In late 2015, a group of non-governmental organizations collectively known as “The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots” held several protests outside of the United Nations complex in New York City before being granted an audience with a committee of representatives from several nations. The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is deadly serious. Rather than focusing on more far-fetched fears à la Skynet or the replicants from Blade Runner, the Campaign aims to stop the spread of the autonomous, computerized weapons that are the bedrock of the Drone Age. I humbly propose that they also recognize the growing threat of another type of killer robot, one so advanced that it has existed under an international spotlight nearly undetected for years. I like to call this type of robot the T-2016, but the public knows him better as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
The T-2016 was finally exposed on national television Saturday night. Under the intense probing of former prosecutor and Tony Soprano body-double Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.), the T-2016’s sweat glands went into overdrive, causing its hard drive to short-circuit. The result was an increasingly damp “Marco Rubio” repeating the same line about President Barack Obama (who, and I know this will be a surprise for many Republicans, is not running for a third term), almost word-for-word, four times in the span of several minutes. When Governor Christie explicitly called Rubio out on giving canned, memorized mini-speeches, the senator responded with another rendition of the same canned, memorized mini-speech. That is not something that humans do. That is not even something that lizard people do. That is the sure sign of a computer helplessly stuck in an infinite loop.
The next day, while working the Sunday morning talk shows, George Stephanopoulos asked the T-2016 to explain the incident from the prior night. In typical robot fashion, Rubio picked up on the keywords in Stephanopoulos’s question and merely repeated the same response from the debate. The damage done to the T-2016’s system Saturday night is clearly difficult to fix, because twelve hours later the mad scientists at the Republican National Committee had still failed to rewire Rubio’s learning processors. This is unfortunate for the Republican Party, because it means that they may have to revert to their prototype candidate, the TC-2016, otherwise known as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
After former Gov. Mitt Romney’s (R-Mass.) devastating loss in 2012 election, the RNC realized that instead of nominating the same lizard person in a different rich old white man’s skin, they needed to put forward a more palatable alternative, something more in the mold of the undefeated Barack Obama. Unfortunately for the RNC, that type of candidate doesn’t come in a Republican model.
Never ones to take no for an answer (except when it comes to common-sense gun safety legislation), the party turned to the best biomedical engineers and roboticists they could find and charged them with creating the perfect candidate for president. After months of tinkering, they produced their prototype, Ted Cruz.
On paper, he is an exquisite candidate. Minority? Check. Ivy League education? Check. Not yet fifty? Check. Excellent debater? Check. Long career in public service? Check. Ted Cruz was the Republican Research and Development Department’s best attempt at an Obama clone. He even comes with the same birther baggage that Obama did.
But it soon became apparent that something was off. Where Obama was cool, Ted Cruz was awkward. Where Obama was relatable, Cruz was alienating. Where Obama was endearing, Ted Cruz was hated by literally everyone who ever had the displeasure of meeting him. The RNC realized that they had grossly over-calculated the amount of professorial aloofness and disdain to put in an Obama clone. Disappointed by their results, the RNC stuck the TC-2016 in Texas, where they hoped and prayed he would be swallowed by the desert.
Of course, that was wishful thinking. Against all odds, the TC-2016 managed to win a seat in the U.S. Senate (much to the chagrin of the 99 other senators) and for years evaded allegations that he was a robot. Despite his insistence that he is of flesh and blood like the rest of us, the signs are clear. At the same debate Saturday night, it became apparent that the words “I screwed up” are simply not in Cruz’s programming. When confronted with concrete evidence that his campaign had used dirty tricks to steal Ben Carson voters, he managed to assign blame to everyone else but the dirty tricksters themselves (his campaign staffers). Even his “apology” to Dr. Carson felt cold, mechanical and utterly devoid of human feeling. If you are still not convinced of the existence of the TC-2016, I urge you to watch “Ted Cruz” try and give “his daughter” a hug. The fear in the child’s eyes is clear to see. She knows.
Once the RNC realized that their beta model was running amok, they redoubled their efforts to produce the next model. The upgrades are instantly noticeable. Instead of a face reminiscent of Grandpa Munster, the new T-2016 looks like the high school football star it claims to have been. Its smile, instead of making little babies cry, looks completely at ease on campaign posters and buttons. Gone are the pretentious Ivy League education and the over-emphasis on aggressive debate tactics. Replacing them is sunny south Florida and a type of eloquence that, while impressive, always seemed a little too rehearsed. Rubio, unlike Cruz, can actually claim to have friends in the Senate chamber, as evidenced by the numerous endorsements from his colleagues. All of the fundamentals were kept the same. Both are the sons of Cuban immigrants. Both are young and very conservative, and both have the same wonky intelligence as Obama.
But unlike Obama, they are not real people. They are robots. If we really want to get serious about stopping the killer robots, let’s start by stopping the ones currently clawing for the United States’ nuclear launch codes.
Jacob Rubashkin is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Jacobin appears alternate Mondays this semester.