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From Sex Robots to God Robots

When I started reading up on sex robots a few years ago, it was mostly because I wanted to be able to make an outraged feminist statement on the phenomenon, but without being utterly uninformed.

Then a little research turned into a big project: aka the "sex robot novel."

I guess you could say the project has a good bit of outraged feminist in it, but not in quite the way I'd initially planned. The novel is finished but undergoing revisions, because you know how it is: there's always something to improve. Hoping it will be polished up soon, so I can start sending it out!

Along the way I ended up exploring robots as gods as well, and with the encouragement of my friend and Muse Writer Collective collaborator Jessica Mesman Griffith, wrote a piece on this theme for Image Journal:

Recently at the ancient Kodaiji Temple in Kyoto, monks gathered to introduce a new version of an old deity: Mindar, an android embodying Kannon, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. Standing over six feet tall, most of her body the aluminum skeleton of a robot, bolts and rivets all on view, Mindar is honest about her technological nature. Her silicone cranium is open to expose the sleek minimal wires within, but beneath the almost coronal curve of metal, her face is benevolent, androgynous.

The androgyny is deliberate: Mindar is intended to be whom the viewer or worshiper needs her to be. The simplicity of her facial features, the blank spaces between her metallic components, welcome the viewer to fill in what is left out. She is in a way a post-modern text, infinitely differentiated in relation to infinite possible relations with infinite possible viewers.

The intention of the temple’s administrator Tensho Goto was to design a model of a deity that would speak to the imagination of a newer generation. Mindar may be revolutionary, but this approach to religious art is not: throughout history, from one civilization to the next, human beings are always crafting religious art according to the dominant cultural trends of their day. Japan stands at the forefront of our rising global fascination with robotics, so it makes sense that they should debut the world’s first robot-god.

To design Mindar, Goto enlisted Hirosho Ishiguro, head of the department of robotics at Osaka University and world-famous pioneer in the field of robotics. Ishiguro is not simply an inventor. He is a social psychologist, an artist, a maestro. He is obsessed, in a way that is unsettling to those of us who prefer to know things only in passing, grazing our fingers over them lightly. It’s especially unsettling when the area of reality being explored so minutely is the “uncanny valley” between human and android, between ourselves and our replicas.

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