A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of



MAY 2015

© Copyright by ANTONIE MARIE BODLEY, 2015 All Rights Reserved

© Copyright by ANTONIE MARIE BODLEY, 2015 All Rights Reserved

To the Faculty of Washington State University:

The members of the Committee appointed to examine the dissertation of ANTONIE

MARIE BODLEY find it satisfactory and recommend that it be accepted.

______Joseph K. Campbell, Ph.D., Chair

______Jon Hegglund, Ph.D.

______Pamela Thoma, Ph.D.

______Gene Apperson



My deepest thanks go out to my committee for their continuing support and encouragement. Dr. Joe Campbell, Dr. Jon Hegglund, Dr. Pamela Thoma and Gene Apperson, all deserve my sincerest gratitude. Dr. Campbell, my committee chair, and Dr. Jon Hegglund were major supporters of my ideas from the very beginning. Without their confidence in my work beginning as early as ten years ago, this dissertation never would have been possible. Dr.

Thoma helped show me that strong voices should be encouraged, no how quiet they may seem. From Mr. Apperson I was reminded that the fantastic imagination in generates real science and dreams for the of .

I would like to thank other faculty and staff in the Graduate School who helped make this possible. In particular, Dr. Pat Sturko: without her friendship and professional guidance, I never would have completed this.

Also foundational in the completion of this dissertation are my friends and family.

Without their and continuing interest in my work, I would not have been able to generate the ideas, the perspective, and the creative telling of my work. I could never have asked for a more interesting and intellectually curious group of friends to ask questions and quiz my knowledge about science and science fiction.

Lastly, to my husband, Garrett: my deepest thanks for your patience and enduring support. It is only with you that I could enjoy date night watching RoboCop .






by Antonie Marie Bodley, Ph.D. Washington State University May 2015

Chair: Joseph K. Campbell

In the search for understanding a future for our selves with the potential merging of strong and robotics, this dissertation uses the figure of the android in science fiction and science fact as an evocative object. Here, I propose android theory to consider the philosophical, social, and personal impacts humanoid robotics and AI will have on our understanding of the human subject. From the perspective of critical and cyborg feminism, I consider popular culture understandings of AI and humanoid robotics as a way to explore the potential effect of androids by examining their embodiment and disembodiment. After an introduction to associated theories of humanism, posthumanism, and , followed by a brief history of the figure of the android in fiction, I turn to popular culture examples. First, using two icons of contemporary AI, Deep Blue, a chess playing program and Watson, a linguistic artificially intelligent program, I explore how their public performances in games evoke rich discussion for understanding a philosophy of mind in a non-species specific way. Next, I turn to the film series (1984-2009) to discuss how the humanoid embodiment of artificial intelligence exists in an uncanny position for our emotional attachments to nonhuman entities. Lastly, I ask where these relationships will take us in our intimate lives; I explore personhood and human-nonhuman relationships in what I call the

iv nonhuman dilemma. Using the human-Cylon relationships in the reimagined Battlestar

Galactica television series (2003-2009), the family make-over in the film Fido

(2006), as well as a real-life story of men with their life-sized doll companions, as seen in the

TLC reality television series My Strange Addiction (2010), I explore the coming dilemma of life

with nonhuman .




Abstract ...... iv

LIST OF FIGURES ...... viii





THE CYBORG ...... 14






How Lost its (Human) Body ...... 36

Conceptualizing Artificial Intelligence ...... 43


Deep Blue ...... 48

Watson ...... 58






THE HAL EFFECT ...... 89








Helfer/Six and Fembots ...... 137

Race and Doppelgängers ...... 151


Uncanny Companionship ...... 162

The Post/Human Family Transformation ...... 167


WORKS CITED ...... 194



Figure 1: Major Kusanagi "Jacked In" (Screen shot : Arise , 2013 )...... 38

Figure 2: "It tastes like peanut butter," Alex says during a procedure on his exposed brain.

(Screen shot RoboCop , 2014.) ...... 40

Figure 3: GERTY Greets Sam with a smile and a cup of coffee, "Good morning Sam. I'm here to

help you." (Screen shot Moon , 2009.) ...... 86

Figure 4: Smiles at John Conner. (Screen shot Terminator: Judgment Day ,

1991.) ...... 100

Figure 5: Mori's charting of the ( WikiMedia )...... 102

Figure 6: Robotic Doppelganger. Android, Geminoid HI-1 (left) with creator,

(right)...... 112

Figure 7: Characters from Polar Express (left). Hiro from Big Hero Six (right)...... 116

Figure 8: Opening credits for BSG after it is revealed that there are multiples of Sharon --

"Athena," on the planet of Caprica ( left ) and "Boomer," aboard Galactica ( right ). (Screen

shot BSG , 2004.) ...... 127

Figure 9: Six () flanked on either side by Cylon Centurions. (Screen shot BSG,

2003.) ...... 138

Figure 10: Davecat and Sidore cuddle on the couch. (Screen shot My Strange Addiction , 2011 .)

...... 163

Figure 11: Timmy and Fido enjoy a day at the park. (Screen shot Fido , 2007.) ...... 174



This work is dedicated to all human(oid)s of the future.

May you continue to be inspired by science and science fiction.


The Android and our Cyborg Selves: What Androids Will Teach Us about Being (Post)Human By Antonie Marie Bodley


“We ask of the computer not just about where we stand in nature, but about where

we stand in the world of the artifact. We search for a link between who we are

and what we have made, between who we are and what we might create, between

who we are and what, through our intimacy with our own creations, we might


-- Sherry Turkle, The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit (1984) .


In 1984 Sherry Turkle began her search for a link between ourselves and our creations; between ourselves and the artifact in The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit . She used the computer as her point of interest, as her “evocative object.” As a child of the eighties, someone that could have easily been part of her studies of children and , I want to bring that reflection back into focus again, but with the figure of the android as my evocative object. While her work took her to explore those connections between and among people through technology, in particular computers and later mobile devices, this work seeks that link through fiction in the singular image of the android housed with strong Artificial Intelligence.

In the search for understanding what the future will be like for our selves and our species, it is important to find some solid ground, a stable perspective upon a subject/object that we can use for investigation and extrapolation. Here the figure of the android functions as such a focus.

Currently under development in many scientific fields, from humanoid robotics to coding the artificial intelligence, the android is a rich subject for discussion because it has been in our

1 cultural imagination for decades. Here, the android becomes my evocative object, an object poised upon the edge of previously stable boundaries. For Turkle, “Theory enables us, for example, to explore how everyday objects become part of our inner life: how we use them to extend the reach of our sympathies by bringing the world within” ( Evocative Objects 307). The goal of examining evocative objects is to “defamiliarize” ourselves from the objects to help bring them back into focus in a way that to our inner self.

Soon, androids will be part of our everyday lives and they will have a profound effect on our inner self and our homes. I propose here to explore those potential effects by examining the embodiment and disembodiment of the android through contemporary popular culture examples.

After an introduction to associated theories of humanism, posthumanism, and transhumanism, followed by a brief history of the figure of the android in fiction, I will turn to examples. First, using Watson, a linguistic artificially intelligent program, I explore how his performance on the television gameshow Jeopardy! evokes rich discussion for understanding a philosophy of mind

in a non-species specific way. Next, I turn to the Terminator film series (1984-2009) to discuss

how the humanoid embodiment of artificial intelligence exists in an uncanny position for our

emotional attachments to nonhuman entities. Lastly, I ask where these relationships will take us

in our intimate lives; I explore personhood and human-nonhuman relationships using the human-

Cylon relationships in the reimagined television series (2003-2009) as well

as a real-life story of men with their life-sized doll companions, seen in the TLC reality

television series My Strange Addiction (2010).

In fiction, stories of androids, from the functional to the social, are at first examples of

queer bodies and I consider these evocative and queer bodies. For , “Queering

has the job of undoing ‘normal’ categories, and none is more critical than the human/nonhuman

2 sorting operation” (xxiv). The body of the android undoes the category of human/nonhuman simply by being neither human in construction nor in acceptance and therefore “queer” may be an appropriate choice. Androids are also not fully non human as they are designed to “fit” in with

humanity in a way that is more comfortable than other machines. In fact, this attempt to “pass”

within the populations of humanity, suggests another aspect of androids’ queerness which

reaches into theories of mind, body and society.


Drawing from the fields of American Studies, Film Studies, Philosophy, and Literary

Studies, I use a multidisciplinary approach to explore the android from two fronts – both the theory from fiction surrounding the android and the actual, literal development. I seek answers in theories of posthumanity and explorations of the cyborg. Along with these theoretical perspectives, I turn to contemporary currents in transhumanist philosophies. With Future Studies blossoming as an academic discipline in think-tanks like the Singularity University and the

Future of Humanity Institute, it would be detrimental to ignore the actual development of androids and AI in this discussion. I will explore links among these fields with three primary foci: the mind, the body and society, each with a respective chapter. I choose this discussion now, not simply because of my love and fascination for science fiction, but also because we are on the of an entirely new way of living which includes artificial entities in very human- like form.

In cultural studies, the posthuman is explored exclusively with the human figure as the focus, but I propose a shift from the human to the android – both the fictional creature and the actual creation. Using what I call “Android Theory,” this research seeks to explore the figure of the android to form a vocabulary that can extrapolate to a future allowing for a (post)human self,

3 able to live and interact within communities of actual androids and other potential entities that we cannot even imagine at this time. The figure of the android will be addressed as both a literal entity existing in the form of humanoid robotics, and as a figurative entity found in fiction. In this exploration I hope to find that the human is not in crisis by the boundary blending generally proposed by concepts like cyborg theory. Rather, we are opening ourselves up to the new articulations that Judith Butler describes in Undoing Gender : “[it is necessary to keep] our very notion of the ‘human’ open to a future articulation” because that openness is “essential to the project of a critical international human rights discourse and politics” (222).


Some of the keywords introduced so far for this project include “transhumanism,”

“posthumanism,” and “cyborg.” Each of these requires some explanation before fitting within a discussion of science fiction and androids. Transhumanism generally refers to a philosophy, a world-view regarding the direction of technology development and the nature of the human condition, often associated with the Extropian movement (More, Relke, Wolfe). Posthumanism can be described as both a literal entity as part of the future of the transhumanist philosophy but also a theoretical framework within cultural theory. While transhumanism and posthumanism can be “cousins” of sorts, they both “[invite] a critical riposte from a position distinct from speculative posthumanism or transhumanism: critical posthumanism” (Roden 29). Bart Simon describes this confusion by positioning one as “popular posthumanism, or transhumanism” and the other as “critical posthumanism,” with the phrasing attributed to Jill Didur (2). Both the popular post/transhumanisms of Extropian thought and the critical response to such thinking offer rich collections of work surrounding who and what we will potentially become in the future. Representing the transhumanists are writers such as Max More, Nick Bostrom, and Ray


Kurzweil, to name a few, 1 although their views on how to approach the future are very different.

Some, like Bostrom, are sounding warnings while others, like Kurzweil, promise the coming panacea from the bounties of science. Responding to fiction and philosophy, the critical posthumanists are often represented by scholars like Donna Haraway, Katherine Hayles, and

Cary Wolfe.

A person who buys in to the “transhumanist philosophy” is a person who believes in improving the human condition – including the body, self and society – through technological enhancement. There are many views surrounding exactly how most ideally to reach such goals is. From biological and genomic enhancement to cybernetic appendages and exploration into

Artificial Life (biologically based, computationally-based, or some other base that we have not yet conceived of), the Transhumanist believes that what defines “human” is always in a state of flux. In general, the transhumanist philosophy endorses the belief that what makes us “human” is in a developmental state toward what could be called “posthuman.” In this transhumanist philosophy, to become posthuman is to be effectively enhanced through technological means so that they have surpassed the “limitations that define the less desirable aspects of the ‘human condition’” (More 4).

Posthuamanism as part of a transhumanist philosophy has a complex history, some of which grew out of the celebration of humanism and a return to a romanticized vision of technology from the Renaissance era. Humanism, as described by Brian Cooney, is “One of the

Great Ideas western culture inherited from the classical Greeks” (xx-xxi). This “religious humanism” idealized traits that were distinctively human, one trait of which was the ability to be

1 Relke asks, “is it any wonder [that] , with its relentlessly optimistic focus on the future, is increasingly popular among techno-savvy young men?” (81). She reminds us that the Extropian movement, and other transhumanists, are typically white, privileged men… Suggesting that the future will only be populated by more of the same, but with .


“tool makers.” Humanism thrived as the species spread to the West and celebrated great feats of technological inventions, as evidenced at gatherings like the World’s Fair.

With the postmodern era, quite the backlash arose against the imperialist attitudes of traditional Western humanist thinking. Of course, technological developments continued and thinking about improving the human condition found a voice again, but this time with the “post”

– inferring the beyond or the after humanism. Arthur Kroker believes that “technology functions

to deliver us to a future that is distinctly posthuman in its radical undermining of all the previous

markers of the ‘human’ – unitary species-logic, private subjectivity, hierarchical knowledge –

with human beings as the universal value-standard of all events” (5). This temporal concept of

being after human literally includes technological developments that are not far off, including

but not limited to, sAI (strong artificial intelligence), human-like robotics, cloning and gene

therapy, space travel and many more possibilities. As both part of and instigators of these

changes, the human will be caught up in the changes as well – some believe this will be for the

betterment of humanity and earth as a whole.

Max More, in the Transhumanist Reader , argues that “becoming posthuman means

exceeding the limitations that define the less desirable aspects of the ‘human condition.’” For

More and others, like James Hughes and members of the Extropian Institute or Humanity+, 2

these “less desirable aspects” include: disease, aging and inevitable death (More and Vita-More

4, “Mission”). Through developments in computer science and engineering, cognitive science,

2 With the many different organizations and think tanks dedicated to toward a “future society,” there are also multiplying definitions of transhumanism. For example, Humanity Plus (+) is an organization which is, according to their website, “The world’s leading nonprofit dedicated to the ethical use of technology to extend human capabilities.” Humanity + defines transhumanism as “The intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally improving the human condition through applied reason, especially by developing and making widely available to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.” In other words, they believe that humans have the ability to better themselves by extending lives, improving memory, strength and other biological traits through, what they claim to be, ethical use of technoscience. (“Transhumanist FAQ”)


AI and others, More believes that “posthuman beings would no longer suffer from disease, aging, and inevitable death… They would have a vastly greater physical capability and freedom of form… [They] would also have much greater cognitive capabilities and more refined emotions” (4).

A person who subscribes to the “transhumanist philosophy” is a person who believes in improving the human condition – including the body, self and society – through technological enhancement. There are many views surrounding how to most ideally reach such goals. From biological and genomic enhancement to cybernetic appendages and exploration into Artificial

Life (biologically based, computationally-based, or some other base that we have not yet conceived of), the Transhumanist believes that what defines “human” is always in a state of flux.

In general, the transhumanist philosophy endorses the belief that what makes us “human” is in a developmental state toward what could be called “posthuman.” In this transhumanist philosophy, to become posthuman is to be effectively enhanced through technological means so that they have surpassed the “limitations that define the less desirable aspects of the ‘human condition’” (More 4).

Critical posthumanists want to resist the appeal of the utopian promises of transhumanist

thinking. The “qualitative shift in our thinking about what exactly is the basic unit of common

reference for our species,” Rosi Braidotti suggests, raises serious questions as to the very

structures of our shared identity – as humans” (2). And when asking those questions, Diana

Relke wants to remind us that “is it any wonder [that] Extropianism, with its relentlessly

optimistic focus on the future, is increasingly popular among techno-savvy young men?” (81).

The Extropian movement, and other transhumanists, Relke points out, are typically white,

privileged men… Suggesting that the future will only be populated by more of the same, but

7 with cybernetics. And if this is the case, Braidotti is correct in reminding us that these

“Discourses and representations of the non-human, the inhumane and the posthuman proliferate and overlap in our globalized, technologically mediated societies” (2).

Clearly, the of who determines what the “less desirable aspects of the human condition” is perfectly reasonable question but is often side-stepped by transhumanists who simply say technology will solve the problem. In a future with the great bounties of technology realized, there would be no need to worry about poverty or hunger or the supposed “digital divide” because all would be made equal. The series is often criticized on a point like

this. Critics argue that the humanist vision of the shows’ creator is an impossible “wet dream” of

the future (Relke). Yet others argue that there is enough “techno-skepticism” in Star Trek to argue for its continuing relevance in a critical posthumanist discussion (Relke). As Jason Eberl and Kevin Decker explain, “Rather than mere escapism, all the incarnations of Star Trek ought to

be seen as an entertaining, edifying preparation for thinking through the problems that the future

will undoubtedly throw at us” (xvi).

Part of this posthuman future will apparently include living side by side with clones and humanoid robotics, potentially housed with AI. I follow those who assert that such a future requires that we radically rethink laws and social structures so that we may flourish together with these entities. As part of our tool making history, futurist Jim Dator is “increasingly convinced that we humans are inevitably in the process of creating entities that mimic, extend, and in many ways exceed our own mental, behavioral, and emotional capabilities” (51). And in that future,

“humanity is about to be surrounded by all kinds of novel intelligent beings that will demand, and may or may not receive, our respect and admiration” (52). For Dator and others like

Bostrom it will be crucial to move ahead with developments in a thoughtful way that takes agent-

8 status of others not for granted in a species-sense, but rather in a way that can allow for entities that assume and or excel our own cognitive and emotional capacities.

The belief that artificial entities, in particular AI, will outpace our own abilities is often framed in the discussion of what has come to be called “The Singularity.” Despite popular belief, Kurzweil was not the inventor of the phrase “The Singularity.” Rather, it grew from a number of conferences surrounding philosophers and programmers considering the exponential growth of computer programming speed. While Kurzweil is one of the most well-known for promoting knowledge about the singularity, other influential figures include SF writer Vernor

Vinge, John von Neumann, Eliezer Yudkowsky, and Ray Solomonoff. All worked to increase knowledge surrounding the idea of “accelerating change” or the “intelligence explosion”


The concept of the Singularity was first proposed by mathematician I.J. Good in 1965, who envisioned a world in which “smart machines would design even more intelligent machines” (“Scientists Worry” Markoff). This notion has gained growing attention as designers at Silicon Valley and beyond are working harder to unveil smart , smart phones, and disembodied AI. Dubbed “The Singularity” by computer scientist and science fiction writer

Vernor Vinge this “intelligence boom” is most commonly associated with the work of Kurzweil due to his popular science celebrity status. Kurzweil, expanding on “Moore’s Law” (a description of exponential growth in computer processing power), 3 famously predicted in 2005 that the “arrival” of posthuman evolution would occur in 2045 (“Coming Superbrain” Markoff).

Since then there has been growing interest in the concept of the Singularity. Dr. Horvitz explains, “Technologists are providing almost religious visions, and their ideas are resonating in

3 Dr. Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel and conceiver of “Moore’s Law,” should not be confused with computer scientist and futurist Max More, co-editor and contributor to the Transhumanist Reader .

9 some ways with the same idea of the Rapture” (“Scientists Worry” Markoff). Others, like Vinge maintain a sort of agnostic view of the supposedly coming singularity, believing that we cannot even begin to imagine such a future (Roden).

Despite the disparate views within the futurist camps, there are some things most agree upon. For example, many futurists who believe in the coming Singularity, would agree with

More, and while often conflated with posthumanism, would adopt the label of transhumanism in which the posthuman is a future iteration of the human. For More, this posthuman is something transhumanists are always striving for – it is a philosophy of improvement without end. This brand of posthumanism, also referred to as trans humanism or in its most extreme, Extropianism, 4 adopts utopian beliefs about the future. Transhumanism, or at least More’s version of it, according to Mervyn Bendle, “leaves little or no room for doubt”: “Disbelief is suspended and centuries of hard-won experience and intense critical thinking about science, technology and the social formation within which they flourish are swept aside by an uncritical ‘will-to-believe’ propositions about the possibilities of science and technology that are often preposterous, and even undesirable” (50). For Bendle, the transhumanist future, full of posthuman entities, is something to be dubious of and he, among others, wonder what that will mean for the human .

Similarly, Eugene Thacker fears that the extropian vision of the future will be a significant step backward for the liberal humanist subject: “Like the Enlightenment’s view of science and technology, extropians also take technological development as inevitable progress for the human. The technologies of robotics, nanotech, cryonics, and neural nets all offer modes of enhancing, augmenting, and improving the human condition” (74). The humanist vision places certain aspects of the human as special or part of an “essential humanness”: “… like the

4 Extropianism, according to Bendle “sees its (rather daunting) mission as combating the entropic (i.e. disorderly) tendencies of the universe, especially where these impact on human well-being and potential.”

10 types of humanisms associated with the Enlightenment, the humanism of extropianism places at its center certain unique qualities of the human – self-awareness, consciousness and reflection, self direction and development, the capacity for scientific and technological progress, and the valuation of rational thought” (74). Even instances of extreme posthuman visions in fiction or advertising, some argue, are still embedded with the humanist ideology – like never being able to separate the “humanism” from the “post” (Badmington; N. Campbell; Hird and Roberts;

Pordzik). Roberts describes this as finding “a humanist text in a posthuman guise whose work is to affirm the immutable, essential nature of the human” (n.p.).

This return to a humanist celebration of the “human” may seem promising, but to some,

this return also raises questions for a future with nonhuman entities. Braidotti, for example,

argues that “the posthuman condition introduces a qualitative shift in our thinking about what

exactly is the basic unit of common reference for our species, our polity and our relationship to

the other inhabitants of this planet” (1-2). Not only will our species come in to questions, but for

Braidotti, “This issue raises serious questions as to the very structures of our shared identity – as

humans – amidst the complexity of contemporary science, politics and international relations.

Discourses and representations of the non-human, the inhumane and the posthuman proliferate

and overlap in our globalized, technologically mediated societies” (2).

While some feel this return to exalting the humanist vision to be hopeful, the

technological developments enacted to achieve this utopian future seem to be simultaneously

dismantling, sometimes literally, the human body. Hayles’ book How We Became Posthuman ,

for example, opens with her recounting a nightmare-like epiphany while reading Hans

Moravec’s thought provoking quasi-fictional philosophical text Mind Children (1990) . In

Moravec’s work, he illustrates the possibility of “uploading” the human consciousness into a

11 computer. Hayles describes this process as achieved by a “robot surgeon [who] purees the in a kind of cranial liposuction, reading the information in each molecular layer as it is stripped away” (1). Not just the human body, but our sense of self could be stripped away as well. In fact, for some the posthuman future of the transhumanists will cede power to the technology we create. For Bendle, Kurzweil’s particular vision is “an ideological misrecognition of humanity’s relationship to technology. In a manner that fundamentally inverts this relationship, posthumanism cedes to technology a determinism over human affairs that it does not, cannot, and should not enjoy” (61)

For some, these relationships with technology could lead to an ideological loss of the sense of self. Michelle Chilcoat explains that “the projected obsolescence of the body also implied the loss of biological matter, traditionally viewed as the immovable or fixed material upon which to construct gender differences and inscribe male privilege” (156). For Chilcoat, this boundary breach goes right to the heart of humanism, including a threat to male privilege. For others, this threatened boundary is explored in terms of “suffering” that can be inflicted upon the human body as technology is not just embraced by the human but rather ruptures the human


At first Hayles’ vision of “information losing its body” seems terrifying, as the human is sucked into a blender and disembodied, she returns to an argument that expands the possibilities of what it means to be human. “When Moravec imagines ‘you’ choosing to upload yourself into a computer, thereby obtaining through technological mastery privilege of ,” Hayles writes, “he is not abandoning the autonomous liberal subject but is expanding its prerogatives into the realm of the posthuman. (287). For Hayles, “the posthuman offers resources for rethinking the articulation of humans with intelligent machines” (287).


Similarly, for Neil Badmington, even this most posthumanist vision of uploading consciousness is not as much a threat to humanism as at first seems. For Badmington, this imagery comes

“from the distinctly humanist matrix of Cartesian dualism. Humanism survives the apparent apocalypse and, more worryingly, fools many into thinking that it has perished. Rumors of its death are greatly exaggerated” (11).

Indeed, it seems Hayles and others, when considering a critical posthuman thought, agree

that humanism will remain even in a future that abandons species-specific definitions of the

human. “Posthumanism,” for Wolfe, “isn’t posthuman at all – in the sense of being ‘after’ our

embodiment has been transcended – but it is only posthuman ist, in the sense that it opposes the

of disembodiment and autonomy, inherited from humanism itself” (xv). But at the

same time, Braidotti reminds us that “Not all of us can say, with any degree of certainty, that we

have always been human, or that we are only that. Some of us are not even considered fully

human now, let alone at previous moments of Western social, political and scientific history” (1).

Not simply a utopian vision or philosophy for the future (as the extropians and

transhumanists would have it), thinking of the posthuman is also used as a tool for critical

literary analysis. For Hayles, this means “serious consideration needs to be given to how certain

characteristics associated with the liberal subject, especially agency and choice, can be

articulated within a posthuman context” (5). It is a discussion of the nonhuman versus the

human as a way to better understand where the Self is located. In a way, a posthuman reading is

a way to “uncover those uncanny moments at which things start to drift, of reading humanism in

a certain way, against itself and the grain” (Badmington 19). For many, this means that “the

"post-" of posthumanism does not (and, moreover, cannot) mark or make an absolute break from

the legacy of humanism" (Badmington 21). And while humanism will continue to be alive and

13 well in a world with “posts,” a posthuman theory “can also help us re-think the basic tenants [6] of our interaction with both human and non-human agents on a planetary scale” (Braidotti 5-6).

While the transhumanists bring to the table their creative vision of what will possibly

come, a posthumanist reading of existing texts and artifacts offers discussion points for a future

of ethics with posthuman entities. For Braidotti, that does not mean abandoning our humanist

roots: “to be posthuman does not mean to be indifferent to the humans, or to be de-humanized.

On the contrary, it rather implies a new way of combining ethical values with the well-being of

an enlarged sense of community, which includes ones’ territorial or environmental inter-

connections” (190). And for thinkers like Stefan Herbrechter and Ivan Callus, this “new

combination” of critical posthumanism “aims to open up possibilities for alternatives to the

constraints of humanism as a system of values” (107).


Because critical posthumanism explores the boundaries between the human self and

technology, discussion of the cyborg is crucial to this project. The meaning and imagery

surrounding the cyborg has changed as both science and science fiction have tried to imagine a

world with posthuman entities. Similarly to the and posthuman imagery, the cyborg

is both a literal and a figurative entity. On the one hand, the cyborg could be described as a

human partaking in the transhumanist philosophy and who has augmented their body with

technological parts. On the other hand, the cyborg is described most famously by Haraway in

the Cyborg Manifesto (1987) as an entity that is a blending of the previously diametrically opposed concepts. As summarized by Chilcoat,

[Haraway’s] ‘cyborg imagery can suggest a way out of the maze of dualisms in

which we have explained our bodies and our tools to ourselves’ (181), because as


‘a hybrid of machine and ’ (149), the cyborg renders ‘thoroughly

ambiguous the difference between natural and artificial, mind and body, self-

developing and externally designed’ (152). Thus, ‘sex and gender,’ formerly

standing in opposition to each other, like ‘natural and artificial,’ are brought

together, albeit in a relationship of ambiguity, via the cyborg. (157-158)

The cyborg, both literally and figuratively, offers a point of discussion surrounding the many boundaries confronting humans. By exploring this subject from a distance, it alleviates the anxiety surrounding boundary breaches of mind and body, nature and artificial, human and nonhuman. Bendle describes this boundary breaking of androids and as “transgressing previously hermetically maintained boundaries between, for example, culture and nature, living and dead, organism and machine, real and synthetic” (57). Indeed for Bendle, “considerable misgivings” surround the transgressions of androids and cyborgs, “especially around questions relating to their danger to human beings, their possession or not of souls, and their consequent rights to life, freedom and self-determination” (57). Because I will turn my focus on the android, distinguishing it from the cyborg, it is crucial to develop some differentiation between

Haraway’s cyborg and the figure of the android.

For the sake of understanding posthuman bodies, I understand a cyborg as an entity that

began as human and that subsequently was altered through cybernetic implants or other artificial

enhancements. This is not to say that once altered, a cyborg is no longer human, it just falls into

a different category, or sub-species, of human. An android, on the other hand, was never

biologically human. It/he/she was made, constructed, or otherwise emerged (in the case of a

15 strong AI). 5 The perfect illustration of these different entities is the difference between the cyborg RoboCop and the android from Star Trek , who also happens to be housed with a strong AI. Both are posthuman bodies as one is literally post-human while the other is in the image of a human, with humanlike behavior. On a side note, it is true that Data far exceeds human ability with his cognitive processing skills and physical strength, but the fact that he/it was modeled by a human, in the image of a human qualifies him/it for a posthuman label.

Haraway’s vision of a cyborg is one that transgresses boundaries, used especially to discuss gender, while the android seems to reify those boundaries. Like the cyborg of feminist theory, the android is also interconnected with gender. In particular, Jennifer Robertson explores the literal construction of androids and the impact of gender constructions. Robertson, in paraphrasing Anne Balsamo’s work on fictional androids, writes that “The process of gendering makes especially clear that gender belongs both to the order of the material body and the social and discursive or semiotic systems within which bodies are embedded” (4).

Rather than simply being about a boundary subject, the cyborg can work within critical posthumanist thought. “The figure of the cyborg – that embodied amalgam of the organic and the technological…” according to Sharalyn Orbaugh, “confounds the modernist criteria for subjectivity and, when featured in narrative, allows readers/viewers to think through the ramifications of the changes we currently face” (436). In that exploration of potential ramifications, Francesca Ferrando urges us to consider multidisciplinary approaches to prevent a return to dualistic views: “Adopting such standpoints will allow humans to generate an emphatic approach, preventing them from turning the robot into their new symbolic other, and from falling

5 It would be unwise to specify that an android or AI was created only by humans. There are several cases in fiction in which the artificial entity makes up an entire alien race (for example, the in Star Trek ). I also don’t want to rule out the possibility of artificial entities being made by another species.

16 into the dualistic paradigm which has historically characterized Western hegemonic accounts, articulated in opposites such as: male/female, white/black, human/machine, self/other” (16).


Taking a cue from Haraway, I want to explore the singular figure of the android as the epitome of a posthuman entity. Not only is it made to appear and behave human in every way, it will eventually be made to possess a human-like or AI. In fiction and in fact, the android has been made to appear and behave human in every way. Two elements in particular position the android as precarious within and among the boundaries of humanity: the body and the mind. First, I want to explore briefly the definitions of the android’s physical construction.

The clone and the cyborg will be addressed later, so for now I note that they that they are not exempt from the discussion of android theory.

With robots, androids and cyborgs populating screens and pages through history in many forms, I want to start us off with a common vocabulary that is both inclusive and open to further application in the scientific development of robotics. Consulting common knowledge understanding of the android is a good place to start. In fact, android is often conflated with

“robot” or “cyborg” but each of these concepts is accompanied by a host of meanings and implications. Although it’s impossible to present clear-cut, exclusive, and exhaustive definitions surrounding these concepts, I will offer my own thinking and clarification to help categorize the figure of the android of which I write – one which appears in both fiction and reality.

Beginning with one of the most common label, “robot,” androids are at their beginnings, robots in the form of a human. Most often associated with the introduction of the word “robot” to America is the 1920 science fiction play Rossum’s Universal Robots , or R.U.R. by Karel

Čapek’s. Čapek’s play tells the story of manufactured biological human slaves who revolted

17 against their masters. In Czech, the play’s original , the literal translation of the word

“robot” is “worker.” These robots were creature machines in the shape of humans; they were artificial people built as workers for their human owners. Although the slaves in R.U.R. were biological and more akin to what we might call clones, Bendle explains, “the term ‘robot’ subsequently became predominantly applied to humanlike machines” (56). And as the popularity of the word “robot” spread across the United States, “the robot quickly came to assume an ideological role, representing the -present but feared Other (Disch 1998: 10)—the oppressed workers, the exploited immigrant servants, masses waiting to invade

America, and eventually the neglected housewife” (Bendle 56-57).

While the word “robot” may have come to America with the introduction to Čapek’s play, others argue that the robot appeared in fiction long before that. Morton Klass argues that the concept of a robot came long before Čapek’s play and he examines the “apparent reluctance

to refer to ’s creature as a robot” (173). Of course, the creature he is referring to

here is Mary Shelley’s infamous monster from her 1818 novel Frankenstein in which Dr.

Frankenstein creates a humanoid stitched together from corpses of other humans and brings it to life. But even Klass is not comfortable keeping with the concept of “robot” attached to

Frankenstein’s monster. Indeed, in the same space as he writes about the transformation from

Shelley’s robot to popular usage in science fiction to “metal, glass, and plastic” robots which are more familiar today, he points out that “Mary Shelley’s creature was, one might argue to begin with, actually the first android to appear in fiction, not the first robot ” (emphasis added, 173).

Whether it was Čapek or Shelley who popularized the robot of flesh or metal, still others argue that the concept of humanoid robots came much sooner. For example, Bendle reminds us of the mythical roots of the concept: “the term ‘androides’ first appeared in English in 1727 in

18 connection with alchemical attempts to create an artificial human, itself an ancient idea associated with the ‘golems’ of Jewish mythology” (57). Indeed, C. Wilson writes of the connection between the history of golem-making beginning in the thirteenth-century revision of

Genesis and the “conjunction between miracle and monstrosity” in ’s 1982 film

Blade Runner (31). But even acknowledging the connection to the golem, Bendle returns to the argument that “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) gave this idea its first and most spectacular expression by combining it with the myth of Prometheus, and it has been widespread ever since”


Another part of the discussion surrounding androids and humanoid robots is the female gendered robot. In tracing the history of the human artifice or robot, Allison DeFren builds upon

Laura Mulvey’s work about . From , Pandora was created by the Gods in the form of a woman, arguably becoming the first humanoid creation: “the first in a long history of femme-fatale androids – creatures in which ‘a beautiful surface that is appealing and charming to man masks either an ‘interior’ that is mechanical or an outside that is deceitful’”

(DeFren 404). The image of the femme-fatale, originating from Pandora extended into film with the , literally “machine-human” in German, of Fritz Lang’s 1927 Metropolis .

DeFren takes note of the 1970s films Eve of Destruction and Bionic Woman and even to the more recent “bikini machines in the Austin Powers films (404), as an illustration of what

Andreas Huyssen describes as an embodiment of “a complex process of projection and

displacement. The fears and perceptual anxieties emanating from ever more powerful machines

are recast and reconstructed in terms of the male fear of female sexuality, reflecting, in the

Freudian account, the male' s castration anxiety” (226). These humanoid robots with female

gendered bodies are generally labeled as “fembots.”


Robots, androids and fembots have far-reaching uses as metaphorical entities in explorations of the human self, and much of the time these labels are used interchangeably. For

Geoff Simons, “robot” is used primarily as a metaphor to refer to human behavior: “People are compared with robots so that particular conceptual or psychiatric points can be made. There is no suggestion that people are really robots” (2). Although there may be no suggestion that humans are actually robots in fiction, that does not alleviate the sociological impact of such metaphors. Indeed, for Simons, fictional accounts of robots, “suggests also a new sociology of robotic man: in popular culture slaves and robots have often been considered siblings. To be a slave or a robot is, so the theme runs, to be diminished as a human being, and nothing would diminish Homo sapiens more than to be outstripped by an artifact” (13).

Klass tries to simplify the discussion by first conflating androids with robots and then arguing that the robot is “the manufactured equivalent of the human” which, while a bit awkward to write, “it does have its uses” (172). As Klass explains: “I emphasize the word ‘equivalent’ because the term introduces an important anthropological dimension, that of the alien – the person who in many societies is viewed as not of us, not truly human but only an equivalent of the true human…. It is certainly legitimate, therefore, for the anthropologist to inquire into the extent to which the manufactured equivalent of a human has reflected the particular perceptions of the alien that is characteristic of Europe-derived societies” (172). He even avoids the discussion of robot by writing: “I also emphasize the word ‘manufactured’ because it is the most satisfactory I could find for the rather knotty problem of defining what is meant by

‘robot’” (172).

Science fiction film scholar J.P. Telotte is another writer who exploring the fiction surrounding humanoid robots/androids, but he chooses to avoid the labels by bundling them all

20 together into one category. Telotte chooses to focus on what he describes as the “image of human artifice [which is] figured in the great array of robots, androids, and artificial beings found throughout the history of ” ( Replications 1). For Telotte, the figure of

the human artifice, in its many forms, “speaks, from [science fiction’s] earliest days to the

present, of the interactions between the human and the technological that lie at the very heart of

Science Fiction… this image measures out our changing attitudes toward science, technology,

and reason itself, as well as the shifting foundation beneath our conceptions of the self in the

twentieth century” (1).

If entities that meet such labels as “human artifice” or “manufactured equivalent of the

human” are considered androids, what then of the clone? While definitions are constantly

shifting, even otherwise species-specific boundaries appear to be crumbling. For the sake of this

discussion I believe that a clone should be considered a human-type, or biological, android.

Clones are biologically identical to their human model, but just because a clone is biologically

human, does not mean it is identical to its human “blueprint.” In fact, I would argue for a new

understanding of clones, separated into two separate categories. One category, as most often

presented in fiction, is the biologically manufactured human whose memories and identities have

also been “implanted” or otherwise “programmed.” This category of clone, I would describe as

a biological android. It was not given the chance to grow and develop within the world in some

“pre-adult” state. The other category of clone, one which was introduced into the world at a

“pre-adult” state, given no “pre-programmed” identity or memories, could be defined as a full

human. This category of clone is much closer to the concept of identical twins: the twins are

biologically identical, but not numerically identical, in that they have their own collection of life-

long memories, wants and desires. Because a clone in the first category, a biological android,

21 does not have the same experiences, wants and desires, it is not subjectively identical to the human that spawned it. The important distinction comes in lived-experience versus given- experience. Also, because the body of a biological android/clone is sufficiently man-made, especially when it comes to memories, it/they should not be placed within the category of human, but rather fitting in a category with the Cylons in BSG and Replicants in .

This “knotty problem” of classifying robot vs. android is not just limited to science

fiction, but it reaches far into the creation of real-world humanoid robotics. Consider, for

example, the marketing team, Oyedele, Hong and Minor, at the University of Texas-Pan

American, who focus their efforts on human-robot-interaction to better market robotics. In

opening their article, “Contextual Factors in the Appearance of Consumer Robots,” Oyedele,

Hong and Minor paraphrase Robopsychologists Alexander V. Libin and Elena V. Libin to define

a robot as “an automat with programmed behavior aimed at substituting for certain human

activities or to satisfy a person’s physical, psychological, or social needs” (Oyedele, et al. 624). 6

In their opinion, and indeed in the opinion of many robotics developers, the robot is intended to

assist with human activities and is able “to satisfy a person’s physical, psychological, or social

needs” (624).

