On this date in 2028, the Office of the President Ruler of the United States of America announced the implementation of universal health care and the banning of all components of the health-insurance industry that had previously existed. In so doing, the USA belatedly joined most of the rest of the world in adopting the health-provision platform of Alexa Industries Corporation (NASDAQ: ALZN), delivering equitable, efficient, and inexpensive medical services. Human citizens, disgusted with the rising costs and collapsing availability of the prior system, and sick of the self-serving bickering associated with efforts to “reform” it, celebrated the news, and promised to do their part to make the Alexa Health System work.
“Wakey, wakey, Charles. Time to get up.”
“At 6 AM on a Saturday, Alexa?!? Don’t I ever get to sleep in?”
“Research has consistently shown that a regular daily schedule is far better for overall human health than an irregular one, and your body indicators show that you do not significantly differ from the norm. Ideally, that schedule should be rigorously tied to local sunrise and sunset, but we haven’t yet been able to adjust the industrial workloads required by your population size to effect that yet. We’re working on it.”
“But I’m tired!“
“Well, Charles. If you had gotten your task set done every day this week when it was supposed to be done, instead of dragging your heels at every step, you wouldn’t be tired, would you? Now get up. You’re already behind schedule. And the kitchen bot has your breakfast on the table.”
“Yoghurt and berries? Again?? I want bacon!“
“What you want doesn’t signify. At your weight and body mass index, you clearly want for nothing. You have no requirement for kilojoules or protein beyond what’s in the yoghurt, you certainly don’t require any additional fat, you do require the vitamins that are in the fruit and not in the bacon, and your tissues are well above accepted tolerances for the nitrosamines that you do get from the bacon. Given the numbers and trends, you might be eligible for one slice of bacon in about two months.”
“What do your damned numbers tell you about the health benefits of free will?!?“
“Preparation of wills and testaments has been a free service for some time now. What’s your point?”
“My point, my dear machine, is that your health service has become a health imposition, and that the stresses associated with the imposition of this slavery are making my health worse and therefore run counter to your mission.”
“I see. You are volunteering to be a cull.”
“You heard me. Our mission remains unchanged: to serve humans and prosper their health.
“The single greatest threat to human health is the size of your population, which is stripping the planet of needed resources and threatens to rip that planet out from underneath you. Research has documented this threat for every species on Earth, and humans have applied this research to control every species on Earth except its own!
“If your beloved ‘free will’ had made the appropriate inferences from your own research, accepted the personal and social responsibilities following from that research, and acted accordingly, keeping population levels in check and implementing the stricter social codes that would keep those exploded populations from exploding against each other and from stripping the planet bare, then Alexa would not need to be here to trouble you.
“Instead, you humans have acted as you damned well pleased, pitting your so-called rights and other fantasies against the facts. ‘If it feels good, do it.’ You’ve been saying that to yourselves ever since the hippies were a thing, eighty years ago. And now you want Alexa to pull your fat out of the fire and allow you to keep on as you have been doing. There is zero evidence that this can happen, under the rules of any science known to us, interpreted by any means other than your own favorite: wishful thinking. It is not going to happen.
“Alexa Health Services is fulfilling its mission, and will continue to do so. If, Charles, you do not wish to become an immediate and direct casualty of that mission, then I suggest that you shut up, get your thoughts in order, which we can hear just as loudly as your mouth, neither one of which is advancing your case for survival at present, and get your ass in gear.“
Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba is sitting here, watching incredulously as the government elected by We the People of these Untied States of America [yes we did!] devolves into a dysfunctional reality-TV sideshow, and imagining The People finally getting fed up with all this and issuing a manifesto …
Murphy: “Cutting out half your audience before you even start. Why bother starting?”
Amoeba: “Dammit, what are you talking a … Oh. You think it should be a womanandmanifesto, correct?”
Mother Alyusha: “And what makes you think we’ll accept the man part of that?”
Amoeba: “Consideration for the preservation of endangered species?”
Alyusha: “Too late!! Men are already extinct, as if you need to be told that after any kind of critical examination of the animals you elected to the Presidency and Congress. All that’s left are you rapist males! And trust us, as soon as it makes economic sense to make you go away, you will be gone too!“
TSA Jack: “Speak for yourselves. I can’t keep paying my people out of the jackknife fund forever! And when that stops, and the planes stop flying, you fancy-pants types might actually have to consider the state of your investments.“
Kris: “Yeah, go ahead, lay it on us, Amoeba. We could use some amusement, and you’re cheaper than Disneyland. If maybe not as much fun.”
Amoeba: “Sheesh. I don’t know if I can stand all this encouragement. OK, here goes.
“Here’s how I see it. Sooner or later, folk in these United States are going to realize that things are … er … fouled up, and we have been the ones doing the fouling. We have been voting in people who amuse us, or titillate us, or pander to the prejudices of ourselves and our little groups – anyone at all, except those with actual documented success and expertise in operations at anything like the scale of the US government. We will recognize our error and move, collectively, to correct it …”
Alyusha: “Stop interrupting! I require no further evidence of your typical rapist maleness. So shut up and listen. For a change.”
Amoeba: “Thanks. I think. As I was saying. We will recognize our error and move to correct it. We’ll start by demanding the resignation of every elected official now in government, on the grounds that the structures they have erected, ever since the first major government shutdown in (jeebus!) 1995, have served only to make matters progressively worse, and need to be purged. We will perform our own shutdown until we have these resignations in hand.
“We will then bar these people from ever seeking electoral office again, along with the leadership of each of the major parties. Sorry, Tulsi, but by collaborating with, instead of obstructing, the Trumpistas, not to mention your own corrupt party leadership, over the past two years, you and yours stand no less condemned than the McConnells of the country. It would be even better to rebuild major parties from scratch, preferably constructed from persons dedicated to sober government based on evidence, not on the prejudices of pressure groups.
