Monday, August 31, 2015

Are we ready for a robot PM?

It's time that we as a nation embrace the idea of electing a robot as prime minister. I know what you are thinking. The notion of being ruled by stiff, unfeeling, soulless beings seems unimaginable. But really, couldn't we use those very words to describe most of our current politicians? Why not replace them with actual robots who would have the added skill of being capable of getting stuff done?

The idea isn't as far-fetched as it sounds. According to a report in The Economist, almost 47 per cent of all jobs will be automated by 2034. It's a trend that looks set to continue for the rest of the century. Humans in low-skill jobs in the service sector, transportation and production are at immediate risk of being replaced by machines.

Advances in Artificial Intelligence mean robots will continue to get faster, smarter and more creative. It's not inconceivable to think that soon robots will be competing for the jobs everybody wants, like being doctors, lawyers and DJs, along with doing the jobs nobody wants, like picking up rubbish, cleaning homes and sitting on the Integrity Commission.

The obvious advantage of having a robot prime minister is that it wouldn't lie, thus making it completely incorruptible. A robot PM would make rational decisions supported by evidence. It would not feel the need to pander to racial or religious groups. Plus with its built-in calculator and basic knowledge of mathematics, it won't allow infrastructural projects to fall into costly overruns.Another advantage of having a robot prime minister is that our leader would be free of embarrassing human frailties.

Robots would never succumb to the temptation to do things like have extra-marital affairs, drink excessively or perform mangled renditions of Ed Sheeran songs in public. There would be no need to question a robot PM about its childhood, its sex life, or whether or not it's performing obeah on its rivals.

However, there is one major obstacle a robot would need to overcome if it wants to be prime minister, namely, Trinbagonians. If a robot can't lie and pander to racial and religious groups, how exactly can it expect to get elected here?Having a robot with no defined race, religion, or gender might mean Trinbagonians will struggle to find a reason to vote for it. It's not like focusing on issues alone will be enough to sustain anyone's attention.

There is also the question of party rallies. Trinbagonians love political party rallies because they are filled with music, free tee-shirts and politicians telling us everything we want to hear. Robot political rallies might be radically different. They might mostly entail everyone having to quietly read a manifesto followed by a question-and-answer session. And everyone knows reading and asking questions are the last thing party supporters here love doing.

Robotics might allow us to construct the perfect and flawless politician, but as long as that politician is serving an imperfect and flawed human electorate, it might not make much difference.

Perhaps we place too much emphasis on finding perfect politicians in the first place. In our zeal to find inspirational leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Winston Churchill, we forget that history is filled with inspiring yet deeply flawed leaders. Like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Winston Churchill.

Apart from both being civil rights icons, Gandhi also did bizarre things; like sleeping next to young girls to test his celibacy, while Dr King had dozens of extra-martial affairs. Churchill bravely stood up to the Nazis but he was also a notorious alcoholic who was often drunk at his war cabinet meetings. Imagine the headlines they would all face today.

Sadly, Trinidad and Tobago may never have robot rulers, if only because the humans they would rule are vastly more complicated. A flawed political system run by flawed humans is something we may always have to put up with. We could take some consolation from it though. Being a politician is the one career option that might offer long-term job security for humans.

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