In Isaac Asimov’s story “Evidence,” a successful lawyer named Stephen Byerley runs for mayor and his opponent, threatened, claims that Byerley isn’t a human at all — that the real Stephen Byerley never recovered from an earlier serious car accident, and that the compelling politician standing before them is actually a humanoid robot. It’s an interesting premise, since it becomes pretty difficult to either prove or disprove the claim. Just because people don’t see Byerley sleep or eat doesn’t prove that he’s a robot; similarly, when he eats an apple, that doesn’t prove he’s human. Of course, the opposition is invested in proving that Byerley is a robot, and as such has no rights and can’t run for office. Asimov came up with this plot in 1946 and now, nearly 70 years later, life is imitating art: Timothy Ray Murray, who recently lost a bid for Congress in the Oklahoma Republican primary, is claiming that the opponent who beat him is actually a robot.
Yep. According to Murray, his opponent Frank Lucas was killed in southern Ukraine in a televised execution carried out by the World Court on or around January 11, 2011. He says Lucas was hanged, and swears that other members of Congress will back him up. Quite simply, “It is widely known Rep. Frank D. Lucas is no longer alive,” Murray says, and as such, he is “not eligible to serve as a Congressional Member.” Instead, Lucas “has been displayed by a look alike.” I mean, sure, there are humanoid robots around, and ones that look uncannily like humans, and I’m all for a fun political scandal, but this is just weird. Then again, it seems to be a drop in the bucket for Murray, whose website touts his role in helping to thwart a plan to put mind control chips in all humans and to put some of them on a Starship. And when you look at photos of Murray, who looks a bit strange and robotic himself, particularly the eyes. But on his website, Murray insists that he’s human and that he will “never use a look alike to replace my (The Office’s) message to you or to anyone else, as both the other Republican Challengers have.” Phew.
The primary that took place last Tuesday wasn’t even close — Lucas won 82% of the vote and Murray won 5.2%. Maybe that’s because robots can stage the most brilliant ad campaigns ever. Lucas took the accusation in stride, saying that he’s heard all kinds of claims over the years, but that this “is the first time [he’s] ever been accused to being a body double or a robot.” He also says that he’s never been to Ukraine.
Lucky for us we have Asimov’s wisdom to help settle this. In the story, Byerley is bound to the three laws of robotics, which means he can’t harm a human. So during a public speech, a heckler gets on stage and asks Byerley to punch him, which Byerley wouldn’t be able to do if he were a robot. Byerley does punch him, which seems to answer the question until someone points out that if the heckler were also a robot, then Byerley would be able to punch him and maintain his secret robot identity. But hey, if the heckler punched Byerley back and he bled, then the naysayers would’ve had to admit defeat.