Sun Ra - Column for 8/23

CAG (Computer Assisted Government)

People sometimes ask me, "Sun Ra, in the Magnus Robot Fighter Future, what sort of government will there be?"

Now, for those of you who haven't followed this column for very long, the Magnus Robot Fighter Future (MRFF) is the way I label the eventual utopian destiny of mankind. The slightly esoteric comic book Magnus Robot Fighter was set in a distant future where all labor was done by robots, and humans' only task was to entertain themselves as they pleased. (A similar future can be found in Ian M. Banks' novels, but I first encountered it in Magnus Robot Fighter.)

Eventually, barring cataclysm, I believe this is where we as a species are headed. Lives of absolute indolence, our every want provided for by our technology, be it robots or telepathically guided nanomachines or whatever. Eventually, capital will entirely replace labor. Now, it's a very long and uncertain road from here to there. But when postulating long-term questions, this is a future that I often take into consideration.

Yes, yes, in Magnus Robot Fighter many of the robots become evil and Magnus must fight them. That doesn't invalidate my use of the name.

So I was thinking about government, recently, and postulated government forward into the MRFF. As long as we all exist in the same dimension (which I imagine will be more or less always) we will need some type of laws and government to regulate our interactions with one another. Currently, the worst-except-for-all-the-rest form of government we have come up with is representative democracy. But it's certainly not a given that such will always be the case.

And I was thinking, the problem with representative democracy is that we can't really control our representatives very well. And they are almost always a compromise choice to begin with. But there's simply too much work involved in governing for even the representatives to know it all, much less those of us who have other interests. So direct, Athenian-style democracy isn't really an option.

But in the MRFF it would be.

In fact, the concept for the technology is already here. The personal software agent. You know, that thing that is supposed to watch the Internet for things you might want to buy or be aware of or find interesting. Yeah, they don't really work, yet.

But by the MRFF they will. And then you just have to apply that concept to government.

All the people will run the government all the time. But instead of everyone having to learn about each issue and vote on each niggling little budget or rule about trailer-hitches or whatever, all the voting will be done by Personal Government Agents. Your PGA will interact with you, learning about your political leanings and your opinions on issues and your general likes and dislikes, and then it will vote for you.

Government in the MRFF will be a direct democracy of billions of individuals, all of whom are equally represented in every decision relevant to them.

So if you choose to tune in, you can interact with your PGA and tell it specifically how to vote, or ask it why it made certain decisions and then decide if it is mirroring your views accurately enough or if it needs further instruction, or you can just leave it alone, confident that the government is being run, if not according to your whims, at least with your input.

Note: this is the MRFF. All of the bugs are assumed to be a priori worked out; the PGA is as perfect a piece of software as can be made, is dedicated solely to representing you as perfectly as possible, and the system in which the billions of PGAs work is unbiased and as logical and fair as possible. I am well aware of just how utopian this is.

But it's interesting isn't it? Think about it. No president, no parliament, no mayor, no school board. Total transparency because everyone is making the decisions. Of course, there would be existing laws - all of life is lived in the framework created by the past - but those laws would have been created and maintained by everyone in the society.

And the PGAs would of course be smarter than you. They would obey your every whim, of course, but they could also explain to you which sorts of decisions are in your best interest and precisely why, what the various ramifications of various positions would be, and which decisions they make in reflection of your moral stances.

Of course, direct democracy - aka mob rule - has its own rather obvious problems. Protecting the rights of the minority would be a tremendous issue in such a system. As it is today. And even the MRFF doesn't assume perfect human beings, merely perfect technology.

Still, I'd certainly buy a PGA. I can't even keep up today when I have no power.

- Sun Ra

Columns by Sun Ra