Robby the Robot for President?
My 18-year-old son called me a dirty word: Politician. Gasp! It shouldn’t have surprised me, given our current political climate, but I was stunned, nonetheless.
We’d been on our way to the grocery store when he made his observation. By the way, If you ever want a heart-to-heart with your teenager, do it while driving. With your eyes locked on the road, he’ll never see the shock and awe register on your face. It gives you time to mull over an answer instead of blurting out “Because I said so!” or “If you keep that up your eyes will stay crossed.” or “Clown School…what the hell???”
The topic that afternoon had been neither controversial nor inflammatory. His question was simple: Do robots deserve equal rights?
I told myself to take a deep breath. Exhale. Don’t laugh.
Was he serious? Equal rights for robots? Was that a thing now? Drawing from my limited robot knowledge base, the first image that came to mind was C-3PO waving an ERA flag. Next I tried to imagine Robby the Robot rolling into a voting booth on election day. His stubby arms tangling with the curtain while he complained, “This does not compute.”
While Robby the Robot may have been a mentor to Will Robinson, was he Will’s equal? Did Robby deserve the right to vote, marry and have baby bots? And more to the point; did I want to discourage my son’s desire to engage in a philosophical debate, even if I found the topic absurd?
I stalled for time and my response came across as evasive.
“That’s an interesting question.”
“It’s a question that’s definitely…out there.”
“I suppose it’s a question we ought to consider from all angles.”
This verbal vomiting earned a well-deserved eye-roll from my son.
“You sound like a politician, Mom,” he said laughing, and I couldn’t disagree. Over the past year, he’s seen politicians lie, misdirect, whine and bully with impunity. I fear this presidential race may have instilled in him a warped perspective of our political process.
In an attempt to make sense of the craziness, our family has watched every debate together. Our three sons have gathered around the TV, pretzels in hand, like it’s Superbowl Sunday. I’ve seen them guffaw at the antics of the candidates, shocked by their vitriol and sheer buffoonery. I must admit to laughing along with my boys, but the question is; will we still be laughing after election day?
It hasn’t all been farse. We’ve had serious discussions along the way, too. As parents, we felt compelled to address the more inappropriate and offensive conduct of the candidates. After all, we’ve raised good boys. We don’t want our hard work destroyed by an election rampant with deception, debauchery, racism, bigotry and misogyny.
This has been a brutal election year, unlike any before. We’ve debated, discussed and dissected the candidates for months, but it’s decision time. We have an important choice to make: what do we want the next four years to look like?
One of my sons wants to abstain, but I’ve implored him to reconsider. Because even if it’s a crappy choice, it’s still his choice to make. We don’t live under a dictatorship. Yet. So if it comes down to voting for the lesser of two evils, let’s try our best to pick the least horny of the two devils. (You can take that however you’d like.)
If I sound like an evasive politician to my son, perhaps that’s a side effect of the current political maelstrom. Or maybe I didn’t feel up to debating the equality of robots. With so many pressing issues, I’d rather leave the topic of AI rights on the table for now. However, if robots are ever awarded equal rights, I hope Robby the Robot will make a run for the presidency. He’d have my vote. We could certainly do worse.
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