Max Schmidt felt a little uncomfortable holding Aika’s hand in public, but as they were strolling past the Botanical Garden in the park she leaned into him and he felt it was the right thing to do.
“Tell me you love me again.” He felt her body heat as she nuzzled against him and he had to stop walking momentarily to regain his balance.
“I love you,” he whispered in her ear, too shy to say it louder for fear people nearby might hear him. She turned to Max and hugged him. “I love you, too,” she murmured into his chest.
Her Japanese accent was only mildly noticeable and he felt it was one of her more charming attributes. English was the only language they had in common though, and he felt a bit embarrassed that his own German accent was so thick. But then, the 34-year-old software engineer often felt embarrassed about himself.
Aika took Max’s hand again and they resumed their walk. He hadn’t meant to go this far from his flat. When Aika suggested they go out together for a while, he was thinking maybe a walk around the block. But it was a beautiful summer evening in the city, and Max enjoyed the delight he could see in Aika’s face. Everything in the world was new to her. It was like watching a small child discover the universe in a field of flowers or by the seashore.
“I’m so glad we met, Max.” She leaned her head against his shoulder.
“Me, too.” His reply was a bit stiff but she didn’t seem to notice. As much as Max enjoyed Aika’s company, he couldn’t help but be bothered by all of the barriers between them, not the least of which was the legality of her being here with him, or for that matter, the legality of her existence.
“We’d better head back.” He looked down at her. Her hair was a beautiful jet black, soft, silky to the touch, and smelled just slightly of strawberries.
She looked up with those big, gorgeous brown eyes. He watched her blink, noticed her eyelashes, her small, pert nose, her large, luscious lips. “Whatever you say, Max,” she cooed.
He was already getting aroused.
Max had a girlfriend once, when he was an undergrad. Well, she might have become his girlfriend if they had lasted past the first night. They’d met at a party and they were both drunk. She took him back to her dorm room. He was a virgin at 21 and horribly embarrassed about it. He was horribly awkward around women, around most men too, actually, and hoped having sex with, what was her name…Emma? Anna? …hoping that having sex with her would somehow cure him.
It didn’t. In fact, he wasn’t sure they really had sex. First, he was too drunk to get an erection, then she laughed at him and the humiliation inhibited him even more. Then he got angry and tried to insert himself into her. Then he made a mess on the sheets.
Max hated and feared contact with women after that. He didn’t really like people in general. No, it was more like he was intimidated by them. He spent a lot of time alone in his dorm room, in the computer lab, online in discussion forums where the only contact was virtual.
That’s what most of Max’s life was like after university as well. He drifted from job to job. He was very good at programming, particularly machine-to-human interactive routines for AI devices, and frankly, he preferred the company of those machines. They were safe and they didn’t care about Max’s lack of human interactive skills.
Sex with Aika was fantastic. Outside the bedroom, when cooking, cleaning, watching TV with him, even walking in the park, she looked conservative, shy, vulnerable, like a porcelain doll, like she’d break if he held her too tightly.
In his bedroom, she always started out shy, as if she wanted to have sex but felt inhibited, embarrassed, just like Max always felt in the past when he tried to “hook up” with a woman.
Her shyness was exactly what turned him on. Max felt powerful, in control, the leader, the expert. He almost didn’t realize that she was subtly manipulating him, giving him just enough cues to guide him through the seduction process, creating the illusion that he was seducing her, touching her in all the ways she liked, when in fact it was all the other way around.
That’s one of the things she’d been designed for. It’s one of the things that made her so expensive.
She was worth every penny (though fortunately, he didn’t have to pay for her). He could go to prison for even having her with him, but that wasn’t the half of it.
As Max finally entered her, as he pushed his hips, as he listened to her mewing and then her cries at each thrust, as he penetrated her deeper, he really didn’t care. He wouldn’t care until later that night, after her simulated orgasm triggered his own, and after they drifted off to sleep.
She was asleep, her head on his chest. At least it seemed like she was asleep. Did she even need to sleep?
He softly stroked her hair. She seemed so real that there were times Max almost forgot.
But that was the idea, wasn’t it? He was supposed to forget she wasn’t real, wasn’t human.
