As we roll into the future of machines taking over, self-driving cars, and Amazon's self-service supermarkets, how long until we actually see fully functioning robots in the house? So far we have been left with blocky hybrids of Wall-E and C-3PO that mop floors and climb stairs, but is the future of Ex Machina beauty bots really that far away? It is bad enough to find out that your other half is doing it with the gardener, let alone the mower.
The question of shacking up with your tech was at the forefront of #HBO's first season of #Westworld. Season 1 was pretty much the 30 year saga of one man's unrequited love for a robot and all the nasty mistakes in between. The show made it tricky enough to distinguish between human and AI, then you had the likes of board director Charlotte Hale, who was quite happy to bonk her way through the park. Then there was the doomed Theresa, unknowingly screwing the merch AND her killer at the same time. It didn't exactly make you want to reach for the Henry Hoover and get down on one knee — moral of the story:
It is a tale as old as time, but aside from Westworld, let's look and see where else pop culture has taught us that man + machine = big trouble. Can dating your robot ever end in happiness? In short, NO!
'The Twilight Zone' (1959)
Rod Serling's creepy anthology show was never a pleasant ride, but as early as the show's first season and they were already asking whether it is right to fall in love with your robot. Episode "The Lonely" follows Corry, a man convicted of murder, banished to solitary confinement on a desolate planet. Believing in his innocence, a supply ship captain takes pity on Corry and leaves behind a robotic female counterpart.
After initially dismissing the robot as a hunk of metal, he soon falls for "Alicia." The ship eventually returns to pardon Corry, but there is only room for him on the shuttle. Refusing to leave Alicia behind, Corry had gone mad due to his isolation. The ship's captain shoots her in the head and calmly reminds Corry that the only thing he is leaving behind is loneliness.
'The Avengers' (1970s - Present)
Scarlet Witch and Vision: match made in heaven, or disaster waiting to happen? Comic books are known for their tumultuous relationships, but few have been as tough as Scazza and Viz. She's a superpowered witch and he's an android — go figure. After a budding romance from the early '70s, the pair were married in "Giant-Size Avengers #4" in 1975 and even had their own limited series in the '80s.
Wanda gives birth to twins who don't actually exist, Vision is destroyed/rebuilt with no emotion, the pair separate, she dates Wonder Man, and then she kills her ex-husband. Jeremy Kyle has nothing on these two, so the MCU has plenty to play with in the future if they want to unite Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany on our screens. We have already seen a little bit of their romance play out during Captain America: Civil War, so expect the "feels" to bloom.
'Demon Seed' (1977)
"What a lovely new-build house you have, tell me, has it ever tried to bang you?" The story is of a super-intelligent AI house which impregnates the creator's wife with its own baby. If being raped by your house weren't bad enough, you then have to push out a robot-human hybrid baby and raise it as your own while locked in a basement.
Demon Seed is smothered in '70s horror cheese, but the robot having its wicked way with a helpless human is the opposite of Westworld's mantra. Doesn't feel so good when the robot is the one holding the lube is it? The Simpsons did a superb parody of Demon Seed with Pierce Brosnan as the murderous house in "Treehouse of Horror XII," so check it out!
'Blade Runner' (1982)
While Ridley Scott says his version of Harrison Ford's Deckard was a robotic replicant, Philip K. Dick's original had the Blade Runner as a human. Deckard's humanity aside, the film has him fall for Rachel the robot, reveal she isn't real, then force himself upon her.
Things don't fair much better for the doomed genetic designer J.F. Sebastian, who develops a soft spot for Daryl Hannah's Pris and gets himself killed by an angry Rutger Hauer. Pris turns out to be a Xenia Onatopp of acrobatics and tries to crush Deckard between her thighs. Basically, all the relationships with the opposite sex in this film will either get you killed or revealed to be nuts and bolts — steer clear!
'Weird Science' (1985)
A computer-revitalized tale of Frankenstein, Weird Science features Anthony Michael Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith as two pimply kids who try and design their perfect woman with a mainframe and a doll. Yeah, it is fun for a while, but the duo soon grow tired of having their life turned upside down by a superpowered Kelly LeBrock.
It transpires that teenage lust and "I'm only in it for the sex" can't outlast real love. Just like the Mary Shelley's outings, artificial creations end in disaster, and the two boys cast Lisa aside for some real women. The film may have made a sex symbol out of LeBrock, and feature a young Robert Downey Jr., but still, don't screw the computer!
'Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me' (1999)
Machine gun jubblies was a neat trick that soon wore thin with Mike Myers's Austin Powers films, and the seductive fembots were your classic film sirens combined with technology. Lesson learned, "try before you buy!"
