Monday, May 30, 2011

I Robot 2

May 29th, 2011
09:00 AM ET

Letters to the President: #860 'I, Robot'

Will scenes like this -- where the president actually signs a bill -- someday seem quaint?

Reporter's Note: I don’t know if it is legal for robots to sign bills into law. I do know that I would never let one sign my daily letter to the president.

Dear Mr. President,

I’ve been thinking more about this business of you signing a bill into law by using an “autopen” in the White House, since you were overseas at the moment.

Related: Obama approves extension of expiring Patriot Act provisions

I understand the concerns of those who suggest you are opening the door for some sneaky dealings in the future like, oh say, your vice president hacks into the system and “autopens” you into changing the name of Delaware to Bidenlandia. Or Secretary Clinton suddenly starts dealing with all of her parking tickets by presenting excuse notes from the Oval Office.

But I don’t think such things are likely.

Here is my worry: You are apparently the first president ever to let a machine sign a law. You opened the door for the takeover. Come on, we’ve known this was coming for years. I can’t count the number of science fiction movies I’ve seen, and books I’ve read, in which the robots are just waiting for a little slip like this one.

I can hear them now. “Ha ha! Finally we have the president’s signature in our grasp, and he’s admitted he doesn’t even need to be in the country for us to use it! Quick, write up some legislation sending half the federal budget to the electric company, then plug me in, and let’s see what we can do about making the humans ‘boot up’ a few times! Ha ha ha!”

Frankly it would not surprise me if the robots engineered the whole thing - getting you overseas, pushing the legislation back home. Oh yeah, you’re starting to wonder now, aren’t you? Do you know if any humans actually even work in your travel office? That’s something worth checking out, don’t you think?

Anyway, I don’t think I would leave this letter lying around where the security cameras can see it, if you know what I mean. You don’t want them to know that you are on to them. And for that matter you might not want to leave your checkbook on the desk either.

Hope the rest of your weekend is good. And that’s me saying that. Not just my computer.


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