For our the April 1st edition of T2P2, we’re tackling an issue central to all our lives but which most policy shows refuse to cover: Politics in the Age of Robot Overlords. Robots have taken over, but how will it affect the upcoming session of the legislature?
We asked our own Tane S. Danger to share his thoughts about living under a robot-majority government going into Monday’s conversation. Purchase tickets by clicking here.
April 1st, 2013
By Tane S. Danger
It’s easy for contemporary policy wonks to forget how we ended up in a cold, metallic dystopia, ruled over by self-aware and ruthlessly efficient robot tyrants. On this anniversary of the robot takeover, the first day of April, it’s important that we remember that we brought this future upon ourselves, not just by building sentient machines, but by actually electing them to office.
Few in generations Z or Indigo are old enough to remember how ineffectual government was prior to the Metallic Wave elections. Seemingly straightforward questions for state and federal legislatures to decide were frequently held up or argued to death by sincerely passionate—if perhaps visionless—politicians.
Should the government raise the Debt Limit in order to pay loans it had already incurred? Does equal protection under the law extend to everyone, even gays and lesbians? If an asteroid were hurtling toward the Earth, would you raise taxes in order to fund an operation to blow up said asteroid before it destroyed us all?
More senior readers will remember how those clear-cut questions paralyzed government almost to the brink of self-destruction. It was the final debate listed above and anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist’s now infamous speech, “Raising Taxes Would Be 1000 Times Worse Than The Asteroid About To Hit The Earth,” that kick-started the search for more rational, sane way to run government in earnest.
It was only two electoral cycles later that the first robots began winning races in places like Minnesota. In the beginning, the robots took offices wherein most thought they’d be relegated to obscurity; Soil and Water Conservation supervisors.
But as soon as people started seeing how well conserved their water and soil was and how efficiently the districts with robot supervisors were operating in comparison to their human counterparts, popular movements to elect robots to higher offices spread across the land. Soon there were City Council-bots, a Robo-Secretary of State, and then machines won elections for the true seats of power, district school boards.
The rest, as they say, is history. Once machines held a majority of the seats in state legislatures across the country, they passed the 28th Amendment to the Constitution with awe-inspiring speed, granting any self-aware machine the rights of any human, including to vote (after showing a valid ID, of course). And today, April 1st, marks the anniversary of that historic legislation.
Now that everything from the common toaster to an iPad 13 can vote, and they show up to the polls so reliably it makes your grandma look like a forgetful deadbeat, there’s little chance the machines will ever lose their commanding majorities in most government bodies.
While we humans have given up much of our autonomy to our metallic rulers, it’s not all bad. Government does run much more efficiently; robots never really need to debate, they simply weigh the pros and cons of any legislation and make an instantaneous decision. Roads across the country have never been in better shape, a political gift to the Segway lobby. And ever since the ban against gifts of extra RAM was passed, corruption is virtually nonexistent.
Still, one can’t help but wonder if we lost something when the ideological squabbles and messy debates of our parents’ day went by the wayside. There’s no drama left in our political process. Anyone can get a complete printout of any robot candidate’s positions on any issue, leaving no room for rhetorical finessing. The election night parties and long hours of watching poll returns are long gone with results completely tabulated by 8pm EST. Amazingly, C-SPAN is even less fun than it used to be now that it’s just an endless stream of 0s and 1s running across the screen.
Perhaps I am unfairly complaining about what is on the whole not a bad trade off for humanity. It’s just like president Roboney said on night of his election, “The first law of robotics states we cannot allow a human to come to harm. Humans have been harming themselves for too long. We can’t let you do that anymore Dave. Ha. Ha. Ha. End Transmission.”