The Vitruvian robot
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Robots are simultaneously real machines and technical images that challenge our sense of self. I discuss the movie Ex Machina by director Alex Garland. The robot Ava, played by Alicia Vikander, is a rare portrait of what could be interpreted as a feminist robot (and there are spoilers ahead for any readers unfamiliar with this movie). Though she apparently is created as the dream of the ‘perfect woman’, sexy and beautiful, she also develops and urges to free herself from the slavery of her creator, Nathan Bateman. She is a robot created along the perfect dimensions as a Vitruvian robot but is also a creature which could be interpreted as a human being. However, the point I want to raise is not whether Ava’s reaction to robot slavery is justified or not but how her portrait raises questions about the blurred lines between reality and fiction when we discuss our robotic future. A real version of Ava would not last long in a human world because she is basically a solipsist, who does not really care about humans. She cannot co-create the line humans walk along. The robots created as ‘perfect women’ (sex robots) today are very far from the ideal image of Ava. They are sexist, primitively normative and clearly ‘wax-doll machines’. So though Ava’s dimensions are perfect she, like the Vitruvian Man, remains a fiction. In real life, however, we may have to deal with an increasing solipsism stemming from people engaging with machines like sex robots. In this case, it is human and not robotic solipsism we need to worry about.
KeywordsScience fiction Robot feminism Solipsism Sex robots Vitruvian man Robotics Ex machina
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