When the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was upheld by the US Supreme Court earlier this year, it was touted by many as a victory in the effort to bring basic healthcare rights to all Americans. However, the ACA has done nothing to better the lives of a quiet army of hard-working and unsung individuals who are thanklessly driving the wheels of American industry. This tireless hoard, enslaved and forgotten by a world with an insatiable desire for manufactured goods, works 7-day weeks, holidays, and nights, sometimes without even so much as an employee health fair or basic maintenance check. These oppressed robot workers are making our clothes, snapping together our computers, and even relieving us from the repulsive task of providing companionship to the elderly.
However, in the lead-up to the Democratic National Convention this week, one special interest group is making sure that these forgotten voices are finally heard. This week outside the convention in Charlotte, NC, Ned Tchikonsty – Chairman of the Supreme Council for Robot Ethics and an avid Star Trek fan – plans a three day protest outside the Convention. Protest attendance has also been pledged by several other individuals from the 13 member Council, which was formed in an internet chat room in 1997 to discuss and defend the rights of robots.
The group even attempted to organize a debate between the Romney and Obama camps which would focus specifically on issues of robot welfare, but due to “numerous scheduling conflicts” both candidates expressed their sincere regrets that they would not be able to attend. Each candidate, however, did provide a brief platform statement on the topic.
From the Obama reply: “All of the robots in this great country should ask themselves, are they better off now than they were four years ago? If they like the fact that they’re back to work making cars in Detroit and doing plenty of surveillance drone runs in the Middle East, they should vote for four more years of change. We’re working to put robots back to work, and I promise that they can be confident in the hope that I will one day sit down and give some serious thought to the idea that they too should have some health care rights. I’m even imagining a world with robots and humans standing together as equals, side by side, in long lines as they wait to get free government-sponsored healthcare.
The Romney response was personal and earnest, straining to strike an authentic-sounding human chord: “I have a deep love for and commitment to robots. Why, some people even say that I might BE part robot!”
However, when it came to fleshing out the details of a plan to expand health and maintenance coverage to disenfranchised robotic workers, he was more vague.
“We should leave it to employers to decide how they would like to maintain their robot employees. I think that over the past several hundred years – since the time of the industrial revolution – history has proven that if big businessman and other job creators are left free to guide their own destiny without the interference of government, they invariably make superior moral and public welfare choices. That’s just human nature.”
Despite the valiant efforts of Tchikonsty and others, it appears that Robotic ethics may be an issue pushed to the background in favor of more weighty matters, such as Paul Ryan’s marathon time from 20 years ago.
“Until robots are granted voting rights, it will be hard to get candidates to listen. That’s why robot suffrage is next on the Supreme Council’s list of issues to tackle,” says Ned. Those interested in joining their cause may find Ned and his small cadre most weekend nights on the Yahoo chat page, Robots and Ethics.
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