RTOD 02MAY2009 : What is love? (Baby, don’t hurt me! Don’t hurt me, no more!)

RTOD : What is love? (Baby, don’t hurt me!  Don’t hurt me, no more!)

Wow.  Just… Wow… 

Introducing Mandeh!  The Bunneh!

Introducing Mandeh! The Bunneh! Wanted to show her, too.

For the few of you left reading, I managed to find a new, but completed, comic to read.  Well…. Technically, it’s not really a comic.  I read my first manga (series, I know, what the hell was I thinking, right?) called Chobits.  The main dealings in the story, all eight books of it, is the interactions of humans and walking, talking computers called Persocoms.  These “Persocoms” come in many shapes and sizes, ranging from really, really small ones that replace cell phones and laptop computers,  to full-size humanesque machines, that walk, talk, have the ability to learn, and are generally designed to make life easier and make people happy.  These persocoms are so realistic, though, and so “perfect,” that people can, and sometimes do, develop real feelings for them, even going as far as marriage and . . .  Let’s just call in full consummation.  This story, though, centers around a particular character, Hideki, a kid trying to get into college, but not doing so well in making it.  He did poorly in high school, and is in a special “cram school,” designed for ultra-high-speed education up to much higher standards.  His parents cut him from his allowance as motivation, and he only seems to be able to get a crappy job.  His immediate wish, though, seems to be to have a persocom, a companion for him who can cook his food, clean his house, download his homework, browse the internet with him, and take care of his physical needs.  (Sounds like someone’s looking for a wife without the commitment…  I know, bad wulf…)  On a particularly crappy day, he’s walking past a pile of garbage, and spots what looks like a human corpse thrown in the trash.  Upon closer investigation, it turns out to be a particularly attractive persocom!  He takes it home, finds its power switch in a special place to turn her on, and boots her up.  She seems very defective, only able to say one thing, Chi, which he eventually names her, and regularly mimics his motions.  He attempts to look up her internal software, which comes back blank.  From there, he enlists the help of a friend to try to figure her out more, and the story begins.  Well, actually, I think that’s about half the first book, but the books are most definitely designed to be read in series. 

The story itself, throughout the series, deals with the connections humans make with their persocoms, and, in particular, Chi and Hideki.  They eventually learn how persocoms have helped or hurt relationships with humans, and whether or not these machines can ever truly be used to replace a person who has died.  Interestingly, a lot of the story deals with the idea of love and machines.  Can a machine love a human, and, more importantly, can a human ever truly love a machine?

It begs a serious question.  What really is love?  Love is not a physically discernable thing.  You can’t touch it, other than the sensation you feel when you are with the person you love.  You can’t hear it, except in the changes in voices by people who are feeling it.  You can’t see it except for what people do when they feel it.  So, then, what is it? 

If you think along a biological lines, it’s basically a very intense attraction, caused by various hormones.  From a psychological standpoint, it’s a form of child defense mechanism, designed to help humans as a species grow, by giving us a sense of protection over something we consider our own.  It’s also a form of madness, because being in love tends to make most people do things they usually would not.  But who cares about scientific thought, what the hell is it?!  What causes it?  What makes it work differently for different people?

Love happens differently for everyone, we all know that.  For some, it’s simply a connection that grows from learning who a person is.  For others, it’s the instantaneous feeling that you get when you see that one person, the “person of their dreams,” and can either grow from knowing the person, or wane from a lack of connection.  Still others, it’s that one thing that a person does that makes them so irresistible to another that it becomes a form of connection.  There’s really no way of explaining it, other than knowing that, when the object of that love is gone, you feel alone, and want that person around again, and when they are there, you day seems so much brighter, no matter what’s really going on. 

I’m certain people might think, “Well, my dog loves me, and I love my dog, isn’t that the same thing?”  Strangely, that answer is yes for the human, but not for the animal.  To the animal, you are family, a member of its den, pack, pride, herd, whatever.  It depends on you for food, water, shelter, basically everything.  The animal will thank you with its companionship and willingness to defend you as a member of its family, but it’s not the same kind of love that is exhibited between people.  I say this not because I don’t think animals have that kind of emotion, to the contrary, I do feel that animals love just as strongly as humans do, but, their love comes in a form strictly designed for survival.  It’s not the love of togetherness, closeness, the kind that humans develop over a time of knowing them, getting to know them, being close, learning from, and being learned from.   The kind of love humans have, while being more animalistic in nature, is based on a desire of humans not to be entirely alone, to have someone close to them.  With animals, it’s more designed for survival.  You will love you animal, you will take care of them, you will be happy for its presence, but it will never truly love you in the same way.  Actually, re-reading that, I kinda proved my idea of loving something not human, although it will be a form of unrequited love, since the animal will be by your side, but will never be able to love you back in the same way.

So, then, with these persocoms, could a person ever truly be in love with them?  In many ways, yes.  This persocom will generally act human.  They will look mostly human, save for a few things that may give a machine-like point to it.  They will feel human, they’re designed to be the perfect interactive machines.  Imagine the person you truly love, who you consider to be your companion.  The one you’ve spent weeks, months, years with, the person who’s become your friend, who’s made you the happiest and, sometimes, the most sad.  Now, imagine that the only thing different with this person is that they have an on/off switch, and programming.  Is it possible that, even with that difference, you could still be entirely, 100% in love with them?  I truly think so.  It does make me wonder, is it really so smart to be making humanoid robots?  Imagine what would happen if they are capable of walking, talking, thinking, and acting among us, without really being easily detected unless you’re specifically looking for the differences?  Imagine that they developed their own personalities, while still maintaining the desire to help and serve their owners.  Always helpful, always willing to do what makes you, their owner, smile?  And they could help.  They would take part in the chores, the happy moments, the trials, everything!  It would almost be like living with another person, but with one major difference:  They can’t love you back.  They will emulate certain aspects of it, they will be willing to try to make things better.  They might even be able to hold you close, allowing you to feel the warmth they were designed to have, but it’s all based on design, programming.  They would never be able to fully learn, to adapt, to love you.  It may feel like it, it may be close, but it won’t ever truly be love for them.  For them, it’s simply another sub-routine.  And, if a program could be designed to make full love-emulation possible, it would simply still be another program…  Another feature… 

BUT…  Does that make the love you might bear it not real? 

In all honesty…

No. 

But, could you handle it?  Could you truly be able to handle knowing that the object of your affections, the one you love can never truly, and honestly, love you back?

And, to enter another idea…  What if these machines were built to be in place of a lost loved one, or to give you loved ones, or children, that you couldn’t have for yourself?  What if they were designed to be children, ones you had to teach, raise, show the ways of the world, as you would a living, breathing child?  Or, what if you lost a sister, spouse, child, and could have one of these machines made who looked, walked, talked, acted as they did.  Is it wrong?  Is it spoiling their memory with a mechanical doppelganger?  What if it helped ease your pain, making your life seem more bearable? 

And what do you do when they break down?  Do you destroy them, recycling them for parts?  Do you re-build them, even at the risk of losing the data, the personality that they developed over the months or years of having them?  Could you handle losing the person they were, and only have the original shell?

(Wow, what a rambling… Sorry)

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