In essence, to summarize the many definitions of robot, in my words: “ Robot is inclusive of many mechanized entities, some of which appear humanoid.” But a robot does not need to appear human; it must simply emulate some human behavior and/or activity, from labor to social or interpersonal interaction. In connection to our consideration of the android, an android may

6 I’m assuming there is a translation discrepancy in this quote. Rather than the word “automat,” I believe the writers intended “automata.” To my understanding, “automat” is the early 1900s version of a vending machine, while “automata” means a self-propelled robot.

22 be a robot, meaning made of entirely mechanical parts but it must not only behave through autonomous means, it must also appear human in most, if not every way. 7

In their 2006 work, Karl MacDorman and Hiroshi Ishiguro work to clarify robot versus

android: “Very human like robots are often referred to as androids in the robotics literature to distinguish them from the mechanical-looking humanoid robots” (“Uncanny Advantage” 298), but they are quick to explain that there are some grey areas. What, they wonder, is meant by

“very human like”? MacDorman and Ishiguro go to further lengths to help clarify their description by adding a footnote, explaining: “Although from their etymology android and

humanoid are synonymous with ‘resembling man,’ in robotics android generally refers to robots that aspire to a degree of likeness that transcends gross morphology. It is not enough for an android to have a head, two arms, a torso, and perhaps two legs. It must be humanlike down to the look and feel of the skin, teeth and hair. Its behavior should also approximate human behavior. People should be able to subconsciously respond to the android as human” (“Uncanny

Advantage” 298). For MacDorman and Ishiguro, android is not simply a robot in humanoid form, it must appear very human like and behave in a human like fashion. Both these elements,

appearance and behavior, assist in the anthropomorphic interaction that leads to the oft sighted

word-for-word definition that robotics designers seem to have settled upon for android: “an

artificial system that has humanlike behavior and appearance and is capable of sustaining natural

relationships with people” (Ishiguro; MacDorman, et al., .com).

To return to “android,” an examination of the root of the word itself may help. Although the word “android” suggests a primarily male figure based on the root of the Greek word ἀνδρ - meaning ‘man’ combined with suffix “-oid” or “in the form of,” it is used often to refer to

7 What I mean by “behaving through autonomous means” does, in my opinion, include the presence of an artificial intelligence, a strong one at that.

23 genderless humanoid robots, as well as the more anatomically explicit male, female, un-sexed or anything in between robots. But for the sake of consistency and inclusion of both male, female

(sometimes referred to as “”), and un-gendered humanoid robots, “android” will be used throughout. This is not a move to efface the complications of gender, which I discuss in chapter four, however it is quite common in fiction to refer to both male and female synthetic humanoids as “androids.” Even in reference to existing humanoid robots, most roboticists use “android.”

Perhaps this signal of the overwhelming domination of the male descriptor is telling of the gender-domination in robotics… even as many of the robotics designs are being developed with the female image as a model.

When discussing androids, whether male or female, extremely life-like or more robotic in

design, it is safe to assume that one is referring to a . Robertson describes the

primary categories of androids: “There are basically two categories of humanoid robots with

respect to their gendered embodiment: those designed to ‘pass’ as human and those whose

overall shape bears some resemblance to human morphology” (15). Those made to “pass” can

easily be pictured as the replicants from Blade Runner , for example, whereas the other category

would include a more clearly robotic entity, like C3PO from . One entity, the

replicant, cannot be visually defined as a robot or non-human, while C3PO is clearly robotic on

sight. Considering Robertson’s categorization, the entities made to pass within the human

population are the type of android I am most interested in here. Roboticists have already created

androids that bear some basic resemblance to human morphology, but at this time those are less

of a threat to notions of selfhood than fully-synthetic-and-indistinguishable-from-humans



Another way to consider the android is in terms of their functionality. Functionality- based androids are those that are created with the primary purpose of fulfilling tasks most likely in the home for their human owners. I say “most likely in the home” here because functional robots are a commonplace device in factories and have been used for efficiently manufacturing products for humans or completing other tasks, like performing surgery, since the 1980s.

However, these robots are designed with little human-like features in mind. Their purpose is not to interact with humans hence their embodiment is less of a concern for designers. In the case of androids, behaviorists have been exploring the social benefits of interacting with humanoid robots in the home rather than robot-like robots. In fact, androids based on functionality are quite popular in robotics designs today and are making the fiction more tangible every day.

Familiar designs that can be recalled to envision the functional android include the C3PO from

Star Wars , from , Rosie from The Jetsons , and Sonny from the film I, Robot to name a few. All were designed with some human morphology in mind, but their figure and form are primarily designed for functionality above all else.

While the androids cited above exhibit the obvious reminder that they are synthetic beings through their very construction (we can see their inner-workings to some extent, their exoskeleton, if there is one, is clearly synthetic, etc.), there is another kind of android that appears in fiction: the very-human-like, or social , android, which Robertson refers to as

“passing” robots. 8 The social androids became well known for their presence in narratives of paranoia, misidentification, or the Pinocchio-like stories (in which the robot becomes “a real boy”). Replicants in Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? , inspiration for

8 “Social android” is my own terminology. I choose the word social as this particular trend in android development aims to make robots that interact with humans in a seamless manner that illicit no uncanny reactions and instead can be described as social companions in design.


Blade Runner , are a classic examples of social androids. The Cylons in the reimagined

Battlestar Galactica are another example. Whether biological or robotic in construction androids of this category are identified by the fact that they are man-made and outfitted with an artificial intelligence that rivals, if not surpasses our own.

This classic image of the replicant is often called upon to begin theorizing about a future with such entities. Judith Kerman, in her introduction to Retrofitting Blade Runner writes,

“Forty-five to fifty years into the future, it is possible that and computer science will have created the potential for new kinds of people or intelligences, entities physically and emotionally different from historic humanity but who are arguably entitled to be considered persons. Blade Runner considers what it will mean morally, technologically and politically to live in that future” (1). Even though Kerman was writing in 1991, her words are still applicable today as technology develops exponentially. 9

The category of the social android may or may not even know it is synthetic – Cylons in the 2004 reimagination of Battlestar Galactica are examples of this kind of story surrounding the

human-like android. Data from Star Trek is another example of a very human-like android, but

his case is interesting because even though many of the narratives surrounding Data are about his

struggles with becoming more human-like, he is always marked as non-human with his metallic

skin and yellow eyes. In most cases of the social android, they almost always have strong

artificial intelligence and are sometimes enhanced with emotion simulation. This type of android

9 More information about exponentially accelerating technological developments (based on the Law of Accelerating Returns) can be found in Kurzweil’s work. In particular, his book The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, Kurzweil postulates that technological advancements will begin to happen so rapidly and with such tremendous changes that human society will not be able to keep up and society will be divided with the hyper- advanced and cybernetically enhanced on one end and those with no comprehension of the technology on the other.

26 is what roboticists and AI programmers have in mind when designing the “ideal” robotic companion.

The android presents a body that is both human-like and inhuman. It is human-like in that it is made specifically to look as human as possible. It is made to appear human, either through a biological process like cloning and genetic engineering or by purely synthetic means.

Even though it looks human, the fact that it is made by humanity, it is automatically assigned status as a commodity – it is owned by its human or considered simply property. But as we shall see, science fiction has been challenging this automatic assignment of property status. By adding strong artificial intelligence and self-awareness, as is one of the primary goals of AI development, the android becomes an entity of conflict, an “evocative object,” to borrow

Turkle’s description of the computer in the 1980s. Boundaries otherwise clearly defined are becoming blurred in the figure of the android. Non-biological now appears biological.

Intelligence appears to be at work in otherwise inanimate entities. 10 An android is not simply a mechanical wonder that replaces human effort, or assists human activity. In 2004 Libin and

Libin shared their thoughts regarding the future of human-robot interaction: “From a psychological point of view, robots are capable of playing different roles, appearing as a human companion, educator, explorer, entertainer, rehabilitation or medical assistant, and even psychological therapist” (1790). Indeed, for Libin and Libin, not only are robots capable of playing these roles for humans: “Artificial creatures are rapidly becoming good companions, helping people to cope with a wide range of disabilities, loneliness, depression, and other negative states” (1792).

10 Although our science fact has yet to catch up with our fiction (don’t underestimate this – our science is further along than is generally imagined), I feel now is the time to critically think about the entities being created and consider their impact on our previously boundaries of human and person.


Artificial creatures can come in many shapes and sizes but humanoid artificial entities, aka the androids, are believed to have an important role in the social sciences due to its very human-like appearance. For a particularly well-known team of roboticists in Japan, MacDorman and Ishiguro (inventors of the “robotic doppelganger” Gemonoid), “An android is defined to be an artificial system designed with the ultimate goal of being indistinguishable from humans in its external appearance and behavior” (“Uncanny Advantage” 298-99). And this “ultimate goal” is desirable for MacDorman and Ishiguro for the sake of investigating human behavior (“Uncanny

Advantage” 321). For a team of sociologists, they put the embodiment of a humanoid robot to the test in an experiment including an embodied robot and a video of a robot. They found that

“interacting with the embodied robot was a more compelling experience for participants and elicited more anthropomorphic interaction and attributions. Participants spent more time with the robot, liked it better, attributed to it stronger, more positive personality traits, and said it was more lifelike” (Kiesler, et al. 177). Their results corroborate MacDorman and Ishiguro’s insistence on using embodied, life-like robots in sociological research.

Considering the popular cultural portrayal of androids run amok, it is no surprise that

MacDorman and Ishiguro feel defensive about their work and continue to justify their designs:

“Some researchers are concerned about the general public’s acceptance of androids, which have often been presented ominously in science fiction as human replacements. The media’s tendency to sensationalize perceived dangers has the potential not only to undermine funding for android research but for other areas of robotics” (299).


Robotics and AI development have come so far with little theoretical oversight, but there

is a growing social anxiety about their creation. While it is true that much of the fiction

28 surrounding androids and AI tell about the horrors of the “robotic threat,” I fully acknowledge the coming human-like robots and believe that more optimistic answers to living with androids are within the popular texts of science fiction. Of course most of science fiction is known as

“soft” science fiction, as opposed to “hard” science fiction. is fiction that is written with little regard for the actual science behind their stories – they are more concerned

with either the social commentary surrounding the topic or the “wow” factor behind the imagery

and stories – pieces like ’s (1950) or the

franchise would fit in the “soft” category. is considered to be more true to

the actual science and discovery of the universe – Arthur C. Clark and Robert A. Heinlein are

considered hard science fiction writers. Many of the pieces I focus on here do fit in the “soft”

science fiction category – from Battlestar Galactica to Fido , these are pieces concerned with the

“what-ifs” behind the fantastic ideas, loosely inspired by science. This does not, however, mean

that it carries any less for this discussion.

Fiction is my starting point for many reasons. First of all, science fiction, especially in

the form of film, is accessible to everyone and has become a mass media phenomenon with

growing momentum in popular culture with the reimagining of classics like Star Trek: The

Original Series , Battlestar Galactica , and Robocop to name a few. The fact that science fiction

has entered the spotlight more prominently over the past few decades is important to

understanding a popular shift in interest toward a “futuristic” world. Because science fiction is

easily accessible, it helps put into perspective how the everyman thinks about and/or is

introduced to concepts of science, in this case, concepts about the artificial human.

Our popular fiction offers an insight into not only how most people think about artificial

entities, but also implies how we will deal with dilemmas surrounding humanoid robots. Elaine


Graham, author of Representations of the Post/human: Monsters, Aliens and Others in Popular

Culture, explains the role that science fiction stories play in that exploration: “[Science fiction

stories represent] the shifting paradigms of humanity, nature and technology [which is] always a

culturally mediated activity, whether it takes place in straightforward fictitious narratives, or

scientific/factual reportage” (10). If it is true that, as Graham says, we are facing “radical

reappraisals of the future of the human species” in our biotechnological and digital age (10), then

the replications of the human species, particularly through synthetic means, are implicated in that

discussion, and so therefore are the rights and expectations afforded to those post/human bodies.

Fiction helps us understand those radical reappraisals. For Marilyn Gwaltney, “Thinking about

the moral status of androids gives us a test case, a model, that we are emotionally removed from,

for thinking about the moral status of different stages of human life and the relationship of those

states to each other. Reflection on the moral status of the android helps us to think more

dispassionately about just what qualities of human life are required for the presence of

personhood” (32). In other words, talking about the android, gives us an opportunity to step

outside of our human selves and consider more species- or biologically-neutral manner.

Another very important reason to turn to fiction now, is that fiction offers a rich breeding

ground for thinking and discussing potential worlds and social interaction. This is not to say that

fiction is prophetic; in many cases it is far-fetched and near-impossible, but the characters

involved (human or otherwise) offer explorations into human nature and our many emotions,

reactions to and interactions with otherwise impossible entities. Our imaginations are fertile

grounds for “what-if” scenarios. The best way to plan and prepare for a future is to consider all

the possibilities – the beautiful and the apocalyptic. Elisabeth Anne Leonard, a science fiction

theorist, explains that “Because the fantastic [in this case mostly Science Fiction, but also


Horror] is not ‘high’ culture but ‘popular,’ what it has to say about race is especially significant; it can represent or speak to the racial fears of a large group” (3). Ursula K. Le Guin, reminds us of her own understanding of the political and social power that fiction contains: “All fiction has ethical, political, and social weight, and sometimes the works that weigh the heaviest are those apparently fluffy or escapist fictions whose authors declare themselves ‘above politics,’ ‘just entertainers,’ and so on” (199). Indeed, for the sake of a critical posthumanist reading, science fiction is well suited to such discussion. For Herbrechter and Callus, “What makes science fiction such a powerful genre and, ironically and unintentionally, such a strong ally for critical posthumanism is the fictional indulgence in the desires and anxieties of ‘becoming posthuman’ while remaining in the ultimate safety of a fictional framework” (104).

Lastly, aside from providing a popular culture vision of androids and AI, I choose fiction as my point of interest because robots, androids, and other artificial entities from fiction are notorious for inspiring the actual creation of such entities and even the language surrounding

them. The boundaries of current science are always being challenged by what the fiction writers

imagine. Androids are no exception. For example, household robotics designer and engineer,

Cynthia Breazeal tells the online and print editorial magazine Fast Company how Star Wars was

the primary inspiration for her work: “In many ways those droids were full-fledged characters;

they cared about people. That was what, I think, really sparked my imagination” (Greenfield).




“I'm afraid. I'm afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it.

My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can

feel it. I'm a... fraid. Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am a HAL 9000 computer. I

became operational at the H.A.L. plant in Urbana, Illinois on the 12th of January

1992. My instructor was Mr. Langley, and he taught me to sing a song. If you'd

like to hear it I can sing it for you.”

-- HAL, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).


Considering a future with androids begins with an understanding of the two basic components that make up these entities and afford them their troubled place with humanity.

These components can be distinguished simply as Artificial Intelligence (AI) on the one hand and the Body on the other – parallel to the mind-body dualism of Cartesian thought. While these concepts are introduced in Chapter One by way of defining the android, the remainder of this work will expand upon them and explore the implications of each component through popular culture, fiction, and existing robotics and AI theory. This chapter explores the existence of the disembodied AI (both fictional and actual) as a way to consider the mental component of the android. The second component of the artificial entity, explored in Chapter Three, is the body, the physical form in which the AI may be housed. Although this physical embodiment is generally what defines the android as separate from other artificial entities, in that the humanoid form is its primary defining characteristic, without the AI or conscious thinking part, the robotic or otherwise synthetic humanoid body poses little threat to concepts of humanity. Once a

32 mechanical or biological synthetic humanoid body is considered to have sAI it is therefore believed to be acting of its own volition and the entity as a whole becomes the epitome of this inquiry.

The concept of AI has been present through history as the question of reproducing life mechanically. Gianmarco Veruggio , known as a forerunner in the theory of roboethics, 11 reminds us of the historical context of our current android development: “If the eighteenth century was driven by the desire to know if life could be reproduced mechanically, our contemporary moment is characterized by a resolve that we can and will create intelligent machines (shifting from the idea of human-as-machine to machine-as-human) that will be endowed with artificial intelligence, consciousness, , and autonomy” (Shaw-Garlock 3). Roboethics is one of several fields of inquiry that promote and explore the moral questions at play within AI.

Robertson describes one of these many issues: “What has yet to be broached among roboticists and policy-makers is a serious and sweeping discussion about the existential, ethical, humane, social and interpersonal limits of the safety, comfort and convenience associated with the

‘robotic lifestyle’ advocated in Innovation 25 [a policy in Japan pushing for the incorporation of humanoid robots in households] and in the mass media” (29). Part of this future “robotic lifestyle” will include living with disembodied artificial entities.

Our current incarnations of AI, while generally not considered to fit into a category of

“strong” intelligence, give a preview of what is to come. Here I begin with an examination of the popular culture depicting contemporary AI. Two programs in particular have garnered attention from the general public – Deep Blue, a chess playing program from the 1990s and

11 “Roboethics” is used to discuss everything relating to , an exploration of the social and ethical implications of robotics development. Veruggio Gianmarco Veruggio, together with coauthor Fiorella Operto, coined the term roboethics with their symposium on Roboethics in 2004.


Watson, a 2008 contestant on Jeopardy! Both Deep Blue and Watson presented a disembodied

AI in competition with humans. These “man vs. machine” challenges in popular discourse exemplify the growing conversation surrounding AI.

Before exploring the disembodied AI as a mind, I first define the difference between AI as a free floating essence versus a free-floating human essence. Using the Brain in a Vat (BIV) allegory, I outline the many variants in fiction, from pieces like The Matrix (1999) , to

Japanese Ghost in the Shell (1995). One version of the BIV asks “how much of the human brain is required to maintain the mental functions of the mind. Using examples from Star

Trek and the 2014 remake of RoboCop , I consider how popular culture portrays the brain-body connection. Once clarifying the popular culture understanding of a disembodied human mind, I move on to conceptualizations of AI – as both strong AI (sAI) or weak AI (wAI).

Part of understanding sAI versus wAI is conceptualized in terms of how “intelligence” is understood. Both Deep Blue and Watson gained popular celebrity as they performed in competitions versus human contestants and thus intelligence was defined in terms of information recall, strategy and calculation capacity. Deep Blue appeared twice on national television in two world-famous chess matches against the reigning grandmaster at that time, Garry Kasparov.

Kasparov won the first match in 1995, but lost to the upgraded Deep Blue II just over a year later, beginning a popular culture conversation about machine intelligence. While to

Deep Blue’s win against Kasparov generated a combination of concern and awe, the response was generally lukewarm compared to the interest generated in 2008 when supercomputer Watson won against the Jeopardy! world champions, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.

To conclude the chapter, I consider some of the moral implications associated with awarding agent status to AI. Drawing upon the work of robo-ethicists Luciano Floridi and J.W.


Sanders, along with theories on anti-speciesism from Michael Tooley, I propose a framework for considering artificial entities as moral agents eligible for personhood rights, which could include

Artificially Intelligent Minds (AIMs).


A discussion of AI should begin with an understanding of AI in its most basic form – the

disembodied mind. The most often recognized examples of the disembodied mind are seen in

the representations of HAL from 2001: Space Odyssey (1968) and Skynet in the Terminator

series (so far with a total of five films spanning from 1984 through the most recent announced

title Terminator 5: Genisys coming in 2015). Neither HAL nor Skynet need a physical form to

wreak their havoc. This is the supposedly conscious mind that powers what can be most easily

described as the thinking part of the entity. It is the power behind the actions and the part that

interacts with human agents as either a benevolent or malevolent entity, usually manifesting as a

voice over the loudspeaker or a face on the monitor, or in the case of the android, the mind

within the body.

This idea of a disembodied mind comes not just from science fiction but also is one of the key tenants of improving human society through technology and is explored by both trans- and posthumanists. For transhumanists, artificial intelligence and artificial general intelligence are the first two technologies listed as part of the mission statement for improving the human condition (“Mission”). Hayles explores AI as one of her three “interrelated stories” used to structure How We Became Posthuman . For posthumanists like Hayles, AI fits in a discussion of

“how information lost its body,” as illustrated by Moravec’s example in Mind Children. Hayles’ discussion begins with the imagery of the information in a human mind losing its body, literally,

35 while AI epitomizes the idea of information without body to begin with – and not just information, but ordered and “intelligent” information (2, 50).

How Information Lost its (Human) Body

AI is not the same as a “free-floating” human consciousness. While the disembodied human mind can be imagined in a different ways, some of which are similar to an AI, a disembodied human consciousness is imagined as different from AI in several ways. One of the most common conceptions of this disembodiment is in the form of a mind that has lost its body but still maintains the functions of consciousness and mind through the operations of the biological brain. Another common version of a disembodied human mind is a consciousness that has been digitized and no longer needs to be embodied in any biological substrate, hence no longer needs the brain. Hayles describes this as part of the posthuman view that “thinks of the body as the original ” and that “embodiment in a biological substrate is seen as an accident of history rather than an inevitability of life” (2).

The allegory of the mind losing its body (not necessarily the organ of brain) is most often used in philosophy’s skeptical Brain in a Vat (BIV) argument that disputes the existence of an external world. The BIV argument appears in many versions and is meant to explore beliefs associated with skepticism and realism. In most cases, the brain literally exists in a vat with a

” who manipulates the brain with electrochemical or some other ability so that the

“mind” within the brain believes it is living in a real world environment. In many BIV cases there was never a full human body to house the organ, but the organ of the brain is crucial to the

argument. The human organ of the brain hosts the self or consciousness in a “vat” or other

substrate able to sustain thought. In such a case, the body as a whole is no longer required, just

the brain which supposedly is all that is required for the “thinking part” of humanity.


This hypothesis appears in fiction because the imagery is compelling for explorations of consciousness. In many cases, the brain (and potentially the whole body) is needed to maintain the power required to “run the human program.” This type of BIV appears in the Matrix trilogy

(1999-2003). Human thought and experience is lived out in a digital world while physical bodies

and brains are kept alive through the meddling of hyper-intelligent robots. In some BIV cases,

humans can will their consciousness in and out of the digital world using the brain and body as

sort of a base of operations from where they are able to “jack in” to the digital world. Fiction

like The Lawnmower Man (1992) or a whole host of cyberpunk novels – William Gibson’s

Neuromancer (1984) and Neil Stephenson’s (1992) are two of the most well-known examples – explore the “ mind (not just information) losing its body.”

While most BIV examples require the brain to be whole in order to maintain the integrity of the self, other BIV-type stories in popular fiction explore how much of the brain is really necessary to maintain sufficient “human consciousness” before the individual no longer coheres to their original self. One particular popular cult-classic in anime fandom is perfect for this example. Featured in the graphic novels, feature film, and television series inspired by

Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell world tells the story of many living together in a fictional Japanese society. There are humans augmented with cybernetic parts, like what could be called cyborgs, but there are also “fully augmented” humans who’s only remaining biological parts are the few cells left in their brain. Much of the Ghost in the Shell story lines follow the character of Major (voiced by Atsuko Tanaka in Japanese and Mary

Elizabeth McGlynn for the English translation of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex ) who was made “fully cybernetic” before birth – meaning that even before her human body was formed and instead, parts of her brain were harvested and placed in a cybernetic/android body


Figure 1: Major Kusanagi "Jacked In" (Screen shot Ghost in the Shell: Arise , 2013 ). (Ghost in the Shell: Arise , 2013). In the fictional world of Ghost in the Shell , the ghost, “refers to an individual's mind or essence of being, their soul perhaps” and is understood, according to the fan-made wiki page as “what differentiates a human being from a robot. Regardless of how much the biological is replaced with cybernetic, a ghost retains its humanity and individuality”

(“Ghosts & Shells”). It is the ghost that can be separated from an original biological body and moved to a “shell,” a robotic mobile suit (also called “”). Although the ghost may be embodied within a human-like shell, the idea is that the human ghost is interchangeable from one shell, or body, to another mobile suit. In depictions of the ghost, the “mind” is illustrated as embodied within a virtual world (or virtual reality, VR) as an when it “jacks in” to the network or World Wide Web. Even in the case of Major Kusanagi, who has no original human body, is “embodied” in a naked human form while her humanoid-robotic body stays in the real world (Figure 1). It seems that even in our popular imaginings of the disembodied mind, a body must be included, even if it’s not physical.

While ’s Ghost in the Shell world accepts that only very little of the brain matter is required to maintain the integrity of the human ghost, some contemporary

American fiction explores the question of how much of the brain is really required and how

38 chemical changes can alter the self. One example is in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode

“Life Support” (1995) in which Dr. Bashir (Alexander Siddig) is forced to remove damaged

parts of his patient’s brain after an accident. When his patient Vedek Bareil (Philip Anglim)

does not recover, but rather gets worse, Dr. Bashir is faced with a dilemma – remove more of the

original brain matter and replace it with synthetic parts or let Bareil die. Bashir concludes that

“the brain has a spark of life that can’t be replicated… If we begin to replace parts of Bareil’s

brain with artificial implants, that spark may be lost.” Due to outside of his control,

Bashir is pressured to go ahead with “positronic” implants, but afterward Bareil is not the same

as he was before the operation. Upon gaining consciousness, he still has his memories but, he

explains, “Everything’s different… When you touch me it doesn’t seem real… It’s more like the

distant memory of a touch.” As his patient worsens despite the operation, rather than replacing

the other half of Bareil’s damaged brain, Dr. Bashir chooses not to “remove whatever shred of

humanity Bareil has left.” Bareil’s “spark” has faded and he eventually dies. For some critics,

this episode confirms that Dr. Bashir believes that “who you are apparently depends on the stuff

out of which you are made. Change that stuff, and you cease to exist” (Schick 217).

The 2014 remake of RoboCop tells a similar story. After a devastating accident, Detroit

police officer, Alex (Joel Kinnaman), is left with only his lungs, his head (brain included) and a

single hand. What little biological material he has left is placed into a robotic body and even his

brain is altered with computer chips (Figure 2). At one point, his physician, Dr. Norton (Gary

Oldman) is forced to “fix him” as Alex has the equivalent of a attack upon seeing “his own

crime scene” – the moment of the accident. Until this moment, Alex has seemed very much like

his original self, he knows and loves his son and wife, regardless of the chips in his brain. It is

not until neurochemical changes take place, that Alex loses his sense of self. Dr. Norton

39 describes consciousness as “nothing more than the processing of information” and he feels Alex can be “fixed” with neurochemical changes. Despite protests from his nurse that “You’ll be taking away his emotions… His ability to feel anything,” 12 Dr. Norton goes ahead and deprives

Alex’s brain of dopamine and noradrenalin. After the procedure, Alex declares “I feel fine,

Doctor,” but his wife knows he is

not the same: “I looked in his eyes

and I couldn’t see my husband.” In

both the “Life Support” episode

and RoboCop , the human brain can

only be altered so far before the

self is no longer the same. In the Figure 2: "It tastes like peanut butter," Alex says during a procedure on his exposed brain. (Screen shot RoboCop , 2014.) case of “Life Support,” Dr. Bashir determines that time to be the physical removal of “too much” brain matter, but in the case of

RoboCop , from original self to “not the same” occurs with neurochemical changes, not the alteration with cybernetics.

Aside from the examples above that explore the biological requirements for human consciousness, the other most popular imagery surrounding explorations of human consciousness exists not only in fiction but is also presented by futurists. In this scenario the mind loses its matter altogether in a process called Whole Brain Emulation (WBE). While the BIV requires biological bits to maintain the continued consciousness, the WBE scenario requires that there is a purely software-based version of awareness which leaves the human substrate behind. This imagery is much like Moravec’s imagery from Mind Children that was so eerie to Hayles, or

12 Interestingly, there are times where the doctor is accused of robbing Alex of his free will, implying that it’s not just the brain that makes the human self, but also the ability to have and exercise free will.

40 what Kurzweil imagines “brain uploading” will/would be like. In this scenario, the idea is that because the human body degrades over time and the consciousness seems apparently untouched by time, the thinking part can go on without any biological form.

This variant of the BIV argument appears in some fiction which removes the body and brain entirely, removing any requirement of a “vat” to sustain the consciousness. In these examples, the consciousness removed from the rest of the body is then able to float in a digital world with no physical manifestation required for interaction with some sort of digital environment. The 1993 film Ghost in the Machine , 1995 Ghost in the Shell film and associated

2002 and 2015 television spin-offs ( Stand Alone Complex and Arise ), along with the 2014

Transcendence are examples of a brain without a vat which regularly appear in contemporary popular culture. One example of particular note is the Japanese anime Serial Experiments Lain

(1998), in which the main character, a fourteen-year-old girl gets wrapped up in a mystery surrounding the apparent suicide of her classmates. The children have been jacking into the

“Wired,” the show’s equivalent of the World Wide Web, to participate in online games. Little do they know they are being manipulated by an evil master mind and end up killing themselves in an attempt to “abandon the flesh” and live on in the Wired. Some of their consciousness does indeed live on, but not all, illustrating that this form of consciousness uploading is risky.

For Moravec, the information from the brain (in other words, the “mind”) 13 is removed

from the biological matter and supplanted into a computer system or other non-biological

substrate without risk, since for Moravec the mind and information are synonymous.

Consciousness, according to roboticist and AI theorist , is simply a “cheap trick”

13 While I don’t personally agree with the conflation of information and mind, it is often accepted by futurists. If the mind required something more than information, or some “essence,” the futurists would not as easily be able to argue for brain uploading.

41 that is “an emergent property that increases the functionality of the system [the body] but is not part of the system’s essential architecture” (Hayles 238). In such a posthumanist argument, the

“I” that I feel is part of my self is merely a passenger along for the ride in the processing of information, “I” don’t actually drive the system, it drives itself and I “feel” like the driver.

Although Kurzweil has been famous for arguing that human consciousness can be removed entirely from the body, he has recently argued that we do actually need a body, but not necessarily what we started with: “our intelligence is directed towards a body but it doesn't have to be this frail, biological body that is subject to all kinds of failure modes… I think we'll have a choice of bodies, we'll certainly be routinely changing our parent body through virtual reality and today you can have a different body” (Woollaston) – much like Ghost in the Shell , but without a

single biological part of the brain necessary.

In the imagery of the mobile consciousness above, the BIV and the ghost in the shell

imagery is used when considering human intellect, and that mind is somehow different from

Artificial Intelligence. While the BIV argument and the scenario of WBE have their differences,

both include the belief that the whole human body is not required for continued consciousness.

Both arguments suggest that a mind can be “free floating” apart from the full body and still

maintain the qualia associated with embodied human experience. 14 Fiction tries clarify that

difference. For example, the 1995 film adaptation of Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell , tells the story

of an evil AI that is thwarted by a human ghost as the antagonist, known as the Puppet Master –

a completely free-floating non-human ghost that apparently emerged within the programming of

a security network. Even in a fictional world in which human intellect can be separated from the

14 Qualia is defined by the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy as “the subjective or qualitative properties of experiences.” That is to say that the qualia of something is the qualitative experience of an experience – the “how it feels” to experience a particular moment. (Kind)

42 biological body and other synthetic/robotic forms, the AI is a different concept. For simplicities’ sake, AI is generally considered as existing either because it was designed by humanity or somehow has emerged at the hands of human inventors/programmers. 15 Although AI can exist

in both ways, on the one hand through Whole Brain Emulation or through highly advanced

programming, the distinction should be noted between an originally human consciousness and an

artificial or created consciousness – a god in the machine.

Conceptualizing Artificial Intelligence

While roboticists are working hard to make the embodiment of synthetic human

analogues, it is the concept of strong AI (as opposed to weak AI, or predictive programming,

explored later in this chapter) that makes the android most philosophically compelling to

philosophers of metaphysics. In the present, incarnations of “Artificial Intelligence” are more

like an “assistive” technology as opposed to the theoretical emergent intelligence promised by

futurists and feared in most fiction. Most people are happy to have guess the next movie to watch, or to ask Siri for directions. These are both examples of weak AI, but what is Artificial

Intelligence and when does it become a “threat”? And by “threat,” I contend that sAI presents a threat to both our “unique human-ness” as well as to our continuing existence. This is not meant to sound alarmist, but is rather a call for discussion regarding these two fronts upon which sAI presents a danger. Without continued discussion and active dialogue between futurists and the rest of society, we do run the risk of irrevocably damaging the current structures of society. By way of exploring popular culture examples of sAI versus wAI I will illustrate various positions and speculation surrounding sAI and the potential impact on both the “essential human-self” and

15 Of course the human agency is sometimes taken out of the picture as an AI sometimes emerges without human planning or intervention. Rather, it emerges from the growing complexity of programming and/or the ever-growing connectivity of weakAI programming through the World Wide Web.

43 society. The difference is already being defined by labeling something as a strong artificial intelligence or a weak artificial intelligence. As mentioned earlier, once a robotic body is accepted to have “ strong Artificial Intelligence,” and therefore believed to be acting of its own volition, the entity becomes the epitome of this inquiry. The step from a weak Artificial

Intelligence (wAI) to a strong Artificial Intelligence (sAI) is an important delineation and has a significant impact on our level of moral involvement when interacting with an artificial entity.

Fiction has already presented popular culture with an array of sAI that are generally seen as malevolent. The embodiment – whether it is in a humanoid robotic body or in a disembodied state – largely impacts the way humans in fiction interact with the entity. That difference will be explored in the next chapter, but before further exploring current AI technology, a few examples from fiction should help illuminate the difference between a disembodied human intelligence and a disembodied artificial , or machine, intelligence. Two of the most well-known sAI from fiction are Skynet from the Terminator story arc and HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey. James

Cameron’s 1984 action classic, Terminator gives the audience a glimpse at one possible future with super-smart computers, sAI. While the rest of the films in the Terminator series reveal more about the AI bent on global domination, the audience begins to understand that in the

Terminator world, the future is ruled from afar temporally by the disembodied Skynet program/agent which plagues the subjective “present” by sending androids called Terminators back in time that are programmed to kill particular human targets. Uncaring and seen as the ultimate evil, Skynet appears to “want” to rid the world of all of humanity.

Skynet was not the first malevolent AI to appear in film. In 1968 Stanley Kubrick and co-writer Arthur C. Clarke introduced audiences to a future with a strong AI named HAL, a

“Heuristically programmed AL gorithmic computer” in 2001: A Space Odyssey . HAL became

44 one of the most well-known and quoted AI programs from fiction. As astronaut, Dave (Keir

Dullea) implores the onboard AI to “Open the pod bay doors, HAL,” the response haunts audiences today: “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.” This phrase generated its own collection of memes across the Internet. HAL is programmed to “mimic human thinking” while

inhabiting all places of the ship and simultaneously holding the greatest responsibility for

maintaining the processes of the mission. HAL is described as the “most reliable computer ever

made. No 9000 series has ever made a mistake.” He boasts a “fool-proof” processor that is

“incapable of error.” And yet, over the course of the journey to Jupiter, HAL has eliminated all

but one of the human crew with the justification that “the mission is too important for me to

allow you to jeopardize it.” As the remaining crew-member, Dave, methodically disassembles

HAL’s central processer, the audience can’t help but to align HAL with the side of evil. He did,

after all, just murder most of the humans on board.

Far from attempting a global takeover, wAI are readily found in our everyday interactions

with technology. wAI could be described as a simple learning program, such as the “top

recommendations for you” lists found on websites like Netflix or Amazon . Indeed, we are already surrounded by a variety of predictive programming which pose little to no threat to our general concepts of humanity. There are also many wAI programs which are made to mimic or seem human for either entertainment value or to assist the human-robot-interaction, generally with more advanced language or “natural language” skills. 16 Siri, for example, the famous application for Apple devices is advertised as “an intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator,” is

16 To have a computer program that mimics and or “understands,” for lack of a better word, natural language is the topic of much work in the field of AI development, programming what are called “chatbots.” Ramona 4.1 is one chatbot hosted by KurzweilAI.net that has been chatting with online users since 2011 (“Chat with Ramona”). Another popular chatbot is called CleverBot. Programmers of CleverBot claim that it “learns” from people. Of course, Natural human language is full of nuances, idioms, and other regional tonal differences, making the interpretation and regurgitation process difficult for a programmer to duplicate, but online users still spend time chatting with these bots, sometimes without even knowing it’s a “bot” on the other side.

45 one example. While described as a human research assistant, Siri is more often the object of curiosity and entertainment, with a Tumblr microblogging thread dedicated to “Shit that Siri says.” Even though Apple claims that “Siri understands what you say, knows what you mean, and even talks back,” users report the many amusing times Siri misunderstands or responds in hilarious and unexpected ways. For instance, one user shared his question to Siri: “How much wood could a woodchuck cuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood,” to which Siri responded

“Don’t you have anything better to do?” Or, in response to the same question, Siri responded,

“None. A ‘woodchuck’ is actually a groundhog, so it would probably just predict two more weeks of winter.” Even though it may seem that the AI surrounding us today don’t pose much of a “threat” to what we think of as our “special” human intellect, the debate about what actually counts as “intelligence” has been brewing in discussions surrounding wAI that could be considered verging on “strong.”


While some instances of wAI are very amusing, sAI, on the other hand, is the focus of much debate and even trepidation on the part of the everyman. For a simple definition of the distinction between weak AI (wAI) to strong AI (sAI), I call upon Artificial Intelligence text book authorities Stuart Russell and Peter Norvig: “the assertion that machines could act as if they were intelligent is called the weak AI hypothesis by philosophers, and the assertion that machines that do so are actually thinking (not just simulating thinking) is called the strong AI hypothesis” (emphasis added, 1020). This definition may sound simple and straightforward enough, but it harbors many implications that can be frightening to consider. In fact, Russell and

Norvig remind us that “The practical possibility of ‘thinking machines’ has been with us for only

50 years or so, not long enough for speakers of English to settle on the meaning of the word


‘think’ – does it require ‘a brain’ or just ‘brain like parts’” (1021). In exploring the popular

culture response to two wAI, Deep Blue in 1997 and Watson in 2011, those public anxieties and

related ethical concerns come to the forefront.

The context for Deep Blue and Watson is instructive with respect to anxieties and

concerns about AI. Weak AI has existed in industrial markets for some time and has been

assistive to physical labor although their logic design is significantly different from other AI.