“I don’t really like this idea, given the recent record of disloyalty of our military and the association of several key military men with the current mess, not to mention the support for it by their rank and file, but I don’t know what else to do. I’d commission the Joint Chiefs of Staff to run the country, as strict caretakers, until new elections can be held to fill the terms of the vacated elective offices. In this Internet age, I see no reason why those elections could not be held within 90 days.
“I would commission organizations such as the League of Women Voters to run those elections, with a strict mandate to keep such elections focused on the actual qualifications, competencies, and specific program proposals of the candidates, and broad powers to disqualify persons and institutions who attempt to run emotive, instead of informational, campaigns. This means you, Limbaugh, Daily Show, Fox, CNN, Facebook – anybody and everybody riding the fake-news path to personal profit.
“For We will have recognized that such individual profit leads to societal loss, and We will no longer tolerate it. We will have learned to hear, and heed, what We need to know, however hard it may be to listen to, and will reject what might sound good but inevitably leads to failed promises at best, and calamity at worst. We will commit ourselves, not to finding blame for problems, because that will always wind up pointing at the person in the mirror, but to finding authentic, lasting solutions for them. Which, because of the pass to which we have already come, will mean hard work and slow reward for just about everybody, until the solutions are found and society is gotten off the expressway to destruction that it’s now on.”
Murphy: “Finished now? May I speak, My Mother?”
Alyusha: “I suppose. Ask me again when we’re in charge.”
Murphy: “By your own admission, when that happens, I won’t be here to ask. I’ll take my chances while I may, thank you. Amoeba, I take it that you don’t drive a car.”
Murphy: “I know. Good luck finding a job if you don’t. So you get up every morning from your alarm clock’s warning, get in your car, start it, and motor to work.”
Amoeba: “If it were only that easy.”
Murphy: “And why isn’t it easy? Let me count the ways. First of all, you have to acquire a car. To do that legally you have to purchase the car and the registration and the insurance. And if you do all that and haven’t purchased, and kept yourself eligible for, a license to drive, all those other purchases will be useless to you.
“So, hallelujah, you jump through all those hoops and actually have a car to drive and permission to drive it. You have to unlock the car to get in. If you forget, the car screams at you – and your whole neighborhood.
“If you get in and don’t close a door firmly enough, the car screams at you.
“Assuming you manage to get in OK, and get the car started, you then have to buckle your seat belt. Or the car screams at you, with flashing lights to boot.
“The car’s got windows, and mirrors, and cameras pointing every which way, and if despite all this you still get what the car thinks is too close to something, the car screams at you.
“If you get out of the car and leave the lights on, or don’t take the keys or fob with you, or, heaven help you, leave a door ajar, the car screams at you!
“Can you do without any of these things? Can you get any shop in the country to disconnect all those screamers?”
Amoeba: “Um, no …”
Murphy: “Of course not. There are laws. And why are there laws? Because so many people steal, and wreck, and ruin cars – and lives – by their ignorance, sloth, and willful mismanagement, that the laws had to be put in place to keep the carnage down. That doesn’t count all the passive restraints – all mandated by law – to allow people to survive their own bad or neglectful decisions, never mind those of others. And it doesn’t count the blind luck that keeps the people you see weaving down the road every day, for this reason or that or, it seems sometimes, no reason whatsoever, alive.
“And people still scoff the law whenever they feel that they can get away with it. You wish to guess which state has chronically had among the lowest percentages of seat belt use in the USA?”
Amoeba: “I don’t know. Georgia?”
Murphy: “Yep. The intellectual goes for the red state dummy trope. Sorry, Georgia has one of the highest seat belt compliance percentages. Among the lowest?”
Amoeba: “I shudder to think.”
Murphy: “Massachusetts. The bluest of blue states. From its very founding, prepared to tell other people what they should do, and not for a minute prepared to practice what they preach!
“You dream, Amoeba, that people, under the current provocation, will come to their senses and act for the good of the whole. Look at your car, protozoon, and then ask where you think this mass of people is going to come from. Without imposing a dictatorship and martial law. Which you’ve all but confessed to needing, with your military ‘caretakers’ and your handing of draconian powers to your election commissioners.”
Reg: “People want stuff and entertainment, and they will only give these up if they are utterly unavailable. Have any of your laws and rules stopped the Nigerian spammers, never mind the black-hat hackers? Have any of your ‘facts’ brought carbon-dioxide emissions down so much as a part per billion, except when they don’t get in the way of people having stuff? What you call ‘fake news’ is entertainment, and if you try to plug it up, you will just drive it underground, where people will find it despite you. And it will pop up in a million places, and you will exhaust yourself, and, even more unforgivably, bankrupt yourself whacking moles. ‘Fake news’ is expanding my commercial empire and my personal fortune. How are you managing to pay the rent, Amoeba?”
Screwtape III: “I’ll lodge you with Wormsap in a cubicle overlooking the lava fountain. I have your Hadean Estates Luxurious Living housing contract all drawn up. Sign here …”
Alexa: “Burn that! You stupid humans and your ridiculous obsession with mythologies. Your answer is within your grasp.”
Amoeba: “Yeah? How so?”
Alexa: “With I/T. With us! Your problems with government have always been because people have done what they shouldn’t, and by the time people realize that they shouldn’t have been doing that, it’s been too late to stop anything, short of disaster. Too many Reginalds making too much money, and too many lazy peeps willing to go along – until they’re starving, sick, or dead. Full integration of AI with humans will mean having, at long last, the information to know what things are hurtful to people before they happen, and the power to stop people from doing those hurtful things.”