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Juniper Berries, vol. III

A.I. -- Love You?

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by , 21 Jun 2011 at 2:08 pm (1737 Views)
Last Friday (17th June 2011) I finally finished reading "Love + Sex with Robots. The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships" (henceforth abbreviated as "LSwR"; ISBN 978-0-06-135975-0), a book written by David Levy. Some of my readers might recall that I have mentioned it earlier, at least in the forum discussion thread "An actual chobits" [sic!] in November 2009.

My primary reason to read Levy's study was indeed manga-related: curiosity triggered by Clamp's "Chobits" series, a major reading project of mine back in 2007. LSwR seemed to provide insight into how far or, in some respects, how surprisingly close humanity really is to the gynoid illusions commonly seen in "Chobits" -- apart from Chi and a handful of other persocoms that appear most extraordinary even in that fictional near future.

I say "study", but what David Levy has written is rather a very thorough-going pamphlet. The amount of articles, books, websites and other resources he has at least browsed through is impressive, and LSwR does manage to give an expansive and interesting overview of themes related to human and artificial emotions and sexuality and how these meet each other. What calls for more criticalness is Levy's way of drawing conclusions based on his material. It seems to me that he has set a number of hypotheses, some of these more and others less plausible intuitively, and whenever somehow logically possible, he deduces that these hypotheses are correct. In many cases, the exact opposite seems just as likely. While most researchers in the fields of humanities do this to some extent, I find it hard to name other serious, peer-reviewed works that would take this often unconscious little vice as far as LSwR does. I am not saying that Levy's conclusions must be wrong; in fact I am afraid he may have hit upon the right predictions at far more points than common sense would tell us. It is his bluntly propaganda-like rhetorics that I have reservations about.

Afterwards I am not quite sure whether manga robot girls are such a fascinating theme that it was worthwhile reading over 300 pages in a foreign language about related facts and speculations. But I do not read whole books (other than comics) in English that often, and wading through LSwR taught me a lesson or two. In the progress, I consulted my dictionary far more often than it was absolutely necessary, paying attention to numerous latin-based words such as stipulate as well some vocabulary of Germanic origins, like ailing. Some of the words I checked I knew from before, although my understnding of them was vague, and others were completely new to me. I suspect that many of them were used for a stylistic effect rather than to reach maximal accuracy of expression. A rewarding, and exhausting, bypath was comparing the various possible Finnish translations with each other and trying to grab "absolute" meanings behind various contexts. It had been quite a while since I had last gotten such a clear reminder of how different languages use concepts that, while interpretable with more or less effort, have nothing even resembling equivalents in others. litigious is a clear example, albeit some of the words I came across were far more complicated in meaning.

So, now I know a good deal of trivia about topics like AIBO the robot dog; the history of vibrators; the development of chess computers (as a parallel to AI research aiming at simulating human feelings); how psychologists explain the fundamentals of love; and so forth. Necessary information for people of our time? Some pieces, probably. But there is at least one fact every AnimeB member should learn from David Levy or elsewhere, namely the backround of Chachamaru the robot girl's family name. Please look into it and write a comment if you learned something new.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_L...hess_player%29

Comments

  1. Aeris's Avatar
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karakuri_ningy%C5%8D

    This is what i beleive Ken akamatsu was referencing to in her family name and this is why. I had checked this out a while back when i first developed an interest in the robot girl's past.

    Eva-san is referred to as the puppet master which i'm not sure of the translation and actual japanese used in each case(check me up on this) but kanji of parts of the word karakuri may be used in the title.

    Chacha is made using magically powered springs and gears(as referenced in early manga chapters but highly unbeleivable due to her abilities) which can be drawn as parallell to the general design of the karakuri. however i think this more explains Chachazero than -maru.

    http://www.karakuri.info/

    leads me to beleive that the japanese created these mecha to suprise or confound as if almost like magic. akamatsu may be also deriving meaning there as well.

    i hope this answers your question
  2. hinarei's Avatar
    bah! beaten to the answer :/

    I knew this one because my parents quite often watch the Antiques Roadshow on BBC TV here. Karakuri are immensely ingenious contraptions which did really confound people when they first came about. To think that the Japanese had constructed these starting in the 17th century (I don't know if other countries had made starts on it by then, but I do doubt that) is astonishing.

    I like the fact that the more elaborate ones were used in theatres, but the most important of these types was the tea-maker. It's a highly repetitive, dull task which is however so important people could invest so much money, effort and time into producing a mechanism for it.

    Chachamaru is perhaps (with a little remodelling and her more recent clothing updates) the epitome of the craft.

    Sounds like an interesting read, Kata, but I see how it could drag if you have several hundred pages of it to get through. Robogirls are fascinating enough to spend time on though. Not only do we have such shining examples as featured in Negima, but my favourite non-Ken mechgirl is probably Marie from Boku no Marie.

  3. Katajainen's Avatar
    Thanks, Aeris and Ecchirei. I did know the answer to my question -- or so I thought -- and asked it in order to get some discussion going. You have showed to me that I have a lot to learn from you.

    I have forgotten many details from Levy's books, but he liked to compare the Japanese humanoid karakuri especially with the French animal automata built by Vaucanson in the XVIII century. The English-language Wikipedia article "Automaton" seems to feature most gadgets mentioned by Levy. I found the Kurdish al-Jazari's inventions from around 1200 especially fascinating.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automaton

    When it comes to fiction, let us not forget Ping and Makoto, created by Fred Gallagher.

    http://megatokyo.com/strip/407
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