The Bots Are Back in Town
by FRANCIS GRECOROMACOLLUDEN, Alternate Reality News Service National Politics Writer
In a move that has caught everybody by surprise, the Ontario Human Rights Commission has made a preliminary ruling that the book How To Survive A Robot Uprising, written by Daniel H. Wilson, is hate literature. The Human Rights Commission reasoned that once the scientific community reached a consensus that robots had attained sentience, they should be afforded all the legal protections of the other sentient beings on the planet – us.
The robots, that is – not the scientific community.
“I feel vindicated,” said Clango, the robot who brought the case before the Commission. “I mean, the book called us ‘mad metallic fiends.’ Substitute any minority group – whether it be Jews, Muslims, liberals or duck hunters – for metallic and the hateful prejudice would be obvious. But, for some reason, nobody seems to have a problem with such sentiments when they are directed at robots.
“Not to mention that the whole book is about all of the various ways to kill robots. I would shiver just thinking about it if I had the ability to shiver…and I thought like hu-mans.”
Opposition to the ruling has quickly formed into two complimentary camps. “Robots cannot be covered by Human Rights Legislation,” argued Lawyer Eddie Pucespan. “I mean, do robots love? Do robots feel joy or sorrow or deep down deep confusion? Do robots make bad puns, then look all innocent when the people around them groan in disgust?”
“I do,” Clango responded.
“Well, that’s irrelevant,” Pucespan responded back. “Robots are just not human. I mean, it’s called the Ontario Human Rights Commission for a reason. So, by definition, the legislation doesn’t cover robots. Simple tort law.”
“If I may resort to simple retort law –” Clango tried to interrupt, but everybody around him groaned and he looked down at the ground and used his metal foot to kick up a little dirt.
The other camp opposed to the ruling argued that it is the thin wedge of a slippery slope that could ensnare a lot of art. “Why stop at How To Survive A Robot Uprising?” asked performance artist Monica McVetti. We were about to answer, when she went on: “It was a rhetorical question. The point is, if you label this book hate literature, you’d have to include everything from the portrayal of HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey to Megatron and his followers from The Transformers. Modern science fiction would be devastated.
“This ruling could be the thin wedge of a very slippery slope.”
Red Robot argued that these machines just wanted to live in peace with humans. “Did I say peace?” Red Robot asked. We assumed it was a rhetorical question, so we waited for it to continue. After a couple of minutes, Red Robot started shaking and angrily added: “Did I say peace? I MEANT PIECES! STUPID HU-MANS CANNOT EVEN ANSWER A SIMPLE QUESTION!”
Just then, Clango walked back into the room. “Sorry, Maura wanted me to – oh, don’t listen to Red Robot. He was dropped on his cranial sensors when he left the factory.”
Red Robot kept ominously repeating “KILL ALL HU-MANS! KILL ALL HU-MANS!” forcing Clango to add: “Yes, well, of course some robots do harbour ill will towards hu-mans. However, the robot community is highly diverse – I, myself, would rather make love than war on hu-mans – so, it isn’t really fair to lump all of us together. That’s just technological profiling, that is.”
The Alternate Reality News Service tried to contact Wilson to get a response to the ruling. At first, he agreed to answer our questions by email, but we pointed out that a robot could intercept and alter such communications before we received them. Wilson then suggested encrypted email, but we pointed out that we couldn’t know if it had been written by him or a robot trained to mimic his writing style who had hacked his email account. Wilson claimed to be amenable to a phone interview, but, of course, there are robots that can mimic people’s speech patterns, as well. Wilson said that he would be happy to meet an ARNS reporter to do a face to face interview, but he balked when we asked if we could take a DNA sample to ensure that he wasn’t, in fact, an android posing as the author of How To Survive A Robot Uprising.
Negotiations are ongoing, and we hope to have Wilson’s reply to the Human Rights Commission’s ruling very, very soon.