the full carrier bag in it. [Utility room]
Pick up the laundry bag from the floor. [Utility room]
Go into kitchen and put the sandwich bag and laundry bag on the table. [Kitchen]
Swap the white, swing-bin liner bag with the full bag in the swing-bin. [Kitchen]
Put the full swing-bin liner bag in the black bin bag. NB: the black bin bag is now heavy! [Kitchen]
Pick up the sandwich bag and swap it for the sandwich bag full of teabags in the receptacle on our kitchen windowsill. [Kitchen]
Put the full sandwich bag in the black bin bag. [Kitchen]
Pick up the laundry bag from the table. [Kitchen]
Pick up the heavy black bin bag. [Kitchen]
Go to the hall. This is close to, but distinct from, the front door. It adjoins the kitchen, living room, and my office. [Hall]
Put down the black bag and the laundry bag. [Hall]
Go into my office and pick up the two bins in there. These are the only two bins in the house that don't have liners. [Office]
Step outside my office to the hall. [Hall]
Empty the office bins into the black bin bag. [Hall]
Go back into my office. [Office]
Replace the bins. [Office]
Step back into the hall, but continue into the living room. [Living room]
Swap the carrier bag from my pocket with the full one in the living room bin. [Living room]
Return to the hall. [Hall]
Put the full carrier bag from the living room bin into the black bag. [Hall]
Pick up the black bag and the laundry bag. [Hall]
Go to the front door. [Front door]
Put down the black bag and pick up the 5 carrier bags. [Front door]
Go upstairs to the landing. This is right outside the main bedroom and the guest bedroom. [Landing]
Put down 4 of the carrier bags. [Landing]
Go into the main bedroom. [Main bedroom]
Put the laundry bag back in the laundry basket. [Main bedroom]
Swap the carrier bag with the full carrier bag lining the main bedroom's bin. [Main bedroom]
Return to the landing. [Landing]
Put the carrier with the main bedroom's rubbish in it on the floor, and pick up another carrier bag. [Landing]
Go into the guest room. [Guest room]
Swap the carrier bag with the bag in the guest room's bin. [Guest room]
Return to the landing. [Landing]
Put down the guest room rubbish bag and pick up two more empty carrier bags. [Landing]
Walk past the bathroom to Madeleine's room. [Madeleine's room]
Replace the carrier in Madeleine's bin with one of the empty carriers. [Madeleine's room]
Go to the bathroom. [Bathroom]
Replace the liner in the bathroom bin (which usually has a lot in it) with the other carrier bag. [Bathroom]
Return to the landing. [Landing]
Put down the two used carrier bags and pick up the remaining unused one. [Landing]
Go to Jenny's room. [Jenny's room]
Swap Jenny's bin bag with the remaining carrier bag. [Jenny's room]
Return to the landing. [Landing]
Pick up the other 4 bags and take the lot downstairs. [Front door]
Put the 5 carrier bags in the black bin bag. [Front door]
Carry the black bag into the garage. [Garage]
Open the garage door. [Garage]
Carry the black bag to the front of the garage where the full black bin bag from earlier in the week awaits. [Front of garage]
Check to see if my father-in-law has helpfully left bizarre pieces of rubbish next to the earlier black bin bag in the hope that they will miraculously be transported away. If so, put these in the black bag I just carried in. [Front of garage]
Take the piece of string from my shirt pocket and tie up the black bag. [Front of garage]
Pick up both black bags and carry them outside. [Outside house]
Add the bags to the pile that our neighbours feel should be made outside our house. [Outside house]
If it is a waste paper week:
— Return to the garage. [Garage]
— Fill up as many carrier bags as it takes with waste paper. Use a different one for card and cardboard. [Garage]
— Take the bags outside. [Outside house]
If it is a green waste week:
— Go alongside the garage where the 3 green waste bags are left. [Alongside garage]
— Pick up 2 green waste bags. [Alongside garage]
— Take the green waste bags to the front of the house. [Outside house]
— Go aback longside the garage. [Alongside garage]
— Pick up the remaining green waste bag. [Alongside garage]
— Take the green waste bag to the front of the house. [Outside house]
Go back inside the garage. [Garage]
Close the garage door. [Garage]
Go to the downstairs toilet. [Downstairs toilet]
Wash my hands after handling all this rubbish. [Downstairs toilet]

There you have it: a finely-tuned, engineered solution to my Friday chores.

Unfortunately, this morning I forgot to pick up the laundry bag from the laundry basket and it all fell apart...

Referenced by Open Door.

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Copyright © 2005 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).