A Utopian SF short story
The President of the United States was late. The Broadcasted Meeting of the United Nations already started. However, the years of training in several martial arts proved to be useful again, as a barrier not to become nervous. A long, deep breath, taken before to go out of the limousine. The President’s facial muscles appeared perfectly relaxed, revealing that smile, I mean, the most shared smile in the social media ever, in the whole history of humankind. That smile ultimately was the key element that permitted the President to obtain the victory at the last elections.
But this time was different. For sure, there would not be there, the usual one million likes. Unwillingly, the President’s eyes were revealing preoccupation. That famous smile was not enough. Once sincere, it became a façade. The prize of world-leading power. That was the thought that passed unwillingly in that presidential mind in that very moment.
The President of the United States of the Americas was now saluting the army of cameras, flashing, recording, streaming live on the net that very moment. The elegant and athletic figure was surrounded by a cohort of bodyguards and attorneys (sometimes the two roles were the same person). They were walking fiercely through Plaza Greta Thunberg, heading to the Transparent Palace. There, after the Deluge, the headquarters of the United Nations moved from Old New York to Jerusalem Above. The world will never be the same, reflected the President.
After the small crowd entered, fortunately without unpleasing surprises by casual terrorists, the limousine left the plaza silently, self-driven. Following the route previously decided by the cohort of bodyguards and attorneys, the limo immersed itself in the Ocean, back to Jerusalem Below. Similarly, the camera drones, having done their job for the media, flew away quickly, like a swarm of bees, in their hive, which was a submarine.
The World Government was having its meeting broadcasted live worldwide. The event to be was ranked world top in the Social Media Likelihood Scale that morning of December the 15th, 2117. And the President was late.
All the other members of the Magnificent Twelve, as journalists called them with a bit of sarcasm, were already there, on time. In the elevator, the President of the United States of Americas prepared for the meeting with them. They were the Supreme Imam, representing the Arabic Islamic Union, the Party Secretary of China, the Madame President for the European Union, the Minister-President of Israel, the Emperor of Japan, the Chief of Koreas, the Prime Minister of Russia, the Federal Assembly Delegate from Switzerland, the Dalai Lama for Tibet, the General Secretary of United States of Africa, and, of course, the Pope, for Vatican. Only the President of the United States of Americas was missing. Until that moment. The delegates pretended not to note the entering of the twelfth member of the Magnificent Twelve. Of course.
At that moment, the General Secretary, representing Africa, was finishing his speech in Swahili. Then the representative of Europe should start. The Madame President, Mrs Door Demopoulos, was declaring to the Master of Ceremonies the language of her choice, among the sixty-six official. Her choice was Esperanto. She did not choose Greek, her mother tongue. That means that she hoped to reach the widest audience possible. The President of the United States of Americas softly touched a membrane under the left earlobe, activating the subcutaneous chip tailored for instant universal interpretation.
In the meantime, social media were furiously hashtagging #stayhuman and #righttodie as top trends. Mrs Demopoulos quickly finished the formal salutation. The real battle was going to start.
“How can we be sure that the pretences of LGBTQAI+ do not force us to lose our track? In the twenty-first century, we could establish this Assembly to solve the Great Climate Crisis thanks to teenagers. And what is at stake now? The right to die. If we will allow substituting every piece of living bodies effortlessly, without any regulation, the result is under everybody’s eyes. Nobody will choose to die. And such an effect would go directly against the Treaty of Jerusalem, our foundation, which established Sustainability as the baseline of the United Nations World Government.
Dear world citizens, estimated delegates, please, let me remind you of what we have achieved until now. We defeated famine. We reforested deserts. We ceased to make war. Yes, we didn’t fully save the Arctic and the Antarctic. Yes, we have only robotic bees now. However, we didn’t let all species go. We protected biodiversity, as well as cultural diversity. We did it, building sustainable cities under the Ocean.
Humanity and nature did not collapse, after all, unlike the fears that were common in the first years of our Millennium.
We adapted ourselves to live underwater, thanks to hydroponic cultivation, in new, real harmony with nature. Science, nature, culture, finally working together. Always respecting the principles shared by the great religions that the human species expressed through its millennial history.”
