St. God’s: Healthmaster Inferno

After Joe goes through triage, he is directed to the “diagnosis area to the right.” He waits in a short queue, and then enters the diagnosis bay.

The attendant wears a SMARTSPEEK that says, “Your illness is very important to us. Welcome to the Healthmaster Inferno.”

The attendant, DR. JAGGER, holds three small metal probes, and hands each one to him in turn saying, “Uh, this one goes in your mouth. This one goes in your ear. And this one goes up your butt.” (Dark side observation about the St. God’s: Apparently what it takes to become a doctor in Idiocracy is an ability to actually speak to patients and not just let the SMARTSPEEK do all the talking.)

Joe puts one in his mouth and is getting ready to insert the rest, when a quiet beeping causes the attendant to pause and correct himself. “Shit. Hang on a second.” He takes the mouth one back and hands him another one. “This one…No.” He gathers them together, and unable to tell them apart, he shuffles them trying to figure it out, saying “This one. This one goes in your mouth.” Joe reluctantly puts the offered probe into his mouth and continues.

The diagnosis is instant (and almost certainly UNKNOWN). SMARTSPEEK says, “Thank you for waiting. Dr. Lexus will be with you shortly.”

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The probes

The probes are rounded, metal cylinders, maybe a decimeter in length. They look like 3.6mm audio plugs with the tips ground off. The interface-slash-body-horror joke is that we in the audience know that you shouldn’t cross-contaminate between those orifices in a single person, much less between multiple people, and the probes look identical. (Not only that, but they aren’t cleaned or used with a sterile disposable sheath, etc.) So Joe’s not sure what he’s about to have to put in his mouth, and DR. JAGGER is too dumb to know or care.

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The bay

Modeled on car wash aethetics, the bay is a molded-plastic arch, about 4 meters to a side. The inside has a bunch of janky and unsanitary looking medical probes and tools. Around the entrance of the bay are an array of backlit signs, clockwise from 7 o’ clock:

  • Form one line | Do not push
  • (Two right-facing arrows, one blue, one orange)
  • (A stop sign)
  • (A hepatitis readout, from Hepatitis A to Hepatitis F, which does not exist.)
  • Tumor | E-Coli | Just gas | Tapeworm | Unknown
  • Gout | Lice | Leprosy | Malaria
  • (Three left-facing arrows, orange, blue, and magenta)
  • (The comp created for the movie tells…) Be probe ready | Thank you!

Theoretically, the lights help patients understand what to do and what their diagnosis is. But the instruction panels don’t seem to change, and once the patient is inside the bay, they can no longer see the diagnosis panels. The people in the queue and the lobby, however, can. So not only does it rob the patients of any bodily privacy (as they’re having to ram a probe up their rears), but it also robs them of any privacy about their diagnosis. HIPPA and GDPR are rolling around in their then-500 year old graves.

Hygiene

A better solution would of course focus on hygiene first, offering a disposable sheath for the probes. They should still be sterilized between patients.

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Because this is such as visceral reminder, I’m nominating this as the top anti-example of affordances and constraints for new designers.

Better affordances

Second would be changing the design of the probes such that they were easy to distinguish between them. Color, shape, and labeling are initial ideas.

Better constraints

Third would be to constrain the probes so that…

  • The butt probe can’t reach up beyond the butt (maybe tying the cable to the floor? Though that means it’s likely to drop to the ground, which is clearly not sterile in this place, so maybe tying it the wall and having it klaxon loudly if it’s above butt height.)
  • The mouth probe can’t reach below the head (maybe tying the cable to the ceiling)
  • The ear probe should be smaller and ear-shaped rather than some huge eardrum-piercing thing.

And while modesty is clearly not an issue for people of Idiocracy, convention, modesty, and the law require us in our day to make this a LOT more private.

Prevention > remedy

Note that there is an error beep when Joe puts the wrong probe in his butt. Like many errors, by that time it is too late. It makes engineering sense for the machine to complain when there is a problem. It makes people sense to constrain so that errors are not possible, or at the very least, put the alarm where it will dissuade from error.

Also, can we turn the volume up on those quiet beeps to, say, 80 decibels? I think everyone’s interested in more of an alarm than a whisper for this.

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A hidden, eviscerating joke

In addition to the base comedy—of treating diagnosis like a carwash, the interaction design of the missing affordances and constraints, and the poop humor of sticking a butt probe in your mouth—there is yet another layer of stupid evident here. Many of the diseases listed on the “proscenium” of the bay are ones that can be caused by, yep, ingesting feces. (Hepatitis A, Hepatitis E, tapeworm, E. coli.) Enjoy the full, appetizing list on Wikipedia. It’s a whole other layer of funny, and hearkens back to stories of when late-1800s doctors took umbrage at Ignaz Semmelweis’ suggestions that they wash their hands. (*huffgrumble* But we’re gentlemen!) This is that special kind of stupid when people are the cause of their own problems, and refuse to believe it because they are either proud…or idiots.

But of course we’re so much wiser today. People are never, say, duped into voting for some sense of tribal identity despite mountains of evidence that they are voting against their community, or even their own self-interest.

Fighting the unsanitary butt plugs of the Idiocracy

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Donate or join the phone bankers at Indivisible to talk people into voting, and perhaps some sanity into Idiocrats. Indivisible’s mission is “to cultivate and lift up a grassroots movement of local groups to defeat the Trump agenda, elect progressive leaders, and realize bold progressive policies.”

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