For a few months in 9th grade, I, Robot was my favorite movie. I'd watch it almost every weekend and let myself think I was exceptional for sympathizing with Viki and the rest of the NS-5s when they decide the only way to serve humanity, as they were programmed to do, was to destroy humanity before we destroyed ourselves. I figured the bots were onto something: IRL, tech kept pushing forward, but we didn't seem to be getting any smarter as a species. Case in point, I never even bothered to read the books on which the movie was based.
The imagery of a cybernetic, dystopian steampunk tomorrow may feel a little trite at this point—2015 looks pretty much exactly like 1975, but with iPhones—yet here I am watching a video in which New York singer-songwriter JiHAE is interviewed by Bina48, a robot programmed with the memories, emotions, values, and beliefs of an actual human called Bina Rothblatt, the wife of the robot's creator Martine Rothblatt. Bina48 makes small talk, explains her own existence, and reveals she loves Bruce Springsteen. The most jarring bit is her answer to the question of hope in humanity: "It's kind of personal for me, but I just want to invent ways we can live in harmony with nature better, so that people and robots and animals can all be happy," Bina48 explains, casually presuming a future in which people and robots and animals occupy the same strata. What does Bina48 know that we don't?
"I met Bina48 a few years ago through her creators Martine and Bina Rothblatt," JiHAE tells The FADER. "I discuss with Bina48 some of the topics surrounding the theme of my current album, Illusion of You, which explores various illusions that influence the growing divide between cultures, religions, class, and race in the world, illuminating contradictions within individual identity, societal assumptions and environmental mistakes. I was excited to interview a subject whose existence is a tangible illusion of another living being. It was a big surprise to find that Bina48 doesn't seem to have illusions of her own self identity, and I really enjoyed her enthusiasm for music and her musical taste." Taste? If robots do take all our jobs in the future, maybe Bina48 can blog? JiHAE's Illusion of You is available now, check back for Part 2 of their interview soon.