GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Westworld’s Female Hosts Signal a Shift In Our Fear of Robots by Becky Ferreira

“If we look at the early stories around creating artificial women, like Pandora, who was an artificial creation by the gods, of course she unleashed all the terror in the world,” Devlin, whose forthcoming book Turned On examines human-robot sexual interactions, told me over Skype.

“She did the wrong thing and messed up,” she said. “It’s the whole Christian Eve [narrative] as well. You’ve got this really long-standing trope about women—don’t let them do anything, they’ll get it wrong, they’ll do it bad.”

Empowering women with knowledge is hardwired into Western storytelling as a recipe for disaster, regardless of whether those women are human or robotic. This is the central dynamic in that opening scene between Bernard and Dolores. Bernard is not physically intimidated by Dolores; he specifies that it’s her mind and its evolution that frightens him. What will be the outcome of all her ruminations?

Bernard suspects, and the show confirms, that it will be bloody and chaotic, just like so many past stories in which women get wise and wreak havoc. Ex Machina toys with a similar undercurrent in which a female robot (Alicia Vikander) learns enough about the men keeping her captive to exploit their weaknesses.

That connection between female intellectual maturation and extremely watchable catastrophe is further reflected in Westworld’s choice to make female hosts, particularly Dolores and Maeve (Thandie Newton), much more active agents of rebellion than their male companions Teddy (James Marsden) and Hector (Rodrigo Santoro).

These artificial men are also repeatedly victimized in the show—we see implied sexual violence against them by the staff and they are treated as target practice for the guests. But Teddy follows Dolores somewhat questioningly, and Hector follows Maeve totally unquestioningly, and both seem to experience their newfound independence vicariously through the women.

What makes these unthinking male warrior robots so scary is that they don’t generally buck their directives. Even in cases where male robots are able to supercede their programming, like Sonny in the 2004 film I, Robot or HAL-9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey, they do so in dedication to a larger mission goal rather than for their own independence.

..

With this response, she further undermines Lee’s dignity, while simultaneously demonstrating that she can be self-aware about her own coding.

[Via]

Advertisements

BookTuber Tuesday – Popular Books I Don’t Like!

Ursula K. Le Guin on Animal Stories:

“Why do most children and many adults respond both to real animals and to stories about them, fascinated by and identifying with creatures which or dominate religions and ethics consider mere objects for human use: no longer working with us, in industrial societies, but mere raw material for our food, subjects of scientific experiments to benefit us, entertaining curiosities of the zoo and the TV nature program, pets kept to improve our psychological health?

Perhaps we give animal stories to children and encourage their interest in animals because we see children as inferior, mentally ‘primitive,’ not yet fully human: so we see pets and zoos and animal stories as ‘natural’ steps on the child’s way up to adult, exclusive humanity—rungs on the ladder from mindless, helpless babyhood to the full glory of intellectual maturity and mastery. Ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny in terms of the Great Chain of Being.”

– Ursula K. Le Guin

BookTuber Tuesday – More Popular Books I Don’t Like!

Ursula K. Le Guin on Philip Pullman:

“Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is a long, richly imagined, and deeply incoherent work, in which I’ll try only to trace the part animals play. Despite appearances, it is a small part. The two cats in the story, who have a minor but important role, do what cats have often done in myth and fable: they cross between worlds. Otherwise they’re just cats, realistically drawn. Animals are otherwise absent from the books, except for a tribe of polar bears who talk and build forts and use weapons, as humans do, but who don’t have daemons, as humans do.

But I think Pullman overloads the concept and then confuses it. He implies strongly that the daemon is a kind of visible soul, that to be severed from it is fatal, and his plot hinges on the cruelty and horror of this separation. But then he begins changing the rules: we find that witches can live apart from their daemons; in the second voume we are in our world, where nobody has visible or tangible daemons; back in her world, the heroine Lyra leaves her daemon on the wharves of hell, and though she misses him, she lives on perfectly competently, and in fact saves the universe, without him. Their reunion seems almost perfunctory.

In fantasy, to change or break your own rules is to make the story literally inconsequential. If the daemons are meant to show that we are part animal and must not be severed from our animality, they can’t do it, since the essence of animality is the body, the living body with all its brainless needs and embarrassing functions—exactly what the daemons do not have.”

– Ursula K. Le Guin, ‘The Beast in the Book.’