Thursday, 30 January 2014

Synthetik Love Lasts Forever

One of those who prefer the artificial lover to a real one is the self-declared technosexual and iDollator Davecat, who lives with two $6,000 RealDolls, one of which he regards as his wife and the other as his mistress. His and his “wife’s” wedding bands are engraved with the programmatic statement: “Synthetik (sic!) love lasts forever.” Davecat knows, of course, that his artificial wife does not really love him, that she, literally, couldn’t care less. He is not deluded in that sense. Yet despite being aware that his “wife” is just a doll, that is, a thing, he speaks to her and treats her – as far as that is possible with a doll – as if she were a real person. He speaks about her family history, her interests, likes and dislikes, her moods and thoughts, and strongly resents people who regard and treat her as a mere thing, which he finds disrespectful of her. “If animals have rights, and rightly so, why shouldn’t we treat something that looks and acts like a human with similar rights and respect?” Well, perhaps because if animals do have rights, then this is not because they look and act like humans, but for other reasons. Animals can be hurt. They can suffer and perhaps even be humiliated. They can be killed. A doll or a robot (assuming that they are not sentient) cannot do any of those things.

Yet for Davecat the case is not that clear-cut. For him, his “wife” is, very much like Santa Claus and other imaginary creatures for small children, both real and not real, not part of the real world, but still, somehow, an agent, to be feared or, in this case, loved and cared for. The boundaries between a mere thing and a person have begun to blur, or are simply considered irrelevant. For Davecat, the difference is merely that the one person is “synthetic”, while the other is “organic”. However, the more the synthetic looks and behaves like the organic the easier it is to see it as a person and to sustain the make believe: “Part of the (sexual) appeal of synthetics is how much they look like their organic counterparts. If you have a robot shaped like a refrigerator, that won’t have as much draw as a robot in the shape of a human.”

Thus the blurring of the line between the real person and the simulated one depends on the similarity that the synthetic bears to the organic. Yet the resemblance that is required and desired is confined to the synthetic lover’s appearance. It is a strictly external resemblance. What distinguishes the organic from the synthetic, the real from the made-up, is equally important: “but the much larger part of their appeal is that they’re humans, but they don’t possess any of the unpleasant qualities that organic, flesh and blood humans have. A synthetic will never lie to you, cheat on you, criticize you, or be otherwise disagreeable.” In other words, the synthetic lover will never be a stranger. They will always “have a mindset or a personality that’s compatible with my own.” And if you are someone who, like Davecat, is “not keen on taking emotional chances”, if you want to spare yourself the “enormous investment of time, money, and emotion” that a real human lover requires, if you are not willing to take the huge risk that is unavoidable when you have someone in your life “who may bail at any time, or who transforms into someone unpleasant”, then you shouldn’t think twice: the synthetic lover is exactly what you need. Organic lovers are not really worth all the trouble we tend to have with them. After all, why should we waste time on an organic if “I have a Doll who is in love with me at home”? That would be just silly. Organics are not worth pursuing because they are “far too unpredictable”. Synthetics on the other hand “have a consistency that I’m grateful for.”

They are also immortal in the sense that their bodies can be replaced when no longer usable. It is interesting how this is being described by Davecat. If after a few years the body, from too much usage, is beyond repair, he simply goes and buys her (!) a new one. So although his “wife” isn’t really anything but body, he distinguishes very clearly between her and her body, as if there really were an immaterial and detachable entity, a soul or person, that, perhaps at any given time, inhabits and expresses itself through a particular body, but that can just as well be present in a different body if the old one is no longer suitable or available. The new body does not even have to look the same as the old one. With each new body her appearance can change, but it will still be her, just improved and upgraded in line with the latest technological developments. So as far as her owner is concerned, she is not a machine: she is the ghost in the machine.

Is Davecat happy? He insists he is. Perhaps, he admits, not one hundred per cent, but that is not because his artificial lover is not really real, but simply because there are certain things that it cannot do yet (for instance speak and interact like a human person would). But once the sex doll has given way to the (soon to come) sexbot of the future, there will be nothing left to desire: “your spouse should be easygoing and a joy to come home to. (...) I think the best way to reach that goal is through humanoid robots.” This would be the perfect remedy against loneliness. It would, he says, be like having your cake and eat it. Indeed, it would.

All the quotes are from an interview that Julie Beck did with Davecat last year. It was published as “Married to a Doll. Why One Man Advocates Synthetic Love” on September 6th, 2013, in The Atlantic and can be found here:

No comments:

Post a Comment