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Conrad Dougherty

Mr. Pace

Dual Credit English IV

11 April 2019

Conscience or Computer?

Neal Shusterman’s book Scythe incorporates many of today’s problems as themes, but

none are so apparent as the weakness of human government. In his utopia, there is an

immense computer called the Thunderhead which serves as the government. It is able to

govern perfectly and make decisions instantly. But as with all utopias, there is a dysfunctional

part, and in Scythe this is a part still lead by humans. Human nature’s tendencies towards

arrogance, greed, self-interest, and violence can be countered by leadership from a computer;

they are incorruptible, make decisions based on logic, and have all of human knowledge

available in a second. It can provide so many positive aspects to society as a whole.

Logical thinking is extremely important in government. Decisions based on emotion that

are made in the moment often have consequences which come back to bite later. Decisions

which are carefully evaluated for the pro’s and con’s have a better result and are generally

better for everyone. Computers work strictly off of facts, there is no emotion involved, which

allows for unbiased and fair decisions that provide for the whole and not some. In addition to

this, with a computer, instantaneous changes can be made, rather than waiting for something to

pass through parliamentary procedure. A computer will also save tax dollars by being the most

efficient. Things cannot just be lost in bureaucracy

Learning from mistakes can be one of the best life skills to have, and a computer can do

it better than anyone else. “Not only that, but it’s algorithms were built on the full sum of human

knowledge [and mistakes]”(53). Using AI (artificial intelligence), we can actually learn from our

mistakes. With changing human leadership, the same mistakes are made over again but a

computer would learn and adapt with each one, not forgetting what has happened before and
always making better choices. It will see what has been done before and not do it again. This

leads to a world that can only get better. In being perfect, a computer can realize that perfection

is the enemy of good. It can leave a slight bit of rough around the edges that let people build

who they are without it all being done for them. For example; “Perhaps this why the

Thunderhead still allows a measured amount of economic inequality. It could certainly make

sure that everyone had equal wealth - but that would just add to the plague of boredom that

afflicts the immortal. Although we all have what we need, we’re still allowed to strive for the

things we want”(101). This still leaves room so that everything isn’t as controlled, and this space

and freedom lets people be happier.

Perhaps the most important part to have in a successful government is avoiding

corruption, something that has been impossible to do everywhere. It doesn’t matter who we are

talking about, something can change them, or influence them. “In those days before the

Thunderhead, human arrogance, self-interest, and endless infighting determined the rule of law.

Inefficient. Imperfect. Vulnerable to all forms of corruption. But the Thunderhead was

incorruptible”(53). Some people are better than others with following what they know to be right,

but every person has their price. Except for a computer or AI, it has no personal needs, it has no

reason for greed, it has no way to become corrupt. It makes choices off of logic and reason, not

because of personal gain.

AI trump traditional means of government as it makes logical decisions, is incorruptible,

and has already learned from all of our previous mistakes, continuing to adapt as time goes on.

Logical thinking better helps society by creating unbiased decisions off of facts. The ability to

learn from one’s mistakes, and learn from all of humanities past mistakes will create a fair world

that can only get better. The Thunderhead is also incorruptible, which helps keep laws and rules

fair for the general public. Our world would be better off if it was governed by a computer with an

AI program. It would have to be carefully programmed though, as to not have any desires for

power or control. It would also have to have the idea of the government that governs best
governs least. It would only step in when needed and make changes that are necessary for

peace.