File this one under “sexual culture,” will ya?
Poppy’s clever little video came across my Facebook feed this morning, and it put me in mind of other songs about artificial partners, such as this favorite of mine by the Dresden Dolls:
And this one from my formative teen years, Plastic Fantastic Lover:
But I can’t get started on this topic until I add this internet meme from one of my favorite movies of all time. Here’s Bishop from Aliens requesting less perjorative terminology:
Now there’s a difference between the animistic intelligence and personality that Mechaphiles, Technosexuals, and Objectum Sexuals detect in their beloved objects (objects which range from small items to large landmarks, transportation, and robots) and the created and programmed capacities for artificial intelligence that people are currently installing in “lifelike” robots, cell-phone sized machines, and something that looks like Tinker Bell living in a blender (not to mention the stealth intelligences that reside in our search engines and gas pumps).
There’s also a difference in beloved objects which don’t look at all like people and those which do. Is there a difference in the psychology of their human lovers? I have no idea. But it’s actually common for human beings to assign personalities to objects, and then respond to those personalities with emotions, and to become attached or even smitten. Little kids do it with favorite toys and people with object personification synesthesia can’t help doing it, even with objects they don’t like. See this PDF of one such case study by Smilek et al: When ‘‘3’’ is a Jerk and ‘‘E’’ is a King: Personifying Inanimate Objects in Synesthesia.
“Love dolls” have been around for longer than we might like to admit, but we’re no longer shocked by stories of people (usually men) who have emotionally bonded with them and prefer them to human partners. They – and their kissing cousins, Love Robots and androids – have been the topic of movies, TV, porn, and speculative fiction. I remember giggling like a loon when I came across this book from the late, great Olympia Press, High Thrust, with its tagline: “a lonely beautiful woman…and the world’s most versatile robot.” Tee hee… I read the book too, and it was actually cool and satirical. As this was even before Star Trek’s Data, an android character!
But back to love dolls, which are largely inanimate. As far back as 2007, sexologist Violet Blue was asking provocative questions about consent in these relationships (and other thorny aspects) in SF Gate: “Rape of the Real Doll,” parts one and two. Since then, everyone seems to have done a story on people and love dolls, from Business Insider to The Atlantic to The Daily Mail and beyond. DollForum.com is probably just one of many online communities and networks catering to “iDollators.” Lars & The Real Girl is an example of a movie which portrays one man’s relationship with a love doll, though the doll “dies” in the end and he supposedly progresses to a relationship with an “organic woman.” (There seems to be a bias against object beloveds here.)
The manufacturing of high-end (no pun intended) female love dolls seems to be booming. High quality male dolls seem harder to find. (Why is that? Is it because high quality organic dudes also seem to be scarce? That’s what all my heterosexual female friends tell me.) But I did find “Bob Real Silicone Love Doll” who is white, and currently selling at a discount of $2,248 at isexdoll.com. I am amused to find that he comes in a clean shaven version and a version with faint hipster facial fuzz. (LOL!) The advertising blurb “Bob can perform oral sex…” but I don’t see how he can, unless he’s got a motorized face. Or, again, maybe this lack of motorization means he does it about as well as a lot of organic dudes… A product that sells through Amazon, “Sexflesh Chiseled Chad Male Love Doll” consists of a disturbingly headless (white) torso with an erection. Um… Okay… And RealLoveSexDolls sells “Tai,” who’s kind of a twink (again white), but who is shown with a (post-coital?) cigarette in his mouth.
This 2016 VICE program, Slutever, explores the making of a high quality male doll (with custom heads, nationality, “snap-on tools,” “freckles, scars, birthmarks,” etc.) from Sinthetics for around $13,000. Many women have requested such dolls, and there is a backlog of orders according to the program. One of the women who owns male doll says it’s “so much easier than doing a Tinder date.” I’ve got to say the footage of the headless silicone torso emerging from a mold is very freaky.
Now, I’ve had long conversations and correspondences with mechaphiles and OS folks, but I’ve never had a conversation with anyone involved with a doll. (I feel as if I’ve missed something as a sexologist, in not having had those conversations.) However, at this point I’d really love to talk with people who are working on installing artificial intelligences in AI “companions” – sexy or otherwise. I wanna know, who is working on AI in love dolls?
As I mentioned above, there’s already commercial attention focused on AI/robotic companions, and I’d like to know who is installing and guiding emotional and socio-sexual intelligence? Given our human propensity to potentially erotify everything, I believe that even an artificial being who is designed to mostly remember meds and play scrabble with elderly people will need to have some smarts so that when that older person becomes fond, very fond… you see where I’m going with this, I hope.
So, AI start-up folks, you need me. You need us – sexologists, sex counselors, therapists, sex educators – as consultants for ALL your artificial intelligence projects, even if it’s just a pixie living in a blender or a slim case carried in a pocket. We can help you incorporate necessary skills and frameworks for interaction that may not have occurred to the techies in charge of these projects.