Drawing Scenes from The Uncanny Valley Club: Social Bots Chapter four with Pics Art

The social bots appear in unexpected places in The Uncanny Valley Club, and when Henry discovers his closest friend, Vince, who had always been hell-bent on making sure he remains completely biological himself, had purchased one, it doesn’t sit right with Henry. The Social Bots (or sexbots, depending on which character you are) are viewed differently by each of the characters, and their uses and valuability vary from therapeutic to life-changing, or fun-park to degrading. (For the why of how I came to draw scenes from each chapter see here)

“As Henry speaks, his attention is drawn to a swelling movement of the covers on the other side of the bed, and, in that moment, there emerges—like Gulliver from ropes—a pale face that, as the sheets slip away to the floor, gradually reveals itself to be the head, then the neck, and then the body of a woman.

Vince’s eyes follow Henry’s gaze. ‘Have you not met Greta?’ he asks, and he casually throws a thumb over his shoulder. Vince smiles because, of course, Henry has not met Greta. Greta is new.

‘Nope, I’m inclined to say I haven’t met Greta. And here I was thinking the piles of bubble wrap in the lounge were a new exercise machine.’

‘It is kind of a new exercise machine.’ Vince grins.

Vince grabs a plate as it begins to slide from the covers with the emergence of his bed companion, who has been so still and quiet this whole time that Henry suspects Vince intended to keep this new thing in his life hidden.

It’s a serene face that smiles at Henry, but her eyes dart down, up, down, then up again as it takes in the details of what it means to be Henry.

‘Hello Henry,’ it says. ‘Lovely to see you again.’

Although Henry has worked for Quinn for many years, he doesn’t deal with the social bots. It’s not his job. His focus is the business of getting contracts signed, deliveries delivered and debts paid. In fact, he prefers not to think about the bots as functioning beings and how they’re used, at all.

Vince watches Henry’s face.

‘We’ve met before?’ Henry asks it.

‘Not exactly,’ it says, ‘but I’ve been aware of you.’

And now Henry finds that, apart from complete surprise, he’s feeling agitated by the idea of it knowing him, but he not knowing it, and the only way he can manage to express an opinion is to mock Vince: ‘What were you just saying about being the real deal?’ Henry says, and he thumps his fist against his own chest.”

The Uncanny Valley Club, Chapter 4, Julie Proudfoot. 2022.

Robot Creation from Personal Trauma

While researching for The Uncanny Valley Club, one of the more interesting ideas that came up was the idea that, just like many other creatives: writers, painters et cetera, robotic scientists draw on their own traumas to ‘create’ robots.
The Robotic scientists also channelled their psychical-physical sufferings onto the robots they created, and their machines mirrored parts of themselves. Robots were modelled on the unconscious sufferings of their makers, as physical and social limitations and models of post-traumatic stress disorder were imported into the machines. 17 Richardson, K. (2015). An Anthropology of Robots and A.I. The robotic scientist is unconsciously engaged in a process of stamping the object with his or her characteristics…Despite all the abstract and technical processes that go into designing a robot, the result is a creature that bears an uncanny resemblance to its maker. Robots are very much like their makers. 97 Richardson, K. (2015). An Anthropology of Robots and A.I.
I found the idea fascinating and explored it in chapter 16, where Henry and Dale discuss, over a casual lunch, the idea that Quinn the Robot Scientist, has incorporated his own sociopathic tendencies into his robots.
‘Let’s just call him what he is,’ she says. ‘He’s a sociopath, right?’ ‘You’re probably right about that.’ ‘Can I disappoint you even further, Henry? Quinn’s actually not as much of a genius as you think. He doesn’t get his ideas out of thin air. He takes his cues from his own life and his own body. The base nature of his dolls starts with him; they think the way he does, behave the way he does, and respond the way he does. Little Quinn replicas. His dolls are all sociopaths.’ Henry listens to what Dale has to say, but she can’t be right. ‘If you’re right, Dale, then every single doll out of Quinn’s factory would be a sociopath.’ ‘Yes, and each part of Quinn’s dolls is a separate creation; they’re 3D-printed pieces with their own dot brain: the arms, necks, legs, heads, fingers—everything. Each little piece has its own model of Quinn’s quirks and abilities—or disabilities—or mental state. Do you understand what I’m telling you, Henry?’ ‘I get what you’re saying, but since almost every doll in this town comes out of Quinn’s warehouse, and as his advanced dolls begin to roll out into projects, that would mean there would be a lot of Quinn-like sociopaths in the population.’ Dale shrugs at him. He expected her to explain where his thinking had gone wrong, and tell him, “No, this is not true”, but she nods as if to say, “Yes, it’s all true, but what’s to be done about it?” Pg 120 J Proudfoot (2022) The Uncanny Valley Club.

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