Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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smart tree

A tree that can buy its own food
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A sapling tree with a battery-driven microchip is placed in the middle of a campus / a market place.

To survive, the tree needs nutrients, water, and batteries.

In order to procure these necessities, it is equipped with a small amounts of money and some form of close-range broadcasting interface (audio at worst) that lets it talk to people close by.

The tree talks to people, convinces them to buy batteries / plant food or get water for it, and pays them after it feels it has received the nutrients / water / energy.

This can be done with real money and recordings, or with micropayments and some sort of service offer / service publication protocol, if such a protocol is ever widely spoken.

This could be done as a contest. Different programmers use different strategies. Or as evolutionary programming within the same tree. (Hm! I guess shouting "water! water!" didn't help, I wonder what happens if I shout "fire!" instead?!)

The tree wins if it can convince an unrelated passerby to build another tree just like it.

jutta, Apr 10 2000

Cantaro http://www.sickofga...nts-talking-to-you/
Now there's an intelligent planter that plays sounds. [Amos Kito, Feb 15 2008]

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       The tree should have a 'tip box' so that people who appreciate its beauty/ the shade it provides/ the oxygen it relaeses through photosynthesis/ etc. can contribute some money.
hippo, Apr 10 2000
  

       <grin> I can just see one of these in the middle of someplace like MIT...'Please! I'm dying of thirst!' or if that didn't work after a while, 'Water me or I'll fall over on your car!'
StarChaser, Apr 10 2000
  

       Put the plant in a little wagon or cart (with good brakes) so that people can move it in and out of shade, or just give it different surroundings, as it requests.   

       If plants could travel, where would they go?
centauri, Apr 10 2000, last modified Jul 25 2000
  

       I like this idea, but perhaps trees are already doing this with "rewards" like oxygen, apples, nice rustly noises when it's windy, etc., and signals like coloration (and probably lots of other stuff i'm too ignorant to recognize)?
johan, Apr 11 2000
  

       "If plants could travel, where would they go?" asks Centauri. I think the answer would be "A long way away from humans - especially those that want to put batteries and microchips in them"
Lemon, Jul 26 2000
  

       A simplified application of this principle - a gas station robot that paid you for feeding it with drink cans - failed dismally and was soon closed down.
rayfo, May 17 2001
  

       Maybe they'd go looking for Entwives. Not to hastily, however.
nick_n_uit, May 18 2001
  

       Semi-baked (in fiction.) Vernor Vinge's Skroderiders (in his A Fire Upon the Deep).
dsm, May 18 2001
  

       "The tree should have a 'tip box'..."
Or a debit card scanner.
phoenix, Feb 15 2008
  

       This is elegant in a surreal sort of way...
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 15 2008
  

       Does the tree get a government benefit ? Same old story , who does the actual feeding and watering ?
wjt, Feb 16 2008
  

       (Hm, it's sure been a while since I wrote this - this feels like helping out someone else.)   

       The tree could sell advertising. For a modest fee, it periodically whispers the modern equivalent of love notes etched into the bark of trees - "H B LOVES M T". (For a slightly larger fee, it stops repeating them once the payer breaks up.) Or it lists current events, or recites the FBI's most wanted list. Or, like hippo suggested, it might just accept small donations from those who enjoy its shade, folding itself up for 10 every 50 minutes during spring pledge week. Or it could just beg - if a half-robotic tree hit you up for a quarter, surely you wouldn't refuse? ("Ah, it's just going to spend it on water.")
jutta, Feb 16 2008
  
      
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