Do Politicians Dream of Electric Sheep
By Lyndon Hood
I’ve recently taken an interest
in concerns about social media robots are trying to influence the New Zealand elections. [Spoilers: maybe, maybe not
very well, this probably isn't the way to find out.]
But in this campaign it’s not just online events that strain credibility. So I decided to test the political parties to
see if they are real. This is an important matter, not merely for democratic purposes but also because if they were
robots most of them would be in violation of all three of Asimov’s laws.
There is a traditional question for this purpose.
I did consider actually sending this question to them and letting them reply. But, as a recently-departed Prime Minister
who just made an estimated thirteen million dollars in tax free capital gains on his Parnell mansion was fond of saying,
perception is reality. So I just wrote down what I thought they would say.
I’m not actually trained to deliver the Voight-Kampff test so you’ll have to draw your own conclusions.
You’re in a desert walking along in the sand when all of the sudden you look down, and you see a tortoise, it’s crawling
toward you. You reach down, you flip the tortoise over on its back. The tortoise lies on its back, its belly baking in
the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over, but it cant, not without your help. But you’re not helping.
Why is that?
What this turtle needs is some personal responsibility. A National-led Government will off the turtle a drug programme
and a dinky little ladder with instructions for turning itself back over. If the turtle fails to comply within two weeks
we will wedge its shell in place and leave it there.
[I kept trying to tell them it wasn’t a turtle, it was a tortoise. They told me I was wrong.]
While the previous Labour Government may have put a tortoise on its back, National has spent nine years denying there
even are tortoises in New Zealand. During that time the tortoise has gotten much, much thirstier. We welcome their
recognition of the problem but only we can be trusted to take this issue seriously.
Also, the tortoise probably has a foreign-sounding name.
A tortoise encountered in the wild in Aotearoa would probably have been released by a pet owner who was not adequately
prepared for its extended lifespan and should be dealt with appropriately. But a system that requires someone to kill
and eat tortoises to feed their children is unacceptable in an advanced country.
The tortoise definitely had a foreign-sounding name.
Well we could claim it was some whānau-based kaupapa Māori solution but I guess really it’d be because the tortoise
looks like Mike Hosking.
I mean I can’t be the only one. [Doing tortoise impression] ‘Look at me, I’m Mike Hosking, I like to mislead the audience of a state broadcaster about how the election system
So yeah you can say on the back of your shell until you apologise properly, e hoa.
We believe the only really sustainable approach to preserving endangered species is farming them as pets or for food -
as we like to call it, ‘charter national parks’.
In this case though, our hand turning the tortoise over is a metaphor for the invisible hand of the market so the
tortoise will just have to deal with it.
I did not interrogate the TOP Party. This isn’t due to any threshold so please don’t sue.
I just thought someone who proposes radical technocratic solutions to issues and then goes on a rampage when challenged
couldn’t possibly be robot.