“She Am Robot:” Roxxxy and Community

12 January 2010

Christopher J Wiles

writer | speaker | servant

This article contains some subject matter that some may find less than wholesome, and it’s dealt with in a manner that some may find less than reverent.  Homeschool moms may want to hit the “back” button. 

There are times when humanity takes that great leap forward, and technology finally catches up with depravity.

This is one of those times.

Her name is Roxxxy. Her story begins not at the Adult entertainment expo where she was unveiled, but in the emotional rubble of the September 11 attacks.

Douglas Hines was a former scientist from Bell Labs, who had lost a close friend on September 11. Hines was searching for a way to use technology to preserve not only the memory, but the “personality” of his deceased friend.

And…well…

Long story short, he ended up building a sex robot. No; really.

Priced affordably at only $9,000 (more than my Hyunai; though just as much plastic), the robot’s real appeal is from the laptop that powers her personality. She responds to “users” (and that’s the real key word here, isn’t it?) by talking to you through an incorporated speaker.

 

“It’s so easy even a…oh, never mind.”

I suppose the marriage of silicon and silicone was inevitable. But what really struck me as disturbing was not the possibility of contracting computer viruses, the questions I had about 15-year drivetrain warranties, or even her resemblance to the Geico cavemen. It was the fact that there is even a market for this product.

COUNTERFEITING INTIMACY

Notice the language we’ve been using: “users,” “market.” What Roxxxy fundamentally represents is a world that has sought to turn sexuality into a commodity, and exchanged real, interpersonal intimacy for a counterfeit representation composed of synthetic fiber and solid state electronics.

This is a theme spoken of by the late, great Kurt Vonnegut. In his book Breakfast of Champions, lead character Kilgore Trout is a talented science fiction author who can only seem to get his stories published in pornographic magazines:

And Trout made up a new novel while he sat there. It was about an Earthling astronaut who arrived on a planet where all the animal and plant life had been killed by pollution, except for humanoids. The humanoids ate food made from petroleum and coal. They gave a feast for the astronaut, whose name was Don. The food was terrible….They asked Don if dirty movies were a problem on Earth, too, and Don said, “Yes.” They asked him if the movies were really dirty, and Don replied, “As dirty as movies could get.” This was a challenge to the humanoids, who were sure then: dirty movies could be at anything on Earth. So everybody piled into air-cushion vehicles, and they floated to a dirty movie house downtown. It was intermission time when they got there, so Don had some time to think about what could possibly be dirtier than what he had already seen on Earth. He be-came sexually excited even before the house lights went down. The women in his party were all twittery and squirmy…the main feature began. It was about a male and a female and their two children, and their dog and their cat. They ate steadily for an hour and a half—soup, meat, biscuits, butter, vegetables, mashed potatoes and gravy, fruit, candy, cake, pie. The camera rarely strayed more than a foot from their glistening lips and their bobbing Adam’s apples. And then the father put the cat and dog on the table, so they could take part… After a while, the actors couldn’t eat any more. They were so stuffed that they were goggle-eyed. They could hardly move. They said they didn’t think they could eat again for a week, and so on. They cleared the table slowly. They went waddling out into the kitchen, and they dumped about thirty pounds of leftovers into a garbage can. The audience went wild. When Don and his friends left the theater, they were accosted by humanoid [prostitutes], who offered them eggs and oranges and milk and butter and peanuts and so on. The [prostitutes] couldn’t actually deliver these goodies, of course. The humanoids told Don that if he went home with a [prostitute], she would cook him a meal of petroleum and coal products at fancy prices. And then, while he ate them, she would talk dirty about how fresh and full of natural juices the food was, even though the food was fake.

Vonnegut writes of a planet where petroleum and smog have eradicated the food supply. What was once meant to be enriching now only exists in synthetic form.

And on our planet, the asphyxiating smog of false spirituality has only eradicated our sense of intimacy, and what remains exists only in counterfeit form.

Because what is most sad about these robots is not that they serve to satisfy the baser instincts of their users, but that their design speaks to emotional as well as physical connection. “I like holding hands with you,” the robot is programmed to say.

 

CONNECTED (WITHOUT THE WIRES)

All this because we are lonely beings, “living lives of quiet desperation,” as Thoreau wrote. Douglas Coupland coined the term “the cult of aloneness,” speaking of the myriad ways that man lives in a self-imposed isolation:

“All looks with strangers became the unspoken question, ‘Are you the stranger who will rescue me? Starved for attention, terrified of abandonment, I began to wonder if sex was just an excuse to look deeply into another human being’s eyes.” (Douglas Coupland, Generation X: Tales of an Accelerated Culture)

The Hebrew scriptures tell us that in the beginning God created a world that He deemed “very good.” Man was created in the tselem, or “image” of God. To bear God’s image means to share in certain of God’s qualities, and the text of the Book of Genesis most immediately situates this in terms of creativity and relationality.

But it was “not good for man to be alone,” according to God’s judgment. Eugene Peterson says that “self is a scarecrow word.” A human cannot be fully human in the absence of other humans.

Yet many revel in this absence. Donald Miller writes:

“When I lived alone it was very hard for me to be around people. I would leave parties early. I would leave church early before worship was over so I didn’t have to stand around and talk. The presence of people would agitate me. I was so used to being able to daydream and keep myself company that other people were an intrusion. It was terribly unhealthy…” (Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz)

We often end up using people (there’s the word “use” again…) for our own ends, and exchange the intimacy of community for the counterfeits of efficiency, and in so doing exchange our humanity for the same soulless, robotic existence that dolls like Roxxxy are made from.

 

THE GOSPEL TRUTH

But there is an answer. Miller goes on to write:

“Loneliness is something that happens to us, but I think it is something we can move ourselves out of. I think a person who is lonely should dig into a community, give himself to a community, teach people to care for each other, love each other. Jesus did not want us floating through space or sitting in front of our televisions. Jesus wants us interacting, eating together, laughing together, praying together.”(Miller, Blue Like Jazz)

The gospel breathes us to life both as individuals and as a community. Paul chastised the church at Ephesus for their separatism and name-calling. The cross teaches us that community can never be built on the treacherous sands of performance, but only on the unifying stone of Christ’s redemptive work (cf. Ephesians 2:11-22).

Thus, in this new community we turn from the counterfeits of our present world and embrace the shared hope in the next.

Batteries not included.

12 January 2010

Christopher J Wiles

writer | speaker | servant

Chris is a writer and speaker. He currently serves as teaching pastor at Tri-State Fellowship and as a research writer for Docent Research Group.

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