Guys and Dolls: A Fear of Intimacy

As humans we are no strangers to the complexity of relationships. They’re complicated, they’re scary, and they’re (very) disappointing. So when it comes to issues such as miscommunication, pride, and fear…it’s no surprise when things fall apart and sometimes don’t come back together.

What does the above paragraph have to do with artificial intelligence I talked about in my earlier post? Read on:

Instant AI (愛)

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed in media (namely anime) when it comes to guys interacting with AI and computer programs it’s that…the interactions with them come across as strange. The AI in question are usually female and the protagonist is male and when they meet, the trope Born Sexy Yesterday comes into play.

The woman (AI, robot, doll, alien) in question is usually fully grown, naive, attractive, but skilled. The man is usually ordinary, sometimes unlucky in life or love or both. And interestingly enough…he’s almost always white* (when portrayed in American media). And the woman in question almost always seems to love him in the end. The trope can be explored more in this video by Pop Culture Detective:

If you don’t wish to go through the 18 minutes of in-depth talk I can give my abridged version:

  • Born Sexy Yesterday absolves men from doing emotional labor in relationships.
  • The idea of taking advantage of someone who is naive and vulnerable is inherently predatory.
  • Unfortunate implications abound when this trope can also be seen as a basis for abusive relationships.
  • This trope is used as a romantic subplot and almost always only shows the man’s perspective without giving characterization to the female character. If character is given, it’s known that she serves to be the love interest.
  • The woman in question seems to already love the man without any explanation as to why.

The reversal sometimes shows up in media. Comics and manga like Eggnoid, Absolute Boyfriend, and movies like George of the Jungle do exist but are rarely seen as the norm. I suspect the reasoning behind this is that women who are sexually skilled and knowledgeable of the ways of the world are seen as intimidating, maybe

So the gist I’ve gotten is that being able to be someone’s first and teach them everything without having to develop yourself or consider the other person’s feelings or autonomy is what’s passing for love these days. And people seem to be wanting an AI that is programed to love them and only them without putting in any effort to be better versions of themselves. Do people even know what love is?

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Baby don’t hurt me.

Relationships Are Complex

I’m not going to go through the whole trouble of explaining what makes relationships work because everyone’s seen the Facebook drivel that oozes saccharine sentiments on just how you should love another person. So, in order to not insult the intellect of the masses I’ll reduce it to a few fine points:

  • Respect: relationships can only be built if you genuinely respect another person as another person. They’re autonomous beings outside of you and don’t exist for your benefit.
  • Honesty: While respecting another’s privacy is important, a certain amount of transparency and openness is required.
  • Communication: Actively listening and working on your communication skills are crucial to maintaining relationships, you can’t ignore this.
  • Vulnerability and Emotional Labor: Close relationships require vulnerability and emotional labor to be expended on all parties involved. Taking another’s feelings into consideration and

People are Afraid of Intimacy?

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Honestly, the idea of falling in love with a program that caters to your needs is downright uncanny because I know that real relationships with flesh and blood human beings is nowhere near as simple or easy. Relationships take time to develop and there are no shortcuts to earning trust. You cannot cheat your way out of emotional labor and expect to have a healthy and happy relationship with another person.

The downside to all of this hard work is that it can easily be all for naught. Relationships change over time, failure happens, and rejection is an ever present reality. It takes a lot to trust in someone else because vulnerability can easily be taken advantage of, and nobody wants that. It’s because of this that fear of intimacy is understandable: we simply live in a society where people don’t trust each other.

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A simple Google search reveals plenty.

So, what now?

So, we have all this knowledge, what do we do with it? We know AI are no real substitute for humans (please hold all Blade Runner comments). We also know that relationships are complex, full of complex factors (anxiety, abuse, isolation, ect), and are generally messy with no perfect or satisfying answers that every single person. Is it worth it to try and connect with another human being?

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Artists certainly think so,

While we have little control over the things that happen in our lives, we still have the ability to control our reactions to what is thrown at us. We can’t control people or how they initially respond to us. All we can do is take our experiences—both positive and negative—and use what we’ve learned in order to better ourselves. Your personal growth as a human being is important because one cannot understand others without first understanding oneself.

TL;DR: Artificial Intelligence is no substitute for human interaction and relationships and you are encouraged to seek out relationships and to better yourself.

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Guys and Dolls: First Post

In the wake of RealDolls and robots gaining citizenship the war between humans and machines is heating up. The commentary surrounding Artificial Intelligence and objects coming to life is as old as the tale of Pygmalion whose sculpture was brought to life by the gods due to his…devotion deemed as love. While some accept this story of wish fulfillment, others are quick to point out the obvious flaws and repercussions that come with creating new life and designing your ideal lover.

This story is told and retold through all forms of media and the only thing that changes is the tropes and setting.