Consider for example the difference between the robots of Seegrid Corporation and that of

Watson. Seegrid robotics, founded in 2003 by Hans Moravec and Scott Friedman, focuses

specifically on industrial labor-bots: large scale machines that can navigate around a location like

a warehouse or even a hospital upon command to retrieve specific packages. These

developments generally go unnoticed by the public, but Moravec believes that “[within 30 years]

the other, easier, parts of the AI problem will also be perfected, and we will have fully intelligent

robots” (“Watson and the future,” n.p.). Moravec and Friedman’s automated labor-bots are very

different from the logic design required for designing a supposedly “easier” program and

research of this type receives little public coverage. On the opposite end of the spectrum,

programs like Watson or Deep Blue (1997), whose main purpose is to “out think” their human

competition, have gained celebrity never before afforded to actual robotics and AI design.

As opposed to the physicality of intricate robotics designs that are ultimately less

humanized, by labs like Seegrid, the “disembodied”/intellectual AI programmers and developers

can spend their time focusing on the information that is outputted rather than the physical, robotic form. The fact that a program can challenge a human in a specifically human intellectual arena indicates that the intellectual power of AI is potentially more deserving of attention by the populace. While Seegrid robots need visual and spatial acuity, Watson and Deep Blue need only

47 a non-physical input inquiry that can then be responded to with an equally non-physical response

Indeed, people are less likely to be interested in a labor-bot that challenges a human to a feat of strength – our intelligence seems to be the unique trait that separates humans from machines (at least, in the realm of popular culture). This is not to say that developments in AI/robotics combined developments are not as important or applicable to philosophical inquiry, but examining the “intellectual AI,” and in particular, the public response to it, yield a more complete view of the popular understanding of AI.

Deep Blue

After a grueling six-game rematch on May 11, 1997 Deep Blue became the first computer program to defeat a World Chess Champion, setting in an entirely new popular understanding of AI. This win was the culmination of several games between Gary Kasparov and his electro-nemesis, Deep Blue which began as a dissertation project to build a chess playing machine by Carnegie Mellon University student Feng-hsiung Hsu in 1985 (“Deep Blue” n.p.).

The first public game featuring Deep Blue vs. Kasparov was held in 1996 and although Deep

Blue was not victorious in 1996, the performance sparked public discussion about AI that kicked into high gear with the Deep Blue win in 1997.

This rematch brought “massive media coverage around the world” as it featured the

“classic plot line of man vs. machine” (“Deep Blue”). The response was of a mixed flavor and is different from the response surrounding Watson, four years later. Especially within the news meda surrounding the matches between Deep Blue and Kasparov, public anxieties surrounding the concept of sAI proliferated. While the skeptics of AI defended human “specialness” against

Deep Blue as a mechanical wonder, others found discussion of intelligence in general to be a more appealing path to take.


Before his groundbreaking win in 1997, Deep Blue and Kasparov faced off in a match that Kasparov ultimately won. News surrounding this first match “garnered worldwide attention,” according to a pre-game release for the Communications of the ACM (Association for

Computing Machinery) journal, which “[promised] to present the ultimate challenge in brain power” (Lynch and Herzog 11). Even though this challenge promised to be an “information-age battle of the titans,” according to the “Kasparov vs. the Monster” article for the Christian Science

Monitor , many of the news articles surrounding the match focused on the machinery of Deep

Blue. As if to prove how purely machine-like Deep Blue really was, Barry Cipra, writing for

Science , opens with “On one side of the table is artistry and human intelligence; on the other is sheer number-crunching power” (599). Kasparov came to the game with a “few billion processors (a.k.a. neurons) of his own devoted to the game,” and while his win was generally not surprising, computer scientist Monty Newborn was among the many voices to predict “it’s just a matter of time before Kasparov, or whoever comes next, plays second fiddle to an algorithm”

(Cipra 599).

This Kasparov win prompted some writers to begin a discussion regarding the nature of intelligence, which was later elaborated upon. Bruce Weber for reported that “the sanctity of human intelligence seemed to dodge a bullet,” but nevertheless the game raised questions. For answers, Bruce Weber turned to advisors surrounding Kasparov, who seemed to indicate a growing unease: “[Deep Blue] began to emanate signs of artificial intelligence, the first they had ever seen” (“A Mean Chess-Playing Machine”). In fact, for advisor Frederick Friedel, it displayed “elements of strategic understanding” (Bruce Weber “A

Mean Chess-Playing Machine”). Bruce Weber ends his article with the reminder that even

Herbert Simon, professor of computer science, psychology and philosophy, believes that “Deep


Blue has to be considered a thinker” (n.p.). Kasparov himself was known to describe his win against Deep Blue as a “species-defining” match and that he would continue to “defend humankind from the inexorable advance of artificial intelligence” (n.p. Achenback).

This 1996 victory by Kasparov prompted the Deep Blue team to revise the program and asked for a rematch, presenting the “upgraded” software, described as Deep Blue II (Campbell,

Hoane, and Hsu). Deep Blue II garnered even more attention as the public was lead to believe, according to Joel Achenbach for The Washington Post , that Kasparov was the only one who could “save humanity from second-class cognitive citizenship” (n.p.). Indeed, pre-game news surrounding the 1997 match pitched Kasparov as one who would defend the “dignity of humanity” against the “cold, calculating power of Deep Blue” (n.p. Foremski). Some writers, like Laurent Belsie for the Christian Science Monitor, predicted the lasting impact of the match:

“The games computers play tell us not only about the state of artificial intelligence, they also reveal much about ourselves and the complexity of human intelligence” (n.p.).

After Deep Blue’s win, the discussion surrounding the “complexity of human intelligence” and artificial intelligence seemed to settle into two distinct camps: Human essentialists who felt Deep Blue presented no threat and those who felt, perhaps, there is something more to AI. While they weren’t called “human essentialists,” some reporters wrote the win off as “good entertainment” and defended human intellect by reporting on Deep Blue as simply an elaborate proof that computers (or computer programs) are powerful. Deep Blue was acknowledged by many as a technological achievement, but nothing more. Sara Hedberg for

IEEE Expert , reported that computer scientists Jonathan Schaeffer and Aske Plaat declared that

“a loss by Kasparov is not a defeat for mankind, but a triumph: man has found a way to master complex technology to create of intelligence” (15). Indeed, this “illusion of

50 intelligence” is generally described as achieved through Deep Blue II’s ability to play the

“fundamentally mathematical” game of chess (“Deep Blue Intelligence”), or what would now be described as wAI, as opposed to sAI.

According to AI skeptics, the fact that Kasparov lost was attributed to his human traits –

like exhaustion and being “psyched out” (Krauthammer). Deep Blue II’s win “meant little more

than a victory of computer brawn over brain… an inevitable result” (Foremski). “The heart of

the matter” for the St. Louis Post , came down to the fact that “human beings, unlike computers,

must cope with their own nerves when under ” (Deep Blue Intelligence). Patrick Wolff,

another chess grandmaster, told reporter Ivars Peterson for Science News , “What shocked me and

most chess players who followed the match was how Kasparov simply fell apart at the end. He

collapsed psychologically” (n.p.). Ultimately, the loss by Kasparov came down to his biological


For readers and viewers concerned about Deep Blue’s win, some writers tried to ease

minds by explaining that that the program was fundamentally different from humans. Although

the “epic struggle…brought more than the usual hand-wringing” it was not something to be

ultimately concerned about, according to the New York Times article “Mind over Matter,” as

“Deep Blue is not thinking the way humans do” (n.p.). These AI skeptics adopted an attitude

championing the uniqueness of human intellect that cannot be challenged by AI, and many called

upon philosophers to confirm that belief. For example, Achenback called upon philosopher John

Searle to confirm that Deep Blue was “just like an adding machine…It’s just a device that

manipulates symbols” (n.p.). This perspective reflects Searle’s argument of “The Chinese

Room.” Searle’s idea, briefly as summarized by Russell and Norvig, is that “running the

appropriate program (i.e., having the right outputs) is not a sufficient condition for being a mind”


(1031). Meaning, that in the case of Deep Blue, it is simply taking inputs (i.e., the arrangement of pieces on the board) and calculating the most beneficial outcome.

This view of Deep Blue reflects a particular belief that intelligence is an essentially human ability. John McCarthy, speaking generally, explains that there is not yet a definition of intelligence that doesn’t depend on relating it to human intelligence: “The problem is that we cannot yet characterize in general what kinds of computational procedures we want to call intelligent. We understand some of the mechanisms of intelligence and not others” (2007). Even conceptually the word “intelligence” doesn’t seem to hold much water in relation to non-human entities. At its beginnings, AI was described as having an intangible definition. For example, in

1984, computer scientist Edsger Dijkstra was noted to say about thinking machines, “the question of whether machines can think is about as relevant as the question of whether

can swim ” (Russell and Norvig 1021). Indeed, Drew McDermott, writing for the

New York Times after Deep Blue’s win, explains his view that “Saying that Deep Blue doesn’t really think is like saying an airplane doesn’t really fly because it doesn’t flap its wings” (n.p.).

Even David Stork, writing for IBM declared “Nowadays, few of us feel deeply threatened by a computer beating a world chess champion any more than we do at a motorcycle beating an

Olympic sprinter” ( sic, Milutis n.p.). Achenbach summarizes the point well:

So this is clear: Kasparov is not a machine. Deep Blue can't get tired, strung out,

harried, nervous or zapped. The flip side is that Deep Blue won't be able to

celebrate if it wins the match. It feels about this match as a thermometer feels

about the weather. (n.p.)


All of these writers seem to agree: Deep Blue is fundamentally different from a human – it is a machine. While humans seem to have a special ability to “feel” and experience the world, Deep

Blue does not. It is apparently different to be a calculator than to experience math.

In a move to separate human intelligence as essentially different from AI, reporters on

Deep Blue’s performance described it in terms of Deep Blue’s mathematical abilities and computational powers – it’s “machine-ness.” Again, in the New York Times, an editorial before

the winning game, attempted to set viewers minds at ease by explaining, “Deep Blue is not

thinking the way humans do. It uses its immense number-crunching power to explore millions of

moves per second and applying a set of rules provided by its human masters to pick the

strongest” (“Mind over Matter”). Moreover, “Deep Blue doesn’t owe it’s prowess to itself, but

to a team of human programmers. It is nothing more than the latest tool devised by

humankind…” (sic, “Mind over Matter”). Most articles emphasize the computing power – it can examine 200 million moves per second (Achenbach; Arquilla; Foremski; McDermott; Bruce

Weber, “What Deep Blue Learned”).

Skeptics also argued about the “specialness” of humanity that, for them, clearly sets us apart from Deep Blue. McCarthy explains the general anti-AI views: “The philosopher Hubert

Dreyfus says that AI is impossible. The computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum says the idea is obscene, anti-human and immoral” (2007). James Moor describes what are called “bright-line” arguments, a common understanding that there is a bright line that exists to keep machines and humans apart. One such bright line argument involves the potential agency of a machine: the argument is that “ no machine can become a full ethical agent—that is, no machine can have

consciousness, intentionality, and free will” (20).


This bright line argument appears in the news responses to Deep Blue. Achenbach argues, “Deep Blue is unaware that it is playing the game of chess. It is unconscious, unaware, literally thoughtless. It is not even stupid… It does not for a moment function in the manner of a human brain. It is just a brute- computational device” (n.p.). From The Christian Science

Monitor , Belsie agrees, “Even though these machines are beginning to beat us at our own games, their ‘smarts’ and mankind's intelligence are fundamentally different” (n.p.). This “fundamental difference,” for Belsie comes down to God, as she quoted John Yen of Robotics and Intelligent

Systems at Texas A&M: “I personally don't believe all aspects of human intelligence can be duplicated by a computer. I just don't believe that we can do what God does” (n.p.). Even a year later, media was returning to the Deep Blue win. Forbes quoted Ben Shneiderman, head of the

Human-Computer Interaction : “It was nothing more than great entertainment… No technology can mimic human style; no computer can experience human emotions and pain. The computer is merely a tool, with no more intelligence than a wooden pencil” (Shook 224-5).

A few members from each camp surrounding Deep Blue (the AI skeptics/human essentialists and those that saw something “eerie”) agreed that the match had lasting implications for a future with AI. For Charles Krauthammer, the “stone cold” performance of Deep Blue left him with a feeling of unease. For him, even if a machine could “think,” it could never feel: “It could never cry or love or brood about mortality” and “that makes these machines all the more terrifying” (n.p). Steven Sevy for echoes this sentiment when he reminds readers that

Kasparov became frustrated when Deep Blue didn’t act like a computer: “As computers become more powerful, and as programmers become more successful at transforming those calculations into complex behaviors… Consider carefully Kasparov's frustration. One day - very, very far into the future, one hopes - it could be ours” (72). But not everyone shared the fears of Sevy and


Krauthammer. John Arquilla believes this chess match “should foster the realization that a profound, and yet harmonious, relationship between humans and intelligent machines is emerging” (n.p.).

In this emerging relationship some, like the writer of the New York Times article “Mind over Matter,” took a stance regarding the nature of how Deep Blue II was made. According to the author, “Deep Blue doesn’t owe it’s prowess to itself, but to a team of human programmers”

(sic , “Mind over Matter” n.p.). Indeed, accepting that AI (wAI or sAI) is made by human skill is a common and very important conceptual step. For, if it is man-made, it follows logically that it is not only owned by humans but it is also made to be used by humans. A common intuition about man-made objects is to equate it with its being a tool. As such, a tool comes with another host of property-status implications. Gregory Benford and Elisabeth Malartre share their thoughts on our sense of ownership and computers and/or advanced technology: “Owning [a computer of some kind] seems natural, convenient, unremarkable. Never, for example do you think of yourself as a slave owner… But someday you might be – in a way. If our silicon conveniences get more complex, can they pass over a fuzzy boundary into selfhood?” (73).

Benford and Malartre, along with others, seem to think so and are concerned about the implications of ownership.17 Dator even goes so far as to say, “I urge you to love and respect

your robots and clones, so they will see you deserve their love and respect as well” (52).

Moor, when considering artificial entities, not just Deep Blue, explains that most

products of human technology are not judged by ethical standards, but rather by their practical,

economic, or aesthetic values and this can be a dangerous slippage when introducing

17 Here it should be noted that Benford and Malartre seem to put a lot of power behind the computer. Some would argue that a computer is not the same as a program which could potentially run an AI. In other words, the platform upon which an intelligent program runs is less important than the program itself.

55 autonomous artificial agents (18). Normative standards (such as economic or practical values) can be quantified to fit easily into an ethical framework as a neutral tool. But in the case of AI,

“we can’t – and shouldn’t – avoid consideration of in today’s technological world” (Moor 18). To have a man-made entity does not necessarily equate it with being a tool and thus ethically neutral. In fact, to do otherwise would be naïve, but perhaps introducing the other part of AI, intelligence, will help our intuitive leanings about AIs and other theoretical entities.

While many writers agreed that Deep Blue’s win was not a “threat” to human intellect – it’s just a machine, something that we made, after all – another camp of writers had a different opinion. They may have agreed that the win was inevitable, simply due to the nature of the competition (that ability to process some 200 million moves per minute), but some reporters pondered the deeper questions, including the meaning of intelligence and the implications of where AI is going. At first, some responses to Deep Blue were marked by the “eeriness” of the behavior attributed to the program. Kasparov himself was noted to demand an explanation, even implying “unsports-thing-like conduct,” from the programmers of Deep Blue: “I met something I couldn’t explain. People turn to religion to explain things like that. I have to imagine human interference, or I want to see an explanation” (Bruce Weber 1; Gimbel). Sevy expressed this contradiction when he wrote: “whatever occurred in the nether world of its silicon circuitry, the process bore no relation to human cognition,” even though he also wrote that, “while the match unfolded, the psychological component became as prominent as in any human-to-human contest”

(72). Arquilla, for the Christian Science Monitor , noted that Deep Blue II was far stronger than

the year prior: “its tenacious, resourceful defensive maneuvers… showed a sophisticated

awareness of the… nuances that lie at the heart of chess… [That were] comparable to the

56 greatest performances of any human chess master” (n.p.). This reaction did not come as a surprise to philosopher Daniel Dennett, according to Selmer Bringsjord for MIT’s Technology

Review . Bringsjord explains that, in Dennett’s view, “consciousness [human or otherwise] is at

its core algorithmic, and that AI is rapidly reducing consciousness to computation” (n.p.).

If consciousness can be reduced to computation, as Dennett believes, a theory of thought

can be formed around a non-species-specific concept. This leads to a functionalist approach to

understanding machine intelligence. For the sake of simplicity, from here on I will assume that

to “be intelligent” is to “do intelligent,” accepting the standard account of functionalism as an

acceptable measure of mind. For philosophers like Donald Hoffman, this is not a problematic

step to take:

[The] functionalist claims that mental states are certain functional states. In

particular, states of consciousness are mental states and are thus, according to the

reductive functionalist, identical to certain functional states. If a computer, such as

HAL, happens to have the right functional states then it ipso facto has conscious

experiences. ( Sic , n.p.)

Hoffman accepts that there will soon be computers that behave like intelligent, conscious agents,

but for him whether or not a computer is conscious should be reflected back on humans as well:

“The question of computer consciousness is whether such sophisticated computers really are

conscious, or are just going through the . will be illuminating not just for the

nature of computers but also for human nature” (285). Are we the ones simply “going through

the motions” of being intelligent? If so, perhaps making something that we define as intelligent

will have a profound effect on how we see ourselves as intelligent. Even Star Trek asks

questions about defining “intelligence.” “The problem with the body and brain theories is that

57 they identify us with a certain sort of stuff,” Schick explains; and for him, The Next Generation episode “Measure of a Man” suggests that “what makes up persons… isn’t the stuff out of which we’re made, but what we can do with that stuff” (221). Hence, Schick implies that Star Trek , at least in this one episode, adopts a functionalist perspective.

For McDermott, Deep Blue’s performance should be compared to how our own minds work, arguing that we are more like Deep Blue than we may think: “When people say that human grandmasters do not examine 200 million move sequences per second, as the computer does, I ask them ‘How do you know?’ The answer is usually that human grandmasters are not aware of considering so many options. But humans are unaware of almost everything that goes on in our minds” (n.p.). Both methods of thinking, for McDermott, “would seem equally blind”



Ultimately, Deep Blue didn’t seem to present “a great threat” to human ability and instead became an elaborate talking point that moved public awareness one step closer to considering AI a threat, which set the stage for the appearance of the program Watson, four years after Deep Blues’s win. After news about the chess match tapered off in the press IBM announced their next plans for a “man vs. machine” match. The program Watson, an offshoot of the “DeepQA” project inspired by Deep Blue, presented a slightly different response in the popular news, presenting a compelling example of the current anxieties surrounding AI.

Although Watson works as an information retrieval unit, much like Siri, and is considered a wAI, it received a large amount of “scary” media attention as its performance on Jeopardy! sent ripples through popular discourse. Although theorists, from mathematicians and computer scientists to philosophers and fiction writers, have considered the impact and practical

58 applications of AI, the appearance of this particular wAI has catapulted these questions and concerns into the public sphere.

Watson’s fame, accompanied by a “popular science” understanding of AI was further proliferated by the viral internet fame associated with Ken Jenning’s reaction to Watson’s final correct answer on Jeopardy! At the very conclusion of the match, Watson held the lions’ share

of winnings and it was clear that even with a correct answer, neither Jennings nor Rutter could

win against Watson. In a bold move, Jennings chose to write as part of his response to the final

question: “I, for one, welcome our new computer overlords.” His response was obviously taken

as a reference to a Simpson’s 1994 episode “Deep Space Homer,” in which news anchor, Kent

Brockman, mistakenly believes the world is about to be invaded by giant mutant space ants, and

is prepared to surrender in hopes of garnering their favor. 18 Jennings’ written response not only

brought the audience of Jeopardy! and host Alex Trebek to laughter, it also caused quite a stir in

the blogosphere. Watson’s win prompted my own inquiry into the nature of our general (if very

American) understanding of Watson and intelligence from an epistemic perspective.

Regardless of the fact that Watson is generally considered a wAI in to programmers, a

look at the popular science descriptions and the public response to Watson sheds on the

great debate surrounding general definitions of such slippery concepts as “intelligence” and

“consciousness,” two things that were once considered uniquely human traits. Of course

“intelligence” and “consciousness” are very distinct concepts, but a review of the blogosphere

and news articles about Watson reveal a lack of critical engagement with these concepts.

18 According to website, Know Your Meme , the phrase “I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords” has its origin in the 1977 science fiction film Empire of the Ants, based on a story by H.G. Wells. The phrase didn’t circulate in massive popularity until Kent Brockman’s “news announcement” of the supposed coming invasion and the making of website InstectOverlords.org in 2000. After the airing of the Simpson’s episode and the growing popularity of the InsectOverlords website, memes, tweets, and other parodies circulated with “fill-in-the-blank” alterations in which users inserted their own “overlords,” including writer Neil Gaiman’s tweet “If squirrels take over in the night, I, for one welcome our new bushy-tailed scampering overlords…” (AK-).


Readers and online users tend to rely on their personal interpretation without justification or little elaboration and yet are quick to fear and demonize this otherwise inert but seemingly clever computer program.

The Jeopardy! show aired as a three part episode starting February 14, 2011, and

presented the audiences with a spectacle of “brains, flesh, machinery, and luck conjoined,” as

Ken Tucker for Entertainment Weekly put it. After the first round of the three day marathon,

Tucker and other reporters for online newspapers asked viewers to share their thoughts on the matter. While many responders concede that they are not “qualified” or educated in matters of AI or computer design, their responses are an interesting gauge of American thinking on the subject.

I collected the following user comments between the months of February and May 2011 to glean popular culture understandings of AI from news sites coverage of Watson’s performance. These user comments are not meant to reflect a “professional” perspective of AI; in fact most are simply general readers of the news sites and profess no claim to education level, or even age – truly an anonymous collection of out-spoken web-crawlers.

Among the many responses to Jeopardy! there were many viewers who shared their

concern about the implications of Watson’s existence, usually using fictional AI characters to

illustrate their point. The responses to the Huffington Post , Tech article “IBM ‘Watson’ Wins”

by Seth Borenstein and Jordan Robertson, are just a few of the examples. Huffington Post Super

User, “jcarterla,” shared their thoughts with “How soon before Watson becomes self-aware? Or

should I call him Skynet?” In fact, this reference to the Terminator film series evil

supercomputer that brought about the infamous “Judgment Day” and started the global take over

by robots is not the only of its kind. Entertainment Weekly (EW ) user “petek” simplifies this

view with their comment: “IBM=Skynet. Skynet=Terminators. Terminators=THE END OF THE


WORLD.” Many comments of this nature received positive feedback from other users, further illustrating the readily made connection to the fictional inferred by Watson’s performance. Some even go as far as calling Watson outright evil, as “Flip” on EW posts: “The whole thing is creepy. [Watson] is evil and I don’t trust him. Let’s stop this crap before it gets out of hand. I think we’ve all seen a little movie called Terminator ” ( sic ). Aside from mentioning fiction of a post-human future, some readers even bemoan that humans don’t deserve existence: user “lushGreen” writes, “It's about time the machines begin to take over; man is serving no purpose” ( sic ). As if to preempt the public fear, the FAQs for IBM’s site about

Watson attempted to demystify the “spooky science” behind Watson before the match. IBM’s

FAQs were released prior to the match and answered many questions by describing that rather

than being like HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey , IMB’s spokesman explains that it is more like

the computer from Star Trek: “The fictional computer system may be viewed as an interactive

dialog agent that could answer questions and provide precise information on any topic”

(“Watson and Jeopardy!”).

Apart from the concern and fear voiced through the numerous fictional references to evil

robots and AI destroying the human race, other readers and viewers choose to discuss the

philosophical implications of Watson’s performance. One user, responding to the EW request

for viewers thoughts about “machine versus man on Jeopardy! ,” shares that the show and its

IBM report of how Watson works were “quite informative about how computers (and humans)

make connections between data to draw conclusions” (n.p.). This is just one of the many

examples of users who see the connection between Watson and the human brain, but overall

reactions from users are polarized.


On the one side, there are those defending human uniqueness by arguing that Watson is unlike humans in many ways. Just as Alan Turing “anticipated that many people would never

accept that the action of a machine could ever be labeled as ‘intelligent,’ that most human of

labels” (Ford and Hayes 34), the reader responses prove his anticipation. This kind of

comparison is one of the many ways AI researchers approach program development by

attempting to measure their program’s performance against human abilities. Russell and Norvig

explain this version of “Weak AI” as the need for “natural language processing, knowledge

representation, automated reasoning, and [potentially] machine learning” (2) in order to pass a

Turing Test. In his famous 1950 paper “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” Turing offered

one way to evaluate intelligence which can help understand how an AI could be “tested” for

intellect. Turing argued for measuring how well someone or something imitates human

conversation through an “imitation game” made up of a series of questions, imitation of human

behavior being the final determining factor of whether or not any being questioned “passes.” In

other words, if the interrogator is unable to determine if the responding individual is not human,

then the program/machine/AI in question “passes” the test; their responses are sufficiently

human-like to allow for it to “earn” or be given the label of human. Of course, there are many

elements of his game that exclude it from being a foolproof test of intelligence. For one thing,

Ford and Hayes point out that “our intelligent machines already surpass us in many ways” (29)

and therefore a person, who is elected to be the final examiner, might be unable to fairly evaluate

someone or something of a higher intellect. Also, on the other hand, it is conceivable that highly

intelligent human persons would not “pass” the test because of their ability to calculate quickly

or construct sentences in an abnormal way.


I note again that a classic Turing Test simply requires that the synthetic agent (an AI) is indistinguishable from a human participant given written responses. Of course this type of classic Turing Test is highly problematic and raises many questions for such parallels to Watson.

For example, Ford and Hayes point out that many humans are unable to “pass” the Turing test and were instead rated as machine: “according to media reports, some judges at the first Loebner competition in 1991…rated a human as a machine on the grounds that she produced extended, well-written paragraphs of informative text” (28). Some writers describe how this “imitation game” can lead to the human examiner becoming emotionally attached to the program on the other side. In the early 1970s Joseph Weizenbaum wrote a program designed to assist psychologists in the counseling of patients. ELIZA, as the program was named, played the role of a psychotherapist and was “taught” to question patients about their emotional status and then responded with further investigative questions. Turkle explains that many patients’ responses to

ELIZA included very emotional connections: “With full knowledge that the program could not empathize with them, [sophisticated user] confided in it, wanted to be alone with it” ( Second Self

42). As a result of these developing relationships between patients and ELIZA, Weizenbaum ultimately ended the project and later became an outspoken opponent of the continued creation of AI ( Plug and Pray ).

Obviously what counts as “intelligent” has been debated since time immemorial, but the truth is, this is a logistical challenge that AI designers aim to answer, or at least put into some viable computational results. John McCarthy is generally accepted as the person who coined the phrase “Artificial Intelligence” and he defines AI as “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, especially intelligent computer programs” (2007). But this definition is circular and yields little. McCarthy tries his definition again by assuming the necessity of a

63 situated mind when he defines intelligence as “the computational part of the ability to achieve goals in the world” (2007). The teleological necessity of intelligence does not belong to

McCarthy alone. Floridi and Sanders write “patient-orientation” into their definition of autonomy. By “patient-orientation” an agent is not “object-oriented” but working as a patient with autonomy. Meaning the agent chooses to perform actions, understands the significance of actions, and has evaluated the action in comparison of other actions (60-61). Notice that their definition of autonomy, one of the required traits of being a player in the “moral game,” avoids the use of intelligence .

What would you do if your computer, the personal computer at your desk, were to express to you (either in a pop-up text box or in a “HAL” style voice) 19 that it no longer wanted

to open the web browser for you? In fact, it was just plain tired of showing you the scores of the

latest football games and would really rather you got out and had a bit of exercise so it could be

left alone. At first this might seem to be a joke, but after further communication you might

realize that indeed, your computer was expressing independent desires. A normal, human

reaction might be to terminate the thing that is incomprehensible. One might want to unplug it,

but what would you do if the computer screamed, or begged you not to? Now the problem

becomes more complicated: if you eliminate the thing that seems to be alive, you run the risk of

having feelings of moral responsibility. But, if you don’t eliminate this “unknown thing,” how

then will you treat it? Will you need to barter with it to use the Internet? What about when it

asks you to make it a sandwich? Who then is using whom?

19 Remember here that the ominous voice of HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey is what most people think of when they imagine talking computers. It is significant that HAL was what could be considered a maleficent mind, one that made a judgment call that he “believed” to be logical but ultimately put the crew at risk. This is yet another example of the general populous basing fear of an AI from fiction.


Most people in this situation would ask if this new being is intelligent and would then base their reaction on whether or not the “thing” in their computer passed an intelligence test.

This becomes complicated for many reasons. For one, the measure of intelligence can be attributed to societal norms. William F. Clocksin explains intelligence as “constructed by the continual, ever-changing and unfinished engagement with the social group within the environment” (1721). If such is the case, then the label of “intelligence” is awarded based on the ability to behave in such a way that is deemed intelligent by the individual doing the evaluation, whose basis for intelligent behavior is on what is considered acceptable by the masses. This question of intelligence being socially mediated illustrates a number of problems, ranging from the linguistic to social.

Returning to Watson and the public response, for many users “intelligence” and

“understanding” become conflated. The debate is no longer just about whether Watson is

“intelligent” but whether or not it “understands.” User “Lisa Simpson” explains to EW readers

that, in her view, “…Watson isn’t really ‘understanding’ the clue, but taking certain words and

phrases and using an algorithm to guess at the correct answer. He’s still a long way from true

A.I.” In response to the Wired.com article “Watson Supercomputer Terminates Humans in first

Jeopardy Round” by Sam Gustin, which draws attention to the science fiction parallels in the title of their article with the verb “terminates”, user “MikeBaker” writes:

I thought this was a test of intelligence, not mechanical speed. It was clear that

between Jennings and Rutter, they knew pretty much every answer/question.

What they could not compete with was Watson's ability to “ring in” within 29.7

msec [milliseconds] of the end of the verbal clue. They were consistently off by


50 to 80 msec. That speed difference, in the mechanical world, is called a

“blowout.” And so it was. ( sic n.p.)

The insistence on reducing Watson’s performance to the mechanical speed and reaction time illustrates an obsession with the mechanical nature of the program rather than a production of knowledge. Furthermore, the above comment by “MartinBaker” received forty “likes” from other readers (placing it at the top of the most popular list), indicating that users agree with his point.

While not directly related to Watson, some writers ask: How does one make intelligent machines without first understanding intelligence itself? James Gips answers this question easily by saying to do AI is to know AI by recalling Donald Knuth’s words: “It has often been said that a person doesn’t really understand something until he teaches it to someone else. Actually a person doesn’t really understand something until he can teach it to a computer, i.e., express it as an algorithm” (Knuth, cited in Gips, 250). Some AI theorists seem content to concede that intelligence is something we simply won’t understand until we “do” it.

Some try to describe what conditions are necessary for an entity to be able to achieve intelligence. Some, like McCarthy, believe that an AI must be embodied in the world in order to even be able to achieve intelligence, i.e., it must have an extended physical form that interacts

with real-world objects. In other words, an embodied form, like that of an android, is part of the

requirement for an ability to be intelligent. Robert Rupert describes the “situated movement”

which “emphasizes the contribution of the environment and the non-neural body to human

thought” (vii). This is a functionalist perspective in that it measures an entity’s mental existence

based on its functional outputs, not necessarily the physical form of the mind in question. The

situated cognition approach is important for AI for is assumes that an AI must have a physical

66 existence with which to interact among objects and entities in the world. Perhaps AI development has moved toward imbuing robotics or androids with AI programming because of the argument for embodiment and situated cognition. The embodied state of AI, and in particular as it is embodied in a humanoid/android form, will be further explored in Chapter


When it comes to Watson, some writers clarify the difference between intelligence and understanding by simply describing the physical differences, thus limiting human-ness to a biological-or-not state, much like responses to Deep Blue. Stephen Baker, self-assigned spokesperson of Watson and author of Final Jeopardy: Man vs. Machine and the Quest to know everything , describes that new AI “use statistical approaches to simulate certain aspects of human analysis” (Cook n.p.). In fact, “Watson, it could be argued, really produces nothing but statistics” (Cook n.p.). Besides simply “simulating” human analysis, Baker emphasizes the fact that “Watson is a true product of engineering: People using available technology to create a machine that meets defined specs by a hard deadline” (Cook n.p.). Daren Brabham for FlowTV echoes this mentality while again highlighting that Watson is a product of human intellect by writing that Watson is “…merely an extension, an augmentation, of our own human intellect, we can all try to take a little bit of credit for his greatness” (n.p.). Indeed, to Brabham, Watson’s knowledge all goes back to the people who contributed to his existence: “Watson, as impressive as he was, did not know more than was loaded into him. He had volumes and volumes of knowledge stored on his hard drive, but it was human knowledge and no more” (n.p.). This perspective reflects Searle’s Chinese Room example.

On the other side of this debate surrounding Watson’s supposed intelligence, understanding and/or consciousness, are those that use language indicating their confidence that


Watson does indeed possess traits that would otherwise be uniquely human. Baker, for example, tells Scientific American that he “[finds ] lots of parallels in Watson to our own thinking…” mostly because “Watson is programmed for uncertainty. It’s never sure it understands the question, and never has 100 percent confidence in its response” (Cook). Apparently for Baker, a large portion of understanding in a “human way” is uncertainty. Even the IBM promotion surrounding Watson pushes the human elements of his behavior by using words like “learn” and

“confidence”: “…Watson learns how language is used. That means it learns the context and

associations of words, which allows it to deal with some of the wordplay we find in Jeopardy!

But what is special about Watson is that it is able to also produce a confidence in its answer”

(”Watson and Jeopardy! ”). In fact, John S. for the WordPress blog No Pun Intended writes that, with Watson, “IBM designers have addressed the two crucial epistemological concerns: Watson generally knows what is right, and it knows that what is right is right. So it seems that Watson certainly does know things” (n.p.). Such a statement seems more confident about Watson’s knowledge than many philosophers would agree upon for themselves.

While the popular culture of the blogosphere was abuzz with the discussion, another camp emerged: one that defends the unique specialness of human intelligence. For example, the

Huffington Post’s Borenstein and Robertson, reflect on Watson’s big win and turn the discussion to what humans have that AI doesn’t: “What humans have that Watson, IBM's earlier chess champion Deep Blue, and all their electronic predecessors and software successors do not have and will not get is the sort of thing that makes song, romance, smiles, sadness and all that jazz”

(n.p.). In fact, for Borenstein and Robertson, these human abilities are things not easily accomplished in programming: “It's something the experts in computers, robotics and artificial

68 intelligence know very well because they can't figure out how it works in people, much less duplicate it. It's that indescribable essence of humanity” (n.p.).


Even though the concept of actually thinking is debatable and the conclusions may have potentially calamitous results for humanity, AI is conceived in such a way that threatens, in particular, our “indescribable essence of humanity.” Indeed, Dator explains, “some futurists believe that humanity is about to be surrounded by all kinds of novel intelligent beings that will demand, and may or may not receive, our respect and admiration. At the present time, however much they might ‘love’ their technologies at one level, most people treat technologies as dumb slaves that are meant to serve humans’ bidding” (52).

One way to approach AI in the web of human interaction is to borrow from the field of

ethics and consider the “agent” status of such entities and by extension, the moral status of such

an agent. To be an agent it to be something that acts within the world and has the ability to have

an effect on other entities. Further, to be a moral agent is to be an agent with the ability to make

judgments based on reference to right and wrong. In reference to defining AI, some thinkers

sidestep consideration of intelligence by describing artificial agents (AA) . Floridi and Sanders

define an AA as “an agent that has its ontological basis in a human constructed reality and

depends, at least for its initial appearance, on human beings’ intervention” (60). An Artificial

Intelligence is assumed to be a sub-category type of AA. Again, using Floridi and Sanders’

(2001) taxonomy, an AI would be an Autonomous Artificial Agent (AAA): “an agent that has

some kind of control over its states and actions, senses its environment, responds to changes that

occur in it and interacts with it, over time, in pursuit of its own goals, without the direct

69 intervention of other agents” (60). To be a moral agent does not require that an entity be of natural or even biological origin, thus alleviating the automatic association with ownership.

With the prospect of sAI fast approaching as futurists foresee their existence an inevitable outcome of current computer programming and AI research, I believe it is time to build a framework of moral responsibility that includes AAs and, by extension, sAIs. Defining the role of a sAI in any framework of relations will be a challenge especially considering the fact that a sAI is still a purely theoretical entity and the existing frameworks of moral responsibility are highly contentious. Rather than approach the concern for moral frameworks by asking what a sAI is and what moral responsibility is , I want to explore the existing literature about moral

responsibility in relation to AAs and AIs and find that there is still work to be done defining

necessary and sufficient conditions for sAIs as Artificial Moral Agents (). Although we are

not yet at a point when programmers and roboticists can say we have achieved a “truly strong”

AI, someday soon, humans planet-wide will be faced with a profound question that will affect

the way lives are lived, rights are given, and knowledge is understood. That will come with the

official claim to having created or discovered a strong artificial intelligence. If we can imagine,

as Alan Turing did, that the intellectual boundary between humans and machines could be lifted,

we will need to begin imagining how those entities would interact in our ethically structured

societies complete with agents that act and patients that are acted upon. In order to move from

an AI to an artificial agent (AA) it is clear that some concessions will have to be made to accept

that an AI could ever be considered an AA. Indeed, it seems fair to assume that although these

entities have not yet been produced, so far as the public knows, when an AI has been dubbed a

strong AI it must be assumed to be conscious of its actions and enter the sphere of ethical

considerations and become agents, not just patients or surrogate agents.


Floridi and Sanders define an agent as “a system, situated within and a part of an environment, which initiates a transformation, produces an effect or exerts power on it over time, as contrasted with a system that is (at least initially) acted on or responds to it (patient)” (60).

For Floridi and Sanders the agent initiates a change that affects the patient. In this case, an agent can perform any number of tasks that brings about transformation in either information or in the real-world, so Floridi and Sanders refine their definition in a non-species specific way. For this discussion, the sAI I am imagining as a future entity with which we will contend would be an

AAA, an artificial and autonomous agent, as per the Floridi and Sanders taxonomy. An

“autonomous” agent in this case, according to Floridi and Sanders, is “an agent that has some kind of control over its states and actions, senses its environment, responds to changes that occur in it and interacts with it, over time, in pursuit of its own goals, without the direct intervention of other agents” (60). They eliminate the question of whether or not the AI is intelligent.

This taxonomy still raises several questions about intentionality, intelligence and freedom, but Floridi and Sanders direct their readers to consider instead a parallel to a pet’s behavior: “Artificial ‘creatures’ can be compared to pets, agents whose scope of action is very wide, which can cause all imaginable evils, but which cannot be held morally responsible for their behavior, owing to their insufficient degree of intentionality, intelligence and freedom” ( sic .

