Wednesday, May 11, 2011


A longstanding fantasy of those who have endured too many bad relationships and awkward singles scenes (see previous blog) has been to bypass the whole business by literally manufacturing the perfect date instead – a logical idea for tool-making creatures such as ourselves. Witness the artificial love objects in Metropolis (1927), My Living Doll (1964), Cherry 2000 (1987), or, for that matter, "Pygmalion" – not the play by Shaw but the 2000 year-old poem by Ovid in Metamorphoses. Nor is this purely a male fantasy. In the pleasant movie Making Mr. Right (1987) directed by Susan Seidelman, the heroine, unlike the hero in Cherry 2000 who falls for the real woman, ultimately opts for the robot over the real man.

Calvin Klein whiffed enough of this to take the precaution of trademarking the term "technosexual" for future use, though the company has no specific product in the works for it yet.

We already employ machine intelligence in war, in part because robots, as The Economist noted in a recent article, "have the potential to act more humanely than people. Stress does not affect a robot's judgment in the way it affects a soldier's." Sad, but hard to dispute. It is not a stretch to expect robots might love more humanely, too – or at least simulate love, which is close enough for many folks.

A roboticist named David Levy has gone to the trouble of writing a book about the subject titled LOVE AND SEX WITH ROBOTS: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships. He describes the high but, in his view, surmountable technical obstacles; mostly, though, he is interested in the social aspects. "Love with robots will be as normal as love with other humans," he says. The lumping of robots with “other humans” in that sentence gives me some pause, but otherwise his message is surprisingly unsurprising. It is no great revelation that people can love (and have sex with) almost anything; a truly anthropic machine should have no trouble getting dates. There are few insights in the book that most readers wouldn’t already have going in.

Some might point out that with birthrates already dropping below replacement level in all highly industrialized countries, these robots, if and when they arrive, could lead to a population crash as we abandon each other for techno-toys. Perhaps we need not fear extinction at the hands of robotic killers like the ones in the Terminator movies. Perhaps our machines will love us to death.


My own tale of robotic love, “Going through the Motions,” can be found  at

ANDROID GIRL (MUSIC VIDEO) from Aaron Potter on Vimeo.


  1. The "robot girl" is actually a fairly common trope in Japanese anime. I haven't run into her as much as I did back in the 90's but she's still around.

    I think the 90's, with the internet exploding and virtual reality as a buzzword on everyone lips really fueled this idea. Quite a few of my favorite series and movies from that time have a female character of synthetic origins. For story purposes she is usually attempting to find her place in the world, since she was constructed, and for a specific purpose - can she do anything else?

    That is certainly the case for Ifurita in "El Hazard", a weapon with amazingly powerful destructive capabilities. It also is the case for Melfina from "Outlaw Star", who turns out to be the brain and navigational system for the starship the heros commandeer.

    But maybe the most famous is Major Kusinagi from "Ghost in the Shell". At first we learn that she's a cyborg, a human mind in a manufactured body. But as the movie progresses we begin to question the fact that her mind isn't also a construct. A interesting sequence where she sees a woman that looks exactly like her, raises all kinds of interesting implications. And by the end of the film she has fused with the completely synthetic life form "the Puppetmaster" turning her into something else all together. Gotta love the Japanese for just digging right into a concept with animation. :)

  2. Your anime expertise is appreciated as always, Roman.

    Charles Strosss in Saturn's Children also depicted a robotic identity crisis. Humans no longer exist, the design and programming of the AI machines, which were intended to serve people, no longer are useful, but if they alter themselves they change the essence of what they are. Fun stuff.