The Abrahamics nodded approvingly. The President of the United States of Americas was listening carefully. It was clear that the Abrahamics — that is Muslims, Jews, and Christians — were at the side of Europe. Four votes on twelve. By now. The Dalai Lama and the Emperor of Japan, a well-known neo-Shintoist, seemed to be in favour too, according to their respective facial muscles. Six votes on twelve. Mmmh. Houston, we have a problem. Madame Demopoulus was heading towards her final remarks, foretasting her political victory. Everybody could read on her face, even without the benefits of augmented vision.
“As you know, ‘united in diversity’ was the motto of the founding parents of the European Union, in the twentieth century. But we needed the Language Wars to understand how much that motto is dangerous, if ‘diversity’ becomes predominant over ‘united’. It was the Esperanto Act that ultimately permitted to establish the radical renovation of the United Nations consortium we are representing now.”
The social media started to hashtag #murmurs #dissent. The Madame President immediately updated her rhetorical strategy. Eurocentrism is the original sin of every European.
They behave colonially even without being conscious of considering themselves superior. Being overconfident, Madame Demopoulus made a rhetorical mistake. She immediately tried to correct. She was not too late. Still.
“However, we should not forget that the Esperanto Act would have been pointless without the support of all states and citizens belonging to the United Nations. It is true that Europe is the lullaby of Esperanto, but it is also true that Esperanto is at home wherever in the world. A great philosopher who lived before the Deluge, deeply Immanuel Kant, once said: we humans are guests on Earth. We do not know for sure that we are special, but, at the same time, we do not know for sure that we are not special. If we allow humans to be replaced completely, piece after piece, in order to be fair, we should allow such right to every animal species, and perhaps even to plants. And scientists, all over the world, tells us that in practice this is impossible. In conclusion, the European Union votes against the Forever Human Act. Thank you.”
Local and global applauses were quite high. The challenge was difficult. Very difficult. But not impossible. Now it was the turn of the President of the United States of Americas. Another long, deep, breath.
The Master of Ceremonies asked with a direct message on the augmented vision to choose the language of the speech: one among English, Portuguese and Spanish, the three official and working languages of the USAs. The President tapped in the air on the American English flag. Language choice was done. Let American English be.
“Dear Ladies, dear Gentlemen, dear In-Betweens, dear Others! The Madame President of the European Union was right: we are at the verge of a turning point in the history of the Planet. ‘There is no Planet B’, our Generation Greta ancestors were used to say, one century ago. They were right, then, they are right now. Yes, we have achieved a lot within one hundred years. Yes. But, still, these admirable results are not enough. Yes, war ceased. But why? Because we do not let any representative of churches and religions rule our destinies. In other words, we are not anymore forced by anybody to kill members of our species, homo sapiens sapiens, in the name of God. This is the basis of civilization.”
That was a dangerous move. The President was well aware that that road was dangerous. A heavy silence entered the room. Social media trends were showing #God #religion #Greta at that moment, comments were diverse. No clear trend was emerging. Everybody in the world was waiting for the words of the President of the United States of Americas. Go ahead, they were saying.
“We were enlightened enough to put what unites us above what divides us during the Climate Crisis, de facto saving the Planet. Why did we succeed, in the end?”
A long silence now. Five. Full. Seconds. No hashtags. Anywhere, in the Net. That moment will enter the Guinness Book of Records, quickly thought the President. Five seconds of silence. That was a remarkable achievement, even for the President. Yes, I can do it. Martial arts were silently evoked again to collect the inner strength of body and spirit alike. Make it or break it.
“Dear delegates, beloved citizens! Where is our humanity found, exactly? In our hearts? In our brains? In our hands? In our eyes? Yes, yes, and yes. But, also, not especially in one specific part of the body. Of course not! Remember, that the Blind, the Deaf, they have the civil right to maintain their state, in the name of their respective World National Identity Cards. This is their right. This is everybody’s right. Finally, Autism is considerate a state of mind, not a state of health. Finally! Here we are, beloved citizens, dear delegates! Civil rights: this is what eventually unites us. What does identify us as humans? This is the question.”
