When discussing a topic, it’s convenient to have “shorthand” terms for complicated concepts: e.g. “absolute monarchy” or “representative democracy.”
Somehow, English completely lacks a term for describing the upcoming governments of the future—there is NO quick way to describe “a dictatorship, but the (human) dictator rules over the citizenry using an army of robots.”
This will be a problem for political discussion, since robot-centric forms of government are likely to become increasingly popular (see Figure 1).
Fig. 1: Conceptually, the left and right sides of this figure depict the same government organization. But with the “roboticized” version on the right, the ruler can rely on 100% loyal (and totally amoral) robots instead of human subordinates.
For the sake of categorization, let’s abstract the concept of “government” down to a three-level pyramid, consisting of:
- Top: Decision-makers on top
- Middle: Administrators (military officials, provincial governors, the head of the country’s intelligence network, etc.)
- Bottom: The economically-productive citizenry (99%+ of the population). This includes everyone who runs the shops, serves in the military, builds the roads, grows crops, etc.
If we consider each level as being either humans or robots, we have eight (= 2 × 2 × 2) possibilities.
Assigning a term to each type of government:
Each of the three emojis below indicates, in order [LEADERSHIP] / [ADMINISTRATION] / [CITIZENRY]. So an all-human society would look like this: “🤴😐😐.”
GOVERNMENT TYPE 1: 🤴😐😐 (100% human society)
No new term is needed for a 100%-human system, which includes all governments that have existed up through 2020 A.D. This can be an autocracy, democracy, oligarchy, or any other form of government (see Figure 2, right side).
Fig. 2: The only difference between the situations here is that the top-level decision-maker on the left is a computer. However, humans could at least theoretically still override the computer’s decisions, since it doesn’t actually exercise power except by issuing commands to its (human) subordinates.
GOVERNMENT TYPE 2: 🤴😐🤖 (human leader, human lieutenants, robot workers)
This is just a heavily-automated society where most citizens don’t need to have jobs. This might be the most ideal of the partially-roboticized governments. It’s also very common in science fiction! Note: the “robot workers” emoji above indicates that robots do all the day-to-day labor, but there may still be millions of human citizens—they just aren’t strictly required for the country to function.
GOVERNMENT TYPE 3: 🤴🤖😐 (“roboticized governance”—e.g. “roboticized democracy“ or “roboticized dictatorship”—human leader, robot lieutenants, human citizens)
This may be the most likely form of partially-robotic government to arise, as it would occur naturally if the top officials in a government replaced their subordinates with 100% loyal machines. This system could either be a paradise of amazing administration or a nightmarish hell-state.
GOVERNMENT TYPE 4: 🤴🤖🤖 (“computational minarchy”: human leader, robot lieutenants, robot workers)
Here, a small group of humans rule over a totally automated society. Unlike in Type 3 (above), humans would have no value as workers in a Type 4 government, so there is a substantial danger of an unstable human ruler deciding to exterminate all citizenry (which would lead to the scenario in Figure 3). If you think this such a decision is impossible for a human to make, I suggest that you read at least one history book.
Fig. 3: If the only economically-productive workers in a society are robots, it’s possible that the human leadership will decide to exterminate all its citizens. This is covered surprisingly rarely in science fiction—usually the top-level human-exterminating decision maker is also a computer (e.g. Skynet).
GOVERNMENT TYPE 5: 🤖😐😐 (“mono-computocracy of type 5”: robot leader, human lieutenants, human citizens)
In this scenario, the top-level decision maker is a computer, but everything else about the country is run by humans. The Fallout series has several governments set up like this, where a giant retro 1950s computer is the leader but everyone else is a human. Since the top-level robot / computer has essentially no direct physical power in this situation, humans are still responsible for their own destiny in this sort of society.
GOVERNMENT TYPE 6: 🤖😐🤖 (“mono-computocracy of type 6” robot leader, human lieutenants, robot workers)
Functionally identical to the type 5 mono-computocracy, except with a higher level of automation.
GOVERNMENT TYPE 7: 🤖🤖😐 (“robotocracy”: robot leader, robot lieutenants, human citizens)
This might be the least likely scenario of all: it requires robots to be advanced enough to run all of society, yet still delegate day-to-day operation of civilization to human citizens.
Fig. 4: In science fiction, it’s common for sophisticated robots to run all of society, yet still depend on humans for all the mundane work required for society to actually function.
GOVERNMENT TYPE 8: 🤖🤖🤖 (“post-human computocracy”: 100% robot society)
This could be either an “Ian Banks Culture”-style utopia (where computers do everything, but are benevolent) or a “Matrix” / Skynet / Terminator situation in which humans are driven to near-extinction. A totally automated society might barely have a “government” at all (Figure 5), if it’s just a computer coordinating the work of a legion of robots.
Fig. 5: If a computer runs all of society, it might have no need for an “administration” layer of government at all.
Now that we have the term “roboticized autocracy,” we are properly prepared to discuss potential dystopian governments of the 22nd century!
PROS: Now English has some terms to refer to robot-assisted governments of the future!
CONS: The terms are kind of long and unwieldy (e.g. “mono-computocracy of type 6”), so really we haven’t improved things at all. Oops!