Robocop prison scene

The question no-one’s asking: How will tax-evading robots react to life behind bars?

Bill Gates has proposed taxing robots as they take our jobs – after all, they're workers too. But for one of the wealthiest men in the world, he's being suspiciously quiet about what this means for tax evasion... Dale Shaw speculates

You know that job you’re currently ‘enjoying’? Guess what? By the end of the year, or even sooner, a robot will almost certainly* be taking your place.

No matter what you do for a living: dentist, mime, Somali pirate - automation will render you hopelessly obsolete. But don’t worry, Bill Gates has come to the aid of all of us pathetic, fleshy humanoids and proposed a tax on any robots taking over our jobs. But surely a robot tax will inevitably lead to one thing: robot tax evasion. Which, in turn, will lead to our prisons being clogged with fraudulent Transformers, amoral androids and money-grubbing Metal Mickeys.

Imagine the scene. A lowly, pathetic human mammal is replaced by the Barista 9000, the latest state of the art computerized coffee dispensing system. Its superior processing capabilities indicate that it actually doesn’t make that much logical sense for a robot to hand over a bunch of cash to the government every month.

Plus, having your mechanical fingers in the till could help bring that Westworld-esque holiday ever closer. But then our coffee spewing cyborg friend is caught, tried and convicted and faces a long stretch inside. But what effect will this sudden influx of mechanical marvels have on our traditional human prisons?

(*It’s not actually almost certain at all – there are studies that show robots might improve our job prospects, but let’s not let details get in the way.)


Robot prisons - The Great Escape
Maybe they'll watch Steve McQueen's 1963 classic for tips on how to break out

Obviously with their superior brain power, monumental strength and undeniable planning abilities, our robot pals will be excellent at escaping from maximum security facilities.

There appears to be two ways to combat this. Simply allow the robots to escape and then use their recently constructed and expertly engineered tunnels for our own good (sewage, trams etc) and then wait for the robot escapee to realize his life has no purpose beyond serving humans, at which point you throw a bucket of water over them. Alternatively, cage them in some kind of floating penitentiary, high up in the air, perhaps using balloons. Robots famously hate heights.


Robots - prison riot

Presumably, robots could be programed to be model prisoners; working in the library, quietly making licence plates or treating their captors with good grace and healthy manners. But if we didn’t have the skills to input that data and the metallic felons became unruly and aggressive, carnage would naturally ensue. Batons, shouting and tear gas would be useless against a rampaging, tax-avoiding cyborg. Instead, guards would be forced to use some sort of sophisticated ‘bucket of water’ system to bring them under under control.


Robots - weapons

If you’ve watched TV beyond 10pm, you’ll be aware that prisoners love to attack each other with makeshift weapons for purposes of territory or maybe just to pass the time. But as most robots have a sturdy metal body (like what C3PO’s got) attempting to damage a fellow inmate with a homemade blade would be pointless. In this new nightmarish vision of a robo-prison, these captives would be forced to hurl buckets of water over each other and bring about what will be known as a vicious ‘short-circuiting’. Terrible.


Robot prison - OITNB

The world of the prison does not work like our own lag-free existence. Inside prison walls, cigarettes are the main unit of currency, used to buy groceries, furniture and even other cigarettes. Obviously an incarcerated robot would have no use for a cigarette, so new forms of currency would have to emerge.

Batteries would be the financial equivalent of big, long cigarettes or even cigars in the mechanized slammer, with inmates hoarding them secretly for the occasional illicit ‘power boost’ after lights out, that can only be remedied by a strategically fired bucket of water to quell their firmly electronic desires.


Robot prison - Lindsay Lohan IBC

Who knows what dystopian, Mad Max like situation is just around the corner. If rampant AI tax evasion materialises and society can’t cope with an ever expanding robotic prison population, then perhaps the only solution will be to execute the worst offenders. As they have no necks, hanging will have no real effect.

Lethal injection would be a hiding to nothing while they would probably quite enjoy a go in the electric chair. In fact, the only plausible way of dispatching these mechanical bad guys is via the trusty bucket of water. Perhaps balanced on a door that they are about to walk through so they don’t know what’s coming. It’s the most humane thing we can think of.

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