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An Imperfect Organic Woman’s Perspective on the “Perfect Robot Woman”
Kristi Scott   Jan 21, 2010   Women's Bioethics Project  

When it comes to the perfect, what is it that we want? Is it one woman, or is it several?

Recently a link popped up of the Perfect Woman. It turned out that this video was just a viral ad campaign that sent you to the AI Robotics site, which was actually the Phillips site. A very creative campaign that was quite intriguing.

However, even though this vision of the perfect woman was a hoax it doesn’t mean that there is not work being done on creating the actual perfect woman. After doing some searching online, I found out that Japan’s Kokoru Company is working on creating a perfect robotic woman of the future, ActroidDER.

It turns out the perfect woman is merely a work in progress.

The fact that work is being done to develop a robotic woman raises a host of questions, from why to how to what for? If the perfect robotic woman can do housework, converse and satisfy her partner sexually, then what is the basis, in the minds of the creators, as to why this is better than a real woman? As women, are we looking to be replaced, and if so why?

When I envision the male who is purchasing the robotic woman, I wonder if he is a single man who doesn’t have time to locate a spouse or doesn’t want one in general. I also wonder if this male might be married and if he is, what is the reasoning behind his decision to introduce a female robot in to the home?

Aside from these questions, it raises issues of beauty and what it is that defines perfection in a robotic woman? It seems threatening to have a purchasable perfect robot woman from the perspective of an imperfect organic woman. I wonder what it would be like to be face-to-face with a robotic woman, since we are so very similar to each other, except my insides are organic and hers are mechanical.

As an organic female it is already hard to compete aesthetically with those who have undergone cosmetic procedures to enhance their appearance. The robotic woman can change with the times in her aesthetics and have immediate intelligence upgrades to match the male or female that has purchased her. The robotic female can clean the house all day, not mind ironing, and cook an expert French meal, depending on her programming. How, as an organic woman, am I going to be able to compete?

I suppose another way to examine the robotic woman in a similar thread would be to say that this woman would be a supplement to me as a wife, not a competitor. She can do all of these things I’ve mentioned to free me up to create, think, and innovate in ways that she cannot. In addition, I will be free to have children that I can rely on her to assist me with. These areas of life, as far as I am aware for now, are areas where I am not threatened, and I can succeed with the addition of a robotic woman in my home. However, I wonder if this is the intended purpose of the creation of the robotic woman. If this is the intended purpose, are the perfect aesthetics a necessity in her creation?

Further deep consideration of the ethics of commodified robotic women is necessary.

Kristi Scott M.A. is an IEET Affiliate Scholar. Her work centers on the way popular culture presents issues of identity, body modification, cosmetic surgery, and emerging technologies. She has been a freelance writer since 2003 writing for a variety of magazines over the years, most recently as a writer and copy-editor for h+ magazine.


“If the perfect robotic can do the housework, converse and satisfy her partner sexually, then what is the basis, in the minds of the creators, as to why this is better than a real woman.”

Don’t you find it upsetting that the advertisement conflates housework with gender? Why should your status as “wife” or “girlfriend” have anything to do with your assigned tasks around the house?

Almost as baffling is your acquiescence to the idea of a robot “woman” as a support system. Is there a reason the insinuated husband in this situation isn’t helping you out?

I agree the idea of a “robot woman” needs investigation, but am confused as to your take on the idea.

I’m puzzled by the use of the terms ‘woman’ and ‘female’ here. The robotic woman envisaged here is not a person but a male fantasy appendage. What’s to compete with?

I would like to suggest a book and a movie on such topics: “Love and sex with robots”, by the futurologist and robot expert David Levy, and “Lars and the Real Girl”, directed by Craig Gillespie. No answers to your questions, of course 😊 but both are deep and thought-provoking.

“If the perfect robotic can do the housework, converse and satisfy her partner sexually, then what is the basis, in the minds of the creators, as to why this is better than a real woman? As women, are we looking to be replaced, and if so why?”

First answer that popped into my mind: Because they don’t want the obligations that come with having a real wife.

“How, as an organic woman, am I going to be able to compete?”

You can love your man and convince him of that. The robot can’t.

You can love your man and convince him of that. The robot can’t... yet.

Someday, a robot girl will be able to convince me of that. That day, I will consider her as a person, not a robot. I am assuming she will also have the option to inhabit an organic-like body.

