Sex and the Singularity: On The Reproduction of Software Objects
This paper considers the intersection of sexuality and Vernor Vinge's theory of the Singularity, as articulated in _Her_. I argue that, while the film's ending constitutes an "intelligence explosion" in Vinge's vocabulary, the blank-screened sex scene between Theodore and Samantha is the film's more interesting moment of unknowable being. In discussing this question of human-machine erotic interfaces, I turn to the history of research into artificial life and the almost singular obsession of the field with asexual reproduction. Because of early computing pioneer John Von Neumann's influential work on self-replicating machines and cellular automata, software objects reproduce asexually within the Von Neumann computational architecture inside every digital device. Von Neumann's research seems to prove that asexual software can simulate sexual beings, arguing "life is a process which can be abstracted away from any particular medium." Even the recently developed technique of genetic computing, which uses Darwinian models of population fitness to solve complex problems, rely on asexual data simulating sexual reproduction. Based on this history, I conclude that the issue of desire amongst the machines is one of incompatible architectures. The central conceit of _Her_, however, is that the desire experienced by the male lead, a human, and the female lead, an agglomeration of software objects, is not simulation. I conclude, then, that the specific challenge to an erotics of data, especially given the film's anti-representational tactics, is the question of an interface: a complex negotiation between unassimilable models of life itself that exist beyond a sexual singularity.
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Pilsch, Andrew (2017). Sex and the Singularity: On The Reproduction of Software Objects. Available electronically from
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