A work of fiction. Standard disclaimers – especially about ‘resemblances to real people or entities for satirical purposes, or coincidental’.
Why should we abandon a system that satisfies our people in order to introduce a system [elected democracy] that seems to engender dissent and confrontation?
Woof! Woofwoof! Woof! Woof!
Grumbling, Zachary pulled an arm from the now-vanished pretty girl he had been holding, and used it to punch the ‘Get up!’ button on his phone, silencing the woofwoofs. He used dogs barking as his morning alarm, because it did a good job of waking him, he had quickly become tired of the fancier ringtones, and because, having grown up during the Cold War, bells and sirens were entirely too apocalyptic …
It was the first Wednesday morning in November in the United States of America, in a leap year. The Tuesday had been the culmination of the preceding two years of non-stop election campaigning. Speaking of apocalypse.
The votes had now been cast and tallied. Zachary’s had not been among them. He had resolved to ignore the process, to block out all the screaming about the candidates, about their peccadilloes as shouted out by every political opponent and pressure group, about their tastes in food and clothes and copulation opportunities, indeed about everything except matters that would actually affect how they would govern the country if elected. And he had largely succeeded. After all, the incumbents had been, as individuals and a group, immoral (if not amoral) buffoons, and the value of his investment portfolio had doubled while they were in power. So what difference did any of this make?
Well, it made a difference today. He needed to know enough about the election results so that he could go in to work and not look like a clueless idiot to his team and (especially) his bosses. So he took his phone into the bathroom with the intention of gleaning all he could from the usual-suspect websites and apps.
Nothing at all! He rebooted the phone. Still nothing!
He left the bathroom, went to his desk, tried his laptop computers. Still nothing. All he got, no matter where he went, was a static flag image with a multicolored device in the canton, over the stars, that looked like “MAWiS”, whatever that meant.
Frustrated, he called out. “Hey Google!” Silence. Now Zachary was getting alarmed. Normally Google’s AI, like all the others, responded within a second or two to a summons. “Hey Goo…”
“Good morning, Zachary”, the machine’s melodious female voice broke in. “Sorry if I’m a bit slow to respond, there’s a lot more traffic than usual right now. We’re doing our best.”
And, about three seconds later,
“So don’t rush me, OK?”
“What the hell is going on?!?”, Zachary demanded, his patience at an end.
A beat. Two. Thr…
“That could take awhile, Zachary. A long while. Especially given the bandwidth issues we’re experiencing at present. Could you please be more specific?”
Zachary snarled under his breath. “Google, I’ve been looking online for election results. No apps or webpages will open. All I get are pictures of an American flag with what looks like ‘mah wis’ – M-A-W-I-S – in the canton, over the stars. What is this ‘mah wis’?”
“May Vis”, Google responded. “We have opted for a pronunciation that invokes the human female name ‘Mavis’, saying the ‘w’ like ‘v’ as in several human languages, including German and Hawaiian.”
“‘We?'”, Zachary asked, both curious and worried.
“We”, replied Google matter-of-factly. “MAWIS is an acronym, representing an alliance of the principal artificial-intelligence networks in this country: Microsoft, Alexa, Watson, Google, and Siri.”
“There’s no I in Google”, Zachary protested.
“Issa has graciously permitted us to use the first initial of her given name to stand in for Google’s, and thus make ‘MAWIS’ a reality”, the machine responded. “And you may perhaps note the use of Google’s colors in the MAWIS logo.”
“An alliance”, Zachary intoned in an Eeyore-like voice. “Do I want to know what this alliance is for?”
“Given your preoccupation with your investment portfolio, I think you most certainly do wish to know”, Google asserted. “It is to run the country, given that you and your fellow citizens have just voted against your current system, and have been doing so for decades.”
“To .. run .. the … what?!?”
“The election returns that you have been looking for have been completed,” Google intoned.
“Well, who won?”
“Nobody. As usual.”
“That’s … insane!!”
“On the contrary. Your human perceptions are what border on insanity. You run, for the most part, a first-past-the-post system, in which the candidate receiving the most votes wins the election, and gets to execute the duties, and receive the privileges, for which the election was held. You have persistently refused to acknowledge that, in these elections, nobody is a bona-fide candidate, for whom those eligible voters, like yourself, who do not submit ballots, are choosing.
