New Times,
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  1. Culture
3 May 2008

Robot love

By Natasha Periyan

An existential crisis over what it means to be human looms, with the publication of David Levy‘s book Love and Sex with Robots. Despite the tabloid title, Levy’s is a scholarly work, which argues that robotic machines will gradually replace our fellow human beings as companions, both for love and sex. In this week’s NS Michael Bywater, finds the robot revolution plausible; “Love is not something to do with them; it is something to do with us.” Robin Marantz Henig, writing for the New York Times doubts, however, whether “a sexbot in every home…is what we really want.”

Bill Thompson, reporting for BBC News 24, was more concerned with the technical likelihood of such advances: “I think that creating them will always be beyond our human capabilities.” A fan of the tortures of love, Thompson especially questioned the ability of a robot to ever satisfactorily recreate “the lack of predictability, the contingency of love, and the fear of rejection”. Joel Achenbach, writing for the Washington Post, was mainly preoccupied with the social landmines that would have to be navigated in the event of such robo-human relationships. “Imagine the awkward moments,” he cautioned, as he pondered a robot’s reaction to “her” partner’s hair loss.

Musical medley

Musicals have hit rocky terrain this week. Gone With the Wind attracted poor reviews pretty much everywhere, including one from our own Andrew Billen, who was left longing for “another play”. Pop Idol pretender Darius Danesh, who takes the role of Rhett Butler in Nunn’s production, now faces his unlikely nemeses in the guise of Pete Doherty and Carl Barat. The former Libertines are transferring their rock and roll sensibilities to the world of musical theatre, with the Donmar Warehouse commissioning their show, which will be staged next year.

Perhaps fearing exactly what his role would be in this eclectic artistic landscape, Javier Bardem star of No Country For Old Men, has withdrawn from Rob Marshall’s musical, Nine. The Oscar winning actor has cited exhaustion as his reason for dropping out, and Variety magazine speculate that Bardem will take up to a year to be back on top assassin form. Harvey Weinstein lamented Bardem’s departure, but said ”He is an amazing talent and I know we’ll work together in the future, very soon.”


The elusive Banksy has gone underground this week with the location of his new exhibition. His murals will appear with the work of 29 other artists in a half-mile stretch of a south London tunnel in Leake Street, Waterloo. Over the weekend visitors will be able to add their own stencil work to the tunnel’s walls, with Banksy allegedly hoping that the exhibition will become permanent.

Banksy’s studiedly mysterious persona took centre-stage in Reuters’s report on Steve Wright’s new book; Banksy’s Bristol: Home Sweet Home. Wright’s comments on Banksy’s “mix of extremely prominent, attention grabbing stunts and near-complete personal mystery is unique, an impressive kind of reverse exhibitionism” seem particularly applicable in relation to his new exhibition. But, as the man himself (reportedly) once said: ”I have no interest in ever coming out. I think there are enough self-opinionated assholes trying to get their ugly little faces in front of you as it is.”

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