Paolo Bacigalupi's new short story "Mika Model" is a detective tale about a murdering sexbot.
The Mika Models are Realdolls backed by big data and machine learning, able to intuit their owners sexual buttons and push them, sharing their data during nightly networked updates, so the cluster of sexbots gets "smarter" by the day.
So far, so dystopian: until Mika walks into a police station carrying a bag with the severed head of her former owner. She announces that she murdered him because his masochism kink insisted that she be real, and thus capable of being hurt, and so she learned to be real, and then she killed him, because he insisted on hurting her. Now she wants a public defender.
The story weaves together elements of Bacigalupi's groundbreaking debut novel The Windup Girl, and is in the tradition of Madeline Ashby's outstanding debut vN, both books about the way that gender, power, corporatism and sex will shape the ethical questions of the future.
In a companion article, robot law scholar Ryan Calo takes up the legal questions that Bacigalupi's story poses.
"My owner." Her expression tightened. "He hurt me, you know?"
"You can be hurt?"
"I have skin and nerves. I feel pleasure and pain, just like you. And he hurt me. But he said it wasn't real pain. He said nothing in me was real. That I was all fake. And so I did something real." She nodded definitively. "He wanted me to be real. So I was real to him. I am real. Now, I am real."
The way she said it made me look over. Her expression was so vulnerable, I had an almost overwhelming urge to reach out and comfort her. I couldn't stop looking at her.
God, she's beautiful.
It was a shock to see it. Before, it was true; she'd just been a thing to me. Not real, just like she'd said. But now, a part of me ached for her in a way that I'd never felt before.
Mika Model [Paolo Bacigalupi/Slate]
(Image: Lisa Larson-Walker)