I don’t think to post to my own blog that much lately. Actually, I do THINK about it, but I don’t get around to it as much. Mostly because any time I have a long form thinky pseudo academic thing to say, it ends up going into a VoxPopcast post/epsiode (so make sure you go subscribe to that if you aren’t)… or maybe it ends as a part of my actual dissertation or some other academic thing that I am working on. Anyway, every once in a while I still have half-formed things that are rattling around in my head and I want to work through them… not sure if it’s a VoxPop episode yet, or an article or nothing. This is one of those days… I’m just working through some concepts.
So, first some backstory. I’ve become somewhat addicted to voice activated personal digital assistants. Not just the Siri on my phone. I also have three TVs in my house, two HomePods, and, I I think eight Amazon Echos of varying types. Plus my iPad and my watch (and Steph’s iPad, watch and iPhone… and I guess my laptop and desktop computers). Yes, yes, yes… I know the thing that people worry about… lack of privacy… how do I know that Amazon and/or Apple aren’t listening and watching to everything I do. I don’t know that. In fact, frankly, I just assume they are. I’m quite certain that some dude is in a data farm somewhere just giddy with excitement over listening to recordings of me having sex. You know what… good for him. I hope he enjoys it. So long as I can check the weather, ask for music to be played, set reminders of what I need to pick up at the grocery store and turn on and off my lights with my voice, I really don’t care! And you know what… if you’ve got a smartphone, they have recordings of you fucking too. Get used to it. Siri has heard you fuck! It’s the price you pay to be able to text emojis and gifs to people. And I’m sure that some of you think that you’ve cleverly saved yourself by turning off voice activation and location services and putting a little post-it note over the built in webcam. That’s cute… whatever helps you sleep at night. Anyway… more on this later.
Ok, now that that’s out of the way… For those that don’t know, my dissertation is about all about how sex and gender and sexuality are represented in comic books and other superhero narratives. So I was working on that today and I was thinking about the ways in which gender I’ve gotten to the part of my dissertation where I am thinking about the ways in which comic characters are granted gender when they have no specific need to have one. I’m thinking in particular about robots, androids and cyborgs here, for instance. Basically, we assume robots are male by default… and if we want to make them female… we give them boobs. Because boobs means female. It doesn’t matter how humanoid or not the robot is. If we want it to be female… throw some boobs on it! Seriously, girl robots have boobs! Almost all of them! And the more female we want the robot to read as, the sexier it has to be. In fact, when constructing a female representation of of a robot, it’s more important that she read as female than robot. Typical cues like being metallic, are way less important than boobs. The male gaze is very powerful!
Sometimes this makes sense… obviously it makes sense for the cyborgs that were born women like Ghost in the Shell‘s Major. And it makes sense for robots like Sarah Connor Chronicles‘ Cameron, who need to masquerade as human. But for other’s like Arcee in Transformers, who is not only not human, but also a giant from another planet… why’s she got boobs? Richie Rich’s robot maid, Irona, also has boobs. It’s not clear why. Rosie, the Jetson’s robot maid, and essentially the same character, does not (one of the few female robot examples I could think of who didn’t actually) so it’s not clear why Irona does. But she’s my favorite, because not only did she have boobs, but apparently when they decided to do a live action Richie Rich on Netflix, someone decided “Irona is not fuckable enough. Let’s make her more human looking and get her wardrobe from a french maid lingerie shop. Yeah, that’s the stuff! The kids will love it!”
And that’s the thing. I think you’re supposed to want to fuck Irona. You’re supposed to want to fuck all the female robots. That’s why they’re sexy. R2-D2 isn’t sexy. C-3PO isn’t. Optimus Prime isn’t. Nor is Johnny-5, or Gort, or Wall-E, or even Vision really. Ok, fine… Gort is a little sexy, but he has swagger. But we sexualize the female robots… even in kid’s content. Not just Irona… a major plot point in Solo: A Star Wars Story is Lando fucking L3-37 (how did this movie not to better? I wonder).
And obviously, that’s how many female robots in sci-fi are used. From Number 6 in Battlestar Galactica to the Fembots in Austin Powers to Ex Machina to West World. There’s a long history of robots being designed for the sexual pleasure of men. And of course, there’s people building fuckbots now… the next level or real doll. Honestly, they’re pretty damn creepy! But I’m sure good ones are around the corner. Because if, film, DVDs, the Internet and VR headsets have taught us anything… it’s that any new technology really takes off when someone figures out a way to make porn with it.
