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The Globe and Mail

I, Robo-Call: What's worse than electoral fraud? A robot uprising

Kathryn Borel

David Stevenson for The Globe and Mail

As a patriotic civilian who believes in democracy and freedom, the basic human right to take part in the electoral process and all that good junk, I have been in a state of perpetual horror since this story of the robo-calls came out.

If the allegations of Conservative automated phone fraud prove true, they will confirm a dreadful hunch I've been living with for quite some time – that robots tend to veer a wee to the right.

When robots were first invented, the doctor or scientist or whatever he was (mechanic?) proudly boasted to the waiting press gallery that he had "invented a machine to do man's work. And yes, it is apolitical!" Everyone clapped and drank champagne, and told one another "good show," because it was the 1920s.

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For years, the robots kept up their end of the bargain. Their little electromechanical motors whirred along in a spirit of collaboration, rather than political ideology. They could long to have human emotions all they wanted, just so long as they didn't have an opinion about taxes.

Have I misunderstood them? I've read Isaac Asimov – I mean, I haven't read any of his actual books, but I know about his Three Laws of Robotics via Will Smith and the scary, Anderson Cooper-look-alike androids from the movie of I, Robot. Was there an outtake I missed, one that explained some fourth secret mystery law, having to do with party discipline?

It would explain some of the weird things I've noticed around the house lately – not the House, but my house. My toaster, for example. A browned imprint of John Diefenbaker's face showed up on my sourdough. And then Ayn Rand appeared on a scone. Then it was Preston Manning on a bagel (his mouth was the hole, so it looked, familiarly, like he was yelling at me).

I didn't want to be like the types who see Jesus in their baked goods, so I just spread peanut butter on their heads and got on with my day. But on Thursday, when the bread rose silently from its toaster slot with the word SUPERJAILS blazed into it,

I became sure that it was all no accident.

Meanwhile, I started catching my Roomba depositing anti-abortion literature around the house. I chalked it up to a factory mistake, like that time when those talking Barbies were programmed with GI Joe catchphrases. So I ordered a second Roomba from the Internet to clean up the pamphlets that the first Roomba had sullied the house with. Now, all they do is sit around and try to debunk global warming.

It's getting out of control. My phone is taking sides. I can't type the word "liberal" into a text message without it being autocorrected to "libtard." The GPS in my car keeps reminding me that evolution is "just a theory" when all I want to know is how to get to the nearest McDonald's. Even as I type this searing exposé, my computer is trying to distract me with photo essays of cute, baby barnyard animals and, paradoxically, intriguing Japanese pornography.

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I miss liberal robots, like Data from Star Trek. He played the violin and had a cat. What a lovable wimp! Not to mention everyone's favourite communist, R2D2. And the Smurfs – they were robots, right?

There's one big question here: Should we be making active attempts to restore balance within the realm of the artificially intelligent? Or should we just wait for the pendulum to swing back, as it has done for time immemorial? After all, former California Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who famously played a robot policeman, was eventually replaced by Jerry Brown, a late-model Democrat.

Or, alternately, we might want to relax and let the Conservatives come to ideological terms with what they've done.

There is no better example of hard science than a robot, and there is no powerful collective that is more anti-science than the Conservatives. It's quite possible that eventually the party will grow so disgusted with its actions that, as all good robots traditionally do, it will simply auto-destruct.

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