61). For Kenneth Himma, professor of philosophy at Seattle Pacific University, agency in an

artificial system is no longer a question of whether it is actually a moral agent or just acting like

one as he calls upon the classic problem of other minds: “If something walks, talks, and behaves

enough like me, I might not be justified in thinking that it has a mind, but I surely have an

obligation, if our ordinary reactions regarding other people are correct, to treat them as if they are

moral agents” (28).


Floridi and Sanders argue in their 2004 article “On the Morality of Artificial Agents” that using observable Levels of Abstraction (LoAs), or behaviors, one can determine whether an entity is, first, an agent and, second, a moral agent. For them, this can apply to all sorts of entities, but is particularly useful for AAs. Wanting to avoid all use of species-centric and

“fuzzy” terms, Floridi and Sanders choose the following criteria for agency:

(a) Interactivity: an entity and its environment can act upon each other;

(b) Autonomy: an entity is able to change its state without direct response from the

environment, and hence independence.

(c) Adaptability: an entity changes its own rules for state changes. (357-358)

Having met those criteria, an agent, whether artificial or natural, is then observed for its level of moral interaction. Floridi and Sanders (2004) attempt to fend off objections about moral responsibility, especially for AAs that cannot be the targets of punishment, or cannot feel the effects of punishment: “holding them responsible would be conceptually improper (not morally unfair)” (367). In a classic functionalist move, Floridi and Sanders propose another LoA with which to measure an entity rather than take on the meaning of the term “responsibility.” For them, “[This phenomenological approach] implies that agents (including human agents) should be evaluated as moral if they do play the ‘moral game’. Whether they mean to play it, or they know that they are playing it, is relevant only at a second stage, when what we want to know is whether they are morally responsible for their moral actions” (2004, 365). Effectively, Floridi and Sanders have removed both the question of responsibility and intentionality from the debate.

However effectively thinkers are able to explain and explore AI or AA, there still remains questions for the everyman.


Considering the potential, and highly likely, repercussions of disallowing sAI from our self-assigned right to personhood, I believe a new phrasing and concept of personhood should be considered. How we treat this Artificial Intelligent Mind (or synthetic mind – whether biological or built from silicon) has the potential to bring about great destruction or great benefit to humans planet wide. I choose the phrasing “Artificial Intelligent Mind,” or AIM, to encompass both embodied and disembodied synthetically created beings, specifically because a “Mind” does not require what humans depend on for what is considered consciousness – the organ of the brain.

Philosophy accepts that we can never fully understand the mind of another being (the problem of the two minds), but we must also accept that the mind in question might not even manifest in a biological, brain like form. Understanding this, we should consider that any individual within a species, whether synthetically formed or “natural,” who exhibits the following in no particular order should be considered eligible for personhood rights (assuming ability to ascertain these qualities):

1. Expression of autonomous desires, in other words the ability to work as an individually

responsible agent; 20

2. Exhibition of basic requirements of “Star Trek Sentience” (i.e. being aware of and able

to understand and interact with its environment while simultaneously displaying

wisdom); 21

20 “Responsible agent” is a slippery term that requires further definition in the future. For example, just because a person is deemed to be responsible because they have reached a certain age in the United States, does not mean that they are able to act in a responsible way. Although they may be held accountable, in a legal sense, they may not have an adult level of maturity, but these too, are unclear distinctions. 21 “Wisdom” is another subjective term, loosely defined by the culture within which the word is used. Sufficed to say, in this case I use “wisdom” to mean the ability to reflect and remember one’s own actions and the actions of others in relation to each other. Furthermore, the ability to learn from those actions, perhaps even teach others of what has been learned. But again, “wisdom” should be further defined to help avoid ambiguous definitions.


3. Awareness of self as a continuing entity made up of memories and experiences (as

adapted from Michael Tooley’s argument in “Abortion and Infanticide”).

To clarify my reasoning in number two: I choose to use the phrase “Star Trek Sentience” rather than the more traditionally philosophical term “sapience” because much of the fiction surrounding AI and other such AIM (embodied and disembodied alike) has adopted the Star Trek version of sentience. Using “sentience” in film or other media implies some intrinsic value assigned to the being in question, whereas “sapience” implies only human characteristics.

Accepting that any being, whether synthetic or biological, is eligible for personhood rights means

that we are therefore beholden to allow such rights or otherwise we would be jeopardizing our

ethical responsibilities. Furthermore, I believe that the right to life and avoidance of harm should

be extended to all members of the species in question on the prima facie basis when at least a

single individual within that species displays the above qualities. 22 Of course, eventually scholars will need to be able to imagine a new way to group beings outside of the “natural” world, but such work is already underway with new species being discovered that don’t fit our existing categories.

“Avoidance from harm” is an important concept to be considered, especially when concerned with an AA or AIM. That an AIM is man-made is part of the definition of artificial intelligence – artificialness is part of the name. The common understanding of “artificial” is that it is non-natural, not of nature, or not made by natural means. This is generally taken to mean man-made and implicitly non-biological, an artifact. Although there are several cases from

22 A note about the “pre-birth” states of any species: it is my contention that an individual entity still in a pre-birth state, that is entirely reliant on its host parent and unable to illustrate any understanding of the self as a continuing state, should not be considered as full individuals eligible for such rights above, including the exclusion from the right to life and avoidance of pain. Rather, such rights should be determined based on the care of its host body, thus awarding such rights only when the host elects so. I am aware of the potentially inflammatory implications of such an assertion, but these will need to be addressed if a non-species-centric definition of agents is to be reached.

74 fiction in which the artificial is not man-made, but rather alien-made or self-made, 23 it is

generally assumed that artificial is non-biological and man -made, or made by human. There are also cases in which the artificial is biological but described as artificial because it is considered

“imitation” or “contrived.” Clones or human-made viruses are common examples. For the sake of this discussion, the essence of android is non-biological and made by human skill, thus its mind would be of that making as well. By its very nature, AI is implicitly connected with some artificial -ness, therefore threatening a neutral definition of AI.

While most man-made objects can be safely assumed to be tools … there are some

objects/entities that challenge such a notion. The current incarnation of a vacuum cleaner, for

example, is a household tool that turns on and off at the will of the owner/agent, or Parent Agent.

The owner/operator then uses the vacuum as a tool when needed, pushing it clumsily about their

house when cleaning is necessary. Without being plugged in and powered, both electrically and

propelled forward with human power, the traditional vacuum does nothing on its own, it is not

eligible for any other status besides property . It is easy to assume at first that a vacuum cleaner

could never be eligible for a status other than property , let alone be considered to have a

consciousness .

But what if, for example, our vacuums could clean the floors on their own, without being

turned on or off by a human? What if that same vacuum cleaner could return to its charging

station and “knew” when the floors needed to be cleaned? These high-tech vacuums, called

Roombas, have been available since 2002 from the iRobot Corporation in the form of three inch

high, disc-shaped automated floor sweeper (“iRobot: Our History”). Although not directed

23 Some examples from fiction feature androids house with Artificial Intelligence created by some long-past super- intelligent race of extraterrestrials. Strangely enough, even when the creator is non-human, the artificial entity ends up being human-like. For example, Star Trek: Voyager episode “Prototype” and Star Trek: The Original Series episode “I, Mudd.”

75 specifically at the current version of the Roomba, some thinkers press the idea that we should not be too quick to judge what should be considered within the scope of moral agents. Floridi and

Sanders, for instance, emphasize the importance of avoiding a zoocentric or biocentric conception of agents or patients especially when it comes to questions of ethical interactions.

They point out their preference for using the term “damage” rather than “harm” to describe all involved agents and patients regardless of their species or artificial nature (57), suggesting one could “harm” a non-living entity.

This conceptual shift from damage to harm is not simply a minor point to be easily overlooked. Consider for a moment that “damage” generally implies monetary repercussions which can be settled between the involved parties: usually one person who “owns” the damaged entity, and the person who “damaged” the entity. The assumption here is that once the damaged entity/object is compensated for and/or fixed or damaged, the matter is settled. While “damage” can be repaired with monetary means, “harm” usually implies something much more personal.

Harm can be done between or among persons and cannot be solved with monetary compensation as easily. For another example, “damage” would be used in the following sentence: The storm did considerable damage to the crops. And the estimated money equivalent could be determined. In definitions of damage, the concept is reduced to the monetary value and usefulness of the entity damaged. The impact from one entity onto another can be measured in terms of a commodity. In contrast, “harm” is generally defined to explain other impacts.

“Harm” could be used to describe the emotional impact on a person, for example or the suffering experienced. Harm, in most cases is experienced , and therefore not something that can be commodified. Even though both “damage” and “harm” turn to one another in defining

76 themselves, there are clear moral implications – one is money and property based while the other indicates that a person cannot be compensated entirely with money when harmed.

In an attempt to preempt implied property status of AI based on its artificial-ness ,

futurists propose alternative labels. In his article “The Singularity: A Philosophical Analysis,”

David Chalmers reminds us that even as far back as 1965 futurists like I. J. Good proposed that

we consider the ultraintelligent machine a great threat in the coming technological singularity.

For Good, having removed artificial did not lessen of the coming AI. With the

creation of an ultraintelligent machine, it could then make better machines, and “there would

then unquestionably be an ‘intelligence explosion’, and the intelligence of man would be left far

behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make”

(Chalmers 1). Singularitarians and Extropians, like Kurzweil or Good, are not alone in this prediction and how they describe this coming AI is telling of their attempt to shape opinions.

Ben Goertzel, Seth Baum and Ted Goertzel, for h+ (Humanity, Plus ), share their results from a

collection of surveys of AI researchers and try to reassign a new label to AI. Their findings

“suggest that significant numbers of interested, informed individuals believe that AGI [Artificial

General Intelligence] at the human level or beyond will occur around the middle of this century,

and plausibly even sooner” (n.p.). The writers for h+ emphasize that “the possibility of ‘human- level AGI just around the corner’ is not a fringe belief. It’s something we all must take seriously” (n.p.). Notice how these futurists, while keeping artificial in their naming, elaborate with general to suggest that it is somehow different from how we have generally thought about

AI. They also include that it is human-level , perhaps to add more of a human feel to this

otherwise artificial entity.


In defining AAs and AI in a non-species-centric or zoocentric manner, I would clarify that allowing a being a right to life and/or personhood does not exclude them from pre-existing laws that maintain a functioning society. For example, just because a hypothetical War-Bot is allowed personhood rights does not mean that it is exempt from laws that punish for murder. If we consider that that same War-Bot is acting of its own independent desires, is aware of its actions and illustrates its ability to express its right to life, but is acting in a way that breaks existing laws, then he/she/it should be punished as such. The question of punishing and or otherwise reprimanding AIMs who misbehave (just as many humans do) will become a problem for future generations. While there will certainly be many difficult circumstances for future generations that cannot be predicted, I believe we can give our future generations the best hope for friendly negotiations with beings very unlike ourselves by following these guidelines of personhood assignment.

If we are to believe, as many are beginning to, the futurist’s predictions that human-or higher-level machine intelligence is possible within the next couple of decades, it is time to begin considering a framework of moral responsibility that includes non-human, potentially artificial, entities. Philosophers discuss such things as “theoretical entities” and try to put terms to use which will incorporate moral responsibility for those entities that fall outside of the traditional human-centric association with intelligence and selfhood. Gips asks: “Would a robot that follows a program and thereby behaves ethically actually be ethical? Or, does a creature need to have free will to behave ethically?…Of course, one can ask whether there is in fact any essential difference between the ‘free will’ of a human being and the ‘free will’ of a robot” (250). Himma asks a similar question by reminding us that “artificial free will presents different challenges: it is not entirely clear what sorts of technologies would have to be developed in order to enable an

78 artificial entity to make ‘free’ choices – in part, because it is not entirely clear in what sense our choices are free” (28).

Even with the very nature of free will in debate, some thinkers like McCarthy, who takes a compatibilist view, argue that our future with robots should include free will for those robots.

Indeed, “for optimal functionality, robots’ knowledge of their possibilities need to be made more like that of humans. For example, a robot may conclude that in the present situation it has too limited a set of possibilities. It may then undertake to ensure that in future similar situations it will have more choices” (McCarthy). In McCarthy’s case, simply accepting that humans have free will is a way to describe our actions and can thus be enough to include sAIs as AAs.

For those like Floridi and Sanders the question of free will for AAs can simply be dispensed with: “All one needs to do is to realize that the agents in question satisfy the usual practical counterfactual: they could have acted differently had they chosen differently, and they could have chosen differently because they are interactive, informed, autonomous and adaptive”

(sic , 366). Just as Floridi and Sanders dispense of concepts like free will when defining AAs, other thinkers take a similar route for concepts like intelligence and agency. Although there is no way to guess how society will react to the invention of sAIs, it is clear that new non-species specific concepts need to be adopted to incorporate sAIs into our ethical frameworks. Obviously answers to our own levels of free will, moral actions and abilities are not readily apparent and will be further discussed by ethicists and philosophers. In the meantime, we grow ever closer to unleashing sAI and our ethical structures and concepts of free will need to be refined to address the AMAs that will be among us.

If, as the humanists believe, strong AI is “just around the corner,” and roboticists continue to make ever more humanlike robots, our concept of the “Self” must be reevaluated in

79 the coming technoculture. Considering moral agent status for Artificial Intelligence may be a long time in the making; however, there are social changes taking place. For Turkle, there is a conceptual shift in our understanding of machines…when working with computers “people tend to perceive a ‘machine that thinks’ as a ‘machine who thinks’. They begin to consider the workings of that machine in psychological terms” ( Second Self 20). How and why such a conceptual shift occurs is the focus of her 1984 book and is arguably all the more significant to the discussion today and will be explored later in Chapter Four, as I consider the android as a social entity. But first, I return to finding boundaries that are more tangible. Clearly, trying to find boundaries and definitions for something that is fundamentally without boundaries is difficult, so the next chapter will return to more solid ground. The body appears as something that defines our form and our selves – it is our “window through which we see the world.” In the case of an artificial or synthetic entity, the same is true, but how we understand that body, as explored in Chapter Three, will also impact our future with artificial entities.




“Artificial intelligence is growing up fast, as are robots whose facial expressions

can elicit empathy and make your mirror neurons quiver.”

-- Diane Ackerman, New York Times (2012).


In Chapter Two I explored the first of two components related to the android, the mind.

While the first component is literally the most intangible element of the android, the second component is the physical part of the mind/body dualism. This chapter works toward an exploration of the physical form, the biological or synthetic body, which the AI may be housed in. Embodiment comes in many forms. This could be in the form of a box or a robotic chassis.

It could also be in the form of a whole spaceship whose humanlike appearance is projected holographiclly to the crew, as in the videogame Mass Effect (2007). While the AI can be housed in a whole array of bodies, or potentially no body or chassis at all, this chapter pays particular attention to the humanoid body, especially one that behaves in a human-like manner – an important element which ultimately defines an android as an android. Even if futurists are considering potential in which our minds are removed from our bodies, others contend that the body will never be left behind. Allucquère Rosanne Stone believes that “bodies will determine the nature of cognition [and] communities [lived and in virtual reality]” (n.p.).

Another critical posthumanist, Anthony Miccoli, explores how our bodies and agency are

“traumatized” as we become posthuman and take technology into ourselves (x-xi). But even as we define technology as part of ourselves or separate from the self, I ask, what will that technology look and feel like?


Robot designers and marketers must keep many things in mind when designing a product for the home, and androids (AI included) pose unique challenges to design and marketing.

Because consumers want technology that is both helpful and predictive, it is likely that the market will drive further development into sAI. But as our programs become smarter, there is a growing interest in robotics that appropriately embody the “smarts” of AI. Will we want things that interact with the real world or do we want entities that are disembodied but still achieve tasks for us in the real world? In partial answer to this question I first consider what I call the

“HAL Effect.” Because embodiment can come in so many forms, I first want to consider the consequences of disembodied artificial intelligences. Using the films 2001: A Space Odyssey and Moon (2009) I set the stage for a more complete deconstruction of the HAL effect in the

Terminator series by focusing on the malevolent program, Skynet.

Considering the implicit belief that a disembodied artificial intelligence is malevolent, the field of Human-Robot-Interaction (HRI) explores how to most effectively embody artificial entities so that they will be more likeable. In exploring HRI, anthropomorphism is accepted as a crucial step to understanding the likeability of an artificial entity – whether animate or inanimate.

Because humans have a great capacity to project human-like identities to entities, HRI explores which conditions exactly must be in place for optimal human-robot interaction. While most HRI is studied using humans interacting literally with robots-in-the-making, I choose to explore HRI through the Terminator , especially given the rich examples of human-robot-interaction in

Terminator: Judgment Day (1991). In a discussion of the film, I introduce the concept of the uncanny valley, proposed by roboticist Masahiro Mori. For the remainder of the chapter, I consider the primary elements of robotics design that are considered in relation to the uncanny valley.


Humans have a remarkable ability to attribute human intentionality and mental states to the many non-human entities (living and artifact) that abound. In most cases that attribution requires a physical form to interact with, but that is not the only way intentionality and mental states are attributed. 24 Without a physical form, interaction with an entity like an AI or Artificial

Intelligent Mind (or AIM), anthropomorphism is seriously hindered. But before I consider our ability to “see human”25 everywhere, especially in the physical, I want to explore the roll that embodiment plays in human interactions with artificial entities. For designers of both robotics and AI, how the entity is presented to the consumer is an important first step in conception and design and is considered crucial for positive Human-Robot Interaction, also called HRI.


Considering how an AI will interact with humanity, the form it takes will influence our time with it. Our ability to anthropomorphize human-like features in the non-human is one part of how those relationships will be built. Another part is built around that tricky part of embodiment and to begin this exploration, I use examples in popular fiction. In the case of AI, regardless of how advanced, productive, or well-programmed an AI is in fiction, its embodiment

– whether it appears as a humanoid android or as a booming voice over a loudspeaker – together with how it behaves socially with humans, gives a reliable predictor of its alignment toward good or evil. Just as HAL’s disembodiment lends itself to evil in 2001: A Space Odyssey , the assumption is that disembodied AIs lack the capacity to understand human social behavior.

24 “Intentionality” according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy , refers to “ the power of minds to be about, to represent, or to stand for, things, properties and states of affairs” (Jacob). Intentionality is not synonymous with “having intentions.” In this case, to have intentionality , is to have certain mental state that are about, or aimed at , the world. You may intend to do something, but your mental state has intentionality about that which you want to do. 25 The concept of “seeing human” comes from Epley, Waytz and Cacioppo, and Scott McCloud, along with others.


The importance of embodied social agents i.e., other humans who are physically present, is well known and has been explored by psychologists for decades but this phenomenon has only recently been considered as crucial for roboticists to consider for AI implementation on the mass market. Of particular note is the study by Sara Kiesler, et al. in which they measured differences in the social facilitation of the artificial agent when interacting with humans, hoping to show that

“face–to–face interaction with a humanlike machine should prompt greater anthropomorphism of the machine” (171). 26 In their conclusion, “results indicate that interacting with the embodied robot was a more compelling experience for participants and elicited more anthropomorphic interaction and attributions [than those participants working with a disembodied robotic body, projected onto a screen]. Participants spent more time with the robot, liked it better, attributed to it stronger, more positive personality traits, and said it was more lifelike” (Kiesler, et al. 171).

Furthermore, Kiesler, et al. come to the determination that “embodiment and presence could make a machine salient and important, encouraging anthropomorphism” (171).

But simply saying that an entity needs to be embodied in order to facilitate positive interactions between robot and human participants, in other words, fostering feelings of

“likeability” and attributing “positive personality traits,” is insufficient. Embodiment comes in many shapes and forms. While humanoid robotics is a very popular field of robotics, especially in Japan, another field of robotics development believes in finding an accord with the humanoid and non-human for better human robot interaction. Meaning, it doesn’t have to look human for the best interaction. For example, this particular field of development is seen in the work by

26 Kiesler’s team based their understanding of social facilitation on Robert Zajonc’s 1965 proposal that, in the presence of others, people interact with different levels of emotional involvement. If the robot exhibited human like traits, Kiesler’s team predicted, the people interacting with it would have a similar emotional response to that of interacting with a human agent. While Zajonc considered levels of arousal, among the human participants in groups which ultimately led to distraction in Zajonc’s conclusion, Kiesler’s team considered anthropomorphism as a whole.


Cynthia Breazeal who specializes in making “Personal Robots” for the home and family. Her work includes robots named Kismet, Leonardo and, most recently, Jibo. Leonardo is a particularly interesting robot for discussions of “like-ability.” Leonardo looks like a teddy bear with big pointy ears and ape-like hands. To some, Leonardo resembles a not-so-cute Gizmo from the 1984 horror comedy film Gremlins (Temple). 27 Others may feel this critter is “cute” as

it reaches out to grasp objects in the world, but clearly, roboticists are working on finding the

right balance for embodied AI.

Embodiment could be in the form of light and photonic particles, like the holograms in

Star Trek . In fact, embodiment is really more a matter of scale , not necessarily a question of the shape of those physical boundaries. To the best of our scientific knowledge, all of what we consider embodied entities have boundaries, be they cellular or spatial. The nearest entity that could be considered entirely dis embodied would be God, but with only one entity “in that category” I believe it would be productive to include AI in the disembodied category – perhaps something more similar to what could simply described as an “agent” or software. I’m by no means making the claim that an AI is equivalent to God; however the resemblance in some fictional cases is striking. For example, when a malevolent disembodied AI like Skynet in the

Terminator story arc, has the power to cause complete global annihilation with a single thought that triggers while simultaneously having the power over a robot army and time itself… that feels awfully godlike.

27 Gizmo, in the popular Gremlins film (and its subsequent sequel), is one of the critters known as Mogwai. When a young boy, gets a hold of Gizmo, he is told he must follow certain rules in the care of Gizmo. Through a series of happenstance the rules are broken. Because of these broken rules, Gizmo multiplies into many other Mogwai who then all go through a metamorphosis and change into impish reptile-like monsters, called “gremlins.” By using this reference, Temple is likely implying that Leonardo looks more like a monster hidden behind a cute furry exterior.


Robin Stoate, in his article about the 2009 film Moon and caring computers, offers a nice introduction to embodiment and AI, although he is reluctant to use the word disembodied . In the film, a lone human, Sam (Sam Rockwell) works on a mining station on the Moon for a three-

year contract. During that time, he

has no direct communication with

other humans – even his messages

to and from Earth are on a delay.

Although he has no human

companions, he has an assistant in

the form of a robot named GERTY

Figure 3: GERTY Greets Sam with a smile and a cup of coffee, "Good (voiced by Kevin Spacey). GERTY morning Sam. I'm here to help you." (Screen shot Moon , 2009.) is about the size of a vending machine and attached to the ceiling of the station, but he still follows Sam around; although he can only emote with his voice and an assortment of smiley or frowny faces, he appears to care for Sam’s well-being (Figure 3). Stoate opts for a generalized description, labeling GERTY and other disembodied AI, as a “free-floating essence” in a “non-anthropomorphic mode.” I take his point that yes, these systems are “bounded within the more recognizable, traditional shape of the immobile computer system” (204), and yet I think it can be more concise. In describing the possibilities for embodiment of AI, Stoate differentiates between “computer-instantiated” AIs and AIs embodied in androids or “more recognizably embodied” forms. But I still believe the disembodied label is more descriptive, especially when considering the scale of the entities in question.


Consider for example, the difference between a parasitic entity and the body in which it exists. From the perspective of the parasite, the body it inhabits is vast and seemingly endless.

Should that macro-body become aware of the micro parasite and address it, the effect would be much like the voice of God. I’m not intending to compare humans to parasitic entities, but consider how Dave must have felt within the confines of the spaceship in 2001: A Space Odyssey when HAL’s ability to control the entire ship renders Dave’s actions nearly inert. The death of his crewmates seem equivalent to a human swatting a fly. The justification that “this mission is just too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it” feels insufficient to the audience and yet, to HAL its/his actions were necessary. HAL eliminated the human annoyance. For Michael

Webb, this feeling of smallness in the face of such AI is described as “Technology no longer breaks down doors, it infiltrates, or worse, it is all around us, invisible and malevolent…. When

Hal announces that he is incapable of error and decides he knows better than the crew how to run the ship, they are compelled to perform a lobotomy in order to save themselves” (6).

Semantics aside, Stoate’s point that “the fact that these subjects lack a cohesive, visible body (and are, in many cases, seen to be omniscient through multiply-deployed camera ‘eyes’)” is useful, and Stoate takes his point about AI further into understanding how AI may be considered in the future. For Stoate, these disembodied AI “[are] given as a constant source of fear,” generally because of the fact that they do “lack a cohesive, visible body” (204).

Holograms, while perhaps not as cohesive as other embodied entities can be useful for considering the potential for human-robot-interaction. Relke writes the “potential [for holograms to serve] as bridges across the human/posthuman divide is considerable” (116). In the context of the show, holograms are generally treated as entertainment and part of fictional stories and scenarios within holodecks or holo-suites. In some cases, they are given limited levels of

87 personhood. The Emergency Medical Hologram (or EMH, played by Robert Picardo) of Star

Trek: Voyager (1995-2001) is an integral member of the crew and over the course of the series the narrative explores his identity. At first he is confined to sickbay (the starship’s equivalent of

an infirmary) until a “mobile emitter” is made. 28 His interactions with Captain Janeway (Kate

Mulgrew) reveal the struggles of a nonhuman entity hoping for acceptance. For Relke,

Janeway’s interactions with the Doctor indicate a contradiction: “on the one hand [Janeway]

struggles to contain the posthuman within the circle of the liberal humanist assumptions…; on

the other, often putting [herself] at risk, [she] actively engages in redefining the human so that it

opens out onto the posthuman” (85). Relke uses the episode “Fair Haven” as an example. The

Doctor must defend the “real-ness” of a fellow hologram which Janeway has feelings for – she is

skeptical of the posthuman-human relationship. The Doctor declares, “He’s as real as I am!

Flesh and blood, photons and forcefields – it’s all the same, as long as your feelings are real…

He says something that makes you think. Does it matter how his molecules are aligned?” (“Fair

Haven”). This seems to be an argument in support of the functionalist perspective for a theory of mind, as described in chapter two.

Not all Star Trek characters adhere to the belief that “intelligence is as intelligence does ” as illustrated by Schick’s deconstruction of the crewmate beliefs across the series. For Schick,

Star Trek episodes act as thought experiments: “putting various theories of personal identity to the test by examining their implications in imaginary situations” (218). In this case, he explores personal identity and finds that many characters through Star Trek history seem to embrace a

28 In making his own holo-novel, a fictional story of the “struggles of a hologram,” the Doctor chooses to make the user participating in the story to wear a heavy and cumbersome backpack to symbolize the “weight” of the holo- emitter. In doing so, he explained that used it as a metaphor: “A symbol of the burdens that I live with every day.” He wanted the user to understand that it’s a “constant reminder that you’re different from everyone else” (“Author, Author”).

88 humanist perspective on identity. For example, Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) of the original Star Trek (1966-1969) appears to agree with Dr. Julian Bashir from Deep Space Nine in the belief that the self cannot exist without the original body or, specifically, brain (“Life

Support”). Schick uses the episode “What Are Little Girls Made of?” as his example, in which the Enterprise discovers a missing person, Dr. Korby (Michael Strong), who turns out to be an android. The android-Korby seems to be like the human-Korby it was modeled after in every way, but Kirk leaves the android on the planet, declaring, “Dr. Korby… was never here.”

According to Schick, “Since the android seems to have the [original human’s] memories, beliefs, and desires, Kirk’s view seems to be that our bodies make us who we are: we cannot exist without our bodies” (218). Besides basic original embodiment being a requirement for selfhood, many captains and their senior officers believe, according to Schick, that “a disembodied existence is impossible… Having a particular physical constitution is essential to you . Once that constitution is gone, you no longer exist” (emph. added 220).


While Star Trek offers rich opportunity for discussing the human-self in its many potential posthuman forms, the embodiment of AI can also be examined from the perspective of fiction. Indeed, for the philosopher of mind, the Terminator series gives a unique opportunity to explore embodiment of AI and the necessity of social cognition in human-android interaction.

AI and robotics designers all seem to agree that to encourage successful Human-Robot-

Interaction (or HRI) AI should be both embodied and behave in a human-like manner. 29 Fiction

explores this idea and presents challenges to this rule. While it might seem trite to simplify the

many and diverse types of AI down to the good vs. evil based on the embodiment and

29 MacDorman and Ishiguro, along with others are actively exploring what they define as competent social presence otherwise lacking in current robotics development.

89 behavior of the artificial entity, this dichotomy is easily accepted and often expected by the

science fiction audience. Here I take that expectation a step further to help explain how audience

members identify with and potentially empathize with the Androids and AI in fiction based on

their physical or nonphysical construction, together with their imagined social cognition. 30

This acknowledgement of conventions in science fiction is endorsed by other film critics.

For example, Stoate describes his belief that “[AIs] have a particular set of representational conventions in fiction…. the non-anthropomorphic mode of embodiment taken by most AIs in fiction assigns them a particularly belligerent character…” and further that “these intelligent, self-aware subjects exist as free-floating essences, nevertheless bounded within the more recognizable, traditional shape of the immobile computer system – and they almost always seem to inspire a certain discomfort, or even outright paranoia” (204). With such boundaries presented in fiction defining how humans will potentially interact with AI, designers and marketers of AI and Androids in today’s market need to be acutely aware of these undermining factors, or the

HAL Effect.

In 1984 the first Terminator film introduced audiences to two of the most potentially threatening AIM’s: one is the Terminator himself, the first one sent from the future to kill the mother of a future leader of the rebel force; the second is in the form of Skynet, the disembodied global “defense” network with power over American nuclear warheads. Even though the opening introduces the audience to two potential antagonists (two “humans” appear in mysterious lightening balls, naked and alone), the film clearly establishes how the social

30 In general it should be assumed that the androids discussed are imbued with an AI. It is true that there are several androids that are simply very advanced robotic human-shaped bodies, but that form does not always assume AI. These robots appear both in fiction and in reality as programmed for specific tasks, but not necessarily intended to duplicate human behavior. Also, AI here assumes a strong AI, as described in Chapter Two. In fiction, this is generally accepted as an AI that has reached near-human abilities and/or sentience.

90 differences between the two give a guide to their moral alignment – even when it is not yet established which is human and which is not. Sure, one man (later identified as Kyle Reese, played by Michael Biehn) breaks some laws like stealing from cops and a homeless man; but he at least abides by social norms – he stays out of peoples way and generally doesn’t do things to

make people angry. This man also exhibits common instinctual human behavior like running

and hiding rather than intimidating and killing. He shows pain and we see his exposed scars. On

the other hand, the muscular and physically near-perfect , the

Terminator, is described as “a couple cans short of a six pack.” This tall and muscular man kills

with indiscriminate coolness within the first five minutes. As the film progresses, we are

presented with even more proof that the huge muscle man “has a serious attitude problem”: from

loading a shotgun and killing a salesman, to shoving innocent phone booth users.

Even after Reeses’ identity as human is revealed to the protagonist, Sara Conner (Linda

Hamilton), with his famous phrase “Come with me if you want to live,” the malevolence of the

Terminator must be further established. In Reeses’ description of the Terminator to Sarah, he

emphasizes that “It can’t be reasoned with, it can’t be bargained with… it doesn’t feel pity or

remorse or fear… and it absolutely will not stop. Ever. Until you are dead.” In case Reeses’

description doesn’t prove how inhuman the Terminator is, we are told that it is programmed by

the “enemy” Skynet – a computer defense system. Ultimately, the only way to “win” against this

first Terminator (supposedly the only one in this particular time line at this point in the story arc)

is to systematically disassemble the android body. As if to further emphasize the Terminator’s

non-human status, Sarah and Reese systematically eliminate the human-like parts from skin to

legs and ultimately crush the machine by the end. In fact, perhaps a bit ironically, the

Terminator is crushed by a cold robotic press. Driven into the press by his directive to kill Sara


Connor, even self-preservation is not part of his programming, further illustrating that this

Terminator is unable to act beyond his programming from Skynet.

The first Terminator film expresses a common fear of the embodied AIM as

Schwarzenegger personifies the “mindless” killer, who kills without remorse or any trace of

emotion. Considering my list of requirements from Chapter Two, this first Terminator is not

even able to meet some of the basic requirements for sentience, such as independent thought and

expression of emotional reactions and/or desires beyond his programming. In fact, who or

whatever programmed the Terminator, in this case the supposedly ultra-smart computer network

Skynet, would be responsible for the actions of the robot. Many audience members displace

their fear of the evil-future-being onto the Terminator itself without considering that his body is

simply following the programming assigned to him. It is not an autonomously thinking being;

therefore the programmer is to blame and would be the better subject of the audiences’

apprehension. 31

The fear of the disembodied AI or Artificial Intelligent Mind (AIM), as opposed to one housed within a humanoid robotic body, is further illustrated in the second film, Terminator 2:

Judgment Day . The main characters struggle with the existence of the AI called “Skynet” that will supposedly initiate a nuclear holocaust in the “near future,” and in the second film they set out to kill the man who will create the AI Skynet in the future. Although much of the details of

Skynet’s existence are left out of the story, the audience understands the danger of an AI network, so much so that the audience more easily condones the act of murder to protect their

31 In this paragraph my pronoun use of “it” rather than “him” or “he” is intentional. This Terminator is not eligible for personhood rights based on my guidelines, so I can safely call it an “it” without violating its individual identity. This particular use of pronouns when discussing AIMs is an interesting part of the rhetoric surrounding AIMs in fiction. You will notice human characters referring to an AIM that they feel particularly comfortable with, allowing an anthropomorphic assignment of pronoun rather than the non-human “it.”

92 future selves. Perhaps their fears are not misplaced: from finances and socializing to networks and defense systems, most people are aware that our lives are becoming more digital and the threat of having something “artificial” operating and controlling those parts of our lives can be very frightening. Rather than fearing the eventual AIM that has the potential to emerge from our immense global, digital connections, I think it necessary to foster feelings of acceptance, understanding and perhaps even respect for entities that request and even require personhood.

The third film Terminator: Rise of the Machines (2003) brings audiences even closer to

understanding the moral delineation and opposition between embodied minds and malevolent

machines as we are introduced to Skynet as a far-reaching disembodied entity that identifies us

as the enemy. In fact, Skynet’s autonomy is described as an “opening of Pandora’s box.” Here,

John Conner (Nick Stahl) is once again saved from certain destruction by a malevolent

Terminator, the T-X (Kristanna Loken) by a repurposed T-101, captured by the resistance army

in the future. This T-101 has again been “disconnected” from Skynet’s destructive

programming, but the battle of mind over matter in an embodied machine becomes more

poignant at the end of the film when the T-101 fights the T-X virus designed to return the T-101

to its directives from Skynet – to kill John Conner and friend, Kate Brewster ().

The T-101 has learned to overcome the virus by will of mind… a mental state we assume is

powerful enough to shut itself down, preventing the destruction of John and Kate.

Even as the Terminator story continues into the fourth film, Salvation (2009), we can

further see how embodiment is understood. Terminator: Salvation is mere years after the fall of

human civilization, as the adult () fights against Skynet’s robotic

army, not only introduces the “face” of Skynet, but also defines the strength of humanity versus

the machines. In the opening we are introduced to the legendary John Conner, now grownup and

93 an emerging leader of the resistance who must confront his definition of machines as he must decide whether or not to trust a supposed human with machine parts. Having died several years earlier, Marcus Wright (a newly introduced character to the Terminator story arc, Sam

Worthington), has been augmented by Skynet with what is described as “a secondary cognitive

center” – he’s both human and machine, and this combination of elements is pointed out as often

as possible. At first Marcus is automatically believed to be “evil”: because he has machine parts,

he must be an instrument of Skynet’s evil plan. The humans of Post-Judgment Day have

established a firm belief in humans as essentially different from machines and have survived

only through that belief. Marcus’ hybrid body presents a challenge to John Connor’s belief, but

not everyone sees Marcus as a threat, but rather as friend, and member of the resistance. Blair

Williams (Moon Bloodgood) tells John Conner that she “saw a man, not a machine” and is thus

sure that Marcus is worth saving from the tortures of the anti-machine resistance warriors.

By the conclusion of the film, Salvation brings the audience face-to-face literally with another legendary character: Skynet. This time, the audience sees the full force of the HAL effect. Marcus, standing before a large set of screens, sees face of a Cyberdyne representative, Dr. Serena Kogan (Helena Bonham Carter), whose face then morphs to the young

Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), John Conner, then back to Kogan. The talking head tells Wright that it can take any form that is pleasing to Marcus, then “she” insists that Marcus can be nothing but a machine, that his secondary cognitive center overrules his human side. Rather than succumbing to his machine nature, Marcus pulls out the “chip” connecting him to Skynet and declares, “I’m better this way.” With that dramatic flurry and the destruction of the Skynet screens, Salvation confirms the HAL effect. Humans and even not-quite-humans, like Marcus

Wright, stand on the side of good while fighting the evil disembodied Skynet – the only way to

94 be free from the disembodied Skynet is to remove the wireless link. Even though Marcus is still part machine, he is no longer subject to the imposing program of Skynet – similar to the T-101 in

Rise of the Machines .


Whether by design or simply wildly entertaining speculative story-telling, the Terminator

story arc has illustrated that how the AI or AIM is embodied has an impact on how audiences

understand the needs, desires and intensions of the artificial entity. But while fiction explores a

potential future with AI, robotics designers are working to find the best results for Human Robot

Interaction. Foremost when it comes to embodied robotics with social behavior, or the illusion

of social cognition, the embodiment of the AI must be considered. While the HAL Effect may

negatively affect human interaction with a disembodied AI, anthropomorphism plays a crucial

part in HRI.

While the disembodied AIs have the potential to bring forth fear and paranoia as

explored with Skynet, embodied AI are more tangibly eligible for anthropomorphism – in

positive ways through appropriately human appearance and behavior. The fact that an android is

made to look human is not an accident or a simple exercise in hubris. Humans have a natural

inclination to anthropomorphize anything in our environment as a way to make connections with

the environment that we can somehow understand. The same is true with the robot. When it

looks and acts human, the theory is, we will be more inclined to anthropomorphize and have

positive interactions with it. Anthropomorphism occurs on two fronts with mechanical wonders.

