Mortality has plagued humans since the dawn of Lime. In various works of fiction, automatons, androids and replicas of humans are often distinguished by their mortality and sexuality, or lack thereof. Indeed, storytelling seems to define “human” more by a character’s ability to die and reproduce than their actual actions. Dealing with loss and death is a tragedy for everyone. Our inevitable death is such an integral part of the human experience that we could never relate to or understand an immortal being.
As humans, we recognize our finite, fragile time on Earth encumbers us. In almost all cultures where a God or some Gods are worshipped, there is a constant theme of the Gods not dying of old age, In some cultures, like in Norse mythology, the Gods can be killed via other means, but will otherwise live forevert On the other hand, the Judeo-Christian God is completely indestructible, as are his angels and saints. Human mythmakers understood that death was our unbeatable rival, so when we constructed stories about our superiors, we made sure to distinguish them from us by making them immortal.
The scary part about robots is that they can be immortal. The software on the computer that is being used to read this will never die of old age. It may be replaced or deleted or destroyed, but if only given time, absolutely nothing will happen. Similarly, an automaton or robot can simply live forevert The Metal Gear video game franchise’s antagonists are a cohort of immortal sentient Al that conspire to manipulate global affairs.
In the short story titled “The Evitable Conflict” in the book I, Robot by Isaac Asimov, Earth’s economy is managed by god- like supercomputers creatively titled “Machines” that eventually take charge of humanity, Immortal robots have a tendency to be portrayed as godlike, omnipotent beings, On the contrary, AI with finite lifespans are much more humanized, The androids in Bladerunner are a prime example. Their whole goal is in fact, an extension of their lifetime.
They do not achieve it. However, they are very, very humanoid. The protagonist, Deckard, falls in love with one of them, and there is an ambiguity whether Deckard himself is a replicant or not. In the movie Westwarld, the androids are more or less immortal, However, one of the rebellious ones is known as the Gunslinger, who gets shot at every day. For that android, death is very present In stories, robots possess varying degrees of humanity. Much of that can be attributed to the robot’s relationship with death A second trait that androids can have that influences their humanity is the robot’s relationship with sex. The Terminator, portrayed by the bulky Arnold Schwarzenegger, engages in 0 sexual contact HAL 9000, from 2001: A Space Odyssey, is a completely sexless, formless creature Unsympathetic robots are asexual and aromantic. On the flip side, androids who are sexually active are usually the ones we are inclined to humanize Pris, in Blade Runner, is built for the express purpose of sexual gratification.
The replicants are very much considered to be as human as the human protagonists of the film One of the androids to rebel in Westworld was a robot whose job was to respond positively to all human advances. The importance of sex in making robots human is also mirrored in how humans are made human. Asexual and aromantic characters are nearly nonexistent in media. Of course, the idea of someone identifying as asexual is fairly new, but not so new that there couldn’t be more than a handful of confirmed asexual characters. Famously, Sherlock Holmes is suspected to be asexual, but also suspected to be gay or too involved in his work to care. A hypothesized asexual is not representation. Furthermore, asexual characters are generally made to be very weird, and robotic. No one claims Sherlock Holmes is a secret android, but among his quirks, he is considered extremely cold and strange.
The frequency of sexual characters may be due to the appeal of fictional characters as wish fulfillment for the majority non-sexual audiences. We want to see heroes who kill the monster, get the girl and end up happy, rich and famous, because we would also like to kill our metaphorical monsters, get the girl and end up happy, rich and famous. However, such would mean there could be room for asexual side characters and deuteragonists; not every character has to be our fantasy. Instead, the over-sexualization of humans, and of humanoid non-humans, is a testament to our implicit association between sexuality and humanity One of the few places where an immortal, asexual, but the anthropomorphized character can be found is in a children’s film, Wall-E.
The protagonist, and antagonist of the film are both sexless, ageless robots. While the titular main character does have a love interest, reproduction between two machines of different builds is literally impossible and beyond the scope of the film However, Wall-E is a children’s film, a genre that takes care to stay very clean and devoid of eroticism, for obvious reason Very few directors, when given the opportunity, create humanoid characters without implied sexuality, usually heterosexuality, It is ironic that the two traits that most bring out the humanity in human and non-human characters are not really that unique to humans: death and lust, Animals do them both It is when our artificial superiors, like androids and Artificial Intelligence, possess such animalian traits that they are brought down to our leveL It is only once these greater beings have been cursed with such primal problems are they deemed to be our equals, and notjust props.