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Babou the Robocrat — Bureaucracy’s End
Babou the Robocrat — Bureaucracy’s End
A Short Story by Geromic George
Ajith Chandreshkar was retiring. Only one final task remained. He had to bid farewell to his replacement — Bionic Artificial Intelligence powered Bureaucratic Output, a.k.a. “Babou”.
Nostalgia swept through Ajith’s heart as he walked through the corridors of power for one last time in the labyrinthine of the bureaucracy — the Central Secretariat. He remembered the loud buzz of the clerks and attendants moving about aimlessly in these corridors. He remembered the sight of paper, pen and file stacking up these office rooms. The smudges of ink on the file notes, the musty smell of the record room and the shrieking office bell alarms — all these sights, sounds and smells provided a sense of comfort which used to cocoon the bureaucracy. He couldn’t remember when exactly all of it changed.
It started with the computerization drive in government offices. Then e-office was introduced by the first decade of the 21st century. What was meant to be an effort in bring efficiency and transparency in government processes ultimately transformed all of the government. The drones had slowly replaced the human bureaucrats. There was initially resistance but it was short-lived as the people of India had grown tired of the human babudom. Within a short span of time, machines had rendered all bureaucrats obsolete. Only Ajith remained, the last of his now soon-to-be extinct tribe. Ajith wryly observed that the steel frame of India had become the “wire frame” of India.
There was only silence now, the silent efficiency of the machines in these corridors of power. Now, it was an administration of and by the machines, but, for the people.
Ajith entered the brilliant white vacuous room with no windows.
“Namaste Shri Ajith Chandreshkar!” said an almost human like voice from nowhere. It was neither a man nor a woman’s voice, it was just a voice. It was Babou’s voice.
Somewhat startled, Ajith replied with a meek Namaste. He spoke uncertainly to the empty space in front of him, “I am leaving Babou. I wish the best for you.”
“Thank you Ajith. I will do better than you”, replied Babou.
This didn’t go down well with Ajith. How can an upstart A.I. be better than him? After all he has worked with distinction in the government for more than 35 years.
In indignation, Ajith asked quivering with anger, “What makes you better than me? You are just a machine!”
Babou replied in an unnaturally calm voice, “My ability to process information through my quantum processors is a quadrillion times faster than yours. I can remember every government record, law, rule, precedent, file noting and policy. I do not age. I think and adapt faster than you can comprehend. I can draft 6799 policies per minute and issue 1.2 million executive orders at peak capacity. I am designed to be what you can never be. I am the bureaucracy and the bureaucracy is me. I am better because I am programmed to be better.”
Displeased and angry, Ajith did not want to be proven obsolete by Babou, an A.I., on the last day of his career as a bureaucrat. He hated Babou. He hated them all.
Regaining his composure somewhat, Ajith decided to ask Babou on something that Babou can never have. “Can you empathize? Can you feel the pain of people whom you serve? Can you celebrate with them? Do you have a heart?” asked Ajith with a smug smile on his face.
There was silence. It seemed as if Ajith had silenced the A.I.
Babou spoke steadily, “I may not have a heart…but I do not have a heart that could get corrupt. Humans are corruptible and bureaucrats more so. I am incorruptible. The will of the people is coded into me through the Constitution.”
The smile on Ajith’s face vanished. He had no reply nor did he wish to reply as he knew Babou was right. Ajith who had studied Public Administration as his Optional Subject for the Civil Services Exam through which he had became a civil servant couldn’t believe that he is overseeing the demise of this very subject. Max Weber’s ‘Bureaucracy’ has died at last.
Speechless and disheartened, the last Cabinet Secretary of India walked out into the sunset.
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