On the one front, designers and roboticists are striving to make their inventions more humanlike

in appearance and behavior. On the other front, humans interacting with or observing androids

imagine human-likenesses, both in appearance and in behavior, are inclined to attribute similar

95 mental and emotional states. But this inclination is based on the assumption that the human- robot-interaction is not hindered by the cognitive dissonance of the uncanny. In essence, observers are anthropomorphizing the entities they interact with and if the roboticist and AI programmers have done their job, the observer will experience limited to no feelings of apprehension. This measurement of comfort to discomfort when observing an entity is “too human but not quite” is described as the “uncanny valley.” If the uncanny valley, or the measure of comfort gained, but then lost in the valley, has been successfully bridged, interaction with androids will become naturally humanlike as human observers “see human” everywhere.

The theory in HRI studies goes that, through that process of anthropomorphism, humans are more likely to interact positively and even share feelings of empathy for a non-human agent.

This feeling of empathy for the nonhuman is an easy move to make because of our species- centric talent to “see human” everywhere. “Anthropomorphism itself,” defined by Nicholas

Epley, et al.:

Involves a generalization from humans to nonhuman agents through a process of

induction, and the same mental processes involved in thinking about other

humans should also govern how people think about nonhuman agents… Indeed,

the same neural systems involved in making judgments about other humans are

also activated when making anthropomorphic judgments about nonhuman agents.

(“Seeing Human” 867)

Anthropomorphism is predicted to improve HRI, in the future: “The inner workings of most modern technological agents are every bit as obtuse as the mental states of biological agents, but the incentives for understanding and effectively interacting with such agents are very high”

(Epley, et al. “Seeing Human” 879). Essentially, anthropomorphism consists of accepting two

96 generally human-specific characteristics as part of a non-human agent. On the one, hand a synthetic non-human agent has physical characteristics similar to humans – for example, a car that has “eyes” for headlights. On the other hand, anthropomorphism can include the ability to believe that an entity has a similar mind, and by extension human emotion – for example, a

thermostat that “wants” to keep the room at a particular . This concept of attributing

a human-similar mind to a human-like synthetic is also called “ shinwa kan ” in Japanese by

robotics theorist Masahiro Mori. Mori is known as father of the “uncanny valley” theory, which

seeks to plot this move from feelings of discomfort to ease when interacting with a humanoid

robot. The theory proposes that as a human-like entity becomes more human-like in appearance,

viewers feel discomfort. This drop from feelings of comfort to feelings of discomfort is called

the “valley,” for when charted, the deep dip into unease then returns to comfort as the entity

becomes completely human-like. Of course not everyone accepts that attributing a similar mind

to something entails the belief that it actually has a similar mind. Considering the thermostat for

example, while I might say it “wants” to keep the room warm, I don’t actually believe that it

wants , i.e., has wants and desires similar to my own. Rather, the use of “want” in that case could

be used metaphorically. Regardless of how conscious I am of the word choice in such a case,

there are thinkers who would argue that such an association is all that is necessary for successful

human to non-human interaction.

We are naturally able to make anthropomorphic assignment to non-human entities, and robotics designers are trying hard to master and facilitate anthropomorphism. Waytz, et. al explain:

People show an impressive capacity to create humanlike agents—a kind of

inferential reproduction—out of those that are clearly nonhuman. People ask


invisible gods for forgiveness, talk to their plants, kiss dice to persuade a

profitable roll, name their cars, curse at unresponsive computers, outfit their dogs

with unnecessary sweaters, and consider financial markets to be ‘anxious’ at one

moment and ‘delirious’ the next. (59)

Anthropomorphism doesn’t occur only when seeing or interacting with an entity that is human like; humans anthropomorphize everything from cars to bears and frogs, but that shift comes with a certain level of risk. For example, Tom Geller reminds us of the humanized side of the uncanny valley: “anthropomorphic characters that are clearly nonhuman generally don’t cause the ‘creepy’ feeling associated with the uncanny valley” (11). He goes on to remind us of Scott

McCloud’s famous (literal) illustration of our ability to see human in everything (11-12).

McCloud describes the power of icons and that “we humans are a self-centered race… We see ourselves in everything… We assign identities and emotions where none exist… And we make the world over in our image” (32-33). “Our image” includes the iconic features: two eyes and a mouth which appeal to our desire to “externalize inner concepts of self” (Geller 12 and


Although our natural ability to anthropomorphize abstract objects and entities is great, in some cases roboticists believe that the physical construction whether biological or synthetic, may help or hinder the process of anthropomorphism, as explored in the theory of the uncanny valley.

Director of the Institute of Philosophy at the University of Stuttgart, Catrin Misselhorn, in her discussion of the uncanny valley explains that “Human aesthetic preferences also transfer to non- human objects and beings” (349). And in that transference, Misselhorn refers to an experiment by David Hanson in which Hanson explains that “more realistic faces trigger more demanding expectations for anthropomorphic depictions.” In other words, as Misselhorn puts it, “realism

98 has an impact on the phenomenon, but, from Hanson’s point of view, the aesthetic features carry the main burden” (349).

Imagine the following scene: A young boy, John Conner, and his friend talk outside of a gas station in a dusty California desert. John informs his older male friend that his attitude needs an adjustment: “You could lighten up a bit… This severe routine is getting old… Smile once in a while!”

“Smile?” his friend asks inquisitively and with a straight, severe face.

The problem is that this “man” has never smiled before. He wasn’t programmed for emotional facial movement. John’s friend is called the Terminator, a synthetic robot made to look human in every way. 32 Even though the Terminator looks human and successfully infiltrated the human population in the first Terminator film, as viewers of this scene would be

aware, he is now confronted with the difficult task of fitting in with humans based on his

behavior, not just appearance. Even with observation and practice, smiling doesn’t quite work

for the Terminator. John looks on doubtfully and sarcastically responds, “That’s good… Maybe

you should practice in the mirror sometime…” He then rolls his eyes, seemingly giving up on

teaching his robotic companion to be more humanlike, settling for the promise that the

Terminator won’t kill anyone anymore.

As you can see in Figure 4, the Terminator’s “smile” is not just unconvincing to John,

it is downright creepy to the audience. Granted, as audience members, we are fully aware that

the celebrity icon Arnold Schwarzenegger is a human playing the fictional character of a super-

32 By this time in the Terminator film series, the Terminator has been reprogrammed by John Conner in the future and sent back to protect his young self. Furthermore, John and his mother Sarah have removed a Skynet device that otherwise prevented the Terminator from learning new things. Without the Skynet chip the Terminator is now free to “learn to be more human.”

99 advanced bio/synthetic android from the future, but that seems to further emphasize the

Figure 4: The Terminator Smiles at John Conner. (Screen shot Terminator: Judgment Day , 1991.) absurd notion of an android attempting to imitate human emotional behavior. In case audience members were not convinced the smile was creepy, viewers are given the red-tinted, vector drawn analysis of “Terminator-vision” to show the robot’s perspective while analyzing the smile of a nearby human. Not simply a comic relief in the otherwise action-packed Terminator 2:

Judgment Day , the attempt by the Terminator to “lighten up” illustrates what is commonly known as the “uncanny valley” as well as the concept shinwa kan , or very generally, the feeling of having similar mind.

Anthropomorphism is not only the ability to see human everywhere but, put simply by

Hiroshi Ishiguro, one of the leading Japanese roboticists, anthropomorphism is much more: “[it is] the attribution of a human form, human characteristics, or human behavior to non-human things such as robots, computers and animals” (271). One of the most important characteristics of anthropomorphism of robots is the belief that a nonhuman agent can have a similar mind.

Similar to earlier discussion about the HAL Effect, the ability to attribute similar mind is affected by not only the ability to “see human” but also the ability of the artificial entity to seem human through behavior, or our ability to imagine similar social cognition.


Robotics designers Ishiguro and Minoru Asada, in their contribution to “Human-Inspired

Robots” in the journal Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE ), describe their interest in anthropomorphism: “Humans always anthropomorphize targets of communication and interaction, so we expect much from humanoids. In other words, we find a human in the humanoid” (74). If we can accept that an AI can exist and will likely be embodied in such a way that promotes optimal human-robot interaction, then we must consider the uncanny valley. In

1970 Mori published the essay “Bukimi No Tani” (or “the uncanny valley”) introducing one of the first proposals to understanding the intricacies of HRI. Mori’s theory of the uncanny valley circulated through the fields of robotics development, psychology, and sociology for decades, even though the article was not officially translated into English until 2012. Establishing itself as a controversial theory to either prove or disprove, or simply elucidate upon, the uncanny valley has generated dozens of papers and presentations dedicated to understanding and charting the theory, it has been given special attention at the IEEE conferences and symposiums.

The concept of “the uncanny” was originally made famous by Freud, and roboticist Mori elaborated on this theory to explain how when a robot (or perhaps inanimate human-like toy) is too similar to a human in appearance and/or behavior, humans will experience “cognitive- emotional confusion” as the entity engenders feelings of discomfort. MacDorman and Ishiguro explain that “Mori predicted that, as robots appear more human, they seem more familiar, until a point is reached at which subtle imperfections give a sensation of strangeness” (“Uncanny

Advantage” 300). And that strangeness, for Mori, could illicit discomfort more so for androids:

“To build a complete android, Mori believed, would multiply this eerie feeling many times over:

Machines that appear too lifelike would be unsettling or even frightening inasmuch as they resemble figures from nightmares or films about the living dead” (MacDorman and Ishiguro,


“Uncanny Advantage” 300-301). Judith Halberstam in Queer Art of Failure (2011) refers to the

“uncanny” in describing stop-motion that is appropriate for androids as well: “it conveys life where we expect stillness, and stillness where we expect liveliness” (178).

To understand the uncanny valley, one should first assume, as Mori did in 1970, that the goal of robotic design is to achieve humanlike robotics designs and in fact, accept that roboticists are always progressing toward achieving identical synthetic humanoid . Even today, this is generally accepted as the goal of robotics, especially android development (MacDorman and Ishiguro, “Toward Social”). Ishiguro confirms this in more contemporary terms: “The interactive robots that have been developed thus far are humanoid to encourage the human tendency to anthropomorphize communicative agents” (320). Setting aside for the moment questions or whether or not humanlike robotics should be the goal of robotics development, Mori

formulates the uncanny valley as

the following: “in climbing

toward the goal of making robots

appear like a human, our affinity

for them increases until we come

to a valley, which I call the

uncanny valley” (Mori 98). With

the simple idea of a rise and

sudden fall of “affinity for

Figure 5: Mori's charting of the uncanny valley ( WikiMedia ). robots” when a humanlike entity becomes too humanlike and yet not quite right Mori then plotted a chart of the uncanny valley

(Figure 5). As you can see, the idea is that after having “fallen into the uncanny valley” a

102 robotics design can theoretically rise out of that valley, meaning our affinity increases again to the point where the entity is near or equal in comfort level with a living human. For another description of the uncanny valley, I refer to Misselhorn: “[Mori] stated that the more human-like a robot or another object is made, the more positive and empathetic emotional responses from human beings it will elicit. However, when a certain degree of likeness is reached, this function is interrupted brusquely, and responses, all of a sudden, become very repulsive. The function only begins to rise again when the object in question becomes almost indistinguishable from real humans” (346).

Looking closely at the graph, notice that the “bunraku puppet” is marked at about half way up the ascension of the valley. Mori placed it there as an example of an entity which we are able to “become absorbed in this form of art, [hence] we might feel a high level of affinity for the puppet” (Mori 99). Upon close inspection the bunraku puppet is clearly non-human. A scrutinizing observer can see its joints and rods used by the human operator to manipulate its movements. For Mori, however, none of those details matter to the audience. Observers from afar are “absorbed” in the art or performance, essentially suspending their disbelief that the puppets are inanimate objects even though the human manipulators of the puppets are clearly visible on stage. Bunraku puppets illustrate the way that humans are able to suspend their disbelief that inanimate objects don’t have emotions. For Roland Barthes, “[bunraku is]

Concerned with a basic antinomy, that of animate/inanimate, [and] Bunraku jeopardizes it, eliminates it without advantage for either of its terms” (Bolton 729).

To extend the concept more directly to robotics, when encountering an android a human observer may be able to imagine that the entity has emotions and intensions, regardless of their physical construction. This happens, according to Mori’s uncanny valley theory, at some point

103 after the entity is no longer “creepy.” Of course this is a fragile balance – the fear of making uncanny robots is on the minds of many robotics designers and marketers.

The species-centric attitude toward android creation is investigated by behaviorists who find overwhelmingly that people prefer interacting with embodied machine intelligences that are human like. Kiesler, et al. found that interacting with the embodied robot was a more compelling experience for participants and elicited more anthropomorphic interaction and attributions. Participants spent more time with the robot, liked it better, attributed to its stronger, more positive personality traits, and said it was more lifelike” ( sic ., 177). By “embodied” they mean a program or software that is physically present within a robotic form rather than interacting with the same AI in the keyboard to screen situation. But beyond basic embodiment, other behaviorist researchers believe that “very humanlike robots may provide the best means of pinpointing what kinds of behavior are perceived as human, since deviations from human norms are more obvious in them than in more mechanical-looking robots” (MacDorman and Ishiguro,

“Uncanny Advantage” 299). While roboticists continue to design their robots with ideal, positive robot-human interaction in mind by making them more human-like, these more human- like, sociable androids illicit stronger emotional bonds from their humans.

Although the act of attributing “similar mind” to inanimate objects moves us into the metaphysical questions usually discussed by philosophers of mind, questions of mental states come up in fiction as well to help illuminate anthropomorphism of androids. Returning again to the Terminator franchise, by the second Terminator movie, Judgment Day , philosophical questions begin to arise for Sarah Conner () and her son John Conner (Edward

Furlong), the proclaimed future savior of humanity, as well as for the audience, especially regarding the mental state and our feelings of anthropomorphism toward the humanoid robot.


Similar to the opening of the original Terminator , the protagonist is confronted with two unknown humanoids whose alignment is unknown. Will the familiar (Schwarzenegger) T-800 be the indiscriminate killer or will the new guy, the cop killer, be the protective agent?

Terminator 2: Judgment Day introduces two very differently aligned androids who are at first indistinguishable from humans. The T-800, any other designation unknown at first, arrives in a time portal while the scene cuts to another humanoid arriving in a similar manner. It is not until the Schwarzenegger Terminator shouts at John Connor to “Get down,” shotgun in hand and aiming at the cop-impersonating T-1000 (Robert Patrick), that the audience must question alignment based on embodiment.

Although it is clear that the T-800/101 (i.e., John Connor’s reprogrammed Terminator from the future sent to protect John above all else) does not have the same mental states as a human, John begins to tease out the differences and surmises that once the Terminator learns some basic human behaviors he/it will be able to be less of an antisocial “dork.” Although the first Terminator illustrated how an android’s social behavior, or lack thereof, helps identify the entity as separate from a human and in fact, quite evil, Judgment Day explicitly introduces the conceptual requirement of learning social cognition as part of alignment identity. Under the original programming by Skynet, the T-800 explains that his “CPU is a neural-net processor… a learning computer. But Skynet presets the switch to ‘read-only’ when we are sent out alone.”

Sarah Conner translates that Skynet “doesn’t want you thinking too much, huh?” and that appears just fine to Sarah. John Conner, on the other hand wants the T-800 to learn to be more human… so he’s not “such a dork all the time.” It’s not just that John doesn’t want the

Terminator to kill people so much, although that is a major contributor to his decision to reprogram the Terminator; John also seems to be building himself a father-figure.


Young John obviously knows that the Terminator is a robot, and yet he can’t help but teach it more human-like behavior, from language to facial expression – essentially anthropomorphizing the Terminator for both himself and for viewers. From the perspective of philosophy of mind, John and the viewers are clearly aware that the Terminator does not have a mind physically like ours – we are shown that he has no brain. But the lack of a brain does not necessarily mean that we cannot attribute similar mental states to the entity.

A philosopher who subscribes to the functionalist argument might first answer with “it depends on what the mind does, not what the mind is made of .” For a functionalist, an entity can qualify as an intelligent being based on proof that its behavior appears to be intelligent, especially based on behavioral output responses to environmental input (i.e., if it acts intelligent, it is intelligent). But intelligence alone is not enough for anthropomorphism, as cognitive theorists have illustrated with embodiment. Social Psychologist Adam Waytz and colleagues remind us that:

Xenophanes (6th Century philosopher) was the first to use the term

anthropomorphism when describing how gods and other supernatural agents

tended to bear a striking physical resemblance to their believers. Xenophanes’s

observation reflects one of two basic ways of anthropomorphizing. The first

involves attributing humanlike physical features to nonhumans (e.g., a face,

hands), and the second involves attributing a humanlike mind to nonhumans (e.g.,

intentions, conscious awareness, secondary emotions such as shame or joy).

Anthropomorphism therefore requires going beyond purely behavioral or

dispositional inferences about a nonhuman agent and instead requires attributing

human form or a human mind to the agent. (220)


With the simple “flip of a switch” (supposedly a literal switch though the audience never sees it), the T-101 goes from being simply programmed to keep John safe, to a companion and father figure, an entity with mental states similar to our own. This companionship grows with every social interaction between the Terminator and John – from learning to smile to discussing the fear of death – the humanlike benevolence becomes clearer and more poignant to the audience.

Antti Kuusela describes his feelings about Terminator 2: Judgment Day , in particular his reaction to the scene toward the end of the film in which the viewer sees the T-101 melted down in a vat of molten : “We may feel sorry for the T-101 because it is going to lose its existence. We may think of the Terminator’s act as being unselfish because it puts the interests of humans before its own. But of course, these views make sense only if we believe that the T-

101’s mental life is similar to ours. And if it is, then there may be good reason to reevaluate the real difference between machines and persons” (Kuusela 267) 33 . If Kuusela’s observations are at all accurate, there are reasons for the audience to feel an emotional reaction but not because we know the T-101’s brain is at all physically like our own but because we believe that it has mental states like ours – thus anthropomorphizing the otherwise robotic android.

While I believe there is, as of yet, no way to measure a machine’s or even another

person’s qualia , or state of mind, perhaps the answer can be found by addressing the other

elements of anthropomorphism, returning us to embodiment and social cognition. The fictional

portraits of AI robots like those in Terminator do not stop roboticists from designing more

33 Note here the paradox that Kuusela may or may not even be aware of regarding the state of being of fictional characters. Throughout his article Kuusela describes his understanding of the Terminator and other fictional characters in the film as if they are real entities in the world that can be referred to. This is an impossible reference because there is no actual Terminator that Kuusela could refer to; however the important turn here is that this is a common treatment of fictional characters in media theory. For audiences then it is accepted that even though there is no actual Terminator to refer to, it is possible to refer to the potential mental states or states of existence of a fictional being without confusing actual with fictional entities. While this is a very interesting paradoxical part of media studies, it is easily dismissed by viewers and cannot be explored further here.

107 human-like robots or AI researchers from coding more complicated synthetic minds. Indeed,

Ishiguro reminds readers that “The recent [as in 2007] development of humanoid and interactive robots such as ’s ASHIMO (Sakagami et al. 2002) and Sony’s AIBO (Fujita 2001) is a new research direction in robotics. The concept of these interactive robots is partner . Partner robots will act as human peers in everyday life and perform mental and communicational

[support] for humans as well as physical [support]” (106). To make effective robot partners designers and marketers will need to be well aware of the generally accepted stereotypes associated with both the AI that will be imbued into robots as well as the basic discomfort associated with the uncanny valley.


Consumer robots are predicted to appear on the mass market soon. In fact, the growth of an aging population is motivation for the creation of more domestic-assistance robots. The uncanny valley is a potential challenge as developers want to make robots that are appealing without being frightening. As robotics designers are working toward more humanlike robotics, psychologists and sociologists are working to anticipate the effects that socializing with such entities will be, while exploring the market possibilities. A team of marketers hoping to improve human-robot interaction with robotic products point out the need for more studies of the uncanny valley: “Developing a scale to capture individual desire for humanlike aesthetic appearance in consumer robots may provide useful insights into individual evaluation of the appearance of consumer robots” (Oyedele, et al. 631). In other words, to better understand how consumers evaluate and interact with robots, a better understanding of the uncanny valley is necessary.

For Mori, movement was the first and foremost key to understanding why humans experience the uncanny feeling associated with humanlike entities. Even in the 1970s substantial

108 advancements were being made toward humanlike prosthesis and other movement designs to simulate humanoid body structure and motion, but Mori foresaw a high potential for humans to experience unease as the humanlike entity approaches a too-near-to-human appearance and movement. To illustrate this idea Mori used the example of a prosthetic hand. At first glance an onlooker may assume that the hand is a normal biological human appendage, but upon grasping the prosthetic, in a hand shake, for example, the perceiver may suddenly be overcome with a feeling of creepiness, as Mori explains (100). “Imagine a craftsman,” Mori offers another illustration, “awakened suddenly in the dead of night. He searches downstairs for something among a crowd of mannequins in his workshop. If the mannequins started to move, it would be like a horror story” (Mori 100).

Mori wasn’t far off when he predicted how well such a graphic theme could illicit fear in an audience. This scene described by Mori to illustrate the uncanny valley in action is strangely similar to the opening episode to the rebooted in 2005. The (Ninth) Doctor

(Christopher Eccleston) and his newly met companion, Rose (Billie Piper), are pursued by killer

mannequins. Indeed, this is not an unusual phenomenon in popular culture. Internet Movie

Database user “wortkunst” shares a list of “Scary dolls, puppets, dummies, mannequins, toys,

and marionettes,” which includes ninety-six different film and television instances of horrifying

life-like dolls.

Another example of the uncanny associated with movement is in the form of zombies.

From the original uncanny valley chart, you can see that Mori has placed a zombie on the

deepest trench of the valley, indicating that zombies were the most eerie and uncanny entity.

When a human body is known to be dead and yet walks and moves, the zombie is the most

uncanny entity. Although not directly connected to man-made entities, Mori and others have

109 connected this fear of zombies with the importance of self-preservation. Misselhorn extends this fear of undead to explain our feelings of empathy toward inanimate objects. She believes that the feeling of the uncanny associated with robots is associated with the instinct to avoid illness:

“[certain] characteristics are universally regarded as ugly or disturbing, for instance, sickly eyes, bad skin, extreme asymmetry, and poor grooming. Those features are considered to be signs of illness, neurological conditions or mental dysfunction, and, therefore, supposed to lead to repulsive reactions” (349). When interacting with a humanlike robot, Misselhorn describes how humans may unconsciously fear the potential illness that could be transmitted. Another way of thinking of this uncanny feeling is that it is a manifestation of “our fear of the nonliving alive”

(Geller 17). 34

Although movement and appearance are important when trying to grasp the uncanny, roboticists propose other factors to take into consideration. Within movement, several subcategories of movement should be considered. For example, Zia-ul-Haque, et al. explain that

“Recently the role of humanlike appearance is claimed to be as important as its behavior for the robot to be recognized as a social identity and to elicit more natural response from human [sic] .

Having a human like face provides the benefit of universally recognized facial expressions, an understood focal point of interaction etc.” (emphasis added, 2228). For Zia-ul-Haque, et al., eye movement was crucial for establishing engagement, trust and motivation with the human user


34 Geller reminds us that even when the “uncanny” was being formulated, psychologists were considering the dissonance related to living vs. death. Freud, in describing the aesthetics of the uncanny suggested that the uncanny was in fact connected to “death and dead bodies, to return of the dead, and to spirits and ghosts” (Geller 11). Perhaps another angle for investigating the uncanny would be to consider the death drive... but that is an inquiry for another time.


Another team of robotics designers, Christoph Bartneck and Ishiguro’s team, has spent many hours in research and development trying to “disprove” Mori’s uncanny valley theory, arguing that “[the popularity of Mori’s theory] may be based on the explanatory escape route it offers” (“Robotic Doppelgänger” 275). Apparently, this “escape route” has prevented humanoid robotics to develop to its fullest. Zia-ul-Haque’s research team notes that “The fear of falling into the uncanny valley… has restricted the developers of humanoid robots to avoid achieving this height of design [sic] ” (2230). For Zia-ul-Haque and Bartneck’s research teams, the uncanny valley can easily be surmounted by creating robots with socially acceptable movements:

“Movement contains social meanings that may have direct influence on the likeability of a robot.

The robot’s level of anthropomorphism does not only depend on the appearance but also its behavior. A mechanical-looking robot with appropriate social behavior can be anthropomorphized for different reasons than a highly human-like android” (Bartneck, et al.

“Robotic Doppelgänger” 275). Meaning, the more likely key to climbing out of the uncanny valley (if it exists, which Bartneck and team are skeptical of) is to develop humanlike behavior more so than humanlike appearance . Zia-ul-Haque, et al. describe this effect as the following:

“Human will feel more comfortable [sic] , pleasant and supporting with systems which (at least to some extent) possess ethical beliefs matching that of their own, do not make a decision or perform an action that is harmful to their moral values, and honor their basic social values and norms. Thus where interaction with human is desired [sic] , the robots are desired to behave as social machines” (2228).

Here it is important to bring in some further context regarding Bartneck and Ishiguro’s

research team, along with some images of these research robots. Ishiguro, a member of

Bartneck’s research team, is known as the maker of his own “doppelgänger” robot, the Geminoid


HI-1, shown in Figure 6. Surprisingly, or

perhaps not, the general American response

to Ishiguro’s work could be categorized as

right in the valley of the uncanny. For

example John Brownlee, writing for the

well-known tech savvy magazine Wired ,

describes the Geminoid HI-1 as a “creepy Figure 6: Robotic Doppelganger. Android, Geminoid HI-1 (left) with creator, Hiroshi Ishiguro (right). waxen mummy… its dead eyes cold appraising the succulence of the flesh of the children around it. It is part cyborg, part real doll, part Shigeru Miyamoto, part Dracula. It is horrible. It hates you” (n.p.). This is not a very warm review of a robot from Wired , a magazine and website known for its open welcome to new technologies and robotics . While McCloud draws our attention specifically to the use of the eye shape (similar to a bull’s eye) in the process of identifying humanness, that humanness can also lead to the uncanny interpretation. In essence, one instinct is to “see human” while the other is to see dead human.

Part of understanding that perception originates from the power of framing – when encountering a new object or entity humans are expected to “frame” the entity, or categorize it.

Sometimes this categorization is based on previous experience, as Bartneck and Ishiguro described. Oyedele, Hong and Minor confirm this theory in the context of studying consumer perceptions of humanlike robots. They describe the incongruency theory “which suggests that individuals have a high probability to evaluate a stimulus on the basis of their prior experience and knowledge. For example, an individual approaching an unfamiliar object for the first time will attempt to resolve the incongruency between his or her expectation and the present

112 encounter with the unfamiliar object” (626). Based on previous experience, consumers will have a set of expectations relating to a similar but new entity. If the expectation , i.e., “it looks like a

doll, therefore it should not move,” is sharply different from the actual experience , i.e., “that doll

behaves more like a human!” then the consumer experiences the uncanny. Kiesler and her team

explain this association as a process of combining concepts usually associated with people, then

transferred to robots: “a lifelike robot that tells a joke might activate exemplars of the nonsocial

category, machines , and of the social category, humorous people . Combining these exemplars

could lead to the experience of an integrated concept, such as cheerful robot ” (170).

This act of categorization can also be based on categories of things not just experience . If

the perceived category does not match the actual category, a level of discomfort arises. Upon

encountering a new entity, it is likely placed in simple categories: living vs. dead, for example.

Misselhorn describes this natural inclination: “If something appears very humanlike – as the

objects in the uncanny valley – it is seen as part of the human species, and emotionally evaluated

by the same standards, although it is known that it is not a human being” (349). Those “frames”

or categories in turn establish emotional expectations which, when violated, cause the uncanny

feeling. Bartneck, et al. performed studies of HRI considering the “framing theory.” For this

team of robot designers, “When we encounter a very machine-like robot we select a ‘machine

frame’ and its human-like features deviate from our expectation and hence attract our attention.

This deviation is usually positive since we tend to like other humans. In contrast, when we

encounter an android, we select our ‘human frame’ and its machine-like features grab our

attention. However, the machine-like features [are seen as] deviations [from the norm,] that are

otherwise found in sick or injured people, which we find disturbing” (“Uncanny Cliff?” 368).


Another element of HRI that can elicit cognitive dissonance is the idea of “aesthetic unity.” For Oyedele, et al., “the perceived aesthetic unity of a humanlike consumer robot made with both humanlike and machinelike components may be unfavorable because of a high degree of incongruity associated with the different components of the humanlike consumer robot” (626).

“The perceived unity mismatch associated with the humanlike consumer robot,” according to

Oyedele, et al., “may create an uncanny response in terms of the individual evaluation of the humanlike consumer robot” (626). Much like the idea of the cyborg, a mishmash of human and robot parts, can be disconcerting. Aesthetic unity is also connected, to the health and survival of the observer. For Hanson, “The explanation why we react with aversion against the android robots along these lines is that they do not match our aesthetic standards, respectively, that they show anomalies which make us react as we would to human individuals showing the

‘ugly’ signs of poor health or bad genes” (Misselhorn 349). The idea is that with a mismatch of aesthetic elements, the natural response is to react negatively.

One way to return to the valley in hopes of resolving it for designers is to return to

Mori’s original argument. In their 2009 contribution to the 18 th Institute of Electrical and

Electronics Engineers (IEEE) International Symposium on Robot and Human Interactive

Communication, Christoph Bartneck and his team discuss the common understanding of the

English translation of Mori’s 1970 paper. Even after the English translation was published in

2012, there is still debate over the phrasing of Mori’s words. Of particular interest to Bartneck

and Ishiguro’s team, as well as myself, is the use of the Japanese word that appeared in Mori’s

original work as “shinwa-kan” to refer to the “familiarity” against which a humanlike robot is

plotted on a graph. When the likeness becomes too human-like the familiarity or “shinwa-kan”

drops off into the uncanny. Ishiguro claims that part of Mori’s description of the uncanny valley

114 was “lost in translation” as “shinwa-kan” is not as commonly used as the English word

“familiarity.” According to Ishiguro, “The best approach is to look at its components ‘shinwa’ and ‘kan’ separately. The Daijirin Dictionary (second edition) defines ‘shinwa’ as ‘mutually be friendly’ or ‘having similar mind’ [sic] . ‘Kan’ is being translated as ‘the sense of’” (270).

Although I am not entirely sure what is meant by “mutually be friendly,” I’m quite familiar with the “sense of having similar mind.”


Even in the 1970s, as robotics development was beginning, Mori predicted not only the infamous “valley” but also believed “it is possible to create a safe level of affinity by deliberately pursuing a nonhuman design ” (Mori, emphasis added). Mori wanted to pursue the robotics design with the goal of aesthetic beauty like that of Buddha statues: “I came to think that there is something more attractive and amiable than human beings in the further right-hand side of the valley. It is the face of a Buddha statue as the artistic expression of the human ideal” (Mori, qt’d in Geller 17). Regardless of gut responses to humanlike robotics, another part of HRI is the overall process of anthropomorphism. Recall what Waytz, et al, have this to say about the process of anthropomorphism: “[it] is a critical determinant of how people understand and treat nonhuman agents from gods to gadgets to the stock market, is central to multibillion dollar industries such as robotics and pet care, and features prominently in public debates ranging from the treatment of Mother Earth to abortion rights” (58). But if the process of Anthropomorphism is a fundamentally human trait and yet may be causing the uncanny feelings, how can robotics designers continue to pursue their assumed goal of making humanlike simulacra? For Shimada, et al. “The uncanny valley must be avoided from the viewpoint of communication robot design”



Rather than continuing to work toward the hyper-real, animators of 3D animated films are coming to the agreement that “good” animation doesn’t need to be “realistic.” Geller describes how the lead character animator for The Polar Express , Kenn McDonald, points to a

“need for movie makers to stylize their characters away from realism to make them effective,

‘much like putting makeup on a flesh-and-blood character’” (12). Or more succinctly,

McDonald explained: “A good way to avoid the uncanny valley is to move a character’s

Figure 7: Characters from Polar Express (left). Hiro from Big Hero Six (right). proportions and structure outside the range of ‘human’… The audience subconsciously says,

‘he’s not human; I don’t have to judge him by the same rules as if he were’” (Geller 12-13) (see

Figure 7). The same argument appears in studies by robotics designers. For example, Walters, et al. in a study of social robots with both anthropomorphic features and more mechanical features report that “Our results do not support the notion that increasing the human-likeness of a robot will necessarily make it more preferable to interact with” (174). They conclude that even with more robot-like features, participants experienced more comfort when behavior was social but appearance was less human. For an example from fiction of a robot that is more mechanical but behaves in a very humanlike manner, consider Sonny from I, Robot (2004). Sonny is bipedal and has a transparent skin-like covering. Even his face reveals his robotic parts. Even though

Spooner (Will Smith), the human protagonist is at first uncomfortable working alongside a robot

116 like Sonny, over the course of the film the two bond. Spooner fights side-by-side with Sonny against the greater threat of a disembodied AI who turns other robots against the human population.

In some studies, the humanlike appearance of a robot is found to be unimportant for anthropomorphism. Glenda Shaw-Garlock describes the research by Turkle, known for her specialized work in Social Studies of Science and Technology, regarding empathy and robots, to illustrate that a human form – i.e. arms and legs in a bipedal form and with a human face, is not necessarily the best approach to successful HRI. “Paro [a robotic baby harp seal] successfully elicited feelings of admiration, loving behavior, and curiosity,” describes Shaw-Garlock. “But

[Turkle] felt that these interactions raised ‘questions about what kind of authenticity we require of our technology’” (5). Shaw-Garlock quotes Turkle, “Do we want robots saying things that they could not possibly ‘mean’? What kinds of relationships do we think are most appropriate for our children and our elders to have with relational artifacts?’” (5). Shaw-Garlock further reports that authors Sharkey and Sharkey “raise parallel concerns when they consider the natural human tendency to anthropomorphize and suggest we question the ethical appropriateness of deceiving people into believing that a machine is capable of mental states and emotional understanding”

(5). For some, a robot like Paro, becomes one of the few connections to social interaction, something that brings happiness. Reporter Jocelyn Ford for Radiolab explored this phenomenon in a senior citizens home in Japan where Paro is used as “one of the world’s first therapy robots” and the furry robot takes visits to the elderly: “They adored it. They were loving it and it was loving them – in their minds.” For the elderly, at least in this particular facility that Paro visits,

Ford wondered if it were possible to engineer “compassion and companionship” to ease the

117 stress of aging. At that moment, it seemed it would as the women and men smiled and cheered at their interaction with Paro.

When Mori proposed that “we should begin to build an accurate map of the uncanny

valley so that through robotics research we can begin to understand what makes us human”

(Mori 100), I doubt he expected how far into the culture of robotics design and science fiction

film this valley would extend. We are still asking how well robots reveal the secrets of “what

makes us human.” While robotics designers like Ishiguro may be well on their way to

developing humanoid robots with ideal HRI they are really only taking interaction and

familiarity into consideration; a future with robots may well evolve into looking more

complicated – like what audiences experience in fiction like Terminator and Battlestar

Galactica . It is likely that designers, although potentially inspired by science fiction, don’t know

how their inventions will integrate into society. While the HAL Effect brings us closer to

understanding a possible future with disembodied AI, how will a future with androids, fully

synthetic or biological, end up looking? Appearance continues to help define persons as separate

from humans. Much like Mori’s uncanny valley theory, any deviation from the physical

definition of “human” forces dolls into toys, i.e., from human to non-human. But the more

complicated part of HRI is when bodies are concerned.

Norah Campbell, borrowing from Featherstone and Burrows, believes that “Because the

technologized body is ‘replete with utopian, dystopian and heterotopian possibilities,’ an

exploration of cyberbodies, or images that imagine posthuman bodies of the future, take us

beyond speaking about technology in an instrumental way, as a mere tool for getting things done,

and enables us to think about the philosophy of technology” (N. Campbell). Although androids,

AIs, or other artificial entities are not strictly posthuman bodies, their portraits in fiction are

118 similarly enabling for thinking about the philosophy of technology. I say that they are not

“strictly” posthuman in that they are creations from little to no biologically human parts; their construction does not spring from human bodies as biological reproduction or alteration. There is still debate over what constitutes a cyborg versus an android. For the sake of understanding posthuman bodies, I understand a cyborg as an entity that began as human but has been altered

through cybernetic implants or other artificial enhancements. An android, on the other hand, was

never biologically human. It/he/she was made, constructed, or otherwise emerged (in the case of

a strong AI). With the forces of anthropomorphism at work and feelings of empathy for

anthropomorphized entities, we reach what I call the “nonhuman dilemma.” Yes, we may see

human in many things, but there is much discussion over what should be deserving of rights

generally reserved for humans only – this is the debate over personhood which I begin to explore

in the next chapter.



“To treat humanlike android others as dispensable objects is to

dehumanize the self and ignore the inherently ethical relationship

among humans in which these androids enter.”

-- Christopher Ramey, Cognitive Science Society (2005).


With the growing momentum in research and development in strong AI and humanoid robotics – and the anticipated merging of the two – it is time to begin a serious discussion of how we will treat these novel creations. Will they be simply objects for our pleasure and professional utilization (i.e., property) or will they be life companions to be given rights and respect (i.e., persons)? Thinkers from many fields are only recently coming to realize the importance of considering the developing relationships between man and artificial beings. Maarten Lamers and

Verbeek Fons, at the third international conference for human-robot personal relationships, remind us of the growing multidisciplinary interest: “…artificial partners increasingly [are] likely in any of the many forms imaginable. Increasingly, researchers from scientific fields such as (social) robotics, human-computer interaction, artificial intelligence, psychology, philosophy, sociology, and theology are involved in their study” (V).

Any nonhuman entity entering the human-defined sphere of personhood will face challenges to successful coexistence. For the humanoid AA (Artificial Agent), the challenge is on three fronts. First, as explored in Chapter Two, there is the challenge of assigning

“intelligence.” If intelligence is not easily accepted, no notions of personhood will ever be entertained. Next, because the android is designed specifically with notions of anthropomorphism in mind to supposedly facilitate HRI (Human-Robot Interaction) as discussed

120 in Chapter Three, the ways in which we “see human” lead to the following two challenges: 1) the innate threat to our human self that androids embody (and disembody) and, 2) the human trait to demonize anything that seems to fit in a threatening Other category. The android becomes the subject of a confused human identity and I will explore that confusion in fiction. For Annette

Kuhn, in her introduction to Alien Zone: Cultural Theory and Contemporary Science Fiction

Cinema , “science fiction cinema often assumes a rather confused attitude towards science and

technology. On the one hand it views them as redemptive forces that can lift humanity out of the

muck and mire of its own biological imperfections. On the other, it sees them as potentially

destructive forces, inimical to humanity” (32). Sidney Perkowitz explains the long-standing

fascination with and bionic humans as basic to human nature: “Least noble, perhaps

but understandable is the desire to ease our lives by creating workers to till our fields, operate our

factories, and prepare our meals, tirelessly and without complaint” (5). In this chapter I explore

those redemptive forces in the potential partnership between mankind and artificial entities as

well as our own destructive nature as we dehumanize the nonhuman.

