What you see above is a shot YouTube video of the apparently-real Gatebox. This is a Japanese product that is an answer to something like Amazon's Alexa or Apple's Siri. It's a "virtual wife" who wakes the actor up in the morning (gently), warns him of rain, texts him to come home early, turns the lights on before he gets home, and says, lovingly, "good night" when he falls asleep.
This highlights a couple of things:
- Their target market seems to be men with no social life, no hope of getting a real girlfriend, and maybe no interest in one anyway (judging from the size of his apartment one person can barely fit).
- The promise of "electronic love" (vs. artificial sex) is definitely what they're selling. This isn't a tech-toy (at least it's not presented as one), or a virtual valet (like Alexa or Siri). This is a waifu.
- It's freakin' high end. Apparently 2600.00 and goes on sale next year in December.
Is This An Abomination?
Eh. Probably not. So there are some concerns The Omnivore has. The first one is whether or not you can hurt the character. Either her artificial feelings or her imaginary nerve endings. The reason The Omnivore asks about that is because if you can then even play-acting torturing an imaginary character is something that makes The Omnivore ethically queasy.
If you can't? The Omnivore is pretty sure they're leaving a bundle of money on the table.
However, probably: you can't--and won't be able to (in the TV show Humans, the humanoid android's most common illegal modification was to make the robot pretend to experience pain--something The Omnivore found pretty realistic)--so that problem is likely (hopefully) taken care of.
The second issue is about the size of this target market.
The 'Radicalization' Of Young White Men Online
In The Age of Trump, of course we have a Vox article about how online misogyny is a "gateway drug" to the alt-right's hard-core racism. The Omnivore isn't especially hysterical about this stuff--the whole RedPill thing seems like the result of being a loser rather than a path to it and The Omnivore suspects that a lot of these alt-right people would probably be pretty repulsive in real life with or without the online movement anyway.
But we're seeing some trends that, if they continue unchecked, probably are not good. This Gatebox thing plays into it. The "thing" is the general consensus among a group of guys that flesh and blood women should act, more or less, like the virtual one above. This is fine if you're both into it--but generally you have to give to get and today that kind of relationship pretty much requires that the guy part of the equation be a big shot.
If you can give your spouse the job of making sure you're happily taken care of all the time--then they likely expect to get their needs met too. That, thinks The Omnivore, is a bridge too far for a lot of these guys. As such, the historical gender dynamics are, according to stats, not doing so well in America and have totally and utterly collapsed in Japan.
Hence: electronic waifu.
Basically, this thing is a 2600.00 white flag of giving up on anything resembling traditional gender roles and marriage. It isn't even substituting it for free love or poly-relationships or anything like that: it's replacing it with Skyrim and a Fleshlight.
This Gatebox thing is the canary in the coal-mine: if it takes off in America, especially at that price, then it means that America is having the same kind of difficulty that Japan is already pretty deep into.
That isn't good.
|They plan to add new characters. This is the stats for the first one shown.|
Could This Enable The Breakdown?
If you go online there is not shortage of stories of women trying to lure their men away from Call of Duty to have sex. Usually, when these stories get posted, it's because they failed spectacularly. The idea that a video game--for a large swath of young men--could be more enticing than sex--would have seemed like absolute madness 20 years ago.
Today, The Omnivore suspects that most guys can . . . kinda see it. Maybe they have to squint real hard--and maybe Call of Duty isn't the the game for everyone--and, you know, sex with the imaginary supermodel will still pull those guys away--but in real life?
The Omnivore doesn't think this scenario is so far out there.
If we assume that your eWaifu is about 20% of what you want from a relationship and that some percentage of people can actually manage to feel "taken care of" by the machine, could this tip some non-insignificant number of people into the virtual-relationship realm?
The Omnivore isn't sure--but doesn't entirely discount it. That's at current tech-levels. In a decade this thing could be much savvier.
The real impetus for writing this article isn't exactly about the dangers of lonely guys hooking up with VR characters or even about the impending Manosphere / Beta Uprising. It's really about the way that technology can suddenly and abruptly disrupt the current state. Alexa and Siri are a lot more like tools than people. But with a (comparatively) minor tech upgrade they can certainly become more like people.
While it seems clear that we are not going to manufacture the robots from Westworld (even if we could, it seems unlikely) it just takes a small team to come up with something like Gatebox and, the next thing you know, you're falling in love with Windows-Tan. Don't say The Omnivore didn't warn you.