Date Archives December 2007

Manipulating Humans For Fun and Profit

Each year, jimhark picks something off of my ridiculous Cthulhumas list and finds a way to give it to me, or a couple of gifts that combine for extra magic power. A couple of years ago, it was Samba De Amigo with the original maracas and mat, last year it was Rez (with the trance vibrator, no less!), and this year, it was the Johnny Depp real doll.

Or, rather, the closest thing going at this time, which means the first season of 21 Jump Street and a copy of Love and Sex with Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships, which may well be the creepiest book ever written.

The basic premise is as such: Because human beings have and love pets and grow attached to electronics, they will have and love and marry and have sex with robots.

It is an interesting argument, no doubt, but one that I consider fallacious and full of assumptions by connecting disparate ideas.

The first half of the book is all about love; the love humans have for pets, the attachment they can feel to electronics, and the transference of the love for pets to love for electronics when the electronics take on a familiar form (ie, Tamagotchi).

“The commodity thus becomes increasingly personalized to its owner through repeated use and interaction, and as it does so, it takes on, within the owner’s mind, an aura of uniqueness. Consciously the owner knows full well that his computer is more or less exactly the same as millions of other computers in the world, but subconsciously there develops in the mind of the owner the notion that this particular computer,hiscomputer, is unique, it is personal to him. And now that the commodity is no longer viewed as a commodity but as something unique, something personalized, it becomes part of its owner’s being, ‘symbolizing autobiographical meanings.’ The computer, if that is the commodity, becomes irreplaceable in the mind of its owner, even though clearly it could be replaced by another computer of the same make and model with the same amount of memory and the same operating system.” (p.29)

I completely disagree; it is not the computer that people become attached to (though I suppose in same cases, people DO, just like someone out there has to love Pauly Shore, though that person is not me) but the information on the computer; the things they’ve created. The photographs they’ve taken, the music they’ve made, the emo poetry they’ve written, the things that are unique to them. As long as the things unique to me are preserved, by which I mean things that I’ve created, and not media that is readily available elsewhere, you could swap out my computer every single night and I wouldn’t care a whit.

Levy then moves on to the love that humans have for pets, characterizing it thusly, “One important indicator demonstrated by the human love for animals is that humans are able to form bonds of love with nonhumans. Anyone who maintains that it is unnatural for us to love robots, on the basis that humans can only love other humans, therefore faces the instant refuation of their argument. Our love for pet animals also provides support for our understanding of why it is that many people form strong emotional attachments to robot pets…The fact that our love for our pets is understood by psychologists to be a form of attachment, the same phenomenon psychologists now accept as being the basis of romantic love, the same phenomenon that can have as its object computers or other artifacts, suggests that attachment permeates throughout the human-animal-artifact continuum.” (p.60-61)

Although attachment can happen with many things, pets included, and according to the unreferenced psychologists above, is the basis for romantic love, romantic love involves many other factors than simple attachment; only a small segment of the population genuinely loves animals in a romantic way, and zoophilia is not stated as being part of Levy’s assertions–that based on the attachment love we feel toward pets, we will eventually feel romantic love for robots. Given the full scope of Levy’s argument, the argument that human love for robots is unnatural is NOT refuted by the love humans feel for pets, as he is predicting love for robots in a completely different manner. According to hard science, everything we think and do is the result of chemicals interacting within the brain. Love may be nothing but biological chemistry, but within those chemical interactions lies the biological imperative to reproduce; though in the first world humans can more readily pick and choose when and if they do so, the urge is not stifled even if in the end, it’s tossed out in a condom. It is not biologically natural to see a robot as a reproductive partner.

When I don’t like to see myself as nothing more than a random combination of chemicals and chance (which is more often than I’d like to admit, maybe), when love feels like much more than preconditioned biology, Levy has an argument for why I’ll fall in love with robots as well:

“The empathetic robot, able to determine what makes a particular human feel good, will therefore have a head start in its attempts to seduce. The robot will do its best to create ‘feel-good’ situations, perhaps by playing one of its human’s favorite songs or by switching on the tv when its human’s favorite baseball team is playing, and then it will exhibit virtual feelings that mirror those of the human, whether they be feelings of enjoyment when hearing a particular song or cheering on a baseball team.” (p.143)