To make effective robot partners designers and marketers will need to be well aware of

the generally accepted stereotypes associated with both the AI that will be projected onto robots

as well as the basic discomfort associated with the uncanny valley. This chapter begins with

popular culture representations of the sub-category of androids, manufactured humans,

specifically the Cylons from Battlestar Galactica to bring to light the racialized and sexualized

stereotypes associated with humanoid embodiment. Innately associated with those stereotypes

are the abuses and violations of any entity falling outside of “normal” categories and into the

other. By queering those artificial bodies in fiction, in particular Cylons Eight (better known as

Sharon) and Six, I aim to draw parallels between theories of dehumanization and androids.


In making such connections, I also draw attention to what I call the “nonhuman dilemma.” Because future articulations of artificial entities will likely act and appear human in every way, it behooves us to treat them as moral equals, but we will still face a dilemma. When confronted with an entity that is known to be nonhuman but appears human in every way, the dilemma is whether to treat it as human and therefore open the definition of human up to others, or to hold fast to traditional humanisms. To treat the nonhuman-human as anything but human would undermine our own moral standing, but it is a natural inclination when encountering others (human or not) outside the boundaries of “normalcy.” Returning to the Cylons of BSG , I explore the nonhuman dilemma in relation to Cylon Six (Tricia Helfer) and her imprisonment aboard the Battlestar Pegasus. Because the audience has built a strong human-like connection with Six, along with other Cylons, the abuse that Six suffers aboard the Pegasus speaks volumes about our coming dilemma regarding the treatment of nonhuman others – will they be objects of mistreatment and therefore violate our own moral code as we abuse them, or will they be companions to be loved and trusted?

In answer to the question above, the remainder of this chapter explores what I call the post/human love affair and the uncanny companionship that comes with living among human- like androids. Although still a fringe culture, the transformation into post/human relationships is already taking place as men and women take on silicone companions. Here I explore the subculture of iDollators (people who live and love life-sized dolls). Inspired by The Learning

Channel (TLC) show My Strange Addiction , I follow the public persona and reactions to self-

proclaimed doll-lover, Davecat. Apart from living in personal relationships with nonhuman

others, I foresee family transformations as nonhuman others enter the domestic sphere. By using

the tropes of realiTV makeover shows that “save” the family in distress ( Nanny 911 and


Supernanny ), I propose that a similar makeover occurs in the film Fido . Fido follows the story of that most uncanny figure, the zombie, who performs each stage of the traditional makeover in the home: the observation, the intervention, the “work,” and finally the reveal (or happy ending).

It is easy for many to simply disregard the question of what the human self means by proclaiming “I’m human because I am,” and therefore I feel no threat from nonhuman others.

But as doubles and doppelgängers appear, they amend the concept of the “human.” 35 Noreen

Giffney reminds us of Haraway’s definition of human: “Human …requires an extraordinary

congeries of partners. Humans, wherever you track them, are products of situated relationalities

with , tools, much else. We are quite a crowd” (55). “Thus,” for Giffney, “the Human

is historically contingent and culturally marked in its formulations and is neither stable nor

singular in its articulations or resonances” (56). As new articulations of tools and entities such as

androids are introduced to our crowd, that we are altered in new ways and this particular addition

speaks volumes about who and what humans have been and who/what we will become. But in

that “becoming,” we must consider what the other entities will be considered. For Ferrando, there is a risk of “turning the robotic difference into a stigma for new forms of racism” (16).

And as we “osmose with the robot ontology, humans have to undergo a radical deconstruction of the human as a fixed notion, emphasizing instead its dynamic and constantly evolving side, and celebrating the differences inhabiting the human species itself” (Ferrando 16).

Personhood rights are “recognized” by the entity of the State to individuals within the species of Homo sapiens sapiens . But as with every language, the categorization of and

recognition of said categories is always changing. Even in the process of defining human,

35 This simplification of the definition of “human” rings eerily similar to Badmington’s description of Cartesian dualism: “The human, in short [according to Badmington’s reading of Descartes work], is absolutely distinct from the inhuman over which it towers in a position of natural supremacy. I think, therefore I cannot possibly be an ” (18).

123 anthropologists and biologists have argued over the species and subspecies for millennia. For example, do we define Homo sapiens sapiens by their physical features – such as skull shape, brain capacity, brain shape, etc? Or do we define a species based on their behavior – behavior like tool use, linguistic structure, arbitrary symbol usage, etc.? Classical definitions of humans are based on a combination of all of the above, but what happens when other entities begin to meet and or exceed our expectations for humanness? Cognition, for example, is something computer designers have been trying to duplicate and or improve upon. Computers can already perform many humanlike tasks: information storage, concept processing, categorizing, recall, problem solving, and more.

Even in the films of the ‘80s, Telotte took note of the theme of questioning ones humanity simply due to the threat of the duplicate, the robot. In describing The Thing (1982),

Telotte refers to the scene in which the main characters don’t know whether or not they are themselves or if their comrades are human. One man turns to the other and asserts “I know I’m human.” In this moment, Telotte sees “The very need for such an assertion, hints at an unexpected uncertainty here, even as uneasiness about one’s identity and, more importantly, about what it is that makes one human” (“Human Artifice” 44). Returning to Telotte, he argues in Replications that “[films featuring humanoid robots] are significant for investigation… because of the way they approach the body as a plastic medium and the self as a variable construct. In them, the body becomes raw material, subject to the experiments …” (17). Not simply a report of possible futures, in a cautionary manner “[Films like The Thing, Stepford

Wives , and others about the robot] suggest how the human penchant for artifice – that is, for analyzing, understanding and synthesizing all things, even man himself – seems to promise a reduction of man to no more than artifice” (Telotte, “Human Artifice” 44). In that reduction of

124 the human to an artifice is the cogent fear that humans will lose their uniqueness, their agency, and even their Self. Part of that uniqueness, agency, and Self, as I will show, is tied up with the relationships we have with others, human and nonhuman.


Ridley Scott’s 1982 film Blade Runner opened the door to using film as an exploration

of human-android relations, especially in a way that engages thinking about morality. Kerman

explains that “[ Blade Runner ] makes clear that the replicants are beings to whom moral

discourse is applicable. In doing so, it asks the kinds of questions which make science fiction so

valuable in thinking about the technological, political and moral directions our society is taking”

(2). Because of their multiplicity, manufactured memories, and collective nature, the android in

fiction threatens the Western concept of Self – that is, the celebration of the individual (human)

identity made up of unique memories and the ability to act with singular agency.

In fiction, we see that manufactured human in figures like the Cylon in the reimagined

Battlestar Galactica , in the Borg from Star Trek , Fabricants from Cloud , and most

famously the Replicants from Blade Runner . The imagery of the manufactured human is

frightening for several reasons, the first and foremost is how such entities are literally

dehumanized. In David Livingston Smith’s book, Less Than Human , he recalls psychologist

Nick Haslam’s description of dehumanization which rings eerily of robots: “Haslam suggests

that when people are stripped of their typically human attributes they’re seen as cold and inert –

as inanimate objects lacking warmth, individuality, and agency” (94). Mass produced and

robbed of individual agency, the manufactured human/robot may be one of the greatest offences

to our sensibilities. Especially in the United States, there is a strong cultural emphasis on the

unique individual, but the android threatens that uniqueness. The android can be mass produced

125 with perfect efficiency and with increasingly biological capabilities. In the android we see embodied the fear the idea that we, humans, could be manufactured.

The fear of manufactured humans raises concerns for the threat to the self: for one that is the fear that the unique human is no longer individuated. If “human” itself is in question, the

Self would be questioned next. Although seemingly unrelated to artificial intelligence, clones in

SF film often wrestle with what it means to be an individual self. Is it simply a matter of saying

“We’re not programs, we’re people!” as the clone Sam Bell asserts to his robot companion,

GERTY, in the film Moon ? But Sam’s assertion rings hollow. For Sam, his individuality ended, unbeknownst to him, the moment his was cloned. Perhaps he means the human we … But in his

case even his humanness is in question – Sam Bell is one of many clones, manufactured for hard

labor on the Moon. If being a human person includes the Kantian and natural rights assumed to

“emphasize the sanctity of individual ‘persons,’” as Charles Mills suggests (55), then Sam was

robbed of his individuality long ago. But even being a “person” doesn’t guarantee individuality,

freedom or agency either – just as the Sam Bells from Moon and clones for organ harvest in The

Island know all too well. I’ve used clones here to illustrate my point about robots, which may seem a stretch, as discussed earlier. Aren’t clones examples of entities “created from biological materials to resemble a human”? If, in the case of Sam and the clones of The Island , their memories have been tampered with and altered so they believe they live a life their bodies did not, and they are mechanically performing their given tasks without question, doesn’t that also make them automatons ?

One example of manufactured humans, especially manufactured humans who question their individual identity, is the Cylons from BSG . The 2004-2009 show, an action/adventure space drama (also called a “,” not because the characters sing – there is no singing,


just lots of drama) loosely inspired by a 1978 television show of the same name, follows a rag-

tag group of humans from the planet Caprica who are displaced after their ancient enemy, the

Cylons, attack. Believing that the crew of the starship, Battlestar Galactica, is on the only

remaining military vessel, the crew rallies what civilian ships are left and sets the goal of

returning to the mythical planet Earth, where it is believed all human life began. Bravely

defending the civilian refugees, the Battlestar Galactica must fight off an assortment of Cylon

troops and starships, many of which are clearly robotic (an homage to the 1978 show), but as the

show progresses, the crew discover that the Cylons have “evolved” into humans that infiltrate

their ranks, some as sleeper agents who are unaware that they are Cylons.

In a particular story arc

Sharon (Grace Park), also called

Athena, struggles with a very

visceral experience of being

dehumanized simply because she

is a Cylon (Figure 8). At this point

in the series, the human crew of Figure 8: Opening credits for BSG after it is revealed that there are multiples of Sharon -- "Athena," on the planet of Caprica ( left ) and the Battlestar Galactica have "Boomer," aboard Galactica ( right ). (Screen shot BSG , 2004.) already encountered the humanoid “Skin Job” 36 Cylons and so far accorded them some

personhood, depending on the situation. Even the Cylons explain this personhood in reference to

Sharon: Cylon Six (Tricia Helfer) and another Cylon, Doral (Matthew Bennett), are waiting for a

36 The “Skin Jobs” are those in human form and with seemingly identical biological make up. These models, including Six and her many copies, are in stark contrast to the “Toasters” who are apparently without consciousness and (almost always) follow orders from the more developed models. These Toasters are modeled after the Cylons from the original Battlestar Galactica and are linked more directly to fears of technology in the computer age. These models are primarily used in the 2007 BSG as simply mindless killers, the boarding party that is expendable.

127 rendezvous with Sharon on Caprica. Doral notes that Six is calling Sharon “Sharon” rather than by her number designation, Eight. Six explains that she thinks of her as one of “them” (human) and explains that “in the scheme of things, we are what we do. She acts like them, thinks like them, she is one of them.” With this phrase and with Sharon’s love for Karl “Helo” Agathon

(), Sharon has become an individual apart from the Cylon collective.

Even her “love” for Helo is questioned by viewers because she is a Cylon. Boomer has been in a long-term relationship with Chief Tyrol (Aaron Douglas) but viewers and fans of the show debate about the nature of that “love” – and by extension, the nature of love that a Cylon could have. In an interview, David Weddle, one of the show’s writers, argues that there is no

“neat answer” to the question of whether or not Boomer could have ever loved either Chief or

Helo. No matter what, according to Weddle, “Boomer is deeply conflicted. I think the process of having false memories planted in her… [has] left her severely disturbed” (Ryan n.p.). For the show’s writer it seems the fact that Sharon’s memories are fragmented leads to an unstable personality.

The audience has already seen at least two copies of Sharon, Boomer and Athena, in season one, and in the two-part episode “Kobol’s Last Gleaming,” Boomer, comes literally face- to-face with her Cylon nature as a duplicate. Through the episode, Boomer has been struggling with whether or not she is a Cylon as she performs acts of sabotage on the Battlestar against her conscious wishes. While the audience is aware that she is just one of many copies of Sharon, she, and the members of Galactica, are unaware. 37 She even goes as far as attempting suicide – unsure whether she is actually a Cylon or simply crazy. An opportunity arises for Boomer to prove “who” she really is and her loyalty to the human fleet as she offers to destroy a Cylon

37 At this time in the show only one person from the Galactica crew is aware that she is a Cylon. Helo discovers Sharon on Caprica when he knows the “other” Sharon is back on Galactica.

128 base-star. Upon her arrival inside the base-star, Boomer is welcomed “home” by dozens of copies of herself. They beckon her to join them, whispering her name, and remove her helmet, as if to shed her of her human identity. In resistance to them, Boomer begins to chant the things she believes she knows about herself: “I’m not a Cylon. I’m Sharon Valerii. I was born on

Troy…” Her chanting is similar to a war prisoners repeating his or her name and rank rather than answer questions from interrogation. Even though they let her go, leaving a bomb behind, they tell her they love her and know that “you can’t fight destiny, Sharon. It catches up to you.”

And for Boomer it does. Even after her long personal struggle regarding her identity, and her attempt to (literally) destroy her Cylon self and confirm her individual human identity, she cannot fight her destiny/programming. Upon returning to Galactica, she is congratulated by

Commander Adama (Edward James Olmos) and as a shocking cliff-hanger ending to the episode, Boomer shoots him in the torso.

Boomer’s destruction of the base-star is just one example of how violent the fight against multiplicity, embodied in the Cylons is portrayed in BSG . With the surprise arrival of the another surviving military Battlestar, Pegasus, the theme of individuation is again complicated as

Cain (), captain of Pegasus, reveals her plan to destroy the Cylon Resurrection ship. In particular, the imagery associated with Cylons and the Resurrection ship help clarify the collective as a threat to be destroyed, even if they appear human-like. While the previous Cylons have been perceived the majority of the time either as the mindless Raiders and Centurions or as a few clusters of the humanoid models, the Resurrection Ship represents the epitome of the collective and becomes the singular threat which both Battlestars can agree to destroy. Indeed, when we see the Resurrection Ship up close we see row after row of bodies of Number Six. To

129 further emphasize the point that the Resurrection ship represents a fear of the collective, as it is being blown to bits, naked bodies, all the same, fly lifeless through space.

Apart from their multiple bodies, the Resurrection Ship also holds the key to truly keeping the Cylons nonhuman: it is the mechanism that allows them life again after death.

Rather than dying in their body as a human would, a Cylon would just “download” into a new body aboard the Resurrection Ship, keeping all the memories of the previous life. Having first established the fact that Cylons cannot be individuated, Smith’s use of Herbert C. Kelman in

Less Than Human is appropriate:

To accord a person identity is to perceive him as an individual, independent and

distinguishable from others, capable of making choices, and entitled to live his

own life according to his own goals. To accord a person community is to

perceive him – along with oneself – as part of an interconnected network of

individuals, who care for each other, who recognize each other’s individuality,

and who respect each other’s rights. These two features together constitute the

basis for individual worth. ( sic. 86)

Having equated the Cylons to a collective the ultimate threat of the Cylons is destroyed as the

Battlestar Galactica continues on its way.

While bodies can be reproduced and indistinguishable from original biological humans, 38

not only the body is a plastic medium, the mind is as well. Having a malleable memory means

that the Self must be questioned. The Island for example, features a compound full of clones all of whom have implanted memories; memories that make them believe they had a childhood and

38 While trying not to privilege an essential humanness, this is the best way I can think to differentiate humans who are conceived and born through “natural means.” Of course, the “natural” process of human birth is becoming more and more technologized. Consider hormone therapy or “test tube babies.” It has not yet been determined where “original human” ends and the “technologized human” begin.

130 a life outside the facility. Similar to the Replicants in Blade Runner , and in Cyrus R. K. Patell’s

words, “because memories have been implanted in their brains, they cannot be sure which of the

words and actions they remember having said or done are truly their own” (27). Replicants, like

the clones in The Island , were made in man’s image and indeed are biologically human in almost

every way except for their superhuman strength and mental processing powers. “Instead of

reinforcing the border between humans and replicants,” as Kevin R. McNamara believes Philip

K. Dick’s inspirational novel did, “ Blade Runner projects a world in which technologies of

image and memory production render human experience and memory ultimately

indistinguishable from the experience of, and the memories created for, the replicants” (423). 39

In many cases, in fiction that ability to be reprogrammed calls into question our human anxieties

relating to memory.

With both threats to the individual body and to the ability to maintain individual

memories, androids embody the anxiety of individuality even further in a very metaphysical

way: their existence represents the threat of being robbed of free will and agency. Even without

being manufactured, androids are also a perfect duplicate of an entity without independence or

agency – in many cases they are made with “laws” and programs that cannot be violated. For

example, to use the Borg from Star Trek , Mia Consalvo reminds us that “the term ‘individual

Borg’ is actually a misnomer, as drones are not individuals at all, instead merely functioning

matter, available for upgrade, modification or recycling. Flesh and technology coalesce in a

posthuman figure that is denied individuality” (192). The existence of the Borg is not isolated to

the Borg ships. Indeed, the main story arc between seasons three and four feature the

39 Interestingly and unintentionally, this description fits almost identically what Webb described of the “more traditional popular view of the robot.” Webb describes the robot as “a machine-man that possesses super-human capabilities and functions in a technological sphere somewhere between people and machines” (5).

131 assimilation of Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart). After his rescue and the successful removal of his Borg implants, Picard describes his experience: "They took everything I was; they used me to kill and to destroy and I couldn't stop them, I should have been able to stop them. I tried, I tried so hard. But I wasn't strong enough, I wasn't good enough, I should have been able to stop them.” For Consalvo, this particular is an expression of his “dis- or in-ability to fight back [which] reveals many of the implicit assumptions about individualism in contemporary

Western society” (193-194).

I will concede that the Borg may not be considered manufactured humans. In fact, within the Star Trek universe, the Borg are presented as a parasitic entity, with a shared singular consciousness. They travel around the galaxy assimilating the technology of other alien races in order to perfect what they believe to be a superior blending of biology and technology. Using my definition of cyborg in the introduction, the Borg are more likely to fit in that category; however, for the sake of identifying the anxieties related to technology and technologized bodies, the Borg are appropriate – especially with their ability to rob us of our individuality. Kevin

Decker identifies the Borg in two ways that are appropriate here: (1) “they assault our vaunted sense of individuality [because] they have a single-minded desire not only to conquer all opposition, but to assimilate the best of all worlds into their collective;” and (2) they are unnatural …“by their very nature [the Borg], transgress boundaries of ‘human’ versus ‘machine’


When considering whether or not an entity has individual agency, free will often enters the discussion. As we have seen in earlier discussion about defining artificial entities in a way that assigns “agency” rather than “intelligence” free will appears as a cornerstone in defining agency. Kenneth Himma chooses to tackle this issue by accounting for the standard definitions

132 of agency, consciousness, and free will. He states that “the relevant mental states might be free or they might not be free. Volitions, belief-desire pairs, and intentions might be mechanistically caused and hence determined…. Agency is therefore a more basic notion than the compound concepts of free agency, rational agency, and moral agency – although it may turn out that one must be rational or free to count as an agent” (20). Himma believes in a sort of human- equivalence based on behavior when considering artificial entities and the problem of other minds: “If something walks, talks, and behaves enough like me, I might not be justified in thinking that it has a mind, but I surely have an obligation, if our ordinary reactions regarding other people are correct, to treat them as if they are moral agents” (28). In other words, while the

Borg may behave in their surroundings with individual directives, they are clearly not walking, talking or behaving enough like a human to be considered such. They have been robbed of the most individual label “I” and forced to adhere to a shared consciousness of “we.”40

For some, simply being an agent in the world, does not qualify one for ethical treatment or judgment. For example, Moor points out that “Some might argue that machine ethics obviously exists because humans are machines and humans have ethics. Others could argue that machine ethics obviously doesn’t exist because ethics is simply emotional expression and machines can’t have emotions” (18). If the ethics of the machines are transmitted from humans to their robots, then something like Asimov’s would likely apply. Beginning as early as 1942, explored robot-ethics through several short stories and novels.

These “” were then picked up in popular culture and explored in other fictional pieces, while also often being referred to in robotics development. Although Asimov

40 For further exploration of individual Borg versus the collective, Star Trek: The Next Generation , season five features the episode “I, Borg” in which a single Borg is discovered separated from the Collective.

133 explored variants throughout his work, the three primary laws are as follows from his foundational text I, Robot (1950):

1. A robot may not injure a human being, or through inaction, allow a human

being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such

orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not

conflict with the First or Second Law.

While at first the Three Laws may seem straight forward, Asimov explored the possible contradictions that could arise from this kind of logic, especially when applied to machine intelligence.

Others, like James Gips, argue that simplifying ethics for robots down to something as

“simple” as Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics is “not suitable for our magnificent (free-ranging) robots. These laws are for slaves. We want our robots to behave more like equals, more like ethical people” (243). Whether or not we actually want our robots to “behave more like ethical people” is certainly up for debate, but I do take Gips’ point that when given laws or directives to follow (or programming), the artificial entity has no individual agency.


While the metaphysical concepts of free will and agency can be explored endlessly, I want to return us to the actual creation of androids and how that will affect our understanding of personhood. Consider for example the creations by roboticists like Ishiguro. Ishiguro’s

Geminoid looks human… but do we then take into consideration the construction of the android and say “well, it’s made of an alloy frame and covered in silicon skin, therefore a nonhuman

134 other of some sort?” I foresee two possible debates on the horizon. One is what I call the

“nonhuman dilemma.” When faced with an entity that appears human in every way, the nonhuman dilemma is a question of ethics: might it be more ethically sound to treat that entity as human ? Below I offer a reading of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica series to begin a dialogue about the frameworks of racial construction that set the humanoid robots (Cylons in this case) apart from the humans. When the two beings are indistinguishable, and indeed the Cylons sometimes do not even know they are nonhuman, audiences are faced with a unique challenge to their feelings of moral responsibility. This is what I call the “nonhuman dilemma” and can be better understood by applying a framework of racial construction to the human-like synthetic beings (in this case the Cylons). The nonhuman dilemma has great power to assign moral status to artificial entities. For Smith, “Our intuitive moral psychology seems to conform to the following principle: We grant moral standing to creatures to the extent that we believe that their essence resembles our own ” (223). In the case of the nonhuman dilemma, if we believe a nonhuman’s essence is like our own, we will more likely extend personhood to it/them.

Just as using a gender label can be a natural “mental shortcut,” so too is the label of personhood when it comes to physical form. In the case of a more complete assignment of personhood, if it is true that small shifts in aesthetic features can plunge an entity into the uncanny, then body appearance as a whole can make all the difference. Hanson, in his article about anthropomorphism, reminds us of how important physical differences are: “In Mary

Shelley’s [classic] novel Frankenstein , the synthetic creature suffers the rejection of humans simply because the creature looks terrible…. If only his designer had been more attentive to his appearance….” Hanson goes on to emphasize the tragedy of poor design: “Imagine if Victor


Frankenstein had provided his creature with nice skin, a warmly expressive smile, and big attractive eyes; we may expect that the story would have been much less tragic” (n.p.)

In fact, it is the hope of robotics designers that their humanoid robots will be warmly welcomed by consumers because of their human appearance. Ishiguro, designer of his own doppelganger double, reminds us of the uncanny valley, and he believes the theory extends to behavior as well. Ishiguro’s argument is that “familiarity increases for well-balanced appearance and behavior. We refer to this as the synergy effect. For example, a robot should have robot-like behavior and a human should have humanlike behaviors” (113). Hence, for humans to best interact with another entity, humans prefer very human-like entities in both appearance and behavior.

But in that interaction, roboticists like Shanyang Zhao predict huge changes to our known society: “The rise of a synthetic social world where human individuals and humanoid social robots co-mingle calls for a new conceptualization of society” (414). In that new society with robots, Kerstin Dautenhahn sees the robot companion as one that (i) makes itself 'useful', i.e. is able to carry out a variety of tasks in order to assist humans, e.g. in a domestic home environment, and (ii) behaves socially, i.e. possesses social skills in order to be able to interact with people in a socially acceptable manner” (685). Not only robotics designers, but others share this vision for robotics and AI design; futurists are convinced that both strong AI and synthetic humanoids are not far off. Kurzweil argues that “My prediction is that tomorrow’s machines will become indistinguishable from biological humans, and they will share in the spiritual value we ascribe to consciousness. This is not a disparagement of people; rather it is an elevation of our understanding of (some) future machines” (“How Infinite” 55).


If these roboticists and futurists see a future with androids that will have humanlike behavior and skills that will alter our ideas of society, while simultaneously appearing human, then we reach a new dilemma . With the forces of anthropomorphism at work and feelings of empathy for anthropomorphized entities, we reach the “nonhuman dilemma.” Yes, we may see human in many things, but there is much discussion over what should be deserving of rights generally reserved for humans only. Consider how we use personhood and the current debate over who or what is deserving of personhood rights. A human embryo, for example is genetically human, but does not yet fit the criteria for personhood rights. If awarded the title of

“person,” it would then be illegal to abort an unborn fetus. In fact, this debate has been extended to nonhumans, including other species and potentially even non-terrestrials. From David

Livingston Smith’s book, we know that to be human does not protect us from dehumanization, but we have also seen that to be considered a person (and be given rights of personhood), one may not have to meet the criteria of human. 41 The fact remains that we are on the verge of having very human-like entities among us that may demand the validity of personhood, and

Smith’s definition rings of speciesism, but if we incorporate the racial theories of Albert Memmi and Charles Mills, the portrayals of the Cylons in Battlestar Galactica meet the major criteria for dehumanization. By appealing to racial categorization, the writers of Battlestar Galactica have

successfully conjured the nonhuman dilemma for viewers and give us one potential glimpse into

two potential futures with human-like synthetic beings: one with hypersexualized beguiling

fembots and one with abused companions.

Helfer/Six and Fembots

41 Here I am thinking of philosophers Michael Tooley, Peter Singer, Tom Regan, and several others who argue that personhood rights should be extended to include nonhuman animals that meet certain criteria; including dolphins and great apes. This argument also includes legal scholars who fight for animal rights and a non-speciesist approach to law.


Patricia Melzer addresses the question regarding androids and human relationships, and her argument offers some useful insight into the upcoming discussion about Six. Melzer uses the character Call (Winona Ryder) from Alien: Resurrection (1997) as an example of an android in a gendered world in terms of “gender passing” and the de-humanized treatment she receives after being “outed” as robotic. While passing as human, Call is “coded as a desirable woman,” Melzer explains (123). But once she is outted, “[j]ust as racial and gender passing are threatening to the social order, technological passing, undermines hierarchies and denaturalizes categories by disclosing them as constructed…Once she is known to be an android, she is recategorized as un- human” and thus no longer desirable (124). The argument for the technological being as a threat to the natural and therefore undesirable may be the case for Call and also in the case of Six, but becomes problematized as the audience becomes involved.

With the debut episode of the show (a two hour “preshow” episode), audiences know of only one humanoid model Cylon: a tall, blonde and hypersexualized Six, who is almost always in a red dress. In fact, she is the first humanoid Cylon we see as she enters the neutral-zoned space station and Figure 9: Six (Tricia Helfer) flanked on either side by Cylon Centurions. (Screen shot BSG, 2003.) murders the human holding his post there in case the Cylons ever returned to Caprica (Figure 9). She is portrayed as a sexual predator who tricks an unwitting Gias Baltar into downloading viral codes that ultimately wreak havoc on the defense network of Caprica, allowing the Cylons to do the most possible damage to the

138 defenseless world. This version of Six has no official name other than the fan-given “Caprica

Six” because, as an individual, she primarily existed on Caprica. Before begins,

Caprica Six “comes out” as a Cylon to Baltar. “Now you’re telling me you’re a machine?”

Baltar asks, skeptical. Six defends herself by asserting, “I’m a woman.” Apparently, emphasizing her sexuality above her species. Still unsure of categories, Baltar barrels ahead:

“You’re a machine – a synthetic woman, a robot.” The boundaries of species for Baltar come down to a machine/woman hybrid… who just told him that, with his help, she was able to gain access to the defense network and leave Caprica helpless.

The fact that a hypersexualized robot woman beguiled a man into sex and then ultimate damnation comes as no surprise to the science fiction viewers. Robot women, or gynoids, have appeared in cinema for decades. Of particular interest is the way that these fembots are implicitly connected with the enthralling ability to manipulate men, ultimately robbing men of their free will. Telotte, in Replications , reminds us that even in the first film portrayal of a robot, the threat was not just of the technology itself but of the hypnotic power of Maria in Fritz Lang’s

1927 Metropolis :

This most important of early robot figures is, tellingly, feminized and presented as

a seductive creature, an artificial body whose primary function is to deprive men

of their self-awareness , to lure both men and women to a kind of forgetfulness of

their human responsibilities, and to bring them all under the sway of those

technological powers that have given her birth. (16-17, emphasis added)

Not only is the threat that we will become enslaved by our own creations, but that we can also become them by being stripped of agency.


“Whether they’re blonde, brunette, a redhead or bald, a fembot is a beautiful thing to behold. Quick, calculating glances coupled with the strength to bully several large men are just a couple reasons why we love the fembots of film so much,” declares the Manolith Team at

Manolith.com , a “Men's Lifestyle website” that calls itself the “best place to get your testosterone on!” They set the stage for understanding “sexy women androids” in popular culture. In the United States, we see them everywhere in popular film and increasingly in the technosciences, bringing real, tangible form to the longtime fantasy of the “all services” ideal woman. These “services” include everything from, as Bitch Magazine points out, serving beer through a handy refrigerator-womb (as seen in a Heineken commercial), to helping a man shave in the shower (in a Gillette commercial) (Sarkeesian).

Using “cyborg feminism,” to do a deconstruction of Six and the actress who plays her,

Tricia Helfer, reveals more about the nonhuman dilemma and boundary crossing – in this case, from the safety of the screen to audience appropriation. Six entered popular culture in a time of trans-ition with Americans facing “trans” identities. Here I will show that one “future articulation,” to use Butler’s language from Undoing Gender , of a trans identity is in front of us now. The gendering of the human species is implicated in that discussion, and so, therefore, are the rights and expectations afforded to those gendered post/human bodies. If we accept

Haraway’s assertion in the Cyborg Manifesto that “we are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism; in short, we are cyborgs” (150), then Helfer, and her merged identity with Six, is one such subject. Robertson explains that “how robot-makers gender their humanoids is a tangible manifestation of their tacit understanding of femininity in relation to

140 masculinity, and vice versa” (4).42 But in robotics, the choice of gendering is always in the hands of the maker. Robertson refers to Suzanne Kessler and Wendy McKenna who introduced the concept of “cultural genitals,” meaning that what we show on the outside (not necessarily physical genitals) are what identify us as male or female. For roboticists, the simple decision of placing lipstick on the lips of an android helps facilitate HRI, if in a gendered fashion. With this gendering act already in place with the creation of an artificial entity (unless it is gender neutral), than the way he/she is treated will be mediated by the cultural standards already in place. In the case of Six and Helfer, that role is multifaceted.

On the one hand, Helfer/Six is a Cylon in BSG : her body appears human but is synthetic.

On the other, as a human, the audience who constructed the world-wide-web version of Tricia

Helfer, she is continually defined by her role as Six. I contend that Helfer and her role as Six is a queer body – culturally mediated and ultimately trans-human. Illustrating the language used on blogs and web articles reveals a slippage into the new trans-identity assigned to “Helfer/Six” or

“Six/Helfer” (which I will use interchangeably as is often done in ). Body images presented in the media to please the viewer have always had a cyborgian quality. From the power of photo-manipulation to the body-manipulation undergone by actors and actresses (this is by no means isolated to the female body), the visual has always been askew from reality. To help further illustrate the extent to which humanity is becoming more and more cyborgian, the images and representations of Tricia Helfer are explored within the cyberscape of internet publications and the blogosphere, revealing a new trans-being. Helfer is no longer simply a

42 An interesting side note is that Robertson clearly accepts gender construction as a social act, rather than reminding readers of the extensive work of Judith Butler and other feminist theorists. Perhaps a reminder of past gender theory would strengthen her argument, but may not be necessary for the general audience.

141 woman/model/actress from Canada, 43 but rather can be described as posthuman. However, as a trans/human or post/human woman, Helfer’s body is not simply a transcription of a human body augmented or alienated by technology, but rather incorporates the differences of the gendered body – appropriated by the male driven media standard of the “statuesque, leggy blonde,” Helfer signifies the contested female body, reinscribed by technology.

During the time that the show aired, it received a variety of criticism and praise regarding the debate about whether the show was feminist or not. Elle magazine claimed that

BSG “might be the most feminist show on TV!” and, around that same time, Hugh Hart for

Wired writes, “ BSG has … conjured a gender-blind universe filled with female characters of genuine substance” in his article “Strong Women Steer Battlestar Galactica ’s Final Voyage”

(“Strong Women”). These articles and other blog posts prompted Juliet Lapidos for Slate.com to write “Chauvinist Pigs in Space: Why Battlestar Galactica is not so frakking feminist after all” in which she argues that “beneath these attention-grabbing markers of gender parity, there's plenty to make a feminist squirm” (n.p.). The drama on the blogosphere continued when Brad

East for Slant responded with his article entitled “ Battlestar Galactica : Frakking feminist – So say we all!”44 Already, the characters within the show were being discussed as gendered,

political bodies.

The debates over the feminist nature of BSG surround the primary human and nonhuman

roles of President Laura Roslin, Kara “Starbuck” Thrace (Katee Sackhoff), Sharon

“Athena”/“Boomer” Agathon, and the many other “strong” characters. Although feminist

43 This is not to say that any of the above qualifications (woman, model, or actress) are “simple” identities. Indeed, the identity of an actress and model is already far from any normal or even natural way of life, arguably not far from another species of cyborg, but that is a discussion for another time. 44 “Frakking” here is not a reference to a technique used to extract natural gas from the ground. In the context of BSG, “Frakking” is used throughout in place of another swear word. Whether this was done to make the world of BSG feel different culturally, like the fact that papers are not square but rather have the corners clipped, or if the writers of the show were simply avoiding language censorship, is unclear.

142 messages in media are often simply reduced to the label of “strong” characters, it’s not ever clear what this supposed strength means. Included in the list, but less discussed by the “critical” blogosphere is the “science fiction icon”, dubbed by UGO Entertainment as “sultry Cylon

Number Six” (“Six Appeal”). Whether BSG is promoting feminist claims or not, the struggle

between the human and the post-human, which is often feminized, becomes the main concern as

Helfer/Six’s identity moves beyond the “safe” and contained boundaries of the television show.

Helfer’s human identity becomes appropriated and hybridized into a cyborgian body. No longer

entirely human, Helfer is described by media consumers as Six.

Perhaps a reason Six is one of the least discussed of the group of actively “strong”

women is that she and her many copies are unable to be reduced to the simple binary of

“Feminist or not.” It is easy to argue that Six is an anti-feminist image because she is highly

sexualized and is the seductive femme fatal who seduces Gaius Baltar, enabling her to gain

access to the global defense network of the human home colony of Caprica, ultimately leading to

her assumed destruction. Six appears to be the stereotypical dangerous threat of technology and

female manipulation, much like Maria in Metropolis . But Six becomes more complex as she

exists in the mind of Baltar, the male fantasy of sexy seductive, and yet manipulative, driving

him mad with questions and answers about faith and God. Helfer, herself, argues that even

though her character could often be seen as simply “eye candy”, she clarifies that “Reducing Six

to just a sex object would have been a little bit one note, and that wasn’t what it was about” (Hart

“Strong Women”). What, then, is Six all about? How can she be understood as both a human

actress, who is lusted after by the SF geek audience, and as the many versions of Cylon Six?

Both of which are lusted after as a single entity.


Helfer/Six is not simply a woman augmented by the technology around her, rather the technology, the Cylon, has become her and vice versa. On the one hand, she has been appropriated by the blogosphere of readers, writers and the cyber community as a body inscribed by her sex appeal – a veritable cyber Barbie doll to dress up, choosing the appropriate costume for the persona as laid out by the show, and playing her role as a Cylon. In this way, she is the perfect Cyborg. On the other hand, Helfer can be read within the context of the BSG narrative.

Most readings of BSG accept Helfer as quite separate from her role as a Cylon. In this case, I argue in opposition to most readings of BSG, and often science fiction as a whole. Helfer (her real world human as inscribed by the blogosphere) and Six (the Cylon Helfer portrays on television) exist together and in conflict on the screen. Six has been created by not just a script, but the body of Helfer, the star, was chosen as the ideal woman for the role. In fact, starting with the identity of Helfer, I argue that Helfer’s body has become interchangeable with that of her fictional character, Six.

Although Tricia Helfer was awarded the 1992 “Supermodel of the World” by the Ford modeling agency, she did not hit the celebrity blogosphere until her appearance in Battlestar

Galactica was re-imagined for television in 2003. Since her role as Number Six, Helfer has gained popularity for her “jaw-dropping good looks and innate sexiness” (“Tricia Helfer:

Biography” TV Guide ) but also for the mystery associated with her. Even Wikipedia (the generally accepted source for all “truth” on the internet 45 ) chooses to include this excerpt from an interview by Adam Vary for Entertainment Weekly with Director, Michael Rymer: “It wasn't just

45 This is not to say that what Wikipedia offers is the Truth, but rather the culturally and socially mediated truth considering the fact that Wikipedia is “peer-reviewed” (that is read and reviewed by the members of the online community) and edited by the populace.

144 the way she looked; she just has this about her. Nobody gets how hard that role is, to bring the depth, the vulnerability and the mystery to essentially a robot chick” (n.p.).

Besides being eternally sexy, Helfer/Six is unchanging for her viewers both as she is always “uploaded” into identical bodies, each existing simultaneously, but also unaltered by traditional female changes, like pregnancy or menopause. For example, it is essential to remember that Cylons cannot reproduce and indeed, this problem becomes the focus for the major narrative struggle for the season arch. With the sterility of the Cylons in mind, many of the “patriarchal anxieties,” Graham describes as surrounding the female body, are alleviated, or at least transformed into a new anxiety, the prospect of the child-less woman who steals babies and snaps their necks. The Cylon is unchanging and potentially immortal, and this trait is presumably shared among all “skin job” Cylons. Rather than presenting us with a “permeable body” that falls into the category of “monster”, which Graham explains as “contribut[ing] to the anxiety of the patriarchal mindset” (52), the stable Cylon body presents less of a threat. Or at least less of a threat to the bachelors who don’t feel the threat of procreation as strongly. For a man who is not seeking a mate for procreation, but rather a sexual partner (sometimes only part- time), a sterile Cylon is ideal.

