Joe Biden: Our last human president?

America’s biggest problem today is it hasn’t quite figured out what kind of government its own technology has stuck it with. People on the right fear digital communism. People on the left fear digital “authoritarianism,” but the leading model of digital governance in Washington is a high-tech form of leftist authoritarianism.

And as shown by the chaos and mania surrounding the debate around the Biden administration’s fate, not even all leftist authoritarians can agree on which regime form they want or need.

Logic isn’t enough in this world, especially when it comes to America’s destiny.

There’s the perversely nostalgic “Dark Brandon” variety, with Joe playing the familiar necrotic dictator role, yelling feebly into the microphone from behind a pricey suit and blacked-out Aviator shades. For those who favor more cosmic atavism, there’s the mummified emperor option, with Biden as the embalmed figurehead around whose inert ceremonial corpus the ornate and convoluted political universe turns.

Both these roles are enhanced by advanced technology, which keeps the aged figurehead animated or, in the alternative, more durably above ground. And at the frontier of innovation, the merely physical body doubles available to 20th-century despots now look quaint.

While cherry-picking a lone HuffPost op-ed is usually not the path to enlightenment in this world, a recent column made the striking case that yes, Biden is in rough enough shape that we ought to consider supplementing him with AI. “Given the president’s concerning performance last week, it’s time for the Biden campaign to consider leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to effectively reach the voting public.”

While of course there are reasonable hesitations to break this dam on the use of modern technology in presidential campaigning, the consequences of not taking this approach could be dire. Moreover, in the currently under-regulated electoral landscape, refusing to use modern tools like AI is akin to entering the boxing ring with one hand tied behind your back.

With the bad orange man looming once again — not to be confused with the good orange man trotted out in a bizarre burnished glaze by one or another of his panicked handlers — surely we have no choice but to borg up the POTUS!

It’s an argument many Americans might brush off as a cringey thought experiment evincing an exhausted ideology. But this particular column wasn’t written by woke wordserf toiling on the content farm labor camp. It was the work of a former staffer on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign with, count ‘em, three advanced degrees, one from Yale and two from Harvard.

In other words, digitally enhanced leftist authoritarianism doesn’t have to settle for Saddam 2.0 or animatronic Lenin. In the digital age, premium leftist authoritarianism holds out the now-intuitive prospect of a cyborg president.

In hindsight, the logic feels obvious. Obama himself, on the occasion of election 2020, warned the Atlantic that the internet itself was the greatest threat to American democracy because it eroded the ability of the body politic to coalesce around the shared cognitive and conceptual foundation of an agreed-upon ground reality. Denied this baseline, democratic politics would succumb to overwhelming wave attacks of misinformation, or what some might call fake news.

Fast-forward to 2024, however, and Americans are now witnessing the spectacle of the state-affiliated media turning against the sitting president because his administration froze them out of the (obvious) truth about just how bad a shape he’s in. Obama’s warning really had to do with the political instability technology was causing by undermining the regime form we ended up with that included “the media” as a core unelected branch of government.

But Obama’s own elder heir, whom mocking Zoomers with no adult memory of 2016 now call Jeo Boeden, did far more to disempower and discredit the regime-aligned media in its governance functions than did anyone with a frog for a profile picture sitting at his basement keyboard.

Now, “the media” gets to feel its obsolescence in real time. As talking heads splutter, younger, more savvy analysts are beginning to say out loud that AI allows the party to become “the media” in a way CNN could never dream of: every instant, every day, everywhere, merging the very person of the president himself with an infinitely scalable digital version of him-, her-, or itself.

The appearance of ultimate power always glitters in a special way for those who feel their elevated position is in danger of slipping away. But you can hear the strain in the argument that AI is needed to save America because it will best prop up Joe Biden. The real ultimate held out by the prospect of a BOTUS — a Borg of the United States — isn’t iBiden but rather a regime of fanatics who see total technological control as the only way to actualize on Earth their idolization of what they see as perfect justice, a justice in the absence of which humanity merits little more than extinction or destruction.

Does today’s technology open or close off to Americans an escape route from theocratic despotism at the digital hands of a woke borg? Some see the prospect of a benign high-tech Caesarism on the horizon — or maybe, uh, CEOsarism. There’s a palpable logic to that option, too: As incompetence and idolatry crumble our institutions, thinning America’s commercial and cultural lifeblood, perhaps only a hyper-competent butt-kicking businessman up to speed on emerging tech can step in, clean house, and turn things around.

But logic isn’t enough in this world, especially when it comes to America’s destiny. Ours is a story dramatizing the ancient wisdom that the rot starts at the top in human society, whereas renewal comes from the humblest, smallest, and — for all but the most spiritually perceptive — the most imperceptible origins. Any path promising a return to greatness that shortcuts around the slow and painful regeneration of soul health among the people is, in the end, snake oil.

Ball-busting cyborg CEOs unleashing Sulla mindset on a society gone to seed can deliver certain outsized results — that’s not (and has never been) in question. The question concerning the impact of technology on America’s political destiny is not about the heights of “excellence” but the depths of true vitality. And the answer is plain to those with ears to hear:

Behold, a sower went forth to sow; and when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: and when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: but others fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.

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