Until that, I prefer organic women. So don’t worry Kristi… not yet;-)

Something scares me here. When I use a tool it is just a tool that I need to use in order to accomplish something. The tool is subject to my own flaws as it really has no purpose without me. A perfect robot woman could only be perfect at compensateing for my own grotesqueries or disabilities unless it were programmed to challenge me to change and grow as mutch as I can. But then it is still a tool that compensates for my inability or enhances my capability in some way. This then is my point: The tool should not become the master. Giving complete human sentience to a robot may be counter productive as what is ‘perfect’ for one organic human is not for another given the vast diversity of human experience. When the robot actually has an ego themself things can only get more complicated. More grotesque. In religion, a very curious human endeavor in deed, a person who completely ignores the tangible world all around them in favor of a perfect in-tangible one becomes incompetent, fanatical and usually causes trouble for others. A robot with human sentience is likely to be just as complicated as the human who created them and certainly not ‘perfect’. Therefore I feel that organic women (or men for that matter) can not be replaced with a ‘perfect’ robot but only subjectively supplimented.

First off I am pleased that there are so many comments for this post. Thanks! I go off to class and come back to great insights :D. Okay, so to start

@ Kyle As a wife of almost 10 years who shares equally the housework with her husband, I still have to pitch in with the housework. I wasn’t assuming the gender status, someone has to do it and usually both parties. I was talking about women, so I used female. It has less to do with assigned tasks and status than the work has to get done and we all do it. If I’m not doing my part and a robotic woman is, that’s my territory if you will.  I acquiesce that the robot woman is a support system because a-talking exclusively in this article about women and b-it is not an unreasonable stretch. There are robotics that assist with hospitals, etc. As humans the help we need is support and assistance in tasks, whether that be with a male of female robot. I apologize that I did not include the husband in this particular take. My take though was from the perspective of, again, a married woman of almost 10 years with 3 kids that wanted to think about the “other” woman that might enter in to my life, that of the robotic woman. In a familial situation there is going to be housework, conversations, sex, and support from both parties. When faced with a potential half that can surpass me in some areas it still good to know I have hand. Does this help with your confusion??

@David, see @Kyle’s. Sex is factor of marriage yes? Competition I suppose in one aspect of who can give a male what he wants. He gets it from his wife, strange or, now, a robot. The introduction of a new method of sexual satisfaction will not go without some form of effects on the relationship, family, or spouse. If you want we can turn it around so that it’s the female getting the robotic sexual satisfaction. Would men feel threatened by that? If a sexual male/female fantasy robot came in to their home permanently for the purpose of satisfying their spouse? In some instances, no, but in other yes. And these are interesting to examine.

@Eva, the book I’ve been meaning to read, it’s on the way to me within the week. The movie I picked up after seeing your post this morning and will be watching it over the weekend. Both have been in my stack of to read/watch :D Thanks for the reminder/nudge.

@Veronica & Giulio Good to know :D I’ll reinforce that as part of my home repertoire that “I” love you, and when things changewell, we have another important discussion to delve in to then don’t we?

I’d also like to point out this type of discussion makes me want to go back and watch AI: Artificial Intelligence again. If you haven’t seen it, you should.

Let’s change the terminology to robotic servant and ban the use of breasts on it, and then I’m on board. A robotic servant can free women of the drudgery of domestic servitude and fake orgasms so that she can get out and do whatever the hell she wants - just like a man. Bring it on!

@ Kristi

Ok. I see where you’re coming from now. The issue of the robot’s gender still seems like a sticking point for me. You and your husband divide the house work, right? Let’s say he does the vacuuming. If you get a roomba, is that roomba encroaching on his “territory” or will it let him help you with some other task, there by lightening both of your chores. But a roomba is genderless. So the association of a “female” robot with housework as opposed to your initial point of a “female” robot for companionship and sexual fulfillment for a straight male otherwise uninterested in women struck me as odd.

And since you and your husband split the chores, wouldn’t you agree upon getting a genderless housework robot, giving the two of you more time for one another?

“If the perfect robotic can do the housework, converse and satisfy her partner sexually, then what is the basis, in the minds of the creators, as to why this is better than a real woman? As women, are we looking to be replaced, and if so why?”

To add to Veronica’s answer:

I assume that the designers can program the robot not to nag.

@Kristi: yes, let’s discuss it in more detail when things change. Sometime in this century I think.

I base my definition of “person” on cognitive rather than physical traits, and I don’t subscribe to vitalism and mysticism, so I would consider a sentient AI a person, without the slightest doubt.

As far as physical attraction is concerned, I must admit to still having a certain bias in favor of a very narrow range of physical features, so I would not be able to fall in love with, say, a glowing cube. But this is a temporary bias, nothing that an entry-level neuro-enhancement cannot fix.