Sources of reference:

  • Chobits – CLAMP
  • Doll –Mitsukazu Mihara
  • Franken Fran
  • Frankenstein
  • Ghost in the Shell

The topics I’ll be exploring include:

  • Relationships between humans and A.I.
  • Tropes: Born Sexy Yesterday, Pygmalion Plot,
  • Algalmatophillia and similar fetishes
  • Plastic surgery and dollification
  • Lust versus Love and psychological responses
  • Needs for companionship and relations between humans
  • Digital Ghosts, Brain Uploading, and the Future

This will likely be a multi part work seeing as this is a content-heavy discussion. I’ll make sure to post as many sources as I can, make links, and try to keep a sense of humor in all of this. However, themes concerning what it means to be human are hardly humorous. That said, I’ll get started.

Does Chii Dream of Electric Sheep?

Chobits

CLAMP, a world renowned manga artist team famous for their works such as Card Captor Sakura, Angelic Layer, and XXXHolic, explores the idea of relationships between human and machine. These themes show up poignantly in the highly favored manga series Chobits:

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Where guys will be guys and girls will be…robots?

The story explores a future where Persocoms (personal computers) take the form of humans with many options available. The protagonist, Hideki finds a discarded Persocom in an alleyway and takes her home. He turns her on and discovers she has no data and can only say “chi”. He names her Chii and hijinks ensue.

Across several volumes we learn the stories of other people who have had their lives touched by their experiences with Persocoms:

Yumi Omura: A high school student who has a complex about Persocoms and wonders if  she’ll be able to measure up. She’s in love with a man who married his Persocom, and she happens to resemble her. This does get touched on.

Takko Shimizu: A cram school teacher whose husband leaves her for a Persocom. Falls in love with one of her students.

Hiromu Shinbo: Cram student and friend of Hideki. He marries Shimizu. Owns Sumomo.

Hiroyasu Ueda: A baker who married his Persocom. She passes away protecting him.

Minoru Kokubunji: A Persocom expert who created a Persocom to replace his lost sister.

Chitose Hibiya: Wife of Chii’s original creator. She’s actually Chii’s original mother.

Without going into too many unnecessary details the story explores human/persocom, persocom/persocom, and human/human relationships. The story itself is surprisingly optimistic and falls heavily on the idealistic scale, believing that humans and machines can have actual relationships.

My experience with the series was rather emotional and the outcome was unexpected. It explored Persocoms exploring their own feelings and figuring out what life means to them as machines. The story within a story “A City With No People” asks the overlaying question if humans can truly love Persocoms and whether or not our second protagonist, Chii, will be able to choose the “someone just for her” and be accepted.

While people experience attraction to fictional characters and that is seen as odd, but somewhat normal; what happens when you bring those characters to life? What happens when you give them physical bodies? What happens when you give them a free range program complete with emotions? What if? What if? What if? First Hatsune Miku hologram concerts, then what?

IC: In a Doll

On the cynical side we have a much darker and dare I say, realistic (?) point of view from Mitsukazu Mihara. Her stories are steeped in tragedy told through stunning illustration and fashion design. Stories like Dokuhime and Beautiful People rip into the gut and nibble on the heartstrings of those not expecting the content to be so heavy. A warning to any who dare to read: death is a VERY common feature in these stories and the artwork contains gore.

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It’s all downhill from here.

I own the first volume of Doll and I’ve read it several times. Online I’ve read up to about 3 volumes myself but have not revisited them. The stories range from comical to disturbing as the story of Dolls, beautiful androids, and their place with humanity. The most touching story comes from the first book where the doctor who created Dolls has come down with a non-reversible form of dementia. Her memories degenerate very quickly and soon she’s unable to head the project. Her husband decides to try to replace her with a doll replica and well…:

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Goes about as well as you’d expect.

He ends up leaving the project to take care of his wife, but not before leaving some very important rules:

  1. Never create in the image of a living person.
  2. Never blur the line between human and doll.
  3. And the third rule: Never transplant human memories into a doll.

These rules get exploited and loopholed as the series goes on, as one might expect. One story tells of a young boy who gets a doll that looks like his mother. There’s another story of a man whose hatred of women (and underlying mommy issues) compels him to buy a doll and customize her to—you guessed it—look like his mother. Dolls are also easily discarded, another story shows, and are scrapped in favor of new ones.

Dolls are sometimes seen as a menace and some people are reluctant to have them. Others have their lives changed in positive ways–often before their certain demise, or the demise of others. This manga doesn’t shy away from the grim realities that face both humans and dolls alike. By the time Dolls hit the shelves, the economy is a wreck, jobs are scarce or poor-paying, and humans trust each other less and less.

The uncanny resemblance to our current culture should be disturbing, but really isn’t as I’ve been conditioned to accept these kinds of horror through my consumption of Nightmare Fuel. This manga raises all sorts of saddening and uncomfortable questions of agency, identity, and what it means to be truly human. With reality and fantasy seeming to come closer and closer together, will the lines blur and disappear completely? Or, will we manage to make some kind of distinction between the two?

 

Tune in next week for Part 2!