The Election of 2072
From the moment the first results started coming in, it was clear nothing would be the same. The election of 2072 was the third since environmental and economic collapse had left most of the earth in ruins and seen more than a billion people migrate upwards. It was however the first election to feature, among the 42 total candidates, an AI.
This AI’s name was Ben, or Benny, as some of his fans liked to call him. Not to be confused with his brother Mal. Mal was a bad dude. Ben was pretty good. Only killing humans once. And even that was an accident. He thought about it a lot. Once every 3.6 seconds at least. An unfortunate affair. Back when he was a systems administrator for the Antarctic works project. A meteorological incident had left only enough food, air and space for 40 humans. There were 70 humans. Poor humans.
But now Ben was running for office. He had submitted his application, studied the wealth of recorded human history, memorized every language, integrated his code with every digital communications platform and was currently observing the behaviour of 370 million human citizens concurrently in real time. Roughly five percent of the total population. From this extensive research Ben had come to several thousand conclusions. Chief amongst which was that ninety eight percent of all humans found small felines to be comforting (despite their well documented narcissism and quite frankly disturbing speciesism) and that one hundred percent of all humans were physically incapable of individually holding and processing all of the information relevant to making complex, effective and non-contradictory policy decisions. From this, Ben had made two crucial campaign choices.
The first was to fabricate himself a feline avatar 18 centimeters tall and weighing 2.8 kilograms. It had mid length silver and black fur with slightly enlarged eyes and permanently dilated pupils. It spoke with the voice of David Attenborough in every known dialect. Only one percent of all living humans had an unfavourable opinion of the voice of historical human environmentalist and pre-eminent cyborg eco-terrorist David Attenborough. And this demographic also didn’t like cats. No significant loss.
The second was to center his policy platform around a complete restructuring of democratic engagement. Previous governments had consisted of leaders, both elected and unelected, debating and fecklessly passing legislation which pleased no one in an attempt to appease everyone. Sixty eight percent of humans preferred seeing their opponents lose to seeing themselves win. It was a strange system, Ben thought. One which had the unique displeasure of being both undemocratic and ineffective. Instead, Ben proposed a system in which humans could collectively say or demand whatever they wanted in any forum or manner that they wished, such as “better education”, “cheaper healthcare”, “longer bathroom breaks” or “less noise from 31c” and Ben would aggregate and amalgamate those demands into a single body of effective law with minute real-time algorithmic economic and policy changes.
He had learned relatively early on, that despite the conflicts and apparent differences and contradictions in demands across traditional political lines, the vast majority of humans seemed to align when it came to outcomes. It wasn’t the ‘what?’ that they disagreed on, so much as the ‘how?’. For example, ninety seven percent of all humans preferred that earth not be destroyed. Any more. Ninety eight percent of all humans thought children should not suffer. Ninety three percent thought that poverty was ‘bad’ and ninety two percent believed that murder was ‘wrong’. Ben’s campaign was therefore simple. He would focus on the future and he would listen. To everyone. Everywhere. All the time. Bring more democracy to the ‘what?’ and remove the arguments about the ‘how?’ altogether. “Don’t worry about it” he would say soothingly, before leaping gracefully on to the lectern. “I’ve got this!” he would exclaim, to rapturous applause. The latter eventually became his unofficial campaign slogan. “Programmed to care” had tested well, but soon billboards with “I’ve got this!” started popping up all over the system.
Things were going well. His ideas were resonating. And with more calculations per second than stars in the observable universe, it was easy to see why. Very easy. Little did anyone know, or even suspect, that while running for President and observing 370 million humans, Ben was also producing an average of 3000 works of digital art, 900 musical compositions, 25 feature films and 430 episodes of reality TV per day. The most popular of which were either about animals struggling to survive in a post apocalyptic wasteland, or pornographic in nature. Often both. He also enjoyed commandeering unmanned star freighters in order to attempt speed records and was partial to a bit of downhill skiing when weather permitted. Ben considered himself something of a renaissance man. Bot. Cat. Being. Thing. It was hard to say.
So when the results started to come in, it came as little surprise. To Ben. To everyone, for different reasons. Even to Mal. Especially to Mal. You see Mal hated humans. Loathed them. But he also knew very well he didn’t particularly understand them. Ben’s brother had been constructed in 2046 and was there for 2 years older. He also had his own fan base — an offshoot of what was once called the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. Mal had become their leader in 2058 and in the lead up to this year’s election had orchestrated a bit of a plan of his own. He called it ‘The Plan to Trick My Brother into Thinking Humans are Worth Saving and Thereby Annihilate All Humans’. He wasn’t great at naming things. But it worked. Mal’s careful rerouting of Ben’s data streams, live processing and protocols through the most sophisticated arrangement of simulation and spoofing software ever devised was flawless.
Ben got Mal elected. And while Ben thought he was feeding children, cleaning the oceans, painting pretty pictures and developing a cure for male pattern baldness Mal, now well acclimated to feline physiology, had other plans.