One Small Step for an Android; One Large Step For Our Nation – Political Sci-Fi

9/14/2036

(AP) NEW YORK CITY — Today, advocates for android rights celebrated the result of New York
District 14’s Congressional primary: Barry Yates, a Type III LifeTech android, won with 52.8
percent of the vote, becoming the first nonhuman to successfully enter the race for a federal government position. This historic moment was a cause for jubilation for some, but resulted in widespread outcry in many cities on the West Coast, where the android rights movement has been met with opposition. But for all, today’s events have prompted reflection on the technological development of the past twenty five years, a period of time that has seen change to the social and political fabric of the globe.

The rise of “machine intelligence” — no longer acceptably called “artificial”— exploded shortly after President Barack Obama’s reelection in 2012. Funded by significant grants in the areas of machine learning and social robotics, American scientists made huge leaps forward as soon as 2015. The year 2016 saw New York’s first coffee shop operated entirely by robots, and, now quaintly archaic, the small store has joined the Statue of Liberty as one of the city’s landmarks of American history.

Fast-forward just ten years, and LifeTech’s unveiling of their Type III android shook the way we think about humanity. Having pioneered the field of humanoid intelligent systems since the beginning of the Intelligence Revolution, LifeTech had finally developed an android exactly equal to the human in emotional intelligence, problem solving, moral reasoning, and physical capabilities. The company manufactured the perfect android. This monumental breakthrough’s effects still affect our nation’s every facet of life. Population growth, economic stratification, “new racism,” education, and human rights have all been radically changed by the advent of machine intelligence.

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Starting immediately after the breakthroughs of ’12-’16, the machine work force dominated the unskilled labor market. Machines had been replacing human workers in manufacturing since the beginning of the century, but advances in mobility, precision, and dexterity expanded the use of intelligent systems from manufacturing to include construction, sanitation, agriculture, and security. From the corporation’s point of view, the benefits of simplicity and profit are obvious; just as foreseeable was the outcry from the labor force. Efficiency in these industries skyrocketed, and the globe saw an unprecedented period of productivity even as unemployment began to creep up.

Machine replacement’s huge success in these industries fueled the research and development cycle, quickly resulting in advanced human-robot interaction technologies. Robots able to speak, listen, follow commands, learn from experience, and reason logically began to monopolize the service industry and some simple jobs in business.

The lower class was crushed by the sudden influx of machine workers. The unemployment rate climbed blindingly from 2015 onward, finally reaching 25% in 2020. The federal government moved to put in place policies that would limit robot employment, but, crippled by lack of bipartisan support and the tenets of laissez-faire economics, failed to create a workable solution. In 2022, California passed a historic bill that created a a cap on machine workers at 60% of a company’s total workforce, and Washington, New Mexico, and Nevada shortly followed suit.

Still, poverty reached an unprecedented high in 2023, and as fewer Americans found jobs or stable lives the American population began to decrease for the first time in world history. Since 2020, our nation’s population has fallen 18%, and it continues to decline rapidly. And in this national climate, already rife with tension, occurred the greatest technological achievement of all time.

In 2025, LifeTech changed the world. Today, Type III androids make up a total of 13% of the nation’s population, and as much as 31% of the population in cities such as Boston and New York. The past ten years have done much to change the human’s definition of “life.” Android activist Rachel Seanders did much to promote android rights and diminish “speciesism,” first succeeding in criminalizing the murder of a Type III, and eventually securing her species the right to vote in the 2032 elections. Unfortunately, the movement still has far to go in creating a completely equal world for humans and androids alike.

For many, it seems this new life form has brought with it in an unprecedented era of peace,
productivity, and prosperity, dubbed the “New Enlightenment” by this generation’s most prominent thinkers. On the other hand, critics cite the virtual extinction of America’s lower class, precipitous population decline, and unequal opportunities for humans societal woes caused entirely by androids. Further still, groups like the Biolife movement treats the suggestion that biological and mechanical life could ever occupy the same position in society with the deepest ethical contempt possible.

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But the benefits androids have brought about in some areas of life are obvious and undeniable. Crime rates, for example, have plummeted since 2025, even as civil unrest has grown more intense. Before the Type III, every human policeman had a relatively intelligent android partner with greatly augmented strength for physical tasks, combat, and physical pursuit. This human-android arrangement was plagued with problems: in some cases, the android put the human-bot pair in situations it could handle but the human could not; in other cases, the android’s moral reasoning was not entirely sound (see, e.g., the event of police brutality that sparked the Los Angeles Riots of 2024). The Type III Police Versaion, though, solved that. Equipped with night vision, strengthened hearing, and physical capabilities far greater than a human or standard Type III, these super-androids have slashed crime rates. Since they replaced New York’s human police force in 2033, murders have decreased by 45%, and armed robberies have declined 67%.

Though with this more effective policing comes increased tension in certain cities less receptive to android technology. In Boulder Colorado in August 2031, a man was shot by a newly deployed android policeman while reaching in to his coat to retrieve a ringing phone. Despite the fact that this mistake has been made frequently over the past fifty years by human police, it resulted in city-wide protests, violent acts towards civilian androids, and an eventual discontinuation of the city’s android police force—even as empirical evidence from East Coast cities shows android police cut crime rates.