And thinking about all of that got me to where I was thinking about the digital assistants. I currently have two main problems with them. First of all, I want to rename them. I don’t want to be forced to talk to “Hey Siri” or “Alexa” (and I sure as hell am not triggering something with “Ok Google…” that’s the main reason I don’t have one of them. Seriously, fuck that!). I want to set up my own trigger word. One, because I want the TV to stop triggering them with commercials, but also, I like having them have their own customized identity. If nothing else, I would like to be able to use my own trigger word for my assistant and let Steph call her assistant with a different name. They can both “live” in all the devices. I don’t care. But I want to be able to access my calendar when I say the name I choose (Lorelei, has a nice digital assistant ring to it) and she can access hers with whatever name she chooses… (probably Depp, or Orlando or something… I’m just guessing).
The other problem I have with it is that it’s still a little weird talking out loud to “no body” to make my TV or my lights turn on or set my calendar or make a phonecall or whatever. What will really fix this is that sooner or later someone is going to make little holographic projects that I can stick around my house just so that I can have a floating head that appears when I say “Hey Lorelei.” I really don’t need anything complicated. My first thought was just the floating wireframe bald head that is Gideon on Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. Really, that’s good enough. I just want to feel like I’m talking TO someone instead of myself. Except obviously, I can’t have that… because ubiquitous hologram technology is farther away from being a reality than sex robots are.
But then I realized, that’s the answer! Porn drives technology. What will get me my hologram technology is someone figuring out a way to fuck it! What I need is for PornHub to get into the digital assistant business!
Of course they won’t be happy with just creepy floating wireframe head that I was imagining. In order for this to be viable they’d clearly need a fully rendered 3D beautiful woman. We need full Star Trek holodeck tech. And there’s precedent for this. Star Trek is the only reason we have cellphones or iPads in the first place. And there’s precedent for digital assistants to be holograms of beautiful women too. In the comics, Iron Man’s F.R.I.D.A.Y is this… as is Spider-man 2099’s Lyla. Joi, the best character from Blade Runner 2049, one of my favorite recent movies, is this. S1mone from the 2002 movie of the same name, is actually an actress rather than a PDA. And Microsoft literally actually named their digital assistant, Cortana, after the naked woman hologram they designed for the video game HALO (seriously… this is true). If they’re not planning to do this, then seriously, what was even the point. And if anything is going to inspire some lonely geek somewhere to crack the “believable hologram” problem, it’s figuring out a way to have sex with it. Or at least watch 3D porn they can’t quite interact with in front of them.
So clearly this technology is going to exist soon. Probably in our lifetimes. We already have VR porn headsets and this is the next logical step. But this makes me wonder about the ethical concerns with what it is. How do we view it. Will it be like porn and sex toys where no one talks about it, but we all know that we all use them for masturbation in private? Or is there a level of realness that it eventually reaches where suddenly people are uncomfortable with it because it doesn’t “feel like masturbation anymore”?
And what about social issues surrounding sex? If you have sex with your hologram does it count as cheating on your SO? I mean, there’s not anyone else “really there.” And if not, what happens when you link your hologram to the control of some other person you’re “gaming with” on the other side of the world? Is bringing a hologram into your otherwise monogamous relationship a threesome? If there are several is it an orgy? What about when some of them are controlled by real people and others are AIs? What about projecting a hologram of a different person over your regular partner… or your regular partner over a different person? Does the existence of this technology eliminate the idea of monogamy as we know it and forcibly normalize polyamory?
When are you “too young” to fuck your hologram? I mean, sure you can put a parental lock on it, but whether we’re talking about 1989, 1999, 2009, or 2019 obviously your 13-year-old is smarter with technology than you are so there’s no reason to expect any different in 2029. Clearly they’re going to unlock it jack their brains out, and wipe the browser history every time you’re out of the house. And what about DeepFakes? Obviously, the second it’s possible to skin your digital assistant, people are going to be developing lookalikes of every celebrity living and dead from Marilyn Monroe to Beyonce. It’s not really “them” of course… It’s HoloSiri, who just happens to be wearing a white dress that blows up and shows her panties a lot when you talk to her… so is that ok? And does it stop being ok when you decide to make her makeout with HoloCortana? Does it matter if the celebrity skin is of a person who is alive or dead?
I have so many philosophical questions here!