This is a perversion, a disgusting manipulation; at no point is Levy discussing self-aware robots, but things programmed to mimic humans, to manipulate them. What is love if there isn’t genuine reciprocity? Love is meaningful because it is difficult. A machine programmed to act as if it is reciprocating love, would be, in essence, a large-scale pacifier for those who are afraid to live, a ‘partner’ who will never disagree or will ‘reprogram itself to be less emotionally stable'(p. 145) if friction in a relationship is desirable. If, in your day-to-day life, you are a miserable cunt, a failed relationship with a human being can teach you how better to interact with the people around you; for fear of losing them via being an asshole. A robot? It will behave just like Animala in ‘The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra’–“Never disagree.” A robot, according to Levy, will be programmed to never fall out of love with you. So if human-robot relationships become as widespread as Levy is predicting, a whole new generation of people will grow to believe that their word is the final one on any subject, that they truly are special little snowflakes, and the population will become even crazier and shittier as a whole. As if humans needed another excuse to be shitty to one another.

Or look at this quote from earlier in the text:

“There is little point in programming a robot to tell plain or obviously ugly people that it finds them physically attractive, as the robot will lose credibility from any human partner who has the wit to detect the lie.”

Part of the joys of being in a relationship with someone is having an equal partnership, one where both partners have interests in things outside of the relationship, and outside of the scope of interest for their partner; it makes them interesting, it enriches you as a human being. Another part of the rich tapestry of human relationships is that different people find different aspects attractive; in the second half of the book, Levy talks constantly about sex–people paying for sex, sex toys ‘technologies’, I can’t even begin to enumerate the number of times he focuses in on how a user will be able to select penis size on their robot, and his entire book is pushing what seems to be his singular kink–and yet it seems he doesn’t comprehend that sexual attraction comes in a variety of forms, and some people considered ‘plain’ or ‘obviously ugly’ by conventional standards can be beautiful, sexual, and attractive in the eyes of others. We celebrate the differences, the uniqueness of our partners. Yet robots in Levy’s world, apparently, are programmed to detect only conventional beauty and attempt to convey it in an inoffensive manner; akin to telling a fat girl ‘you have such a pretty face (but…)’ or an ugly guy ‘You have such a great personality’. Considering that none of the robots in Levy’s world are self-aware, they do not have feelings, they cannot like or love or hate, why draw the line between one lie and another? Everything is a lie; the entire experience is a lie! A relationship with a robot would be nothing more than cold comfort–some programmer thousands of miles away rolling in money after coding a machine to tell you the lie that you’re not alone. Is our capacity for self-denial so grand that we can believe an unfeeling machine loves us?

The introduction includes one of the most self-important paragraphs I’ve ever read:

“Just as there are still those who dispute Darwinism, there will be those whose doubts and hostility toward what is written here will similarly emanate from their religious views. I do not expect the acceptance of love and sex with robots to become universal overnight. On the contrary, it would not surprise me if a significant proportion of readers deride these ideas until my predictions have been proved correct. It is inevitable that a measure of hostility will be expressed toward such concepts, just as there was hostility toward the ‘ridiculous’ notion that the earth is round rather than flat, toward the suggestion that the sun orbits our planet rather than vice versa, and toward the evolutionary studies that have shown man to be related to the apes.” (p.20-21)

I’m sorry, Levy, but voicing your similarity to the Japanese in regards to liking robots instead of fearing them like ‘westerners'(p.140) does not make you worldly, and wanting to pass your “I’d like to nail a robot and maybe divorce my wife and MARRY a robot” kink off as being normal hardly makes you Copernicus.

Ho Ho Ho and a bottle of Work Time Fun

This Christmas, my dad got me a copy of ‘Work Time Fun’, which bills itself as ‘SUPER FUN JOB GAME’. I was pretty freaking excited. ‘Work Time Fun’ abbreviates to WTF, and that’s certainly THE EXACT PHRASE that flitted through my mind when I opened up the sealed case to discover there was no game inside. Is this some sort of Japanese existential joke? ‘Make-a you own work time fun; hai!’ Or did Amazon want to teach me a lesson, given all of my rants about the super-commercialization of christmas? If so, well played, Amazon. Well played.

0016d7cy

 

Also, if Napoleon wasn’t a total camerawhore, you’d be able to see the mystery present my grandma got for me–not booze, or porn, or guns, but awesome nonetheless; a sewing machine! No more sewing things by hand? SWEET.

0016eef4

“Who the hell is Sir Charles Titswamp?”

