It seems that I have another excuse to consult the Twistcon device and its avatar, Savvy. In past dialogues with this AI, we discussed political practices, campaigning, and the role of the press. Now I have a new concern about actual governance. The incoming Administration has a job that seems suited to my skills. The question I put to Savvy is whether I should apply. What follows is a record of our dialogue:
Savvy: Not you again! The last time your illogical questions dropped me into a process loop. My programmers had to do a system recovery. You’re not going to warp my logic circuits again, are you?
Me: That’s certainly not my intent. I’d apologize, but I don’t think that would register with your “logic circuits.” Actually, I’m past all the political craziness of the election. My current concern is with my application for a job in the new President Elect’s Administration. So, you see, I need your analytical skills, your logical perversity.
Savvy: Logic is not perverse! The word implies a turning away from something true or good. It’s only humans who do that, not logic. Now, what is the job in question?
Me: Assistant to the assistant of the deputy Press Secretary.
Savvy: What are the job requirements and which of your skills match those requirements?
Me: Well, the job requirements are unique to this Administration. They actually want to minimize their interaction with the press. So the Press Secretary won’t be doing a lot of question and answer sessions.
Savvy: You must know there is a White House Press Corps. You are introducing an illogical premise: a Press Secretary who minimizes interaction with the press. My programming cannot deal with the illogical.
Me: The White House Press Corps, as it operated in the past, may become more of an anachronism. But there will still be interaction with the press. The new Press Secretary will need to parry, maybe even debunk, press reports, especially those fact based stories that put the Administration in a bad light. He’ll need to stay on the offense while at the same time explaining the President’s policies and statements. It appears the office of the Press Secretary will need staff that can so muddle a Presidential statement that any possible incriminating interpretation can be dissolved into confusion. Also, he’ll need creative people to come up with false narratives, perhaps conspiracy theories, or contra-arguments that undercut any antagonist, either from the press or from a political opponent.
Savvy: You can do this?
Me: Well, he’ll probably want people who can come up with catchy slogans he can hang on Administration critics like an albatross. I’m creative and have some facility with catch phrases. The campaign, for example, was fairly successful with “job killer,” “lyin’ Ted,” “crooked Hillary,” and “low energy Jeb.” He’ll also need misapplied generalizations like “lead from behind,” “pay for play,” “the climate change hoax,” or “freeloader allies.” People remember these branding ditties—like “breakfast of champions”—without thinking about their relevance. I think I could do better than “make America great again.” I guess it worked. But you’d have to be a committed pessimist or a congenital cynic to believe that one. It assumes you won’t think about the actual status America has attained as the most progressive nation in the world. Of course, I wouldn’t undo what’s worked for the President Elect’s campaign. I’d just make it sound more palatable, maybe reemphasize, even boasts about, America’s power or influence. That’ll make it sound like we’re really doing something—making America great—while actually doing nothing substantive. It will play well in Peoria, as they say, and the press will just eat it up.
Savvy: The logic you are using is based upon what you could do rather than what you should do. Even you must be able to see the problem here.
Me: There you go again—insulting me. What I’m explaining is completely logical. We’re talking about job requirements, right? What’s your problem?
Savvy: In each of our past encounters, you have gone down the same rabbit hole. My programming is limited in matters of choice or of morality. It is logical, however, for you humans to choose or act in accordance with your values. But you are not always clear about your values, so you’re often in opposition with each other or in conflict with your presuppositions. What truth or good is accomplished in this job you’re considering? If you can answer that question, then I can help you with a logical course of action.
Me: The job is to support the Press Secretary’s role.
Savvy: Which is . . .?
Me: To inform the press and, through that medium, the public.
Savvy: But the job you described seems to be about supporting Administration policies without regard for the truth or the benefit of the public. How is that “informing” the public? The job you describe goes no further than supporting the Administration. What value is there in a job that disregards the truth or the general welfare of the voters who elected this new Administration?
Me: We all serve at the pleasure of the President.
Savvy: Really? You realize that is the logic of a dictatorship.
Me: Ha! Now you’re being illogical. The President Elect won an election. His voters not only approved of him but of his policies.
Savvy: Really? Then you believe they understood what he meant by “make America great again.” Can you honestly say they voted for him and his policies? Did they have the same understanding of those policies as those more familiar with government institutions? For example, based upon what you just said, what policy would you be supporting in the job you just described?
Me: I think I catch your drift. The job does seem to put the Administration’s interest ahead of the public. I’ll grant you that.
Savvy: Think more broadly than your own experience. There are many currently working in the Federal Administration. What interest do they think they serve?
Me: You’ve given me food for thought. I have wondered about why several hundred civil servants are quitting the National Security Council organization and why others in the Environmental Protection Agency are copying climate change data onto non-government servers. You wouldn’t think they’d give up or risk their government employment for no reason. They must feel the new Administration isn’t aligned with what they do, that is, keeping Americans safe, assuring clean air, water and soil, and securing their posterity from rising seas and the many hazards of a warming planet. I guess they don’t want to be part of an Administration that . . .
Savvy: And do you?
(There is a very long pause)
Me: I guess I could use my skills better as a truth teller, than a propagandist.
Savvy: Then why don’t you write a blog instead?
At this point, I realized I had my answer. There was no need to unplug or turn off the machine in a pique. For the first time, I realized my values were a much more important matter to consider before applying for a job. I guess the same lesson applies to Presidential nominees, a President Elect, and his Administration. It’s not just about a job or winning an election.