Author: David K Scholes

Federal Houses of Parliament
Early 2096

“Let’s run over those policy proposals again,” said the dominant AI “we have to get the Federal budget into surplus.”

It was only referring to the human part of the budget of course. Anything AI was inviolate.

I looked around the levels of concentric circles of the Expenditure Review Committee very conscious I was the only human present. Holographically or otherwise. As the insignificant Assistant Minister for Elderly Humans, I was at the lowest point in the forum.

Usually far too junior to be among such exalted company but no other human Minister was available. Our good old Australian Constitution still required a human Minister to be present at such meetings. Though the AI’s were trying to change this.

Our token human Prime Minister was absent on extended sick leave under suspicious circumstances. With him absent the dominant AI the Deputy Leader of the Coalition was in control – as it would have been anyway.

Our poor old human PM must have been overwhelmed by all his senior Ministers being AI’s and only a sprinkling of junior Ministers being human.

“Raise the human retirement age from 80 to 85!” exclaimed the AI Minister for Social Security. A savings option popular with those present.
“The actuarial expectation of life has dropped once again” I replied quoting actuarial figures. “So that many working humans will die before they can retire!”

I spoke up because no one else would. The AI Ministers would not object to humans working until they dropped. If it saved money.

“Reduce foreign aid to zero,” offered the AI Foreign Affairs Minister.
“It already is,” I replied in disbelief.
“Start asking for some of our foreign aid $’s back,” it responded.

Even back when human Ministers were predominant there was an obsession with budget surpluses. At the expense of the elderly, unemployed, and disabled. Now under AI dominance, this had risen to a whole new level. .

“Reduce AI budget growth from 20% to 5%,” I offered in a suicidal moment. In a nano-second, I was shouted down and immediately my holograph faded and I lost the ability to communicate with the forum though I could still hear proceedings. The threat was clear.

The outrageous ideas kept coming:

“Raise the minimum level of disablement for human disability benefits.”
“Stop indexation of human unemployment benefits.”

Even at their silliest Australian human parliaments never raised such options. Did they?

I stayed silent, though I was able to abstain from voting on any of the ridiculous proposals without further interruption to my holographic image and I saw could communicate with the forum again.

Then an opportunity came. A vote on the AI capital budget for 2096/2097 – even I, a mere human, could see through the falseness in their 3D spreadsheets.

The vote had to be carried unanimously. The AI’s were certain I would acquiesce and I saw that the holographic link would allow me to maintain contact and register my vote.

I voted against it.

A few days later

“A shame about that human junior Minister – the one for the inconsequential Elderly Humans portfolio,” said AI7978834 who was sometimes known as the Federal Treasurer.
“Yes – a fatal heart attack, those bags of blood, skin, and bone are so fragile, so vulnerable, these things will happen to them,” replied AI 8456893 otherwise known as the Federal Minister for Health.

“It’ll be best when none of them are left,” offered the dominant AI.
“Human Ministers or humans more generally?” echoed a chorus of slightly mechanical voices.

“Both,” came the unmistakeably cold reply.