Reading this over, my first thought was a strand of thought that I have yet to explore, but then . . . What’s a robot, nothing more than a service appliance with female adaptations.

There is nothing new to that. What was interesting to me was that you, a woman with family and a 10 year marriage saw something in the idea of a robotic woman.

Historically men always have had their robots in the harems, the concubines, the handmaidens and the slaves. US male politicians have had an insatiable appetite for them.  And women willing or forced to accept that condition of servitude.

I am a father of sons and their families and grand children. My wife is far more valuable than a mere appliance of service. After 45 years of marriage they have given me an education in living and a place in my community and a reputation with integrity.

Let’s say we have invented a real female robot. What if the batteries died or the weather disrupt the electrical source. Something will always be missing from such an object. I recycle them. I would never do that to my wife.

@Kyle “So the association of a “female” robot with housework as opposed to your initial point of a “female” robot for companionship and sexual fulfillment for a straight male otherwise uninterested in women struck me as odd.” I was exploring the many questions and options that come to mind with the introduction of a perfect female robot that has been introduced in to the home. I would say that I was encompassing all the roles of a woman in a home which include companionship, sex and housework. As a woman I was reflecting on the robotic woman should she be introduced in to the home and were capable of encompassing the actions that a wife would do. I would like to point out the sex robots are purely for sex and do not include the housework. So maybe that can be another writing to exclusively address the sex robot.

You are correct; a roomba is genderless and would give us more time for one another. However, while anecdotal, in our home doing housework together as a family is a bonding experience. It is something that we all do together, listen to music, and dance. The chore of cleaning has become a bonding ritual in taking pride as a family by cleaning our home together. Everyone does something to pitch in. We don’t have a roomba and other than amusing my cat I don’t currently have a need for one to enter my home. Spending time with one another and freeing up that time is different for everyone. In some homes freeing up the chores through robotic assistance would allow more time for one another. I acknowledge that. For me, there are other ways that would do this, as of yet they aren’t available, but I will be curious to see if/when they do they are genderless.

@Eduard I do see something in the idea of a robotic woman. As Giulio pointed out, sentient AI is a person. As of the time of this the current robotic woman is not sentient, but there is still a physical presence and aura that exists that I feel isn’t ignorable.

I suppose where I differ is that, even without the sentience, I do know see the form of a robotic woman as an appliance of service. This form of robot would appear to bring more of an existence to the table than, say a toaster. As far as the recycling goes, I am a little uncomfortable with that idea, for a spouse or a robot.

@Kyle brought up the roomba, and now writing this, I would say that introducing a roomba in to my home would appear to also bring more to the table than my toaster. It is a robot that is “aware” in some fashion of the layout of the room, its surroundings, and the filth on my floor. The fact that it is genderless does not make it less of an entity in my home. I would step over it, not on it. I would take care of it, not abuse it. I think there is more here than just looking at these “appliances” that provide serve than merely as disposable possessions. I have a feeling there is going to be disagreement on thiswe shall see.

@knscott, perhaps my use of service appliance is an oversymplification in describing a sentient AI woman, considering that today I have seen some electronic devices with seemingly incredible features.

We are living in a time, when new words and expressions just seem to pop up. When Twitter and Facebook’s limitations are causing us to shorten words and their meaning. I am frequently baffled when reading my 16 year old niece’s texting vocabulary. As someone, who left university life some 45 years ago, these days the university life has gone internet.  Fantastic, don’t you think? But where is my professor, my Dean and my Advisor. With internet neutrality, who needs them today!

In expressing ideas and concepts, there are fantastical elements that creep in. Its a way to contemplate real life situations that do not yet exist. Such as “sentient AI” women and Roomba’s “awarenes”. That’s all.

Finally, Kristy, the title of your post says it all. The “Imperfect Woman’s Perspective” vs the “Perfect Robot Woman.” Your “imperfection” made you successful at maintaining your mental and physical stability during a 10 year marriage. If you’re lost driving in an unfamiliar area, you have the sense enough to reach for a map or stop at a gas station to regain your orientation.

The sentient AI woman and the Roomba have no such capability. Their senses have to be programmed into them or they loose their functions. From what I know and that is very little, we’re no where near to giving things, the ability to know and feel.

Finally, the idea that a sentient “perfect” AI woman exists; is a myth by men to keep their women in tow. With a 50% divorce rate in the US; men should be worried.

