Science | Design & Technology | Computing | PSHE

Why the Queen should be succeeded by a robot

Would an AI monarch be a good idea? If we accept that the Queen must die, that monarchy is popular and that the present heirs are deeply flawed – maybe the notion is not so crazy. In 1701, Parliament had a problem. The incumbent monarch, William III, had no children of his own, and his sole Protestant heir, his daughter-in-law Anne, was in ill health. Once she died, according to the legitimate line of succession, a Catholic must ascend to the throne of England, which would cause a civil war. So Parliament took a momentous decision. Under the Act of Settlement, it declared that it alone had the right to decide who sat on the throne. Fast forward to 2022. Tomorrow, Britain celebrates the platinum jubilee of another popular monarch cursed with an unfortunate line of successors. Last year, a poll found just 25% of Britons wanted Prince Charles to succeed the Queen. But other prospective successors are tarnished as well. Prince William’s recent trip to the Caribbean was a disaster, drawing allegations of racial condescension. However, Parliament has the power to change the succession. So if no person currently in line for the throne will do – why choose a person at all? After all, say some, the role of the head of state is largely ceremonial. They give speeches at the opening of Parliament and at Christmas. They occasionally visit the Commonwealth. These tasks could be carried out just as well, they argue, by an AI. An AI might also be better at the unspoken roles of the monarchy. The monarch, according to political theorists, provides a politically neutral power that balances the other parts of the constitution. They are a source of advice for the prime minister. And they are a rallying point for national pride. The Royal AI would always be a serene, dispassionate presence. It could be programmed with vast historical knowledge, to offer the prime minister good advice and to teach the British people about their history. Would an AI monarch be a good idea? H. R. R. Yes: Human beings are fallible. The role of the monarch requires near-infallibility, if one is to avoid scandals and accusations of political interference. An AI would be perfect for the job. No: The monarchy inspires loyalty and devotion because it is human and we can relate to it, even (and perhaps especially) when it makes mistakes. You cannot rally the nation around a glorified calculator. Or… The time might not be ripe for an AI head of state. AI is still too primitive and people are suspicious of it. But in time, it will become intelligent enough to fulfil this and perhaps other roles.       KeywordsWilliam III - King of England, Scotland and Ireland from 1689 to 1702. He was invited to become king by Parliament, which wanted to depose its reigning Catholic monarch James II. 

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