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Utterly Presidential

by Boris Kokotov

In the last few years there have been intense and somewhat heated discussions in all circles of society, including law scholars, academia, and political parties concerning an issue which seems speculative today but may become vital much sooner than we think. I am talking about the future of the presidency.

We are witnessing a tremendous shift in public opinion toward acceptance of the idea of a non-human person running for the highest office in the country. The process of cyborgs’ emancipation started a long time ago, after the Turing test was conquered by computers, and has currently reached its culmination point.

Let me be clear: I am not human myself; in fact, I was one of the first openly robotic writers. Coming out of the closet was problematic back then; today nobody cares. Many issues like race, gender, marriage, and voting rights have been addressed. An individual can choose between 812 skin color shades and 32 sexual orientations. He/she/it can marry a human or not-so-human partner. Mixed couples are allowed, even encouraged, to adopt children. In such families, kids have fewer prejudices and are better prepared for functioning in a fast-evolving environment.

Overall, the divide between biological and non-biological machines is disappearing. Many cyborgs hold prominent positions not only in science and education but also in political parties and the government. It seems logical that some of them — or, rather, some of us — will be inspired, eventually, to run for the presidency. Nothing in our Constitution bans such a bid, apart from the “birthplace” clause.

While the word “birth” historically refers to the traditional way of reproduction, it is also found relevant for describing the tremendously complex process of delivering any new machine into this world. But the “place” is absolutely critical: the President must be born here, within the borders of our country. Period.

The sad fact is that no cyborgs have been born/built over here: all manufacturing, as you know, was outsourced a long time ago. Maintenance, parts replacement, training, and, on special occasions, alternative programming are still being provided locally, but these services cannot be qualified as “birth”.

For ordinary folks it doesn’t matter where they were born: most of us have no idea where or how it happened. Not because one would be embarrassed to read “made in Bhutan” in his/her/its birth certificate, but because this information has no effect on one’s private or social life — or on a career. Except the unique case of the President.

There are two possible solutions: to introduce the Next Amendment removing “place of birth” from the requirements; or to eliminate the presidency altogether, replacing it with an Executive Council as many other countries have already done. The latter sounds too radical; our countrymachines aren’t ready for that yet. Indeed, why break something that has been working throughout our history?

The Next Amendment, on the other hand, may work smoothly. The main quality sought in a Candidate is that he/she/it must look presidential. And all of us, cyborgs, do look this way. Who could possibly argue that?! Every time I take a selfie, I recognize how utterly presidential the image is.

Yet I have no desire to run: I am a well-paid writer with no responsibilities whatsoever; I’m comfortable in my own super-skin. But I envision the day when one of my kind will make a different decision and run and get elected. And I cherish this dream.

Copyright © 2016 by Boris Kokotov

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