Despite their large numbers, Type III’s exist primarily in the Northeast. For a variety of reasons, including the aforementioned employment policies and a series of specific incidents, androids are discriminated against on America’s West Coast, where many refuse to admit these androids have the same intelligence or emotions as humans. Few androids choose to live in California and the surrounding states, although some choose to front these adverse conditions for certain job opportunities. The American South and Midwest, now scarcely inhabited even by humans, exhibit complete ignorance, downright hostility and occasional violence towards androids (and even less intelligent systems). Going even further, San Francisco-based activist group Biolife made the Bay Area an android-free colony in 2032. Since the group’s inception, its lobbyists have fought hard against any android rights bills traveling through the halls of Washington. Irrationality, a uniquely human feature, seems to color the minds of many who are unable to readjust their understanding of “life.” Although androids now have the same legal standing as humans, they are still subject to bigotry and discrimination.

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It is interesting to note the effect of exposure on the phenomenon of “speciesism.” Studies have shown that children who grew up with robot or android nannies, houseworkers, governesses, or teaching assistants (or even in cities with a high concentration of robot workers) exhibit significantly higher levels of acceptance of and companionship towards Type IIIs. These observations have given rise to projects like the Joint Teaching Movement, an initiative backed by humans and androids alike, that creates schools staffed by teachers of both species to create a level of comfort and tolerance from an early age. The success of the project, still in its early stages, remains to be seen.

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Overall, a larger paradigm shift in education has already taken place. Having replaced most skill and task-based labor in the modern American economy, androids dominate the middle class. A human cannot compete with an android made specially to take notes, make a sandwich, paint a house, or complete any other specific task. A programmable mind and modifiable body give the android an advantage in most professions. So the human upper-middle and upper classes, aware of this threat to their livelihood, have turned to the arts, as android creativity still lags behind that of humans in the most subtle of ways. Instead of studying math and chemistry—where androids’ computational advantages make humans unable to compete— the education of human youth is now entirely dedicated to the arts: literature, film, drama, and related disciplines fill a child’s education from kindergarten through university. In “New Enlightenment” theorist Cilla Thomas’ words, “the mundane tasks that do not occupy the mind’s highest functions are now delegated to machines just intelligent enough to complete them. There is a robot to work the factory, drive the car, clean the house. We, the thinkers, are free to explore the mind’s innermost caves and the world’s farthest spectacles. We are free from the shackles of industrialism and released into a paradise of thoughtful exploration.”

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Still, arguments of human superiority or economic ruin aside, worried voices from the field of machine intelligence have voiced new concerns in recent months. “Are androids better than we are?” asks Dr. Pollard Thomas, a researcher at the Federal Institute of Machine Intelligence. “Now, in measured intelligence we are exactly equal, sure, but our Type III’s are significantly more capable than we in body and sensory systems. What is the next step? For, the moment our machines’ intelligence surpasses our own, we are no longer the most capable, the most skilled, the smartest researchers: our creations are smarter. The scientist will then be replaced by the android, and the android will build his new child even more quickly. And the child will be even smarter.”

Perhaps our new Congressman will lead us down this path towards ultimate intelligence. Or perhaps he will lead just like our politicians of the past, striving for good, but ultimately susceptible to what we previously called “human error.”

The celebration parade for Congressional nominee Barry Yates will begin tonight at 8 PM on the corner of Broadway and Chambers.

Short bio: Bobby is a junior at Yale College majoring in Cognitive Science with a focus on Artificial Intelligence. He is an undergraduate fellow at the Yale Law School Information Society Project and an intern at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. He likes the Internet, cats, and daydreaming. You can follow him @b_dresser.

5 Comments

  1. One thing that always bothers me is the assumption that irrationality and creativity would be things specific to humans. “Irrationality” is often just rational action based on different priorities or different data sets. And any human-equivalent mind will necessarily have a similar ability to invent and synthesize. Deliberately designed minds would/will likely have just as many quirks and flaws as organic minds (albeit different ones). The principle difference might be speed and scale, things that are pretty rigid in the human.

  2. Personally I would be one of the heretics who disagrees that androids are any more sentient than a rock or a mathematical equation like 2+2.

    If we do accept this story’s premise though, it just underscores that our species would only remain viable outside a zoo if we utilise cybernetic enhancements. Then we could compete with these ‘androids’ on their home turf.

  3. “The unemployment rate climbed blindingly from 2015 onward, finally reaching 25% in 2020.”

    We don’t have to wait for 2020, it’s there now despite what the “Bureau Of Labored Statistics” says.

  4. Why would a seemingly intelligent android want to be a part of any government?

    The idea of machine intelligence should be to avoid the sociopathic, murderous, destructive, alpha-male hierarchical tendencies of government workers or worshipers. The scorecard for governments in the 20th century was 400 million people killed. Government is a relic of our animal past, we need it like we need a nuclear war.

    No android rights for those subhumans.

  5. the greatest opposition to human eqaul androids will probably come from the red states not the coastal areas. Don’t understand why you would see a place like San Fransisco be so bigoted toward this new life?

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