13 Ways of Looking at a Sexbot

I.

MEMO TO ALL STAFF

Employees of Galataea, Inc. are reminded that the acceptable designations for our product lines are: Personal Gynoform Companion™; Gynoform™; or, PGC. The use of the term “sexbot” is strictly forbidden and use of same in any communications will be grounds for disciplinary action…

II.

“It’ll never last. The liberals and the feminists will see to that. They won’t stand for it. They know they’re obsolete now. Sure, I’ve signed up. They’ve got this finance plan on their site, you lease it, get the upgrades… hell, yeah!”

III.

“You know, I’ve stopped… doing it… with the thing. I just like it to hold me. It helps me sleep. Is that weird?”

IV.

“When the idea was first mooted, many men were enamored of the idea of an ageless partner. The truth turned out a little more complicated than that. What happens when you look a little older every morning in the bathroom mirror while the robot girl in your bed is still looks a fresh–faced eighteen? Tonight we look at the phenomenon of geriatric ‘hacks’ for personal Companions…”

V.

“That’s right, Emma, the Court is expected to rule today in the case of Mayhew vs. Mayhew. The estranged children of the deceased James Mayhew are contesting his will leaving the entirety of his estate in a trust to care for his sexb— excuse me, personal Companion. Lawyers for Mr. Mayhew claim that his children ceased all contact with their father over twenty years ago, describing his ownership of the companion robot as ‘ungodly’… back to you in the studio, Emma…”

VI.

“Oh, the shit hit the fan when it came out, as you can imagine. The manufacturers were unrepentant, of course; the fine print was on their side and the class action lawsuits went nowhere. As far as the manufacturers were concerned, they had certain requirements— companionability, loyalty, playfulness, what have you— and a handy neural-net template already existed for these traits. The owners never saw it that way, of course: bad enough you were screwing a robot, but screwing a robot with a dog’s brain? Yeah, that didn’t go down too well… for about six months. Now they’re selling more than ever. People are weird.”

VII.

“It was a design flaw there from the get–go. Remember, ‘artificial intelligence’ as it was called back then was still in its infancy. Even the guys in academia were blundering around in the dark to an extent, and where commercial considerations were paramount… well, you can imagine there was hardly a corner left uncut. Long story short, there’s big scalability problems with the terraced data structures used to implement the engram–analogues: Companion memories max out after about thirty years for the early models, and the later ones aren’t much better. The time to integrate new experiences with the existing graph basically goes exponential. Sure, you can hit the factory reset but some of the owners… they’re pretty emotionally invested, you know?”

VIII.

HAS “COMPANION” BECOME THE NEW “C–WORD”?

CHILD BANISHED FROM SCHOOL FOR “OBSCENE” REMARK

Sydney, Australia: Parents of eight year old Pamela Froud spoke angrily to press today after their child was sent home from school after using an allegedly “obscene” word in an essay. The word? “Companion”. Since robots designed euphemistically for “personal companionship” have become widely available, the word has acquired derogatory connotations. Press style guides now routinely recommend “colleague”, “contemporary” or even the good old–fashioned “friend” instead of a “c–word” that has become increasingly taboo…

IX.

“Hey, remember that creepy old guy with the farm on the old Dublin Road? Sick fuck had five or six of those sex robots— I hate that ‘Companion’ business!— in his barn. Torturing them with a blow torch and shit. God knows where he got the money for them. No, they can’t register pain but apparently they’re designed to avoid extreme temperatures or ‘circumstances that might compromise physical integrity’ according to the owners’ manual— where did I get what? The manual? Off your Da, you clown! Anyway, they’re trying to get him on animal cruelty charges because their brains are made of dogs or something. You didn’t know that? Shows what you know…”

X.

“Call it crazy, but sometimes you know that I prefer it to the real thing? It's like there's a… relief? Relief in knowing there’s no–one behind the eyes. Um, that makes me sound like a psycho. No–one to judge you. No–one to be disappointed. The pressure’s off. Between you and me, I can scarcely manage the real thing anymore, you know? Performance anxiety. I mean, the women, they have their Companions now, probably blowin’ their minds every night with magic G–spot sex. What’s a flesh–and–blood guy to do?”

XI.

UNCANNY VALLEY OF THE DOLLS: HOW “COMPANIONSHIP” ELUDES SOME

“In the past twenty years, ‘Companions’— robots sold for personal companionship and more— have gone from a furtive, barely–talked–about outlet for the terminally socially–awkward to something of a transgressive fashion statement. Manufacturers are now estimated to spend billions of Euro in research and development every year in materials science, robotics and artificial intelligence to produce the robot girl, or guy, of a customer’s dreams. Galataea Inc.’s latest model, ‘Amanda’ contains over 30,000 microscopic actuators designed to emulate every twitch and tilt of the human muscular system. Yet for some, the Companions are less the partners of their dreams than the stuff of nightmare… despite ongoing advances in technology, a small percentage of people still experience feelings of extreme disgust when in close proximity to Companions. Those affected routinely describe them as ‘creepy dolls’, ‘undead’, even ‘walking corpses’. The precise percentage of people affected is not known.

“The term ‘uncanny valley‘ was coined to describe the unsettling affect of early forays into creating lifelike humanoid robots. While humans are quite accepting of, and even entertained by, creations such as animated talking animals, as the creation more closely approaches the true human form, entertainment is often abruptly replaced by revulsion…”

XII.

“There’s limits to how far the idea can be taken, OK? The manufacturers know this and are very careful not to cross the line. Otherwise— can you imagine? The ethical situation is bad enough as it is, knowing where they got the neural nets from. But some owners, they can’t take it. And you can understand why. It’s a man or a woman, the most beautiful person you ever met. It loves you unconditionally, up to a point. Because of those limits. You reach that point where it can never reciprocate in the way you want it to, the way you need it to. If they’ve got a lease agreement with the manufacturer, they’ll usually take it back. But sometimes they’re abandoned. Which is where I come in. Heh, eighty years ago, I'd be a crazy cat lady. Now I’m the Crazy Companion Lady. It costs me nearly everything to keep them powered and running. Sometimes the neighbours chip in but not often. They don’t like me.

“I love them. And they love me. Even though they were created for ugly reasons, they’re… pure. Within their limits, they exist only to love. Only to love.”

XIII.

I want you. I need you. I will love you. Forever.