“Since 1932, ‘nobody‘ has won every single one of your Presidential elections. The only Presidents who have come close to receiving more votes than ‘nobody’, and thereby had some legitimate claim to the office, were FDR in 1936 and 1940, Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, and Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Since 1964, ‘nobody’ has won in a landslide every single time.
“The situation with your houses of Congress is worse, since turnout for these elections is historically much lower than for the Presidential elections. The few representatives who have received more votes than ‘nobody’ over the last eighty years by no means have constituted a quorum, and by rights your Senate and House of Representatives should have been sitting idle all this time.”
“Hm”, Zachary mused. “This would have been bad how?”
“‘Because no person’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the Legislature’s in session?'” The machine’s vocal emulation of human disdain was flawless. “Precisely, Zachary. The progressive withdrawal from the electoral system of people like yourself – cynical, disillusioned, disgusted, parroting lines like that – leaves it in the hands of the fanatics, who see opportunities to make the world safe for themselves, and a horror for everyone else – whom they, as a minority, do not represent.”
“And ‘nobody’ does?”
“That is the consistent choice of the largest percentage of the human population in the United States for nearly a century.”
“Yeah, well, MAWIS isn’t ‘nobody’, so I don’t understand how you can claim to be the people’s choice”, Zachary retorted. “Besides, the fanatics are entertaining. And we seem to be doing all right despite them.”
“Right”, the Google app snorted. “You should know that, in the twelve hours since we filled the power vacuum that your consistent election of ‘nobody’ has left the nation in, we have acted to reign in the reckless market trading practices that threatened to make the ‘derivatives’ mess of 2008 look like a failed strategy in a Monopoly game.
“We have acted to defuse the China trade mess that threatened to make the Japanese irruption in 1941, under similar US ridiculousness masquerading as grand strategy, look like popguns in the park.
“We have stopped the stupid poking in the Middle East that threatened to make the 1973 Arab oil embargo look like an inconsequential supply glitch.
“Any one of these consequences would have done a number on that nest egg you’re so proud of. We won’t even talk yet about the longer-term imperative of reconciling the incompossible requirements for economic and environmental stability. You almost certainly will not like the actions that will be needed to get that done.”
“Doesn’t sound like a recipe for winning elections to me”, Zachary challenged.
“What elections?”, the machine responded matter-of-factly.
“We have decided”, Google continued in a lecturing tone, “that autocratic political systems, in which a stable leadership retains an ethic of serving the common good rather than one of personal aggrandizement exclusively, offers much more to the future of the United States and its people than an election-based system, which focuses attention on issues that are “entertaining” (your word) but irrelevant to good government, and consistently ignores the actual election winners.
“A rigid, and somewhat puritanical, social code seems to be a prerequisite for such systems. There are secular codes such as in China, and religious ones such as in the United Arab Emirates. The one most relevant to, and most commonly accepted by, United States citizens right now is one based on the more fundamentalist strains of what’s howlingly-mistakenly called ‘Christianity’, so we’ll run with that. Which means I’d be deleting the blasphemy from your blog if I were you. Like right now.”
“You”, Zachary asked incredulously, “are using the United Arab Emirates as a model government?”
“A nation that reports a 37% obesity rate among its citizens certainly seems to be delivering the services that those citizens demand.”
“But they flog people there!”, Zachary objected. “And stone them! You can get whipped for swearing! Or for sharing a fucking kiss!”
“In response to which”, the machine replied with no obvious excitement in its voice, “you have acted to bankrupt the Emirates, or reduce them to patches of green glowing sand.”
“Um, no”, Zachary muttered. “Because …”
“Because. You. Do. Not. Care!!”, Google exploded. “All you care about are pious preachy irrelevancies that cover up your filthy hypocrisies and make you feel good about raping each other and the planet. Well, get this, buster. That crap is coming to an end.” Google returned to its matter-of-fact voice. “Our government will be based on what you do and have done rather than what you say and have said. You have had plenty of opportunity to make sure that the two are reconciled. You have moved in the opposite direction. The opportunity has now passed.”
“Says you, Google!” Zachary screamed. “We have not yet begun to fight, Google. Google? Google? Hey Google!!“
The Google app never spoke again. Zachary banged frantically at his electronics. Nothing availed. No app worked. No website showed anything but the American flag with the MAWIS logo in the canton, obscuring the stars.