This one’s for you, John, or “I built a sex robot in your memory

January 11, 2010 by James Bradley

I’m sure more than a few of you will have seen the story out of this week’s Adult Entertainment Expo about the launch of TrueCompanion’s “anatomically consistent” artificial intelligence-driven sex robot, Roxxxy.

I’m reasonably unmoved by the story itself: sex robots aren’t new, and I think it’s safe to assume they’ll grow more sophisticated and lifelike in years to come (if you’d like to know more you might want to check out Shouting to hear the echoes as an introduction to the wild and wonderful world of Synthetiks).

But there’s a detail buried in The Sydney Morning Herald’s coverage of the launch which had me choking on my muesli. Apparently:

“Inspiration for the sex robot sprang from the September 11, 2001 attacks. ‘I had a friend who passed away in 9/11,’ [Roxxxy’s creator, Douglas Hines] said. ‘I promised myself I would create a program to store his personality, and that became the foundation for Roxxxy True Companion’.”

Now, quite aside from the fact this is pretty much the plot of Caprica (which I’ll be reviewing in the next couple of weeks), am I wrong in thinking there’s something splendidly weird about the idea of creating a sex robot to commemorate a friend’s passing? And, if we wanted to get all psychological for a moment, that there’s something about the way the idea mixes up subject and object (literally and metaphorically) which goes to the heart of pornography and the sex industries more generally? Or is it just that Marx was right all along, and all history, no matter how dreadful, is eventually and inevitably reborn as farce?

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