As I See It: Another Modest Proposal
October 19, 2020 Victor Rozek
In 1729, responding to English indifference to chronic poverty in Ireland, Jonathan Swift wrote an essay called A Modest Proposal in which he suggests the Irish could sell their babies to the English gentry as food, thus addressing both the problem of Irish poverty and, presumably, the lack of meat variety in England. (I shouldn’t have to say this, but given the bizarre QAnon belief that elites actually drink children’s blood, it should be noted that Swift’s proposal was, you know, satire.)
Well, with the country starting to resemble 1729 England updated for inflation, it’s time for another modest proposal.
It probably won’t come as a galloping surprise to anyone that we live in a divided nation. We’re as divided as Alfred E. Neuman’s two front teeth, and Americans are as mad as the magazine that bears his visage – they’re just not as funny.
Belief in American exceptionalism has been strained if not shattered. Uncle Sam can barely dress himself in the morning. Infrastructure is crumbling, education is in chaos, the medical system is dangerously stretched. Let’s face it: a country where Tom Brady plays for Tampa Bay is deeply conflicted.
Nothing, it seems, works as it should. Except computer technology. Through economic ups and downs, and even the scourges of Covid (which we needn’t worry about, especially if we have 30 medical professionals on standby), computers run on, undismayed and unnoticed.
As the object of my modest proposal, they already hold an advantage. Computers are everywhere and nowhere; in pockets, purses, on desktops, and lounging on some amorphous cloud. They have no single governing philosophy or elected leader to like or dislike. If someone says something mean about my computer, it doesn’t care. And wouldn’t that be refreshing? They serve everyone, Red, Blue, smart, dumb, female, male, LGBTQ, transgender, gender neutral, non-binary, agender, pangender, genderqueer, two-spirit, third gender, or whatever grouping suits you best. They’re already in just about every home, and like Santa they know when we are sleeping, they know when we’re awake, they know who we’ve been texting at 3 a.m., so if we’re smart we’ll be good for goodness sake – or fear of disclosure, whatever your motivational preference. We all know that eventually computers will run the world, so why not get ahead of the curve?
Let a computer run the country.
They already run our lives. People compulsively check their phones first thing in the morning and the last thing at night. They carry it with them, like a kangaroo carries its young. Every industry is, in one fashion or another, tied to or dependent on computers. They store information from our past, and model our future. It’s time for them to manage our present.
Imagine, no more need for interminable and ridiculously expensive elections. No more lobbyists, no purchasable politicians. No more political ads. No more debates. No need for phony displays of patriotism as an excuse to act out anger. Oh, and did I mention no more debates? All that wasted money and energy could be applied to something actually useful, like making pizza.
Plus, we could finally vote on important issues in real time and our votes would actually count. The Electoral College, as we know only too well, limits us to voting for the president of our state. Nationally, our votes mean bupkis. But imagine getting a notification like this on your smartphone: “You have 24 hours to vote on whether we invade Kazakhstan.” Since most people don’t know where or what Kazakhstan is, they would probably vote NO, and just like that, another Vietnam averted.
With an election looming our better angels seem to sink further into exile each day. No one thinks this thing is going to end well. One possibility, as columnist Alexandra Petri quips, is that after the election Trump “willingly leaves office and leaves a pleasant, correctly spelled note for the next occupant wishing him well…” But there are other less pleasant possibilities.
For one thing, the President was recently in the hospital, probably rethinking his disdain for medical expertise. Hopefully he will return as strong and articulate as ever. But just in case he doesn’t, why wait for a second civil war? Let all the angry people direct their anger at a machine. Bad computer, bad. The operative word in Artificial Intelligence is not intelligence but artificial. Unlike human intelligence so tied to ego or limited to a specific area of expertise, computers have no ego, don’t lust for power, are not beholden, and have fewer limitations. In short, they’re everything politicians are not.
And they don’t make promises; they make decisions.
Why perpetuate a system where the election of any one candidate automatically sends half the nation into convulsions? I know it’s fun to watch the other side convulse – the shortness of breath, the twitching legs – but eventually, you become the convulsee, then it’s not as much fun.
So, let’s end the cycle of abuse. While you’re holding your masked nose in the voting booth, or filling out one of those suddenly suspicious mail-in ballots, consider casting your vote for the only candidate not burdened with partisanship, wishful thinking, or anything else for that matter.
Write in the name of the one candidate that doesn’t run for office yet runs day and night. The only candidate that never wears a mask yet never gets sick, and has more viral protections than Dr. Fauci touring a meat packing plant. A candidate who is never a slave to emotions; is not impulsive, vindictive, and has no entanglements beyond the occasional cabling mishap. (Full disclosure: there may be a birther issue if one of his parts was made overseas, but we’ll jump off that bridge when we come to it.)
Vote for Watson. IBM’s flagship creation. He may not be the latest in AI technology, but he has four indispensable qualities for any candidate in today’s political climate: absolutely no experience, great name recognition, celebrity, and no one can accuse him of eating children. Besides, he beat two very smart humans on Jeopardy, and in a culture distrustful of smart people, that alone should count for a lot.