David Cook: The Walking David and the Robotic President

David Cook: The Walking David and the Robotic President

November 6th, 2012 by David Cook in Opinion Columns

David Cook

Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse/Times Free Press.

What if you could cast your vote today for a presidential candidate whose memory was proven and guaranteed to be 20 times sharper than yours or mine?

Who was smooth as glass in making decisions during a crisis?

A candidate whose encyclopedic mind sorted and sifted facts, data and figures like a computer, easily allowing him or her to formulate and propose the best, clearest and most promising solutions?

Alas, such a candidate does not exist.

Yet.

"In a future presidential election, would you vote for a candidate who had neural implants that helped optimize his or her alertness and functionality during a crisis?" writes David Ewing Duncan in The New York Times last Saturday.

Sounds freaky, right? But wouldn't it be unethical and immoral not to vote for such qualities - even if they are artificial - in the person to occupy the most important seat of power in the world?

"Would you vote for a commander-in-chief who wasn't equipped with such a device?" Duncan asks.

It's blurring, fellow citizens, this line between what's human and what is not. Thanks to micro-computers and brain implants, the deaf are hearing, the blind are seeing and the paralyzed are moving. Or, at least, the technology is advancing that will allow them to, says Duncan.

The brave new world of the 21st century is coming and will best be characterized by the growing influence of artificial intelligence in our daily lives. (Look no farther than the nearest "smart" phone).

Driver-less, autonomous cars have been legalized in three states. Drones are being used in military and domestic law enforcement operations.

Artificial beings (the term "robots" is so 20th century) that function as housekeepers, live-in-aids for the elderly, playmates for autistic children, soldiers in battlefields and even romantic companions will be part of the near future, reports National Geographic.

"In five or 10 years robots will routinely be functioning in human environments," said Carnegie Mellon professor Reid Simmons in the August 2011 issue.

So let's pretend that, in eight years, a presidential candidate emerges who daily takes a pill that drastically improves his memory and alertness. Another candidate's brain functions at 10 times that of her opponents, thanks to a surgically installed implant.

Would it be morally appropriate to vote for such an altered candidate?

If such a president would aid our nation, wouldn't it be immoral not to?

Each Tuesday, this online-only column takes its inspiration from three sources: the zombie fiction of the hit AMC show "The Walking Dead," the search for ethics and meaning in our lives, and pop culture.

While filmmaker Joss Whedon ("The Avengers") thinks voting for Romney will hasten the zombie apocalypse (watch his short film here), the notion of whether a president should possess augmented intelligence is startling.

In the preface to the 1992 edition of "Man's Search for Meaning" (which is required reading for all the writers of "The Walking Dead"), Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl admits a sadness over the fact his book has sold millions of copies.

"I do not at all see in the bestseller status of my book an achievement and accomplishment on my part but rather an expression of the misery of our time," he wrote.

If millions of people are buying a book searching for the meaning of life, then it is a poor reflection on the emptiness of our culture.

The same seems true again in 2012, when we've nearly given up on envisioning a candidate that possesses true wisdom, kindness and virtue. It is so tragic that such a national figure seems more artificial than a robot in the White House.

Contact David Cook at dcook@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.