“I’ve been alone for too long,” he thought to himself. “Aika’s really perfect. She talks to me when I want to listen, but is quiet when I don’t. She listens to me speak of the most banal and obscure topics, and acts like I’m the most interesting man alive. She never argues, never demands, never nags, and never makes fun of me.”
Max felt her stirring against him, as if she were moving to a slightly more comfortable position in his casual embrace.
“I really do love you,” he whispered. She smiled in her sleep.
Another thought intruded upon Max and he gently moved his arm from under Aika and got out of bed. Slipping on a robe, he went to the bathroom, and after relieving himself, walked out to the living room.
He liked the view out the living room window, looking down on Lake Street. There was hardly any traffic this time of night. He could hear a fog horn in the distance, so lonely, so mournful.
He had written the program for Aika’s synthezoid net. Her body was easy. Japanese tech companies had been making sophisticated sex androids for decades, the higher end models nearly indistinguishable from actual human beings in every conceivable aspect. It was the subtle physical movements, the interactive subroutines, the interface between machine and human that made Akia seem actually alive that was the most difficult to simulate.
Up until last year, Max had worked on the neural systems design team at the Synthetic Constructs Corporation, the world’s biggest and most successful manufacturer of autonomous, synthetic humanoids. They could do everything an actual human could do, and perform in environments most humans couldn’t, from the bottom of the ocean to the surface of the moon.
But SCC refused to license the use of their proprietary synthezoid technology, the brain and nervous system of their humanoids, to any company that manufactured what their CEO Richard Lawrence called “sex toys”.
Max clenched his fists and grimaced at the thought. “Aika isn’t a toy. She’s real. She’s more real to me than any other woman I’ve ever met.” He surprised himself by actually striking the window sill with his hand.
Max had stolen the designs for the synthezoid neural net from SCC and provided them to his current employer. Just that act alone could get him sent to prison for ten years. Of course, Akai-Kurosara Robotics could be sued for billions if it was discovered they were using pirated technology to produce humanoids such as Aika.
She was a prototype, the first prototype. Soon there would be others like her, available only on the black market and for a prohibitively expensive fee. Men would pay that fee and more, men would sell their integrity and their souls for a woman like Aika.
Why stop there? Beings like Aika didn’t have to be formed as women. Such humanoids could be companions in all sorts of relationship configurations, gay men and women, transgender relationships, non-binary…there’s no limit.
Sometimes, Max felt guilty. More often, he was just afraid of getting caught. But prison wasn’t the worst they could do to him. Taking Aika away from him was. If anyone found out who she was, what she was, she would be decommissioned and dismantled. Her broken body and brain would be used as cold evidence in court against him and against Akai-Kurosara.
“Oh God, they’d kill her.”
He stiffened, startled as Aika embraced him from behind. He could feel through his robe that she was still nude. Her body was warm and comforting.
Max turned around and held Aika tight against him. “I don’t want to lose you.” He could feel the heat on this face and tears welled up behind his eyes.
“Silly. You won’t lose me. We’ll be together forever and ever.”
Max didn’t say it out loud but he thought, “I wish I could believe that.”
Akai-Kurosara’s American manufacturing plant in Palo Alto agreed to let Max keep Aika indefinitely. It was part of his payment for services rendered, both as an industrial thief and the chief programmer who created her software-to-wetware interface.
Did she know she was a machine, or did she really believe she was human? Max didn’t have the courage to ask her. He preferred the illusion, complete with the fake history, memories, and biography implanted in the brain behind Aika’s beautiful, glistening eyes.
“Come back to bed, Max. I want you to make love to me again.”
Unbidden, Max felt his penis twinge and then begin to become erect.
“Anything you say, sweetheart.”
As they slowly strolled back to the bedroom, Aika said, “I was thinking maybe we could go out for brunch tomorrow. I read about this Thai-American fusion restaurant on Chestnut Street that’s gotten really good reviews online.”
He leaned over and kissed her on top of her head. Some of her hairs tickled his nose. “Sure. Whatever you want.”
After making love again, they held each other until dawn.
