PART ONE: Techno Desire and Cyber Sex
It is now easy to love our selves as cyborgs, cyborg love is here, embrace it. The essential notion of Cyborg love is constructive transgression, a spreading out of our sense perception, into new domains of feeling. More than stimulating, less than exciting, slightly uncomfortable, the cyborg symbiosis we are moving into is an opportunity to expand our humanness. According to Amber Case who studies Cyborg Anthropology:
“It’s not that machines are taking over – it’s just that they are helping us be more human”
This emergent symbiotic relationship might represent a possible break with our proto emotional selves and a real opening to redefine our perceptual machinery.
It might be easier for some of us to accept a robotic firefighter, sand that self metamorphoses, or mechanical helpers that feed on organic matter (our very own waste!), but when these same robots become very similar to us the notion of us vs. them, will blur into nothingness.
Enter ECCEROBOT (Embodied Cognition in a Compliantly Engineered Robot) a three-year project funded by the 7th framework programme of the EU (ICT-Challenge 2, “Cognitive Systems, Interaction, Robotics”). The project has three goals: to build the first truly anthropomimetic robot; to find out how to control it; and finally, to investigate its human-like cognitive features.
Anthropomimetic robotics is nothing new, what is new however is the manner by which we learn, slowly but surely, to accept these as another form of us, humans. The fact is that, as we become more cyborgs and the more robots accumulate human like properties, the distance between these two forms of life decreases exponentially. The transgressive aspect enters the equation when we manage to leap across the ‘uncanny valley’ (a term coined by Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori first in 1970):
“Mori’s original hypothesis states that as the appearance of a robot is made more human, a human observer’s emotional response to the robot will become increasingly positive and empathic, until a point is reached beyond which the response quickly becomes that of strong revulsion. However, as the robot’s appearance continues to become less distinguishable from that of a human being, the emotional response becomes positive once more and approaches human-to-human empathy levels.” (Wiki-uncanny valley)
The motion to empathy is only an aspect of a larger shift in our interaction with machines, for when our minds can no longer distinguish the difference between man and machine, our emotional system will adapt accordingly.
Beyond the, by now proverbial, consensual hallucination of cyberspace the enlarged domain of the metaverse allows us a glimpse into our futures. A future, already here, in which we will love both ourselves as cyborgs and our newly emerging companion androids and Gynoids. One of the most fascinating developments in this respect is the work of Japanese robotics creator Hiroshi Ishiguro, who recently unveiled his newest creation the new robot F.
Geminoid F serenades the crowd during Hong Kong’s “Robots in Motion 2012″ Expo:
Can we love Geminoid F? My definite answer to this question is, if not Geminoid F then her next of kin or her descendants. Cyborg love and Robot love are two converging lines of emotional connectivity that do not come to usurp our ‘common’ state of affairs. On the contrary, as technologies of augmentation become more available, as hyperconnectivity increases and as robots become more life like, we are finally extending our family of beings to new domains.
Of course we will love these creations, we will love them for their beauty (created to fit our tastes) and their resiliency, for their functionality (created to meet our needs) and their otherness. But there is another reason for which I think we will love these created companions, lets call it, mental transportation. Like Hiroshi Ishiguro I believe that androids and gynoids will become our friends, companions, colleagues and lovers, as part of an extended cyborgization process. A process that is as natural as it is inevitable and inexorable.
In his book ‘Love and Sex with Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships’ Levy states that: “Love with robots will be as normal as love with other humans,” he further writes, “while the number of sexual acts and lovemaking positions commonly practiced between humans will be extended, as robots teach us more than is in all of the world’s published sex manuals combined.”
Most of us will remember fondly the impressive character of Rachael in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, a cybernetic creature of immense beauty played artfully by Sean Young. In the movie Rachael is an advanced replicant prototype of the Nexus-6 generation, carrying implanted memories from Eldon Tyrell’s niece. What is important in the case of this representation is the sense of intimacy and tenderness carried over to the audience. Rachael transports us into a new world, that of a totally transparent human-replicant relationship.
Like all modern relationships, technology and sexual desire will play a major role in both adoption and implementation of cyborgs and androids. It is quite certain that the future human civilization rests with a new natural state of affairs one in which androids, gynoids, cyborgs and robots play a complex interactive game with us common mortals. This is good.
It is good because a new space is being created. A space allowing for a broadening of horizons; an overarching space of potentiality, vital and natural. The relationship of human and machine, mind and electronics, evolving in tandem, is changing the concept of embodiment, enlarging it to encompass new realities. We are no longer alone in the family of beings. Transgressive love is our lot, through which we explore new forms of existence, new fashions of self-reflection. The tenderness we extend to machines is not a postmodern relativism but an actuation of our innate desire to merge with everything. To merge with all life, machines included.
I leave you with the amazing Demo-presentation by Quantic Dreams of their latest creation: Kara:
Are we not falling in love with her? Soon Kara, and similar forms of life will be here, are we ready to extend our tenderness? To embrace the new members of an extended humanity, with warmth, with fondness and maybe adoration? It will take time, but I am certain that we will.