We are five years from the events depicted in Blade Runner, but happily, already have a tool more accurate than the Voight-Kampff test for uncovering robots among us. It is called Twitter. And we've applied this tool to the candidates in some of the most hotly contested 2014 Senate races, so that we can root out the robot menace before it takes hold of the American body politic.


Robo Thespian from United Kingdom. Not eligible to be president. (EPA/SERGEI ILNITSKY)

(If you haven't seen the movie mentioned above, the point is: Are our senators robots? The answer might surprise you!) (If you think senators might be robots.)

We used two Twitter tools to evaluate two important robot questions.

  • Are the Senate candidates robots? To answer that, we turned to Bot or Not, a tool created by Truthy, a group at Indiana University - Bloomington. Bot or Not — which was created in part with money from the Department of Defense — gauges how likely it is that a Twitter account is operated by a robot or not.
  • Is this Senate candidate supported by robots? For this, we used Twitter Audit which as far as we know isn't funded by the military at all. It scours the followers of Twitter accounts and returns an estimated percentage of how many are robots.

Two quick caveats before we jump into it. First, the definition of "robot" in the Twitter sense is a bit different than the definition of "robot" in the Metropolis/Isaac Asimov sense. Twitter bots are just dumb bits of script that do things like send you links to methods of losing weight/gaining sex. For more on them, read this. But we're going to pretend we're talking about actual robots, because, well, that is funnier. The other caveat is that these tools probably don't work that well anyway.

How will this work? We'll use the Mitch McConnell- Alison Grimes race in Kentucky to demonstrate.

Kentucky

Candidate Twitter Robot likelihood Followers Robot follower percent Robot followers

Mitch McConnell (R) @Team_Mitch 61% 7,927 16% 1,268

Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) @AlisonForKY 69% 14,900 14% 2,086

OK. So we can see that Bot or Not is telling us that there's a 61 percent chance McConnell is a robot, but a 69 percent chance Grimes is.

As for followers, about 16 percent of McConnell's followers are robots, compared to 14 percent of Grimes'. But we figured two things. First, that there's got to be a margin of error on the Twitter Audit tool and, second, that robots would algorithmically follow the candidate they preferred. So when the robot follower percentage for the two candidates was within three percent, we deferred to the raw robot follower count. Make sense? (No? Well, it's all made up, so don't worry about it.)

Anyway:

grimes

MOST LIKELY TO BE A ROBOT

Alison Lundergan Grimes

grimes

MOST LIKELY TO BE SUPPORTED BY ROBOTS

Alison Lundergan Grimes

And that's how it works. Off we go.


Alaska

Candidate Twitter Robot likelihood Followers Robot follower percent Robot followers

Mark Begich (D) @MarkBegich 37% 2,844 17% 483

Dan Sullivan (R) @DanSullivan2014 51% 564 18% 102

MOST LIKELY TO BE A ROBOT

Dan Sullivan

MOST LIKELY TO BE SUPPORTED BY ROBOTS

Mark Begich


Arkansas

Candidate Twitter Robot likelihood Followers Robot follower percent Robot followers

Mark Pryor (D) @PryorForSenate 74% 1,233 13% 160

Tom Cotton (R) @TomCottonAR 60% 6,532 21% 1,372

MOST LIKELY TO BE A ROBOT

Mark Pryor

MOST LIKELY TO BE SUPPORTED BY ROBOTS

Tom Cotton


Colorado

Candidate Twitter Robot likelihood Followers Robot follower percent Robot followers

Mark Udall (D) @MarkUdall2014 56% 938 17% 159

Cory Gardner (R) @CoryGardnerCO 48% 5,800 18% 1,044

MOST LIKELY TO BE A ROBOT

Mark Udall

MOST LIKELY TO BE SUPPORTED BY ROBOTS

Cory Gardner


Louisiana

Candidate Twitter Robot likelihood Followers Robot follower percent Robot followers

Mary Landrieu (D) @MaryLandrieu 54% 3,149 20% 630

Bill Cassidy (R) @billcassidy 56% 7,011 22% 1,542

MOST LIKELY TO BE A ROBOT

Bill Cassidy

MOST LIKELY TO BE SUPPORTED BY ROBOTS

Bill Cassidy


Michigan

Candidate Twitter Robot likelihood Followers Robot follower percent Robot followers

Terri Land (R) @TerriLLand 70% 6121 13% 796

Gary Peters (D) @Peters4Michigan 55% 2587 14% 362

MOST LIKELY TO BE A ROBOT

Terri Land

MOST LIKELY TO BE SUPPORTED BY ROBOTS

Terri Land


North Carolina

Candidate Twitter Robot likelihood Followers Robot follower percent Robot followers

Kay Hagan (D) @kayhagan 48% 6257 18% 1126

Thom Tillis (R) @ThomTillis 69% 23600 7% 1652

MOST LIKELY TO BE A ROBOT

Thom Tillis

MOST LIKELY TO BE SUPPORTED BY ROBOTS

Kay Hagan

This post was written by someone who is 81 percent likely to not be a robot.