Saturday, July 26, 2008

Another Step to the Strange New Future

Watch this video:

Noticed something strange about the woman, right? Well, she's an android. Competely mechanical from toes to head.

According to a commenter at BoingBoing (where I found the video) the announcer says, "Even androids can recommend Kincho bug spray."

The future is coming and it's going to be weirder than you'll ever want to know. It will be years or decades yet before someone can successfully combine the androids being developed in Japan with something like the fleshlight (Site NSFW!) into a fully functional sexbot that is indistinguishable from a real human. That's because of the uncanny valley effect. In other words, humans react increasing well to androids that look more and more human until you get to a point where our subconscious first perceives them as humans, then triggers the alarm/fear response because we detect something's "wrong" with them. Humans instinctively recoil from other humans with perceived physical, biological or genetic abnormalities.

(There's also the Turing Test threshold, meaning can the android carry on a realistic conversation? For a sexbot I'd imagine the expectations would be awfully low, but that's for another post.)

On the other hand, humans react remarkably well to clearly non-human things with very human characteristics. Look at Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, the vehicles in Cars or the robots in Wall*E. Or Jessica Rabbit:

Remember all the va-va-va-voooom! when she first came along? Then someone developed a more 3D, painted and realistic Jessica Rabbit:

We still perceive her as torridly hot, even though she's an exagerration, because of the filtering effect of paint.

And, of course, you can cosplay her now:

Search the net and you'll find all kinds of communities of people who are happy to dress up as Klingons, furries, aliens, elves and dwarves, cartoon characters, you name it, and willingly suspend disbelief in order to interact with them as whatever they are presented as. I've done it myself with anime characters, Star Wars characters, Dr. Girlfriend of The Venture Brothers, etc. at MidSouthCon.

It won't take much more work to develop non-human but anthropomorphic enough sexbots to satisfy the stranger sides of the sex trade. And being non-human machines completely side-steps law on prostitution. How many men do you think might want to have pretend but physically real sex with a Jessica Rabbit 'bot? What might they pay for it?

Let's go another, kinkier, step further. How many men have fantasised about Brittney Spears? With all the media exposure she has had over the years, it would be rather easy to create a 3D map of her face and body, even the few parts we haven't seen yet. Create a 'bot with those features and suddenly Brittney Spears is within the (pervy) reach of a lot of men. At a guess, I'd say trademark laws would cover marketing a "Brittney-sexbot" but how close can you get to the real thing without a judge slapping a restraint order on you?

What about an underage Brittney-bot, from her scandalous teenage years? Or just underage boys and girls in general? If it's a machine, do the laws still apply? Or will they be made to apply, just as laws against depictions of children in sexual images have been stretched to cover non-sexual but suspicious pictures of fully clothed children and painted or drawn depictions of child pron with no real human model involved?

And then there are furries....

Or.... Imagine a computer-drenched world in which you plug up your hyper-realistic, articulated and pneumatic sex doll (NSFW) to the Internet, then put on your virtual-3D helmet. You sign on to some pron site across the world where the helmet tells you an incredibly beautiful woman is in your arms, in place of the sexbot. The sex worker's body is wired up to connections in your sex doll so that it responds to her commands, like biofeedback. The two of you have completely detached but moderately realistic sex. No one will ever know what happened, so how can the law do anything?

Internet geeks would never leave their basements, having satisfied that last, nigh-unobtainable need. With a fundzmental need for real-life human interaction taken care of vicariously, through electronic mediation similar to online game playing (games like The Sims are a related phenomenon) what kind of world we will be creating?

Yep, one very, very strange universe is coming indeed.

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