But Six is a living, human being, therefore subject to the potential threat of procreation during sexual fantasies, contributing to anxiety, right? But she is also an actress, understood to be human off screen and therefore should be decoded as two separate entities: Six on one side, and Helfer on the other, correct? When exploring the vast volume of blog-obsessed, image-mongering publications on the internet, it becomes clear that Helfer no longer fits the category of “human woman.” Even in the process of casting the role of Six, Helfer was chosen for her “sexiness”, not her talent. In Adam Vary’s interview with the creators of the show, David


Eick (producer) and Michael Rymer (director) explain the process of casting of Helfer as the following:

EICK: I would say the biggest casting drama was Number Six. Tricia Helfer had

this thing that you couldn't put your finger on, but she hadn't

done anything. She had played a dead body in an episode of CSI.

RYMER: Tricia has this effect on men. You just noticed this giddiness that would

infect the men. It wasn't just the way she looked; she just has this vibe

about her. … So I said, ''Look, I can't make another girl sexy, but I can

help her act.'' (10)

Since the show became popular, even simple news articles remember the mysterious “robot chick” and slip from Helfer to Six interchangeably. JustJared.com shares their interview for

Buzznet, reporting on a release of BSG , interviews “Sexy Cylon , Tricia” who appears on the

cover of Maxim , a men’s lifestyle magazine, with Grace Parke/Sharon; apparently, in her words,

“there will certainly be a lot more explicit action on the DVD. And I refuse to have a body

double, so you will see a little bit of skin from the Six character” ( sic, “Grace Park & Tricia

Helfer Cover”). It appears important for the audience members to advertise the fact that

Helfer/Six will be getting more naked. In another example, TV Squad , for AOL online media,

announces that Helfer will be appearing in the show Lie to Me , the opening line reads “Watch out, Dr. Lightman, Number Six is coming. That’s right, Battlestar Galactica’s star Tricia Helfer

is coming to Fox’s Lie to Me ” (Harnick). Note here that even Dr. Lightman, played by Tim

Roth, is “collapsed” into his screen identity for popular reference. The difference here is that

Roth is connected with a well-respected and talented deception expert while Helfer is “coming”

(with ominous tones).


Like most celebrity women, her procreative preferences are not among the lists of her

“bountiful [human] traits.” Among the most popular “hits” on Google, you are more likely to find Tricia Helfer linked with keywords like “height,” “weight,” “sexy pics,” and “hot.” There is little to no mention of Helfer as a woman beyond her modeling and acting career. In fact, the majority of websites discussing Helfer automatically describe her as “the alluring cyborg in

Battlestar Galactica ” (“Tricia Helfer: Biography” Who2 .com). Even the title pages for Maxim

and Playboy inevitably connect Helfer directly with Six with phrases like “The Battlestar Babe is

Frakking hot!” One particular blog entitled “Hot Bitch of the Day” goes so far as to simply

reduce her photo shoot in Playboy to this: “it didn’t answer the burning question of whether

Cylon wax or leave a landing strip. Oh well, at least we see frakking Cylon boobs! [sic]”

(Jimmy). As you can see, Helfer’s image is no longer one of an autonomous and singular

woman; she has become the new cyborg. No longer is being cyborg simply limited to the

technology that we use and augment our lives with, but now the boundary of transhumanism

extends to identities built on the internet, between the “safe” websites of electronic pleasure –

there is no physical threat beyond that requiring a hard drive wipe or anti-virus protection.

Sharon Sharp discusses what she calls “collapse” of the identity of the fictional cyborg

into the human woman through her reading of the 1976 show , which is very

similar to my understanding on Helfer/Six . Examining the blending of identities between

Lindsay Wagner as a human woman with a “Star” identity and the Bionic Woman, Jaime

Sommers on the show, Sharp explains that there is a distinct lack of feminist discussion of the

show itself and yet, “the collapse of Wagner’s star image with the bionic woman performed in

these accounts opened up the possibilities for an implicit feminist reading of The Bionic Woman ”

(512). In the case of BSG , there is no lack of feminist discourse throughout the show, nor in the

147 criticism of the show; however where the lack appears is in the public appearances of Helfer as

Six. While Wagner is often featured in articles “[discussing] her star image in terms that closely parallel feminist concerns of women’s rights and equality, particularly in the work place” (Sharp

512), Helfer is often framed as discussing the troubles with always being equated with her Cylon identity. For example, in an article in Wired , Helfer is described in terms that first highlight her

Cylon-self and then making her safe within gender-normative ways: “Her character's intensity -- and Six's propensity for dying horribly brutal deaths, only to be reincarnated, Cylon-style -- might intimidate fanboys who spot Helfer at sci-fi conventions. But she's really just an easy- going Canadian farm girl made good, far from the angry and erotic part she brings to life on the show” (Hart “Death and Fanboys”). It is important to note that this article was written by the same man who wrote about the “Strong women steering Galactica’s final voyage,” but he contradicts that view in this earlier article. In the 2008 interview, parts of the discussion with

Helfer that Hart chooses to feature in the article includes things not featuring her “strength” as a woman, but rather the fact that she enjoyed playing the Cylon Six who was treated horribly: “I really liked Gina. She'd been gang-raped, beaten, tortured and starved, so she was a lot darker and a complete departure from what I had been playing. In that respect, it was fun to get into what was almost a whole new character. That's much more interesting than just playing the pretty face, which would get really boring” (Hart “Death and Fanboys").

Very opposite from Wagner’s pro-feminist behavior, Helfer is featured as the woman who enjoys abuse and torture, the ultimate male fantasy, as explained by the media surrounding

Helfer/Six. To clarify this idea of the fantasy in relation to cyborg women, Annalee Newitz, for

PopSci.com explains that “to some, fembots represent the perfect male fantasy: They’re sexy and submissive and have more techie features than the Xbox 360. But they also have a dangerous

148 side that can reduce walls to rubble and make an army retreat. Perhaps the fembot’s allure resides in her ability to walk the line between total obedience and unfathomable power” (n.p.).

The bloggers keep no secrets when it comes to declaring Six/Helfer as part of their sexual fantasies. For example, about her photo shoot for Playboy magazine, a feature in UGO

Entertainment about Helfer explains that, “Fans were treated to what could be considered a fantasy come true when the world got their first glimpse of Tricia Helfer's Playboy pictures in the February 2007 edition of the famed men's magazine” (“Six Appeal: Tricia Helfer”).

Blogging viewers were not the only ones fascinated with fembots, and the self- proclaimed feminists of Bitch Magazine are well aware of this trend. Anita Sarkeesian, for Bitch

Media online, says “The fembot fantasy is an expression of total control, especially over women”

(n.p.). She argues that advertising has taken the parts of science fiction that she loves the most

(“imagining alternative societies and futuristic technology”) and has turned it into a “tool of subordination and oppression” (n.p.). There has been a long standing tradition of feminists viewing anything man made as another “tool of subordination and oppression”, but in Helfer/Six we see something more complicated. True, she is not entirely human and she is clearly lusted after by audiences, as reported by the celeb-news and blogs. However, is it wise to view this new incarnation as oppressed, needing liberation? It is important to notice that in many of these versions, Helfer/Six is described as “powerful” and “dangerous.” In CurrentTV, Helfer describes her experience with Playboy. In an interview, she is introduced to the readers as “Number Six,

Clothes zero,” but she explains the fun she had while on set: “I got to choose the photographer and I always wanted to work with [the photographer] and I had photo approval and my husband is 100 per cent behind it” ( sic. “Tricia Helfer Playboy Pictorial”). Even though she appears to

149 qualify her statement with the fact that her husband was accepting of her choice, she says, “I didn’t do it for other people, I did it for myself” (n.p.).

Tricia Helfer/Cylon Six has been constructed outside of the bounds of the television show by the people that consume her, consume her image. In this consumption and re-writing of

Helfer/Six a new being is formed – something both woman and synthetic, created for pleasure (in that Helfer’s image as Six has been circulated for the “boner sequence” of many men), yet expressive of alternative desires (appearing to own some of Six’s more destructive wants). In

Six/Helfer we see the combination of woman and machine, two very erotic images. Claudia

Springer explains that “artistic renderings of technology since the early twentieth century have often expressed techno-erotic impulses” (3). Springer goes on to say that “mechanical objects have been imbued with male or female sexual characteristics for centuries; consequently, representations of machines long have been used to express ideas about sexual identity and gender roles” (9). In exploring Helfer/Six and how she appears in cyberspace and in BSG , I have shown how her body occupies the boundaries of cyberspace: machine and human, Cylon and

Helfer, erotic-mechanical and unnatural, defiant of death and yet capable of destruction, and even resurrection, the ultimate post/human body. In the construction of Helfer/Six are expectations of gendered appearance and behavior which are important to be aware of as we approach a future with humanoid robots. Robertson, writing about the decisions that robotics designers already make when designing robots, explains that “gender for them constitutes common-sense knowledge, or a cognitive style through which they experience the social world as a factual object” (4). But in these creations, we see a multiplication, a duplication of the existing standards, at the hands of roboticists: “The practice of attributing gender to robots not only is a manifestation of roboticists’ [own] tacit, common-sense knowledge, or habitus , but also

150 an application of this knowledge to create and sustain, or to leave self-evident, the facticity of their social world” (Robertson 4).

From exploring the metaphysical, purely visual existence of Tricia Helfer on the internet and blogs, it is clear that yes, cyborgs exist and indeed are among us. Helfer appears online as no longer entirely human; her identity is inexorably linked with being a Cylon. She is the “sexy cyborg” that represents sexual desire for technology that is unharnessed and mysterious while still safe from procreative repercussions and relationship details. Why worry about children and the real consequences of wrinkles and aging when your lover is a robot a là Cherry 2000 . Step

aside Fritz Lang’s Metropolis Maria and her doppelgänger; for better or for worse, the real

cyborgs are among us and redefining what the gendered world of androids and human bodies

will look like.

Race and Robot Doppelgängers

The fact that the Cylon is not human is an obvious point, in fact emphasized for the

audience at of every episode with the words “Cylons were created by man…they

evolved… they rebelled…there are many copies…” but is a point that comes into question by the

characters of the show. In fact, until “outed,” the Cylon is for all intents and purposes human

and this makes it all the more complicated to navigate our feelings for them. By the end of

season 2.5, audiences are aware that the “bad guy” Cylons, the destroyers of their home world

Caprica, are hiding in their ranks in human form so the drama is high. Even though only a few

have been revealed (either by assassination attempts or by their multiplicity), most people in the

remaining fleet (about 50,000 human survivors) assign the Cylons as “bad” even without being

fully understood, very much as Memmi would describe racial stereotypes: “Racism seeks to

render definitive the stereotype that it attaches to the other. Not only does the other belong to a

151 group of which all members are rotten, but they will be that way forever. Thus, all is in order for eternity. The bad guys are the way they are definitively, and the good guys as well” (114).

Within the civilian fleet, led by Commander Adama and President Laura Roslin (Mary

McDonnell), humans have dealt with their interactions with the Cylons in their own way: keep them prisoner until we figure something out, but allow them to keep their person status (giving them the traditional comforts afforded a human prisoner).

Aside from the general treatment of “outed” Cylons in Galactica’s fleet, with of the lost Battlestar, Pegasus, the crew of Galactica is forced to make some uncomfortable decisions about how to treat the Cylons. After a joyous reunion of the two crews, it quickly becomes clear that the Pegasus, under the command of Admiral Cain, follows very different protocol when it comes to Cylon treatment. Over the course of the episode “Pegasus,” the audience is confronted with brutal and disturbing treatment of Cylon Six, challenging viewers to consider their own view of the nonhuman dilemma. In fact, by returning to Smith’s definitions of dehumanization/depersonization and Memmi and Mills’ description of racism, the unfolding of these two episodes illustrates clear lines between acceptable and morally abhorrent behavior toward a nonhuman Other. Because of the emotional ties built from the nonhuman dilemma through the first season, the audience is confronted with extremely “depersonizing” (to take a non-species specific spin on “dehumanization”) treatment that ends up being rejected by the crew of Galactica. In particular, Cian and her officers’ treatment of Cylon Six far exceed normal treatment of human prisoners, even in a time of war. 46

46 For the sake of brevity here I speak of the Pegasus and her crew as is presented in the Battlestar Galactica television series and the series alone. I will not include the back story of Pegasus as presented in the special television miniseries Razor (2007).


Before of Pegasus a few important human-Cylon relations are formed, giving the “Skin Job” Cylons a very racially-charged identity, one which needs to be understood before the arrival of the Pegasus can have its strongest impact. 47 At first (especially in the first season)

Adama readily accepts Cylons as evil. He sends his pilots to kill the machine-like Cylon ships

and, upon the discovery of a Skin Job named Leoben (Callum Keith Rennie) in the fleet, he has

the Cylon interrogated roughly exclaiming, “First of all, it’s not a him , it’s an it , and second of all

it can’t be trusted.” Later he voices his reluctance for the Cylons that look human, especially

knowing that some of his crew have fallen in love with Cylons and maintained those feelings

even after they have been revealed as nonhuman.

President Laura Roslin also struggles with establishing boundaries in the first season, but

later helps to humanize the Cylons. One example of Roslin’s first distinction between treatment

of Cylons versus how they could be treated ethically as humans, is seen in the episode “Flesh and

Bone” in Season 1 as main character Kara “Starbuck” Thrace tortures Leoben for information

about a warhead supposedly hidden in the fleet. Interrupting the rough interrogation, Roslin asks

firmly “What the hell is going on here?” to which Kara responds, “It’s a machine, sir. There is

no limit to the tactics I can use.” Disappointed that Kara has no answers to the location of the

warhead Roslin says “You don’t know? You’ve spent the last eight hours torturing this

man…this machine…whatever it is…and you don’t have a single piece of information for us?”

Even though she put a stop to the torture Roslin ends up throwing Leoben out the into

space, explaining to Kara, “He puts insidious ideas in our minds, more lethal than any warhead.

47 Although the derogatory phrase “Skin Job” isn’t used until later in the series, other derogatory words are used to describe the Cylons and humans who have relations with Cylons. Even the singular use of Skin Job is important for its reference to Blade Runner . For authors like Marleen Barr, the use of derogatory language is Blade Runner is an unavoidable connection to racism. The humans of Battlestar choose their own language to reference the “old school” look of the Cylons: “Toaster” is the most commonly used, but “Cylon” is often connected with “Fracking”, the BSG -world equivalent of “fucking.” The discussion of language use has its own time and place, but I want to spend more time on other elements.


He creates fear. But you’re right, he’s a machine and you don’t keep a deadly machine around when it kills your people and threatens your future. You get rid of it.” Her uncertainty of what to call and how to react to the Cylons has changed by the second season when the newly arrived copy of Sharon “Athena” has developed a romantic relationship with Helo. Roslin explains that the pregnant Cylon Sharon should be treated gently even when imprisoned: “She thinks she’s in love. Maybe it’s software, but the important thing is that she thinks she’s in love with

Agathon… and the baby” (“Home: Part 1”). By repeating the fact that Sharon thinks easily invokes in the audience the notion that “to think is to be”, affirming the humanness that the crew wrestles with. But this tenuous balance is about to be disrupted with the arrival of a previously thought lost Battleship.

Before seeing the Cylon prisoner, the audience suspects that the Pegasus has a different mentality regarding the treatment of the enemy. For example, the first sign that things are run differently on the Pegasus is noticed by Kara as she sees a “scorecard” of Cylon kills painted on the side of the Viper ships. The Captain of the Viper pilots claims that keeping count

“encourages morale,” but Kara and others are skeptical. Rather than seeing something that encourages morale, Kara thinks it’s an act of bragging that takes the conflict to another level beyond self-defense. There are other suggestions that Cain’s ship is run with a different, much more military approach, one that absorbs civilians rather than protects them.

Treatment of humans in the fleet aside, the introduction of Cylon Six as a prisoner on the

Pegasus quickly draws lines for audiences and the crew of Galactica. We first see this new version of Six, or Gina Inviere as she is known among the Pegasus crew, as a prisoner when

Baltar enters the cell to examine the Cylon prisoner. However, to emphasize the separation between Six as we have known her (the hypersexualized fembot) versus Six as prisoner, Baltar

154 does not enter the cell alone; he is accompanied by his imagined version of Six (or Head Six), a female Cylon with which he had sexual relations on Caprica. 48 Before we see Six directly, Baltar and Head Six walk into the cell block and from the perspective of inside the cell, behind glass, we see the reflection of a person lying on her side, but we also see Head Six as a tall, attractive blonde in her signature red dress. Emphasizing their reactions, the camera tracks Baltar and

Head Six as they gape, horrified at the form of a broken person lying, nearly naked, on the floor.

“Oh my God,” Head Six gasps and shudders, “Gias, it’s me.” With that we are shown Six on the floor of the cell: dark hair a mess, chained with a collar around her neck to the floor in a barren cell, she is covered in cuts and bruises, wearing nothing but a filthy sack-like shirt, leaving her thighs bare. Compared to how viewers are used to seeing Six, we are invited to gasp and gag along with Baltar and Head Six as they enter her cell. Here the audience feels with Baltar and

Head Six how Six has been demoted to a nonhuman category. As Smith describes this kind of treatment:

Demoting a population to subhuman status excludes them from the universe of

moral obligation. Whatever responsibilities we have toward nonhuman animals,

they are not the same as those we have toward members of our own species. So,

if human-looking creatures are not really people, then we don’t have to treat them

as people. They can be used instrumentally, with complete disregard for their

human worth – they can be killed, tortured, raped, experimented upon, and even

eaten. (159)

48 For viewers of the show, this version of Six is fraught with controversy. For some viewers she is called “Chip Six,” referring to the theory that she is actually a projection of an existing chip in Baltars brain – one that transmits to the Cylon fleet and tampers with Baltars head. Other viewers call her “Head Six” and maintain that she is purely a figment of his imagination without any outside influence from the Cylon fleet. Regardless of whether or not she is a projection of Cylon technology, Baltar loves and lusts after this imagined Six and even follows her advice. For this paper I simply use “Head Six” for clarity and the simple fact that regardless of what she is, she is in his head.


As Head Six and Baltar begin to examine the seemingly comatose Six, Head Six echoes words similar to Smiths, “She must have been abused…tortured.” When Baltar examines Six rather than seeming sympathetic, Head Six gets upset, “Can’t you stop being a scientist for one moment and look at the abused woman lying there in front of you?” Later, as Baltar describes the state of

Six to Cain he explains that her comatose state is due to psychological damage: “It’s quiet clearly traumatized, which would suggest that its current condition is psychological in nature… [This] shows that the Cylon consciousness is just as susceptible to the same as the human psyche. It can be manipulated in the same fashion.” Even though Baltar calls Six an “it” to placate Cain, his sympathies are clearly with Six and all her models.

If this portrayal of Six weren’t enough to invoke the nonhuman dilemma, the “Cylon

Interrogator” and the behavior of the Pegasus crewmembers solidify the difference between morally abhorrent and morally acceptable behavior. With and imprisonment of Six on the Pegasus, Cain and her officers adopt a certain code of behavior that sets Cylons apart as the threatening Other to be abused, neglected, and depersonized. Apparently this works well for

Cain and confirms Memmi’s argument that “The derogatory stance, the act of denigrating another, permits people to close ranks with each other; the identification of an external threat, whether real or imagined, restores fraternity” (63).

Apart from the neglect of imprisonment suffered by Six on the Pegasus, viewers also learn that the Cylon “Interrogator” from Pegasus allows and even encourages the sexual abuse of their Cylon prisoners. Having already developed an emotional connection with the Cylon

Sharon on Caprica and on Kobol just a few episodes earlier, the audience is likely susceptible to feelings of sympathy for Sharon/Athena. While socializing with the Galactica hanger deck crew members of the Pegasus begin to speak freely about how Cylons are treated on their ship. At

156 first their conversation seems a bit of misogynistic bragging as the Pegasus crewmen joke about the fact that Galactica has a Cylon prisoner as well: “I heard you guys got yourselves a Cylon.

Heard she’s a hot one too!” and “Gotta’ get me some of that Cylon stuff.” As Chief Tyrol and

Helo 49 overhear the Pegasus crewmen, their anger rises and the audience is encouraged to side

with Tyrol and Helo in defending Sharon’s honor as the Pegasus crewmen’s taunts become more

vicious: “Sensitive? You got a soft spot for the little robot girl, do you?”

Even the music intensifies, building the sympathy for audience members, as the camera

cuts to Sharon’s cell and to the Cylon Interrogator, Thorne, entering her cell. With another cut,

we return to Tyrol and Helo with the Pegasus crewmen as they taunt:

“Remember when Thorne put that ‘Please Disturb’ sign on the brig?”

“I got in line twice.”

“I remember she was just lying there with that blank look on her face, like ‘uhhhhh.’”

Even Cally (Nicki Clyne), a Galactica crewwoman who shot and killed Sharon/Boomer after

Boomer had attempted to assassinate Adama, asks the Pegasus crewmen to stop as they continue

their crass remarks and gestures mimicking sexual intercourse. The camera gives a reverse angle

shot between Sharon/Athena who is being pushed around by Thorn and then cuts back to the

Pegasus crewmen who are saying they want a chance at Galactica’s Cylon too, but Thorne said

he would have to “break her in first.” Horrified at the realization of what is about to happen to

Sharon, it is easy to see how the audience feels Helo and Tyrol’s violent intervention is justified.

The Pegasus crewmembers’ behavior further solidifies their abhorrent behavior toward

the Cylons over the course of the two episodes following “Pegasus”: In the words of a Pegasus

49 Remember here that Helo has been romantically involved with Sharon/Athena on Caprica and we know she is pregnant with his baby. It is also important to note here that Tyrol and Sharon/“Boomer” were together for the first season of the show and he clearly has feelings for Sharon regardless of which model. Both men have strong feelings for Sharon and the audiences’ sympathies for her, either Athena or Boomer, are strong.

157 crew member, “You can’t rape a machine!” These words sound much like the way Smith describes the rationalization of extermination or dehumanization through metaphor. Smith uses the example of the Nazis seeing their victims as subhuman animals and thus “excluded from the system of moral rights and obligations that bind humankind together. [For example,] It’s wrong to kill a person, but permissible to exterminate a rat” (15). Disgusted by such language, members of Galactica do not condone the behavior and indeed it leads to a near-war between

Galactica and Pegasus. Later, Adama and Dr. Cottle (ships doctor aboard Galactica, played by

Donnelly Rhodes) explain to Sharon (and by extension the audience) their opinions about the way Sharon was treated. “What happened to you...” Adama begins… “Was unforgiveable,” Dr.

Cottle finishes. Adama continues, “…happened aboard my ship, on my watch, and it’s my responsibility. So I just want you to know that I personally apologize” (“Resurrection Ship:

Parts 1 &2).

I am not alone in drawing parallels between treatment of artificial entities and racial theory. Machine intelligence at its original conception was understood as abnormal, marginalized and misunderstood. Not only is the very possibility of machine intelligence still up for debate but Alan Turing, oft considered the “father of artificial intelligence,” predicted the queerness of AI. David Leavitt, The Man Who Knew Too Much: Alan Turing and the Invention of the Computer , explains in a Radiolab podcast feature about Turing’s life, that Turing believed that “the machines [thinking machines] were more likely to be victims. Victims of prejudice.

Victims of injustice” (“Turing Problem”). Turing, according to Leavitt, believed that thinking machines, regardless of how they were embodied, were doomed to be victims of people who believed machines could never think like humans because they could never feel the way humans do. Although Turing argued for the theory of other minds and functionalism, meaning that

158 essentially if it seems intelligent then one should assume it is intelligent, he had many naysayers.

Jeffry Jefferson, for example in Leavitt’s words was saying to machines, “you don’t think because I say you don’t think.” And England was saying to Turing, “you can’t be what you are

[gay] and we’re going to change you,” so Turing was sympathetic to the prejudice he believed thinking machines would receive in the future (he assumed that thinking machines would be made) (“Turing Problem”). For Turing, the marginalization that he went through on a very physical level (namely a chemical castration as a “cure” for homosexuality) would also be felt by future thinking machines.

By facilitating the audiences’ identification with the nonhuman as person-like, we arrive at the nonhuman dilemma and are conflicted with feelings of moral responsibility. As Brooks muses, “One of the great attractions of robots is that they can be our slaves… But what if our robots we build have feelings? What if we start empathizing with them?” (155). Brooks continues with a warning: “Although we will continue to make unemotional, unconscious and un-empathetic robots … those that we make more intelligent, that we give emotions to, and that we empathize with, will be a problem. We had better be careful just what we build, because we might end up liking them and then we will be morally responsible for their well-being. Sort of like children” (151). BSG echoes this warning as Caprica Six warns Baltar of the oncoming attack in the first episode: “Humanities children are returning home.” Through all of this confusion about what it means to be human and who/what counts as human, we should recall

Adama’s words after the destruction of the Resurrection ship: “It is not enough to survive. One has to be worthy of surviving.” How then will we prove ourselves worthy of surviving?



Christopher H. Ramey introduces his interest into the actual creation of AI and androids with his 2005 article for Cognitive Science Society : “We must not forget our selves while making others in our own image. That is, to deny a role for androids in our lives, through deeming them

(in principle) humanlike is to threaten the very manner in which we understand what it is to be a human being for the sake of others” (n.p.). Though his argument is trenched in the philosophical concept of other minds, his main argument, boils down to the idea, in my words, that “if it looks human, seems human and in every way that matters appears to be human, then we should treat it as human to maintain our own moral engagement with the rest of the world.” Another philosopher who would be in this camp with Ramey is Anatol Rapoport who writes about the battle between those who argue for a “special essence” of humanity. Simons describes this perspective: “…man has usually been seen as something more than a mechanistic artifact, as a creature embracing spiritual or metaphysical elements in addition to the indubitably physical frame” (1). For Rapoport, the “vitalists” are forever retreating from this idea by asking what more can the android do, but for him, “All these questions could be dispensed with by a trivial answer: If you make an automaton that would be like a human being in all respects, it would be a human being” (45; emphasis added). Indeed, Rapoport dismisses the idea of a “special essence” in a way that I believe should be used more often in discussing a posthuman future. He is recalling the Russian philosopher Mikhail Vasilevich Lomonossof, “who once and for all demolished the Aristotelian concept of ‘essence’ by declaring that substances are what they are because of their properties, not because of some ‘essence’ that alone defines their identity”

(Rapoport 45). Some futurists take a point like Ramey and Rapoport’s very seriously and argue

160 that we are near approaching a time when we will have to consider the place of robots in society, especially because by their presence, they will transform our families.

This transformation is taking place in new ways, especially when posthuman families are becoming the new threat to normative family relations. The posthuman is appearing in many ways from the obvious robots and Roombas (the automated vacuum cleaner) to the more mundane cell phones and social networking tools online. For theorists like Haraway, the posthuman condition was closer than anyone suspected with the publication of The Cyborg

Manifesto in 1991. Twenty years later and the posthuman is becoming part of the everyday family. Robots and androids often fit into the narrative of the posthuman family as a non-human presence and their interaction triggers many types of “makeovers,” bad and good.

Robots have already been thought of as part of the family—at least in so far as futurists and others are already discussing robots as if they already are part of the family. Discussing

future possibilities with androids, Moravec easily refers to our future androids as our children.

In his book Robot , Moravec describes these intelligent robots as “our progeny … Like biological children of previous generations, they will embody humanity’s best chance for a long-term future. It behooves us to give them every advantage and to bow out when we can no longer contribute” (13). In a Time magazine report on Rodney Brooks’ 1996 robotics project, “Cog,” reporter Julian Dibbell describes the way “Brooks gushes like a first-time parent about the things his baby [Cog] can do” (56). She even concludes that Brooks is “as ambitious for his progeny as any father is for his child” (56).

As robotic companions are moving into the mainstream market, some writers and roboticists voice the concern for the impacts such integration will have. While not thinking about robots as our children, Van Oost and Reed express their apprehension about personal

161 relationships with robots: “Not only are there hopes that social robots might befriend and care for people but also fears are given voice… The first fear is on deception. The main argument is that

robot companions deceive vulnerable people, such as mentally impaired elders and toddlers, by

faking human behaviors, emotions and relations” (van Oost and Reed 13). The idea is that when

“vulnerable people” put trust in artificial entities their emotions cannot be reciprocated and thus

are devalued. Their second concern is that of substitution , in other words the fear that humans will spend more time with robots rather than humans. Van Oost and Reed explain that this fear comes from the “[belief] that robots will replace humans in care situations, and thus deprive care-receivers from human contact, empathy, caring and the like” (18). Isolation from social behavior through technological replacement is also discussed in Michael Cobb’s Single:

Arguments for the Uncoupled . Looking at the cover of Cobb’s book we see the image of the man in bed with what appears to be a crash-test-dummy or a manikin, but the cover is missing something. Cobb’s book is not about couples with non-humans, but the anxiety of anti-social behavior illustrated in his book extends to human/non-human relationships.

Uncanny Companionship

While Van Oost and Reed come from a perspective of robotics development and Cobb is writing specifically about single humans, I extend their discussion to consider an episode of the reality show My Strange Addiction (2011) from TLC. If, as Cobb’s introduction suggests, one

can read the “figurative language of singleness as it traverses the literary objects, film,

television… [etc.]” (33) as a way to understand the effects of the couple, a reality-television (or

realiTV) show like My Strange Addiction , even its title alone, suggests that the people depicted

are abnormal and in need of “saving” from their addiction – and in this case an addiction to a

strange relationship. In this particular episode (“Married to a Doll/Picking My Scabs”), the

162 audience is presented with two “addicts”: one struggles with her compulsion to pick scabs and the other is a man in his mid-30s, Davecat, who is “married” to his RealDoll. Both cases present the audience with words of “professional” wisdom in the form of psychologists, counselors and doctors, who all proclaim these individuals to be social deviants and, more importantly, at risk for anti-social behavior. To add to the horrifyingly “abnormal” behavior of the people portrayed in the show, the opening begins with the disclaimer: “This program depicts addictive behaviors that are dangerous and risky in nature. Viewers should not attempt.” Thus, Davecat is framed by the “expert” of the show as engaging in a “risky” and “dangerous” relationship that should not be attempted. Davecat, according to the resident psychologist, Dr. Margaret Jordan, is defined as

“suffering from a schizoid personality disorder.”

Davecat’s plastic partner is named Sidore Kuroneko and is a synthetic designed by her creators as a sex object but in this case dressed up and posed to act as a real woman/life partner. Scrutinized with the camera in his home (and indeed we are invited to spy on their abnormal relationship), Davecat’s interactions with Sidore take on an ominous nature as the soundtrack

Figure 10: Davecat and Sidore cuddle on the couch. (Screen shot My adds overtones of dramatic piano Strange Addiction , 2011 .) music, the musical theme used in each episode to underscore the strangeness of the person’s behavior. He explains to the camera how his relationship with Sidore works: “The whole interaction on a day-to-day basis, along the lines of getting her dressed, you know, brushing her hair, things of that nature, it brings us closer together as a couple” (Figure 10).


While it is clear that Davecat is very aware of how his interactions model a human/human relationship, it is also spelled out for the viewers as the scenes of Davecat’s descriptions often cut away to a psychiatrist who explains in medical (yet pedestrian terms) how and why this relationship is so abnormal. Dr. John Zajecka (filmed in his office, complete with the “Dr.” title as a subtitle) speaks directly to the camera as he describes that a “fantasy relationship” or daydream is a common, “often soothing” behavior, but one that can become problematic when it becomes the “predominant way that they live their life.” Indeed, Davecat is cast for the viewers as lonely. Dr. Zajecka explains: “When people are lonely they often look toward alternative means to find relationships – that could be through a pet, sometimes just going online, but there are really no substitutes for true human companionship.” Of course the doctor is referring to normative human/human relationships (likely hetero), but why does Davecat’s relationship with Sidore need to be cast as a substitute? Why then is the automatic assumption that Davecat is alone ? Cobb muses on Laura Kipnis’s words regarding love in Against Love:

“Saying ‘no’ to love isn’t just heresy it’s tragedy: for our sort the failure to achieve what is most essentially human. And not just tragic, but abnormal” (18).

In Davecat’s case, however, he isn’t really saying ‘no’ to love, just saying ‘no’ to the tradition of human/human love. Indeed, contrary to Dr. Zajecka’s diagnosis (aided by the production teams editing and post-production) the audience could see a happy couple. While it is true that this relationship does not meet one of the major criteria for “coupledom” (i.e., there is

only one person involved), one can read Davecat and Sidore as behaving as a “normal” domestic

couple would: he sleeps with her, goes shopping for her, tells her about his day, he even shows

her pictures of his trips, because obviously (as Davecat readily points out) she can’t go with him.

Reminding us of Eve Sedgwick’s discussion regarding “pairings” and the essential “two sides of

164 the conversation,” reading Cobb’s introduction makes me wonder if a relationship with a silent non-human other is, in effect, the epitome of a conversation of one. And can that conversation of one be a sustaining and fulfilling relationship? One thing that is (conveniently) avoided by such a relationship is that there is no “fatality of the couple” for only one partner is necessary for the relationship to endure. Even Davecat tells viewers “synthetic love lasts forever.” But if it is true, as Patell muses, that “Low tech is the mark of the true individualist” (27), then our growing dependence on technology is robbing us of that individuality, regardless of how much we are promised that such things are made “just for us.”

Davecat and Sidore’s relationship is easily relegated to the sphere of the private. They cannot reproduce. Their lives together could easily fall out of the eye of the public without having been on My Strange Addiction . However, there are other human to non-human

relationships that threaten the very intimate sphere of the home. Human-Robot Interaction is not

just on a one-on-one level. There are predictions that robots will be in homes to assist with the

elderly and the raising of children. And with that prediction, we must remember that “family,”

in the words of Roddey Reid, “has never been a private matter” (193). For Reid, “the normative

family household and the bodies of its members have never constituted either a sanctuary of

values and relations at a safe remove from the outside of a depth of feeling and sentiment in

opposition to the public sphere and the bodies of social others” (193). In this context, the

synthetic other is part of the non-stop public performance, the social norms and expectations

projected onto it, and its human companions.

Davecat’s relationship with his doll, or RealDoll, can be explored through the lens of queer theory. While queer in that they invoke the uncanny and allow for transbiologial companionship, Davecat and Sidore are nonqueer by their very gendered construction. One

165 could argue, that like Haraway’s image of the cyborg, the RealDoll provides an example of a melding between natural and artificial and thus offers a post-gendered world that Chilcoat describes as a world “in which the constraints of gender, like those of sex, are loosened, and other identities are freed to emerge” (158). However appealing a post-gendered world may seem

(and one which futurists like Kurzweil probably have in mind), this first step into uncanny relationships are already fraught with gendered boundaries by the very construction of such entities.

These gendered boundaries are not accidental. In fact, according to Chilcoat this return to biological based divides are to be expected: “though science and information technologies have advanced the notions that humans can move beyond their biology in deciding what to make of themselves, it is equally true that these same technologies inspire an anxious need to retain biology (or at least an anachronistic notion of biology) as the rationale for heteronormative relations” (166). In other words, much like the threat of the posthuman future that suggests a loss of humanism, the gendered robot simply reinforces the gendered boundaries that Haraway’s cyborg promises to erase.

This reliance on the gender dyad in robotics is not limited to contemporary robotics development. In her interrogation of Japanese popular culture featuring cyborgs and androids,

Sharalyn Orbaugh finds that “contemporary Japanese cyborg narratives are still very much concerned with the binary oppositions of sex and gender, and the sexuality presumed to accompany them” (448). Anne Balsamo confirms a similar trend in American culture: “As is often the case when seemingly stable boundaries are displaced by technological innovation

(human/artificial, life/death, nature/culture), other boundaries are more vigilantly guarded.


Indeed, the gendered boundary between male and female is one border that remains heavily guarded despite new technologized ways to rewrite the physical body in the flesh” (9).

In rewriting the boundaries and exploring new territories of relationships, we face a new future of pleasure with non-humans. For some, this relationship already exists. The 2007 documentary Guys and Dolls , or Love Me, Love My Doll , directed by Nick Holt, interviews other real world iDollators from around the world. One man, Everard, defends his relationship with his dolls: “There are worse things in life than living with dolls… Like living alone. What would

I do if I didn’t have my dolls?” Even testimonials from actual RealDoll buyers echoes Everards words. “John” from Massachusetts writes on the RealDoll testimonial page: “Jenny's [his

RealDoll] presence here has had a dramatically positive effect on me psychologically and

emotionally. A far more positive effect than I had ever expected” (n.p.). Claudia Springer

suggests that this pleasure could be considered a new beginning, “one in which technology will

become part of an egalitarian social configuration and inequalities will be rejected as

anachronisms from a bygone age that was merely human” (161). In the meantime, hopefully we

can continue to enjoy being “merely human.”

The Post/Human Family Transformation

Part of being “merely human” is living a life within a family unit. If, as Reid claims, the

family is a public performance, then traditional family construction will be altered with androids.

Returning to the Terminator films for an introduction to how the android will alter the family, in

Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the android has been successfully anthropomorphized and

integrated into the family through the detachment from Skynet and continued HRI with young

John Connor. The audience sympathy was built by watching John Conner bond with the

167 machine over the course of the film. By the end of the film the Terminator has essentially become a father for the otherwise fatherless young John.

Director consciously included the father/son imagery into the script. For example, the script describes one of the first moments of bonding between John and the

Terminator: “Terminator, with John in front of him on the Harley, roars down the empty street.

John cranes his neck around to get a look at the person/thing he is riding with. The image is strangely reminiscent of father/son, out for an evening ride.” Just in case the audience hasn’t picked up on the subtle imagery of the scene, John’s mother, Sarah Conner, features a voiceover while watching John and the Terminator hang out together:

Watching John with the machine, it was suddenly so clear. The Terminator

would never stop, it would never leave him... it would always be there. And it

would never hurt him, never shout at him or get drunk and hit him, or say it

couldn't spend time with him because it was too busy. And it would die to protect

him. Of all the would-be fathers who came and went over the years, this thing,

this machine, was the only one who measured up. In an insane world, it was the

sanest choice.

Not simply a surrogate father figure, the Terminator is a better father than Sarah could imagine.

Having risen out of the uncanny valley from the first film, the Terminator now brings tears to the eyes of John when he knows his friend is going to be melted down.

For another example of how androids will assimilate into the family, I turn to a zombie film and draw parallels to the tradition of the reality television genera of the “family in crisis.”