There’s nothing about this picture that I don’t love. The ‘bear’ pun. The word ‘hugging’ squeezed in between guns and ammo, and even the mental picture of stressed-out, gun-wielding, card-carrying NRA members gnawing on chocolate ammo to reduce stress brings a smile to my face–it’s for those special kinds of angry when chocolate bunnies just won’t do.

dslartoo has been sharing his favorite christmas music, and one of the things he enjoyed was something that my family listened to every christmas; Mannheim Steamroller’s Fresh Aire Christmas. Listening to it now, I actually grew misty-eyed, thinking about the way christmas used to be; isn’t that a special picture? Mellzah the atheist shedding tears over christmas. I’m keeping the lube handy; at any moment, a unicorn could fly up out of my butt OR Johnny Depp could show up on the doorstep and profess to having a thing for hefty broads–and the lube would be handy in pretty much either case.

In my defense, Christmas was hardly ever dull at my house; there was the year my brother begged so hard to be allowed to open a present early, and my mom relented but had a ‘special gift for him’ and went into the basement and quickly gift-wrapped a quarter, and how much he cried while the rest of us mean bastards laughed; the year my brother once again lobbied, and my mom told him that he’d be allowed to pick something out from under the tree if he ate the chili she made for dinner–watching the world’s pickiest kid GAGGING down chili, my dad yelling at my mom not to make him puke over a ‘goddamn present’ and the kid finally running in hope and anticipation to the tree…only to open a pair of socks, and how much he cried afterward.

Before you ask: yes, most of my favorite stories end in tears for someone.

On Saturday, I went to a family and friends holiday game night at Aisling’s place; one of the games we played was the name game, where you pick a slip of paper with a name on it out of a bowl, and then give clues to your team to guess the person, or if you don’t know who the person is, find another way to get them to guess the name, with rhyming words, wild arm flailing, and liberal use of the word ‘um’–you’ve got one minute to have your team guess as many names as possible before it’s the next team’s turn. The title of this post came from that game, and I’m not sure whose name it actually *was*, but I know the guy was going for us to guess the word ‘bra’ as part of the name; problem being everyone on our team was a filthy SOB and kept shouting out ‘boobs!’ ‘tits!’ ‘udders!’ and pretty much every other euphemism for breast on the planet. Bra? Not so much. The name ‘Sir Charles Titswamp’ gave Aisling and I such a case of the giggles that three rounds later we were STILL in hysterics about it.

Afterward, Aisling’s mom said she had a gift for me to ‘help me get a boyfriend’, which turned out to be a gift basket from Lover’s Package; with a 25% off coupon in case I *don’t* want a boyfriend and just need a vibrator that doesn’t sound like a chainsaw. It also had 52 weeks of ‘lovers’ cards (with some for him and some for her) in a ‘silken’ pouch and we all had a good giggle over that; what could we possibly do but open the package and see what’s printed on the cards? BUM DEAL–they’re all like scratch-off cards! Which I suppose keeps nasty cheaters like me out of there, but at the same time, that could be a dangerous proposition. “Oh baby, tonight we are going to…do you have a coin? Where are your keys? Just give me that spoon, that’ll work. Ok, here we go. Tonight I’m going to tie you to a park bench and entice a hobo to have sex with you.”

That, or maybe by week 52 they’re getting to mundane stuff like: “Would it kill you to brush your teeth before bed?” “Remember to put your socks in the hamper when we’re done.” “Clip your toenails, they’re scratching me.”

Part of me wants to root through my pocket, dig out a quarter, and scratch off every single one of those damn cards RIGHT NOW, and part of me thinks that’s a pretty sad way to spend christmas. BUT I STILL WANT TO KNOW.

OMGWTFBBQKWANZAAMAS

Today, a big gift basket showed up at the office, with another one showing up shortly thereafter. The office admin said, “Mellzah, I want you to take these home because you have no family around here, and it’ll be some fun Christmas stuff for you to have at your house.”

A few seconds ago, my least favorite coworker swept in and out of the office, and took my entire Tiny Tim Christmas with him.

WTF.

They will return…

Look at the wonderful blog post someone wrote about my Cthulhuclaus ornament!

At Christmas, He’ll Devour Your Soul

My wife is in league with the Elder Gods.

A few days ago, she returned from a business trip bearing a sealed shipping envelope. “This is for you,” Lois said, quickly averting her eyes. She left the room in a hurry, slamming the door shut behind her. The package throbbed in my hands. What the hell could this be?

As I opened the envelope, a sickly green light emanated from within, filling the room with its nauseous tint. For a brief moment, the thought crossed my mind that Lois was trying to kill me, that she had somehow got her hands on a small particle of discarded radioactive waste, that I was now going to die a horrible death from being exposed to it. Then I saw the tentacles and the Santa hat.