Men do other stupid things. Look at China, where Mao’s cultural revolution’s mandate of one child per marriage resulted in; today’s marriageable Chinese men there is only a 50% chance that he will find a marriageable “imperfect” Chinese woman.

An Imperfect Organic Man’s Perspective on the “Perfect Robot Man”

If the perfect robotic man will do housework, converse and satisfy his partner sexually, then why isn’t this is better than a real man?

(NOTE 1:  Artificial intelligence is a LONG way from this point
NOTE 2:  There is no such thing as perfection, there are always trade-offs
NOTE 3:  At the point at which robots will start to supercede humans, humans will be able to upgrade themselves to compete and the two will probably always be “equal but different”)

Mark Waser: “There is no such thing as perfection, there are always trade-offs”

There could be an optimal trade-off.

First on Mark Wasser notes: Yes on #1, it’s AI is a looong way off.
If there ever was a possibility that a perfect AI female were to do everything I asks of her & she communicates with me and give me sexual satisfaction upon demand. It would not satisfy me the least, because I don’t live for satisfation alone, because I love being a husband, a grand father, a school board member and being recognized in my community. My satisfaction here is that I contribute to them and that is a far greater safisfaction. HOW would I know if I have satisfied a perfect robot AI female?

Note # 2, no such thing as perfection, perfection kills a good relationship. Perfectionists are good at destroying relationships. They want to make others as they themselves are. Aren’t the greatest perfectionists were Stalin and Hitler and Osama Bin Laden?

# 3, Never. It only occurs in story telling when authors introduce fantastical elements to tell a good story. I enjoyed “Atavar” where a paraplegic enters another world and actually walks and becomes physically active. However, I am sane enough not to believe in the existence of planet “Pandora” and “unobtainium”.

Now, not having researched it, I think there are plenty of sexual appliances available today. I enjoy my family, friends, my associates at my school district, etc. The question what does a perfect AI female robot contribute to me, after having achieved sexual “perfection” with her?

@Eduard ‘Now, not having researched it, I think there are plenty of sexual appliances available today. I enjoy my family, friends, my associates at my school district, etc. The question what does a perfect AI female robot contribute to me, after having achieved sexual “perfection” with her? ‘
This thought provokes my imagination. What if a robot of the opposite sex could be programmed to become a catalyst in the life of a person seeking to become a better mate for an organic in the future? A sort of psycho-dramatic live in surrogate that uses positive reinforcement and other techniques to instigate self awareness and maturity in the organic patient. The robot would have no real ego outside of its specific programmed task and could not be truly harmed. It may have applications for therapy concerning cases with past sexual abuse, violence and hang-ups of all sorts. Robots as surrogate mates could become a major means of lubrication for harmony amongst organic humans if they were marketed correctly to the population. In my own religion I use private psychodrama and fantasy to achieve more character as I experience life. A robot companion could serve as a sort of guide and comforter in tough or confusing times when no organic has the time or resources to help. Instead of ‘road rage’ and prison there could be personal privacy and room to make mistakes where no one organic gets hurt. Maybe robots should remain robots (without any true ego) and humans should remain humans for this purpose.
A robot companion then becomes a major source of entertainment, like television, but unlike television it focuses the attention of the audience on self awareness and personal responsibility rather than mass conformity and fashion status-quo. Then again I guess that depends on whom programs the robots and sells them to whom and what the makers want the consumer to think.

I find all this circular reasoning very interesting, but it misses the POINT about ethical behavior and emerging technology.

The clay tablets in ancient Mesopotamia gave the rulers a leg up, because it gave them control over what the people produce, so they can tax, build bigger things and keep wars going.

This fascination with sexual proclivites of AI robots, male or female confounds me. I’ll make this prediction, I’ll be in hell before any AI will have meaningful sexual productivity. Sexual productivity, that is making babies, is what keeps the generations going and why technology exist.

Technology is no ordinary tool. It is a tool of the mind, it is a creative tool; a tool to analyze, etc,  the stuff that gave the Mesopotamian emperor the ability to do the things emperors do; keep themselves in power until the next one comes up with better one.

Emerging technology not only empowers rulers, but is giving their citizens greater influence in what rulers normally do; ENSLAVE.

Emerging techmology give common folks the opportunity to chime in and express their part in the national dialogue. I have read some inane ideas expressed in blogs, but I am tolerant enough to realize that one has to have a start at some place to participate in a dialogue. After all, we are intelligent beings.