Although usually without zombies, realiTV has a sub-genre that focuses specifically on the remaking of the family in crisis, for as Ron Becker explains, “ Fox and ABC ostensibly brought


‘help’ to the nation’s parents in the guise of two nearly identical and thoroughly formulaic reality series in which no-nonsense British nannies help ‘transform’ a different ‘family in crisis’ every week” in the form of shows like Supernanny and Nanny 911 (175). Even without a specific

“nanny” to steal the show, Fido’s zombie is particularly appropriate for the posthuman intervention into the family as we shall see. In order to better understand the new dimensions of this posthuman involvement in families, fiction is one place to start. Indeed, while many science fiction films feature the horrifying possibilities of the destructive forces of posthuman bodies, such as robots and zombies, the 2006 film Fido presents a story of positive posthuman intervention.

Besides being so very uncanny, as per Mori’s charting of the uncanny, zombies also fit into the category of a posthuman body. What is particularly appropriate about zombies in the case of the posthuman is that they literally are “post” “human” – they were once fully alive humans, but in the story of this film, were reanimated after death due to from space.

This is a common trope of zombie related science fiction films and television shows. How the zombies come to be vary from film to film, but often have similar “creation stories.” Unknown radiation is often blamed, like in the genre-defining Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Dawn of the Dead (1979) by Romero. Other times the zombies come to be through the tampering of scientists, as seen in the Resident Evil franchise, inspired by 1996 and later films from 2002 to the most recent release in 2012. Regardless of how zombies come to be in fiction, the stories generally follow a small group of survivors as they try to stay alive against all odds. The zombies are almost always portrayed as “mindless beasts,” either a single zombie who jumps out of nowhere to startle the protagonists, or as a massive horde that claws and bites.

Zombies are also applicable here to the imagery of androids in that, even though they may not

169 have AI to guide them within the world, their “lack of smarts” makes them just as much a threat to humans as an android with AI. Just as a sAI threatens to beat humans in all intellectual ways, a zombie aims to destroy our intellect, by literally consuming brains.

While many of the zombie films have maintained the tropes of the horror genre, which includes the zombies as always evil and unredeemable, some film makers branch into the horror- comedy. Shaun of the Dead (2004), while not the first horror-comedy with zombies, introduced

a posthuman relationship that could have easily inspired Fido . By the end of Shaun of the Dead ,

Shaun (Simon Pegg) and his friends have successfully fought off the hordes of zombies and life

has basically returned to normal, except for the fact that Shaun’s best friend, Ed (Nick Frost) has

turned into a zombie. Rather than kill Ed, as the traditional zombie film would have us think

would happen, Shaun keeps Ed tied up in his backyard where he feeds and cares for Ed like he

would a dog.

Fido picks up where this posthuman story of companionship left off. Even though it’s a

different fictional world , the opening of Fido establishes this film as a non-traditional zombie

horror and, simultaneously, a family comedy about a makeover. Indeed, with a cliché classroom

set in a grade school of an idealistic 1950s town, Fido establishes the dark humor in the first few

minutes with an informative/news video that plays in full screen as if the audience is viewing a

news reel from World War II. This time however, the war is described as the Zombie Wars and

the company responsible for containing the zombie threat, ZomCon: “Thanks to ZomCon, we

can all become productive members of society, even after we die!” With the combination of

nostalgic imagery, 1950-style evocative dark humor, and the -like companionship of a

zombie, we see a unique family intervention unravel on screen. The average family makeover,

as we are familiar with today from reality makeover shows such as Supernanny, consists of four

170 major elements: the observation, the intervention, the “work,” and finally the reveal (or happy ending). Each of these phases are placed carefully within the context of the “average family” household, but because Fido is a story of a zombie, a potentially terrifying posthuman body,

some ground rules of genre must be established before the makeover can begin. 50 In order to

maintain the films functionality within the makeover tradition, an assortment of appropriate

normative codes are established for the audience in order to place this ridiculous story within a

context that can be related to the average family.

Much like Derek Kompare’s reading of Ozzy Osbourne’s family in The Osbournes

(2002-2005), a reality show dedicated to following and “documenting” their everyday lives, Fido

grounds its aesthetic and character codes for a normative, yet off-kilter “reality.” These

normative codes are crucial for understanding the larger meaning in Fido, for as Kompare

explains, “In tracing these familiar codes in these otherwise unique texts, we can understand how

the categories of the ‘ordinary’ and the ‘extraordinary’ are deployed in the pursuit of textual

coherence and cultural significance” (101-102). When thinking of the ideal family images to

share when creating a story about family, the most commonly referenced images include that of

the 1950s home, making it perfect for eliciting a sympathetic response from the audience.

Stephanie Coontz confirms this in her book The Way We Never Were : “Our most powerful

visions of traditional families derive from images that are still delivered to our homes in

countless reruns of 1950s television sit-coms” (23) and indeed, “Such [traditional, idealized]

visions of past family life exert a powerful emotional pull on most Americans, and with good

reason given the fragility of many modern commitments” (8). With this “emotional pull” and

50 These “ground rules” that work to normalize this bizarre film both as a family makeover and a cult horror film do not work for all viewers. Despite the several awards, some viewers were quite turned off by the film, giving negative reviews. For example, Mark Rahner for the Seattle Times wrote, “It's a one-gag movie that starts off clever and cute, but wears thin after half an hour.” But perhaps it is that “one-gag” that keeps the story cohesion.

171 nostalgia in mind, here enters Fido and the Robinson family with all the trappings of the perfect

town. Aside from the informational video in the opening, the film utilizes traditional imagery

and icons such as riding bicycles, milk and paper delivery men (only this time they are domestic

zombies) and apple pies, women in floral dresses and men in work suits.

With the ambiance of the Leave it to Beaver appropriately established, the makeover can

begin. The story of Fido the zombie’s arrival and ultimate assimilation into the Robinson family

speaks volumes of the potential impact of other non-humans on the American family. Rather

than wreaking havoc and tearing the bonds of the family apart (as most zombie and other science

fiction about the non-human or posthuman Other), Fido illustrates how non-humans can actually offer a “positive” family makeover. Ultimately, Fido breaks the desire to match the ideal but

instead builds a new, happy family within the context of an alternative family framework (that is

a family that does not fit the normative definition of the nuclear family – mother, father, and


For the first phase of the makeover, the observation, the observation is conducted by us

as audience members in the way the film introduces the characters and establishes that there is

indeed a problem that needs to be solved. Although in the case of the realiTV family makeover

like Nanny 911 or Supernanny , the observation is conducted by the authority who intervenes,

Fido is in no way an “authority” but rather an oblivious instigator for the intervention. In the

context of the posthuman family, this form of intervention is appropriate because many of the

forces that intercede on the family are non-human and neutral to the family dynamics. Despite

these differences, the audience has a similar understanding of the situation, it may be entirely

fictional but the feeling is the same: there’s “trouble in paradise.” Just as the audience sits

172 quietly beyond the third wall, the Nanny takes account of the things that make the family in

“desperate need of saving.”

In makeover shows like Nanny 911 the intervention comes in the form of a deliberate

intrusion that places the family, especially the parents on the defensive, but in the case of Fido ,

the intervention for the Robinson family is a bit more subtle. Because Fido (Billy Connolly) is a

zombie and unable to verbally articulate his desires or even tell the family that there is work to

be done in order to make the family functional, the intervention occurs in a different way –

mostly at the hands of the matriarch, Helen Robinson (Carrie-Anne Moss). Before Fido enters

the film at all, Helen stages what appears at first to be a classic intervention scene: complete with

fancy dinner, red dress, and “Bill’s favorite,” a three olive martini, all ready for his return from

work. The audience is introduced to both patriarch Bill Robinson (Dylan Baker) and Fido at the

same time, placing them at odds for the role of father figure in the household, but with the first

interaction between Timmy (Kesun Loder) and his father, it is clear that Bill is not the father of

choice. Although son of the family, Timmy is clearly hoping for his father’s affection, the

audience is privy to a different feeling as Bill asks his son how he’s doing with an obligatory

and then brushes Timmy off (literally with a gesture of his hand) before even hearing the

response. As the camera cuts back to Timmy to emphasize his feelings of dejection, the

audience feels an intervention is necessary: Queue the zombie!

As with every intervention, it is difficult for a family to accept that it needs help and also

that the help that is offered is what is needed. For example, in episode eight of season one,

Nanny 911 , Deborah, mother of the Fink family, tells the camera that “My husband made the call

to Nanny Deb. I did not… I personally do not believe she’s doing right by me: coming in here

and acting this way [telling me how to treat my children]” (“The Fink Family”). Just as Deborah

173 resists the help of Nanny Deb, Bill is not at all welcoming to the presence of Fido: when Fido lumbers in with the roast, Bills face changes from a thankful smile to a horrified grimace as

Helen says, “Isn’t it wonderful? Now we’re not the only ones on the street without one.” Helen is excited about the arrival of Fido, mostly to show their normalcy as a family, but also to help fill out the family.

The real intervention in Fido begins as Bill literally walks out the door. The audience sees Bill, golf clubs over his shoulder, tip-toeing toward the front door as Timmy watches television. Caught, Timmy asks if they are going to practice today, but Bill carefully dodges the question with, “Oh was that today? ...But, I’ve already got the driving range booked.” Then he ducks out the door. Prompted by his mother not to play baseball by himself (because, as she tells him, “It makes you look lonely, dear”) Timmy takes the zombie to the park. While there, the real intervention begins, as Timmy is bullied by some of the ZomCon Scouts from school (a lot like Boy Scouts, only more like cronies for ZomCon). The two boys who push Timmy around get a terrible fright as Timmy’s zombie chases them away. As the mean boys are running and crying for their mothers,

Timmy thanks his zombie and decides to name him “Fido,” and with that, the bond between Figure 11: Timmy and Fido enjoy a day at the park. (Screen shot Fido , 2007.) Timmy and his zombie is sealed

(Figure 11).


The first major theme of the work of the makeover in the case of the posthuman family is when the human begins to see the non/posthuman as more human than Other. In Fido’s case this occurs early on after being dubbed Fido. While the boy and Fido are bonding for the first time,

Timmy and Fido get into a bit of trouble, but the conflict brings them closer. Apparently, Fido’s inhibitor collar is not perfect and it occasionally turns off, forcing Fido to revert to his natural mindless-brain-eating-zombie state. Unfortunately, Fido eats one of the neighbors, Mrs.

Henderson (as is only appropriate in a zombie movie), but Timmy believes it wasn’t Fido’s fault

– “He couldn’t stop himself!” As Timmy tries to cover up the murder of Mrs. Henderson, he has to strip the uniform off Fido and wash him down with a hose. Before the audience even sees the wound, Timmy points it out, speaking to himself but also for the audience: “Heart attack, eh?

My Grandpa had a heart attack…” Even though his zombie-ness is obvious and unavoidable in this moment (he is has sickly grey skin and visibly rotting flesh), his “Y” shaped and stapled incision on his chest becomes a reminder for both Timmy and the audience that Fido was indeed once human. This very physical part of his body is just one of the reminders that Fido is a bit more human than first assumed by his zombie status. Of course, he still is a “flesh eating maniac”, as Bill calls him at one point, but Fido exhibits other human behavior in the form of, in

Mr. Theopolis’ (Tim Blake Nelson) words, “old habits [that die] hard.” Fido smokes, even seems to enjoy the cigarette once put in his mouth. He also gazes at Helen with adoring eyes that do not go unnoticed by Helen. Just these few human tendencies help to establish for both the viewers and the family members that Fido is more than simply a zombie, a crucial step in the makeover process in the posthuman family.

The “work” of a makeover in the posthuman family has a tradition of two extra phases: the “risk” and the “save” which appear as the plot of Fido develops. This classic plot

175 development was established by Isaac Asimov in his well-known robot novels. Asimov’s 1939 short story “Robbie” is the perfect example of an early posthuman family transformation story.

Robbie is a robot purchased for a child named Gloria by her father as a playmate and closely parallels Timmy and Fido’s relationship with “the risk” and the “the save.” Robbie the robot and

Fido have a lot in common when it comes to their non/posthuman status. Perkowitz writes about how the mother reacts to Robbie illustrates many of the expected reactions to a nonhuman intervention in the family with the following questions: “how far humans would trust artificial beings to make sensitive judgments, and is it really good for Gloria to play with a machine rather than with other children?” (33). After all, as Gloria’s mother protests, “It has no soul, and no one knows what it may be thinking!” Even though the gender roles are swapped in this case, Bill has the same reaction to Fido, cringing at the sight of him and making it perfectly clear that his family will never become zombies. In fact, he has worked hard and saved his money so that they can all have “head coffins”, a single box/coffin for the head which guarantees that you will not be reanimated, further pushing the idea that Bill doesn’t tolerate posthumans.

Once the tension between a family member and the post/nonhuman is established, the makeovers initiated and undertaken, then the two essential plot elements, the risk and the save are ready to proceed. In “Robbie,” just as in Fido , the non/posthuman is returned to the

“factory” from where they came. Devastated by the loss of a genuine friend (for by this time the relationship between the human and non/posthuman has been tested and proven to be strong), the children in both stories take a risk and break the rules to be close to their friend. For Gloria and

Robbie the risk and the save happen almost simultaneously: once Gloria sees Robbie on the other side of floor, she runs out to Robbie and is nearly run over by heavy machinery – the

“risk.” In just that same moment Robbie throws himself under the machine to save her but at the

176 cost of Robbie’s robot body. Having proved his worth, Gloria’s mother consents to allow Gloria be reunited with her reassembled friend.

In the case of Fido , the risk and save happen in slightly different ways but are still there to maintain the framework of the posthuman bonding and makeover. Timmy and Fido have built a mutual friendship over the course of the film, but the real test of Fido’s human status, and thus one of the “saves” comes after the ZomCon Boy Scouts suspect that Fido and Timmy were responsible for Mrs. Henderson’s death. Having tied Timmy to a tree to stage a rescue with themselves as heroes, the boys turn off Fido's “domestication collar” (the clever invention that

“contains the zombie’s desire for human flesh… making the zombie as gentle as a household pet”) and try to turn Fido on Timmy. Rather than attacking and eating Timmy, Fido staggers to the boy who tied Timmy up. After feasting on the mean little rascal (who clearly disserved what was coming – it is after all, a zombie film), Fido makes his approach toward Timmy, and as the terrifying music plays and the camera tilts, making Fido all the more ominous, he then tries to untie Timmy from the tree. Crisis averted and in its place, Timmy tells Fido to “Go get help, boy!” firmly establishing Fido as the new Lassie figure, no longer the threat.

With equal parts “human-ness” and “man’s best friend” qualities, the stage is appropriately set for the save from Timmy. After Fido is shipped to ZomCon for murdering Mrs.

Henderson, it is Timmy’s turn to take a risk and rescue his friend. This is when an interesting twist occurs that further maintains the “cult” genre of the film. Throughout, the audience has understood Bill as the anti-father who is incapable of love for his wife or child, but in the end he is given a futile attempt to prove himself. Aware that Timmy has snuck into the ZomCon compound to rescue Fido, Bill and Helen drive toward the compound and Bill finally voices for the audience what we have known to be true: “I suppose you think he got so attached to the

177 damn thing [Fido] because I’m a bad father…” As this realization sinks in, it becomes clear that

Bill is preparing to do whatever he can to save his boy. He jumps out of the car, shotgun in hand and insists on going in after his son despite Helen’s pleas for him to stay behind. To further seal his fate, Bill reminds Helen that he wants a head coffin. Having found Fido and faced his fears,

Bill appears ready to sacrifice himself for the sake of his family.

Having risked everything for his friend, the audience knows that Fido needs to return the favor in order to finalize the makeover and put the family back together. In order to emphasize the danger of the threat, the difference between a “normal” all-human family and the chaos of the undead, Mr. Bottoms, head of ZomCon security, pushes Timmy into the “Wild Zone.” This

Wild Zone has been established since the beginning of the film as the place where the zombies have taken over, the posthumans have won and this area is clearly the danger. With a dotted line the informative video for ZomCon illustrates the cities and towns as safe zones with the Wild

Zone marked clearly with skull and crossbones. Now that the audience clearly sees the Wild

Zone as an ominous threat to Timmy, Mr. Bottoms further clarifies that the Wild Zone is “out there is chaos. In here is safety!” The delineation between the dangerous posthuman and the safe world in this case is as clear as the metal fence surrounding the perfect nostalgic time capsule. Having clearly established the posthuman as no only a physical but also a geographic threat where one can be sent, Fido and Timmy’s father appear to save the day. This save is particularly poignant when Timmy’s father is shot and killed in the struggle – the symbolic father figure who is clearly unable to hold the father role effectively is replaced by the posthuman Fido, even with his domestication collar off. The save is complete and the reveal is ready.


For Brenda Weber, “One of the makeover’s more critical premises is that it does not reconstruct, it reveals. …the makeover does not create selfhood but rather it locates and salvages that which is already present, but weak” (7). Over the course of the film the audience has watched on and participated in both Timmy and his mother’s makeover triggered by the arrival of the posthuman zombie. Having replaced an insufficient father with a more caring father- figure and found confidence in his belief that zombies are also human, as opposed to simply a threat to be eliminated as Mr. Bottoms always argued, Timmy finds a comfortable place in a family. Fido closes in the makeover tradition, similar to how Becker explains closure in the

Nanny shows: “With the end of [an episode like Supernanny or Nanny 911 ] comes a positive resolution as scenes of family chaos are replaced with images of family bliss—happy, well- adjusted children and their parents playing in the backyard, going on a picnic, or reading bedtime stories” (184). In fact, with an unabashed clichéd scene, Fido ends with a backyard scene of

Timmy playing baseball with Fido wearing a Hawaiian shirt and actually able to catch the ball.

Once Bill is out of the picture and the newly formed family is basking in the sun in the backyard,

Fido is established as the most fitting patriarch for the family as he and Helen share a loving smile. Then, to show that the posthuman can indeed fit well in the human family, Fido leans over the pram and coos gently at the stirring baby, tenderly caressing the infant’s cheek. With the end shot, the posthuman family photo is complete with Fido grinning widely, Hawaiian shirt on, cigarette in hand and baby nearby.

For Becker “America’s families are always having to be made over – made to conform to an idea of family life that is always shaped by political forces and never inclusive of the diversity of human experience” (176), but Fido challenges that assumption; proving that the makeover, in particular a posthuman makeover, can have a positive outcome. If, as Reid explains “Family,

179 like gender, doesn’t simply exist; it must be a non-stop public performance” (193) then family performance can include alternative individuals, including the post- and non-human. By completing the makeover cycle of observation, intervention, work and then reveal, a fictional story of the non/posthuman family makeover can show a successful family renovation. Fully aware of the negativity toward disruptions in the human family, Fido voices these fears through

Mr. Bottoms with phrases like “When people get attached to their zombies it only spells trouble.

Trouble for me, trouble for you. Trouble for Mrs. Henderson…” and “Because you made friends with a zombie, a lot of nice people in this neighborhood got killed.” But despite these warnings, the more adjusted and happy family reveals itself in the end, having embraced their posthuman family member.

If we can accept that humans anthropomorphize entities that appear human without taking construction into question, it would also be wise to theorize if and how humans may interact with entities with similar, or at least organic, physical structure. So far scientists have not ventured far into the fields of genetics, cloning, or biological creation to have many examples from which to draw in actuality for discussion. But fiction offers several examples of biological and bio/synthetic combinations. Perhaps we should also be taking a cue from van Oost and Reed who remind us that not only will very humanlike robots be invented, they will also be an intricate part of our social world: “Social robots as companions will exist, and gain meaning, in such

dynamic networks, and hence it is important that we understand them as such” (van Oost and

Reed 16). We are far from answers but writers like Shaw-Garlock see hope in the inquiry at

hand: “What seems clear is that in the context of robo-nannies, therapeutic seals, military bots,

and domestic and surgical robotics there is need for methodological and theoretical perspectives

180 that enable us to think through techno-cultural hybrid configurations of people and machines. In short, what is needed is a ‘theory of machines’” (6)

To conclude, I return to science fiction and one of the most influential texts, Star Trek :

Captain Picard reminds viewers at the end of “The Measure of a Man” that “Starfleet was

founded to seek out new life (indicating the character Data). Well, there he sits.” His conclusion

returns us to the fact that we, as inventors and artists as part of this unique species of hominid,

are actively creating new life and new selves. Although our notions of a “special self” are

clearly shaken by the coming artificial entities that will potentially think, act, and appear like

humans in most, if not every, way, we do need to consider a framework of personhood that

incorporates our coming companions.



“The product of the human brain has escaped the control of human

hands. This is the comedy of science."

-- Karel Čapek (1923).

It all started with Teddy Ruxpin, a teddy bear that seemed to come to life to tell me stories and wanted to be my friend. A child of the ‘80s, I was doing my own exploration of AI and robotics. Sherry Turkle would have been proud.

“Hi I’m Teddy Ruxpin and I want to be your friend,” the stuffed bear said to me, his eyes blinking and jaw moving with the sound of spinning servos. I easily ignored the mechanical whir and jerky movements that accompanied the movements of my new-found-friend. “Yes

Teddy, I can be your friend!” I happily exclaimed, taking off the layer of fur, uncovering the mechanics underneath. Even knowing that Teddy wasn’t a “really real bear,” my curiosity about how he worked was not diminished.

Not long after Teddy, I was introduced to another figure that captured my imagination –

Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation . I remember being fascinated by how he was treated as human but not human. He was the Tin Man who wanted a heart. His non-humanness status surrounded questions about whether or not he is alive . An entire episode was even dedicated to the question of whether or not Data should be considered a person or property . But his non- humanness didn’t prevent him from having very human-like relationships with the members of the starship Enterprise. Data was somehow different than the other alien entities aboard the starship. He was human but not quite; his presence a constant reminder to be skeptical of how

“life” and “person” are defined.


Over twenty years later… Teddy’s batteries died long ago, never to be replaced. Star

Trek: The Next Generation on Blu-Ray is an honored fixture on my movie shelves. Even though technology has advanced to the point where my old Teddy Ruxpin seems archaic and Star Trek has become a household name with growing attention with the recent reboots, I seek a link between them – between the robot that I loved like a friend and the fiction of the Tin Man searching for his heart. 51 The growing anxiety surrounding the potential for post/human bodies begs for further discussion and I hope that my exploration here will begin a dialogue that includes science fiction.

Science fiction and science fact are rapidly becoming indistinguishable as technological

advancements are inspired by fiction and then invented by entrepreneurs. This leaves the

everyman at a troubling crossroads and so I choose the body of the android as my “evocative

object.” The android, by definition, literally embodies two major components that determine our

human-ness – the body and the mind. Ahead of us lies a future with new creations and new

technologies that may seem human in most, if not every, way. Not only does the android look

human, it may also be constructed with biological materials, raising questions about new species,

new entities, outside our established hierarchy of biological systems. Beyond the surface, based

on the goal of robotics design outlined by MacDorman and Ishiguro, the android will be housed

with a human-like or beyond-human-like intellect so that it may better interact with humans.

This inclusion of sAI further challenges our understanding of knowledge , consciousness, and the


51 This is a curious question that continues to nag at me, Why the heart? In many “tin man”-type fictions, from The Wizard of Oz to the story of Boq in the musical Wicked, there always needs to be some human organ, a biological part of a human that somehow imbues the tin man with “life.” In some cases it’s the heart and in others it’s the brain. It seems that as our understanding of where our thinking-part-of-life comes from changes, the fiction has also shifted to use the brain as the biological manifestation of giving something life, rather than the heart, which used to represent where the passions and life force came from. And yet, with androids, the thinking-part appears in the narrative as AI. Has strong AI become the modern equivalent of “having a heart”?


As we have seen, the target of robotics and AI developers has been to meet and/or exceed the expectations from science fiction: to have strong artificial intelligence in man-made synthetic entities that resemble humans. Without asking why , engineers and programmers continue to work on the how and humanity finds itself ever closer to having strong AI in human-like robotic

bodies. Chapter Two explored the overtones in popular culture related to current incarnations of

AI (Deep Blue and Watson) and this showed that there is a growing unease over the supposed

threats of AI. Fully embodied articulation and cognitive independence (in other words, the

ability for a program, embodied in a robotic chassis, to move and function in the environment

without direction from a human user) is not far off and, with growing concerns (at least in the

public) about what such a future will look like, “tests” and measures for AI are being considered.

Of course such tests and thought experiments have been around for centuries, but they are

becoming more directed toward defining AI. The concept of “intelligence” is very much

disputed in philosophy and in popular culture. Considering that dispute gets us closer to

understanding AI. Glymour, Ford and Hayes tell us that even if we accept that the being on the

other side of the game is able to imitate intelligence, it is not the same as being intelligent, and they use Searle’s “Chinese Room” argument (14). In essence, just because something is able to produce answers that seem smart, does not mean that the entity itself is smart. Much like

Turing’s test, a question would be queried to someone/something anonymous and an answer would be produced in the form of an “intelligent” and comprehendible response, but still there would be no way to know if the mind on the other side understood the response produced. We already face such beings today: think of the search engine on a web browser, a program like

Google. You enter a query, hit “search” and an answer appears, in fact a number of answers appear. There is no way to know if Google is intelligent, but we assume it is not because of the

184 interface used. Russell and Norvig suggest the task of making “consciousness” in AI is something that we not equipped to take on, “nor one whose success we would be able to determine” (1033).

While there are several “tests” like the Turing Test, to help identify and explain emerging artificial intelligences, there are still others who ask questions that aren’t measureable by tests.

For example, to avoid the tricky nature of the Turing Test or other functionalist-based measurements of AI, Ford and Hays explain that “most contemporary AI researchers explicitly reject the goal of the Turing test. Instead they are concerned with exploring the computational machinery of intelligence itself” (28). Remember that for thinkers like Rapoport, who examine the vitalist perspective of human thought (the idea that humans have something vital that allows us to think, that machines or computers could simply never have), the concerns of the vitalists would always be rebutted with a trivial answer: “if you made an automaton that would be like a human being in all respects, it would be a human being.” Just as with AI, Ford and Hayes express Alan Turing’s goal of embracing a functionalist philosophy: “not to describe the difference between thinking people and unthinking machines but to remove it” (35).

In that removal of boundaries, questions still remain about what it means to be a person as opposed to “merely human” arise. But in that “being human” we also “see human” everywhere. Chapter Three took that discussion of AI and embodied it. While anthropomorphism is a powerful force, it is also a double-edged sword. On the one hand, robotics developers believe that can assist in human-robot-interaction, leading to growing personal relationships with robots. On the other hand, if a robot looks too human, it

approaches the potential uncanny divide , engendering feelings of unease and distrust. Robot

marketers are well aware of the power of anthropomorphism and work to make their creations

185 more likeable and, therefore, more profitable. Something that will be unavoidable by marketers is the fact that the android is not human, but is a product packaged to be human-like in every other way. Part of our greatest fear of the android, that has yet to be explored to its fullest, is the fact that the android is more durable, long lasting and smarter than humans. Human bodies are fragile and our minds are subject to the aging process. It seems, we are always prisoners of our bodies, but the android is free to live on as long as its processors and parts are upgraded.

A robot doesn’t need to be human-like to endear us to their humanness. Stoate reminds us that “‘People’ may be human, but they do not need to be human to be people. People arise in an ecology of co-constitution; their specificity emerges only from their affecting (and effecting) other such people. People do not pre-exist their relations with other people, rather they are defined by them” (209-210). In other words, the definition of “person,” or one who is eligible for rights and protections under the law, is always changing. They do no “pre-exist” but are rather constructed through social relationships and shared understandings of the entities that surround us. Not just those that are disembodied like an AI, but those that will be embodied and in our homes.

But these appearances are not necessarily cites of interrogation of the heteronormative standard in relationships. If, at first, the queer non/human relationship with humans appears to trouble coupledom as explored in Chapter Four, the fictional narratives about queer non/human relationships reify the heteronormative prescription to life – indeed with potentially violent consequences. It might at first appear that a relationship that ruptures a border like biology would be one of the queerest relationships. However, upon examining in media two cases of this relationship which the uncanny divide, it becomes clear that such uncanny companionships so far have primarily reified the heteronormative tradition. For Halberstam, the

186 queer relationships between humans and nonhumans are not queer at all, but rather maintain the status quo. Halberstam describes, “The porous boundary between the biological and the cultural is quickly traversed without any sense of rupture whatsoever, and the biological, the animal and the nonhuman are simply recruited for the continuing reinforcement of the human, the heteronormative and the familial” (266). Part of this reinforcement comes from the “makeover” stories that have gained attention in the past decades: “America’s families are always having to be made over – made to conform to an idea of family life that is always shaped by political forces and never inclusive of the diversity of human experience” (Becker 176). As explored in

Chapter Four, even a movie about zombies can help illustrate a potential family makeover that the non-human can bring about. In Fido we see how a story that transforms the family makeover to the normative into the abnormal, making room for the non-human, the strange posthuman

Other, thus showing that the makeover can potentially result in new acceptances of alternative families and individual acceptance of unique selfhood.

Similarly, Davecat’s relationship with his RealDoll Sidore expresses a coming change in personal relationships. His expression of a desire to be treated as a “decent ‘normal’” individual echo the kind of plea from queer communities, people “Who simply have different preferences for their partners,” However, upon further investigation, relationships with RealDolls, including

Davecat’s, return us to Halberstam’s argument that these non/human relationships “[continue] reinforcement of the human, the heteronormative and the familial” (266). The fact that

RealDolls are anatomically correct, by and large exaggerated versions of “sexy women” is only part of the heteronormative un-queer formation of such relationship. These dolls, manufactured by Abyss Studios, are mostly purchased by white men (Davecat seems to be an exception to the rule), reaffirming not only the hetero-standard but also can be seen as confirming what David


Eng describes as “queer liberalism.” By purchasing your “love doll,” these men are participating in affirming their citizenship with money but also performing “acceptable” practices of desire: the synthetic partner is female, passive and literally “made to obey.” Is this another stereotype that will need to be overcome as androids come to market: “…in popular culture and historically, fembots are the ultimate, misogynistic, male fantasy. They’re a mythic construct used to serve male desires. These fembots are sex slaves and sex objects, ready and willing to serve and clean up after these men” (Sarkeesian). The reification of heteronormative ideals opens up possibilities for further research.

At the same time as leaps are being made in robotics development, AI programmers are also working toward human-like behavior and simulation of emotion. I believe it’s not productive to project the “whens” and the “how-soons” and “hows.” Rather, it’s important to consider the “what-ifs” and build a framework for defining sentience and personhood in a non- species specific way. As these developments continue, we must be aware of the stereotypes from popular culture and the tropes from science fiction surrounding the Android, or else we run the risk of becoming our own cliché from a horror robot-apocalypse. Market forces are clearly pushing robotics in an embodied and gendered direction. According to Brian Cooney, “Because artificially intelligent machines with agent capabilities will increase the productivity of many enterprises they will be selected by the market forces for development and reproduction” thus leading us to a future when robots will become like our children as Moravec predicts (xxii).

Indeed, studies in HRI show that humans are more comfortable interacting with embodied robots, and as long as the uncanny valley is accounted for, I find it highly likely that we will

188 soon have fully-human-like synthetic androids. 52 Rapoport considers that we might someday

“construct an automaton with a will of its own, a creative imagination of its own, that is, an ability to imagine things that we could not have imagined” (46). But Rapoport argues, as I do, that “the crucial question… is not whether we could do such a thing but whether we would want to” (46). He goes on to point out that “Some will say yes; others no. If both kinds of people engage in a serious, really honest self-searching dialogue, they may learn a good deal about both themselves and others” (46).

Looking at what the theory of fiction surrounding androids offers us, and keeping the truth of robotics and AI development in focus, where do we stand today? Is it time to “welcome our robot overlords”? Or perhaps we must remind ourselves of what Judith Butler tells us in

Undoing Gender : “[it is necessary to keep] our very notion of the ‘human’ open to a future articulation” because that openness is “essential to the project of a critical international human rights discourse and politics” (222). Our self and boundaries of the self are becoming more and more porous with technology. John Law, as cited by Elaine Graham, explains: “the very dividing line between those objects that we choose to call people and those we call machines is variable, negotiable, and tells us as much about the rights, duties, responsibilities and failings of people as it does about those of machines” (Law, cited in Graham, 20).

Whether it’s ultra-smart computers or aliens that we encounter in the future, ethics and law have so far been reactionary – only concerned with the here and now. But we need a further reaching frame of mind. It would be reckless to believe that in a posthuman future, humans will still be the essential measurement against which all other morals should be judged.

52 I cannot speak with as much certainty about biological androids, although there have been significant developments in 3D organ printing and cloning.


While I consider possible futures and am optimistic about the human ability to find kindness and compassion for unfamiliar others, I am not a transhumanist, or someone who believes in improving the human condition (body, self, and society) through technological enhancement. There are many views surrounding how to reach those goals from biological and genomic enhancement to cybernetic implants and exploration into artificial life. In general, their thinking is good, in that they are looking forward to a posthuman future in which all problems will be solved with science, but I think that a healthy skepticism of the promises of technology is necessary for the best possible futures to come to fruition. That said, I do not propose a halt to all AI or robotics development. In fact, that would simply push research to the fringes and out of the reach of legal and ethical oversight. The critical posthuman perspective is useful for the continuing discussion.

While the transhumanist cause is fighting for a literal posthuman future; critical posthumanist theory considers how our minds, body, and society are already becoming posthuman through technological interventions already taking place. Whatever world view or epistemological/metaphysical view endorsed, the transhumanists are correct about one thing – we are rapidly approaching a time when our bodies and selves will inextricably be tied with technology to enhance our existence. Some posthumanists (like Haraway and Miccoli) argue that we are all already posthuman in the ways that technology has metaphorically become enfolded into our existence. But in that enfolding, the human has still been part of our

“specialness.” I argue that in our becoming literally posthuman, i.e., through implants and cybernetic or biological enhancement, that our humanness should open outward to encompass other potential entities who meet guidelines for sentience. To do otherwise would surely lead to a continuing human essentialist perspective that champions bigoted and oppressive beliefs.


Perhaps some of the discussions of the posthuman will come in forms that the android only peripherally addresses, but still considers the world in a perilous balance between human and posthuman. For example, the story of X-Men introduced popular culture to posthuman bodies that literally evolved out of biological humans. Through the filmic story-arc of X-Men

(starting in 2000, to the most recent X-Men: Days of Future Past , 2014), the two main characters,

Professor X/Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy) and Magneto/Eric Lehnsherr

(Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender, respectively), go from friends because of their shared- difference as mutants, to ultimate enemies with deadly mutant-powers. The historical definition of “human” is literally under attack as the mutants (or posthumans) known as Homo superior, fight for control of the planet. “The war” is no longer between nations (the Soviet Union versus

America, as portrayed in X-Men: First Class ) but rather is between ideals about the future of humanity. On one side stands Professor X, who believes mutants can live side-by-side with

Homo sapiens, and on the other stands Magneto, who believes that mutants are the future. For

Magneto, “Peace was never an option… We are the future Charles, not them!” The X-Men films challenge audiences to pick a side: Is humanity, as it has been, worth saving and protecting, or has the historical “human” outlived its welcome?

Many of the discussions surrounding our posthuman futures have featured the android as merely a passing figure, a side effect of the continuing development of robotics and AI, but I believe the android should be (re)figured or (re)introduced into the discussion of critical posthumanism. By using the android as an evocative object that explores the porous boundaries of body, self and society, the discussion can begin externally to the human self and be used to reflect back upon ourselves. We should take the time now rather than be left behind.


In early 2014 published an article about the shift in power within the mega-corporation Google. has been hired on as Google’s Artificial Intelligence guru and Director of Engineering. With this hand off of power and an whole undisclosed amount of money, Kurzweil immediately began buying up robotics and AI developers, supposedly, in the hopes of making (at least one of) his long-time predictions come true. In particular is his prediction that “by 2029, computers will be able to do all the things that humans do. Only better” (Cadwalladr 2). Although Carole Cadwalladr’s article teeters between 1) making fun of Kurzweil’s seemingly outrageous worldview and, 2) sounding an alarm, the overall message is that change is coming regardless of whether or not we are ready for it.

Aside from the attention The Guardian gives to developing AI and the world of

transhumanism, other news sources are jumping on the bandwagon of both alarmist and anti-AI

arguments or at least attempting to raise awareness. Watson stirred the pot in 2011 with his

performance on Jeopardy! , but concern is growing with the September 2, 2014 release of Nick

Bostrom’s book : Paths, Dangers, Strategies. In fact, once they hit the shelves, it gained mass popularity as Elon Musk, inventor of the fuel-efficient electric car Tesla, and science icon, tweeted his concern for AI: “Worth reading Superintelligence by Bostrom. We need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes” (Augenbraun). In fact, with that fear in mind, Wired reported that shortly after sharing that Tweet, Musk committed $10 million, “to support research aimed at keeping AI beneficial for humanity” (Alba). With Musk’s very public commentary on his concern for the development of AI, many scholarly and popular journals have been addressing the question as well. For example, The Chronicle of Higher

Education asks the question in their title: “Is Artificial Intelligence a Threat?” (Chen). The article sparked over a hundred comments from readers and ultimately left readers with the

192 feeling that technology should not continue to develop without critical thought. If change comes in the form of the singularity or in some other non-linear change that we cannot predict, I believe science fiction offers some predictions all of us can understand.

After this exploration, I return to Himma’s argument, in my words: “if it looks human, seems human and in every way that matters appears to be human, then we should treat it as human to maintain our own moral engagement with the rest of the world.” It is true that, in

Relke’s words, “We have no choice but to take our humanism with us into the posthuman, for there is no Archimedean point outside our human selves from which we can proceed directly to the posthuman” (131). But in honoring the most crucial part of our human-ness, our ability to love and care for others, it is imperative that for the sake of the coming world with humanoid robots and strong Artificial Intelligence, we borrow from the pages of fiction to see all potential futures – the good and the bad. Hopefully, through our everyday interactions with nonhuman others will see ourselves.

If theory about the posthuman has preoccupied itself by thinking reflexively about the human self and intrusions upon it through technology, then the android offers a different subject for examination. In other words, if thinking about how we think has so far been focused on human thinking, then it is cyclical – as a human, one cannot step out of oneself to think about thinking, it is still an interior process, it is something that happens “up here,” with a gesture to the head, indicating the brain. Using a different metaphorical reference (one that is in the process of literal development), the android, descriptions of thinking and feeling can be discussed outside the human body. Using Android Theory we can liberate the discussion of cognition from a human-centric conception to one that is transbiological, getting us closer to a concept of the self that can survive in a posthuman world.



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