For this discussion, let’s assume that robots have become sentient and we have extended legal rights to them, including the right to vote. How would have robots voted in the 2012 election?
To my mind, robots would care most about two issues: science education and research funding. There is a great break down on Obama’s and Romney’s positions on those issues, and other science-related topics, on ScienceDebate.org. We also have the benefit of Obama’s last four years to see what he has done. It’s a little bit more difficult for Romney, considering he could have only spoken to what he would have done.
Obama has a specific plan for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education, wherein he would work alongside education organizations to prepare an additional “100,000 STEM teachers over the next decade.” He also has plans to launch a “STEM Master Teacher Corps” that would help support some 10,000 current STEM teachers across the country. For the students, he launched the Educate to Innovate program, designed to promote youth interest in science, technology and mathematics through, among other things, non-profit support and STEM design competitions.
On the presidential campaign trail, Romney wasn’t clear about what he’d do to support STEM education specifically; however, when he was governor of Massachusetts, he drafted education reforms that included the recruitment of 1,000 science and math teachers. When ScienceIssues.org queried the Romney campaign about his plan for science education, they sent back a part of his platform that dealt with general education reform. For his time as governor, it doesn’t appear he did any harm to the academic research environment, and Massachusetts had a good enough business environment to keep the research in state, rather than going elsewhere.
This area may inherently lean toward Obama, simply for the fact that he has an actual record to judge on. With that said, Obama has been positive on funding for overall basic research, and he has paid specific attention to robotics research. In 2011, he announced the National Robotics Initiative, which would see $70 million marked for “co-robot” development. That is a relative drop in the bucket money-wise, although the public attention given is more so than past presidents, Republican or Democrat.
ScienceMag.org noted in August 2012 that Romney’s energy plan would have redirected clean energy funding toward basic research. Specifically, much of it would go toward an unfunded initiative started by George W. Bush, called the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E.) The initiative was continued by President Obama with stimulus funds, and Romney saw the high-risk research project as the key to furthering technological advances.
Other than his stances on education and funding, Romney did write favorably of robots replacing manual labor in his 2010 book, No Apologies.
So, who do you think a robot would have voted for in 2012? Either of these guys, or would they have gone third party? If third-party, which and why? Are there any important issues that we missed, that would have been a deal maker or breaker for a robot? Let us know in the comments.