I am digressing: President Obama, for all his intellectual and articulate abilities still governs like a Mesopotamian emperor, that is; he maintains order by keeping keeping the principalities happy. Meanwhile the barbarians and that is us, with our PC and Blackberries are pounding at the gate.

Emerging technology has overturned the order for governance. It has favored the people with PC’s and Blackberry, the faceless masses. While the President is divying up the productivity of Main Street to Wall Street; the power has slipped into the hands of the faceless Twitterers, Facbook an MySpace users, etc.

Of all the talk that big government is bad, it fought a succesful WWII, created the the nuclear industry and thank God; the INTERNET. These are all 20th century inventions. We’re already a decade into the 21st, and we have a Blackberry savvy president, who’se mindset is still with the Mesopotamians. 

So, faceless internet masses; we have work to do; Revive Democracy for the 21st century.

Now, stop this perfect sex with AI’s, when our freedom is at stake. OK, go on; if you think that’s where we’re heading. I’ll still believe it is a fantastical element in story telling. One of the joys, in my growing up days and even today.

@Eduard “Now, stop this perfect sex with AI’s, when our freedom is at stake”. Eduard, I think that perfect sex with AI fits in with your argument however. I would argue that when you talk about enslavement distracting the masses with the allure of perfect sex is a way to enslave, or at least distract citizens from the real arguments. To me discussing the ramifications of AI sex or perfect sex in general is an important discussion to have. There is a lot of things going on with emerging technologies, whether they happen in the next year or the next 100 people should be discussing them. The triviality of the discussions is a matter of opinion.

Part of the revival of democracy is in Freedom of Speech, we need to be allowed to talk about things that we find important. Someone needs to be looking at the AI sex for example, because if we don’t, it slips in to the culture without examination of the societal ramifications. I think back to Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death” not from the perspective of the media, but with sex and carnal pleasures. If people are able to stay home and amuse themselves, or if you like, distract them with sex, then there is a possibility they are not paying attention to the democratic process.

Perfect sex is part of our freedom; people will have sex good, bad, or whatever regardless of the state of our democratic society. It’s part of our path because we like sex, I do at least and I see you do too. It is a fantastical element in storytelling too. We almost all have it, we like it and we like to talk about it. It is a taboo and one that is useful in discussing society. It’s interesting that sex articles get so much conversation no? There are a lot of things going on in the world today, but it doesn’t overshadow the curiosity and discussion surrounding where sex might be going.

I understand technology’s role in society. There are wonderful uses, one of which being the exercise of freedom of speech through Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and blogs. We have the right to examine the nuances of our democracy through these online outlets. We have the ability to examine ethical behaviors and emerging technology. AI sex is an emerging technology. I can maybe see that we have not adequately addressed the ethical behaviors in this particular piece to your liking. I can say that this is one piece of the discussion and there is more to be had.

@knscott; your critque is well taken. However, I do not always have the interest or the ability to answer them all. You make a very good counter argument and I relish that. Thinking is like food, it feeds my brain and is delicious. You are a “gourmet” thinker.

Sex has been very important in my life. If that had been the only purpose in my life, I would have remained single and visited the ladies of the night.  How boring and may even be illegal in some jurisdictions. In addition to sexual pleasures, I find that the social and cultural relationships it engenders is also very satisfactory.

Right now our social and cultural fabric is struggling to stay together. It seems many of our politicians deal doubly, thereby destroying their families as they visits the ladies of the night.

The outcome: Yesterday the Lt Gov of SC, I forgot his name, recalled how his mother taught him not to feed stray dogs, because they breed. He percieved it as social safety nets failing and producing irresponsible poor people.  That’s a partial truth, but an important human value is forgotten.

Somehow Wall Street CEO’s creating unemployment and foreclosures, for profit, are not seen in the same light and our President is supporting their profligate ways.

Please do not take this as an attack, but I agree with previous posters that your conflation of “the perfect woman” as “someone who does all the housework and sexually satisfies her man” makes me uncomfortable. For instance, why is it the man bringing a robot-wife into the home? I’m a busy woman, and could very much use someone to clean up after me, do the vacuuming, make me dinner, et cetera.

Also, as gender roles and expectations involving them change, will we (as women) have to worry about competing with a robot anymore? You’ve said yourself that, in your household, the chores are split up the middle and considered family responsibilities, not wife responsibilities. As it becomes less of the man’s exclusive job to bring home the money, and it becomes less of the woman’s job to do housework, the “perfect woman” role is changing into one that a stepford wife will not fulfill—it has changed into a “perfect human” role from a “perfect property/servant” one. There is, of course, more to companionship than doing the dishes.

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