Thursday, December 11, 2008

"She-3PO?" Really?

Via Petulant at Shakesville, I found an article in the Sun entitled "Inventor Builds She-3PO Robot."

Here are the Sun's opening graphs:

SHE is the perfect wife, with the body of a Page 3 pin-up and housekeeping skills that put TV’s Kim and Aggie to shame.

Her name is Aiko, she can even read a map, and will never, ever, nag.

Uh huh, because that's all the important things in life, amirightfellas? Let's just reinforce some gender stereotypes, yes?

But that's the Sun for you: Unreconstructed. They ain't the Mail, in that they don't call for Muslims' heads on pikes every time England gets some rain, but it's like they've never even heard of Women's Lib.

But there's offense to be had here even when you look past the Sun's writing to see what inventor Le Trung has to say:

Le said: “Aiko is what happens when science meets beauty.”

Yeah, a very narrow, patriarchy-defined beauty, which nevertheless cannot avoid looking like it just stepped out of Madam Tussaud's. I don't know what he used as a skin analogue, but it dips right into the uncanny valley.

He says he wanted to make a robot to care for the elderly, but he's strayed "off-course" and wound up with a Stepford wife. Her abilities to clean and fetch him drinks are touted, but I'm sure there are large gaps; she is not an AI, she's just an android; and one who can't even walk at that.

There are larger issues here, of course; why make a caretaker robot with a gender? Would it not be better to make something that looks more like C-3PO -- Le's admitted inspiration -- rather than creeps people out?

And, of course, the Sun asks the obvious question of the Neanderthal presented with something that has been designed to look like a runway model:

Le says his relationship with Aiko hasn’t strayed into the bedroom, but a few “tweaks” could turn her into a sexual partner.

Le said: “Her software could be redesigned to simulate her having an orgasm.”

Oh, yes, why have the real thing when a convincing simulacrum will suffice?


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