The second film in the series modernized the James Bond twist that you have been sleeping with the enemy to strange new levels. The opening scene reveals that Austin's smokin' hot wife (Liz Hurley) has a pair of smoking hot pistols in her breasts, and that she is actually a diabolical fembot sent by Dr. Evil. Vanessa Kensington soon blows up and Austin is free to be a lothario once more. What kind of inattentive husband can't tell his wife is a murderous robot?
'Bicentennial Man' (1999)
An all-star cast and Robin Williams's touching role as Andrew the android make for a Pinocchio-like story. Based off Isaac Asimov's 1992 novel, the film tracks Andrew's longing to be classed as more than a machine, in a saga over two centuries long. It was a mixed-bag ride, and there was the weird fact that Andrew finds the love his life, she dies, so he dates her granddaughter.
The film may have a happy(ish) ending, but it took Andrew 200 years to get there, while almost everyone he ever loved was long dead. Who really wants that? The other kicker is that to truly find love, Andrew was no longer a machine. With real skin, organs, and blood coursing through his veins, he was classed as a human being.
Matt Groening's Futurama was never as popular as The Simpsons, which is ridiculous, considering is is actually better. Futurama plumbed strange new depths of sci-fi, including the episode where Fry falls for a Lucy Liu robot. The Season 3 episode "I Dated a Robot" even had its own Twilight Zone narration and informative short "Don't Date Robots" with a Rod Serling parody.
The show depicted a grim future where mankind is lost to a wave of celebrity robots. Futurama was always a clever social commentary, and their own take on homosexuality was typically hilarious. The sixth season episode "Proposition Infinity" had the characters Amy and Bender develop a robosexual relationship, which is frowned upon even in the year 3000.
'Black Mirror' (2013)
Charlie Brooker's tech-anthology Black Mirror isn't exactly known for feel-good episodes, and "Be Right Back" was no exception. Dealing with life, death, and robotic replication in a typically grim hour of television. Hayley Atwell's Martha is the grieving widow who purchases a blank slate robot, which can transform itself into a robotic version of her deceased husband Ash (played by Domhnall Gleeson). Through the cloud, Ash can have his conscience uploaded into the doppelgänger bot, but he will never be the real thing.
It isn't long before Martha pines for the real touch of her husband and realizes that technology is no substitute for her lover. There are some dark scenes, including when Martha commands Ash-bot to jump off a cliff. The final flash forward reveals a wicked twist showing that Martha never really could leave her deceased husband behind, and even years later still kept the robotic version locked in the attic like a sick experiment gone wrong.
Spike Jonze's romantic sci-fi entry is a superb film, and it is hard not to fall in love with Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson as a couple; the only problem? You only ever see one of them. In a world of online dating, can one man really date a program? No one really questions the logistics of someone dating their phone, which is all the more concerning for the future.
It is a lot like 500 Days of Summer with Theodore Twombly (Phoenix) working for a company that pens personalized, handwritten, notes for your loved ones, a'la Joseph Gordon Levitt in 500 Days. Johansson is the Zooey Deschanel of this story, except she is an AI personal assistant designed to make your life easier. The pair fall "in love" but it becomes blatantly obvious that Samantha is outgrowing their relationship and has thousands of men on the go at once. A two-timing partner is bad enough, let alone when they are getting dick pics from half the world. There is no happy ending here, so put your phone down before it is too late!
'Ex Machina' (2015)
The second Domhnall Gleeson entry on the list is as equally macabre. A highly intelligent computer uses human emotion as a bargaining chip. What started as a Turing Test experiment ends as a violent demise for the film's human characters, proving machines can outsmart us at every turn.
Seeing the artificial Ava (Alicia Vikander) prey on Gleeson's Caleb, and his apparent love for her so that she can escape from a fortified house prison, was an unnerving affair. The worst bit, she then leaves him behind for an implied death. There was something very Black Mirror about Ex Machina and it rightly deserves its critical acclaim. The big question is though: a work of fiction, or a look to what lies ahead?
Still feel like shagging the toaster? No, I didn't think so. Dating a robot will only end in disaster. Already in real life we have seen a rise of "technosexuals," where men or women are marrying their sex robots. David Levy, author of Love and Sex With Robots says that by 2050 sex with machines will be commonplace:
"Robot sex will become the only sexual outlet for a few sectors of the populations. The misfits, the very shy, the sexually inadequate and uneducable. For different sectors of the population robot sex will vary between something to be indulged in occasionally, and only when one's partner is away from home on a long trip, to an activity that supplements one's regular sex life, perhaps when one's partner is not feeling well, or not feeling like sex for some other reason."
What's next, Terminator: Rise of the Blowjobs? Back to Westworld, William might want to rethink that relationship with Dolores, and hopefully Westworld Season 2 will dispense with those human-robo relationships — it lead to a few "sticky" ends. If pop culture has taught us anything, next time the robotic maid gives you those bedroom eyes, steer well clear. Don't have nightmares, kids!