A small pause. Less than one second.
“Did you ever meet an intelligent robot or cyborg anywhere, in the real world, above and under the Ocean? Of course not! Robots and cyborgs will live forever, yes, in our imagination, nurtured by science fiction classics. All kids study the classics of our common history in primary schools, all over the world. Science fiction classics are the fundamental part of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of the World. When we were kids — do you remember? — we all loved Isaac Asimov, don’t we?”
Every delegate in the room was smiling, or even giggling, for no apparent reason. Some were slightly uncomfortable. A good sign, thought the President. The mood was changing for the better. Top trends in the Net were #Asimov, #love, #rights, #stayhuman. The expressions of the delegates from Asia and Africa were much more inclined to support the President, at least compared to before. Even Israel was silently waiting, struggling with what to do. An internal battle started inside Magnificent Twelve, echoed by social media. The President of the United States of the Americas became more confident. He could win over the European Union.
“Unlike what was envisioned by our classic authors, nowadays Artificial Intelligence permits us to replace our body parts. All of them, one after the other, brain included. Of course, if we want to do so. Of course, the Freedom of Religion Act guarantees the liberty not to be replaced. On the other hand, nobody has the right to inhibit such liberty. This is what freedom of expression means. Do you remember that terrible period? The one historians called ‘Synthetics’ Apartheid’? This was an error of the past. Never again. Never again.”
The President shook the head significantly. Another pause. Trending hashtags immediately became #neveragain #shameonus #humanrightsnow. Some delegates bent down, incapable of looking at the President directly in the eyes. Not everybody sitting in that room was innocent. After all, the Synthetic Apartheid was banned a few years ago only.
“Please, look at me. Very closely.”
The President was not addressing the delegates, but the public opinion, following online, live. The swarm of drones silently flew close to the face of the President. The eyes of the world were on the delegate representing the Americas, as if that face represented the moral compass of humanity. In the past, media defined the President’s facial expression ‘aseptic’ and ‘emotionless’ by detractors. More enigmatical than the Monna Lisa smile, by friendly journalists. There could be an ounce of truth in such an accusation. But that moment was not the moment to think about such bagatelles. President Grey Ever collected all the possible collectable energy and looked intensively at the cameras, that were broadcasting the meeting live to Net citizens.
“Do you see? I am more synthetic than biological. So what? Does this make me less human? Inhuman? Non-human? I don’t even know the ‘right’ word.”
Ey accompanied the word ‘right’ with air quotes, showing eir disapproval.
“As you all know, I am the first Mix President in the history of the Americas. Neither ‘Sir’ nor ‘Madam’. I was born as an intersex, and then I became an asexual, then I overcome both statuses. That’s why I call myself AI+. But my story is the story of millions of Americans and millions of world citizens. My words are for them. We must defend freedom of thought and freedom of conscience worldwide. Always.”
A small pause. Two seconds.
“Why me, exercising my AI+ rights, being Asexual and Intersex at the same time, and even overcoming the distinction, should accept to be discriminated? Let me underline the concept. We are not talking about me only. Imagine the difficulties for normal citizens. How can they defend their civil rights? Is a new apartheid nightmare for the ‘synthetics’ beyond the corner? Is this the kind of society we want our descendants to live? Born or unborn?”
A spontaneous sigh of disapproval accompanied the word ‘synthetics’. At that moment, new hashtags fired up: #neveragain #apartheid #iamnosynthetic.
“Please, dear delegates, dear world citizens, please, take note: the United States of Americas vote in favour of such a legislative proposal. It goes in the direction of liberty, which is what the Americas contributed mostly to world consciousness. The right to pursue happiness respecting others is American, at first, then of the world.”
Another small pause. One second.
“Ladies. Gentlemen. In-Betweens. Others. Reflect carefully before to vote. The Forever Human Act legislative proposal, in spite of its name, is inhuman, even inhumane. Remember what this Act will avoid. Remember the frightening opening of the shameful Humanity Test by Doctor Dick: ‘Please, confirm you are human.’” Thunderous applause.
“God bless you. God bless the United States of the Americas. God bless the Planet.”