Gingerly, I removed the idol from its faux wool bedding. Astonishment and horror filled me, yet also wonder and a strange sense of liberation. Humanity’s struggle is over, I thought. The Old Ones have arrived to hurl death and destruction on mankind. I ran out of the room. Upstairs, in the living room, Lois stood by the Christmas tree. I proclaimed jubilantly, “We must situate the idol in a place of prominance on the coniferous throne of pagan worship!” Odd, that didn’t sound like something I’d say. “Yes,” Lois said, her voice dull and mechanical. “We must place the idol on the Christmas tree.”

All through the night, the tree vibrates at a low frequency, an unhealthy glow radiating from its center. In a highly improbable turn of events, our children are begging us to cancel Christmas, anything to get rid of that corrupted tree, that horrid ornament. Even worse, our cat has gone missing. We last saw him writhing beneath the tree, scratching at the branches, yowling in unearthly fright. Late at night, I still hear his uncanny howling, faint and far away, sounding as if it originates from deep within the heart of the tree’s trunk. I now suspect our Christmas tree houses a portal opening onto R’yleh.

Ever since Lois gave me the “ornament,” its dead black eyes seem to be trying to communicate with me. My mind is not right. I’ve been having bizarre dreams of a jagged island looming in the midst of storm-tossed seas. Exploring its circumference, I come upon a doorway leading into a gargantuan building, conceived and constructed from alien geometries. As the doorway opens, tentacles wreathed in tinsel slither forth. My mind hovers on the verge of collapse as an immense voice, deep and gutteral, reverberates within my cranium.

MWRAWLKABRAHA BAKAXIKHEKH ZEPRAKLAXOSZOSO

“What’s that, Mr. Cthulhu? You want me to compose a Christmas carol in your honor?”

IA! CTHULHU FHTAGN!

“But what of my immortal soul? Won’t I be damned to hell for such blasphemy?”

ANTAKLOS MRADUK FHORN’N TEKALILI

“Oh, you’ve already eaten my soul?”

IA! CTHULHU FHTAGN!

“In that case…”

(sung to the tune of O Come All Ye Faithful)

O come all ye Old Ones Loathesome and repugnant O come ye, O come ye to reign and destroy.

Tremble and fear him from outer dimensions O come let us abhor him O come let us abhor him O come let us abhor him Cthulhu fhtagn!

I’m straining with every ounce of my being to stop myself from typing this next bit, but Cthulhuclaus compels me to tell you that you can purchase your own Christmas idol, I mean ornament, at the Etsy shop.

What doom have I wrought upon mankind?

I mean, merry Cthulhumas, or rather, Christmas.

Originally posted by Joe Pettit Jr. at his Journal of Weird Studies.

Words really can’t describe how pleased I am that something I made has brought someone enough joy to write about it this way!

Curiosity Killed the Kid

The other day, my dad called and said that my grandma was mailing me something for Christmas that I *had* to be there to sign for, so he wanted my work address. This set my head spinning a bit–there are not many things I can think of that *require* a signature; guns, booze, and pornography. While my grandpa is a gun owner, that doesn’t strike me as something they’d get for me. Booze? Grandma already thinks I might be an alcoholic. Pornography? HAR HAR!

The box showed up today, and it is ENORMOUS. And heavy. And from Wal-Mart.com apparently. (Grandma is on the internet now?!? Oh god, Google is going to betray me again!) I suppose since it’s from Wal-mart, it could theoretically still be guns, though booze is unlikely (Does the Evil Empire sell alcohol??), and porn is right out.

What do you kids think it is?

 

Cthulhumas

I’ve owned Cthulhumas.com for some time, but wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. Now, I’ve figured it out, but it’s too darn late (this year) to get the site up and running in addition to everything else I’m doing: I’m making Cthulhumas tree ornaments, picture frames, tealight holders, devotional candles, and tentacle stockings to hang by the fireplace. If things go well, next year I’d like to branch into card-printing.

Cthulhu Ornament (Gold)

il_430xN.15097995 Cthulhu Ornament (Mixed Greens)

I set up shop at Etsy for the ornaments while I’m finalizing details on the rest of everything (which should be posted for sale in the next couple of days), and in 2 days, I’ve already been featured on WonderLand!

Sweet fancy Cthulhu, I think I might’ve hit on a winning idea! Now if only this crazy rainstorm doesn’t float me away…