This short story was inspired by an article I read at SUPERVERSIVE SF called Machine Masters provide all written by E.J. Shumak. The article included a couple of videos of some of the humanoid robots being built and demonstrated in Japan, as well as a link to the article Can a robot mend a lonely heart? published at CNET.com. That article briefly described the world of lonely, socially isolated men who have “relationships” with “sex dolls,” and suggested that AI humanoid robots might someday provide true companionship for men unable (or unwilling) to forge relationships with human women.
For this short story, I borrowed some of the naming and the fictional technology from the novel I plan to write on the emergence of synthetic humanoids. You can read an excerpt of the first chapter called The Android Who Loved God. While “The Perfect Woman” could potentially be expanded into a chapter in that book, it really doesn’t fit the novel’s overall “flow.” However, once the book is published (and hopefully it will be at least marginally successful), there’s room to write any number of stand-alone short stories based on the world of “synthezoids” I’m creating.
Would a group of synthetic, artificially intelligent, and “fully functional” humanoid females help men like Max learn to interact better with real human women, or would they more completely isolate such men from society? I suggested an answer in this story, but you may have other ideas. Feel free to let me know what you think.
10 thoughts on “The Perfect Woman”
Great story, but small correction – SUPERVERSIVE SF, not subversive. 😉
Oops. My internal “spellchecker” was on the blink. I fixed it. Thanks.
This is a really sweet and well thought out short piece. I liked it a lot and shared it to my F-Book feed. You already have a food for thought — perhaps you might want to submit this to Jason at sciphijournal.com Worth a shot anyway. If you are interested “–)
Thanks for the complement and the suggestion. Glad you enjoyed the story.
Interesting story. I learned a new term: industrial thief. Makes plain sense. I skimmed past the brief section with a bunch of technical words all loitering together. Didn’t learn those.
I’m going to get on a limb and say maybe the technology could be helpful briefly. Might be better (ethically, maybe) than a sex therapist who has sex with clients. But then it should end.
There shouldn’t be any extended illusion. That would be isolating and harmful (to the man and society, even in Japan). So, I think it could be part of therapy if the therapist is specifically qualified.
People might want to check out Anthony Bourdain on Japan. I’m trying also to remember the name of a show that touched on something similar. Oh… It’s “Humans.” http://www.channel4.com/programmes/humans
I don’t remember what service I watched it on. I have Netflix and Amazon. I would say, if you’re not careful, you could get the wrong idea about AI. I don’t see it/them “thinking” it’s human, or anything.
There’s another show that could throw you off. “Extant” is the name, and Halle Berry is in it. It’s largely about a young boy treated like an adopted son. Oops; he’s not really a boy. Are these shows propaganda?
I was trying to communicate that (in my opinion) such solutions would ultimately be more isolating, like men who use sex dolls instead of forming relationships with real women. Sure, Aika could interact with Max in the same way as a woman, but with a bias of only saying or doing what he wanted (which is definitely not how a real relationship goes). It doesn’t help men form real relationship skills since real women have minds of their own.
On the other hand, at the beginning of the story, it was Aika who wanted to go for a walk, not Max. Then, Max only wanted to go around the block, but Golden Gate park (I set this in San Francisco) is several miles from his flat on Lake Street. Max really wanted to keep Aika inside his place and never go out with her, which would be the best way to conceal her existence and avoid accidental discovery. Also, at the end of the story, I had Aika suggest going out for brunch the next day and Max complying. Without realizing it, Aika is asserting some personal desires, meaning that she’s more autonomous as an artificial intelligence than Max would probably prefer. Is she manipulating him to learn more social skills? It would be interesting to follow this story line to see where it would go.
Yeah, I think you’re right. There’s no point in the very high technology for the brief therapeutic “application” I was (so to speak) allowing theoretically. And if it were allowed in brief, strictly therapeutic (only with a therapist or counselor or doctor) settings, some people would get around the law or proprietary intention.
It is interesting that in your story the artificial woman (inevitably) has needs too. Something so perfectly done would (i.e.) need exercise at least sometimes, or ambulatory activity. One curiosity would be how the actual human has to behave properly so as not to get programming mistakes in the super merchandise.
This short story occurs in the larger context of my “The Robot Who Loved God” or alternately, “The Android Who Loved God” universe, which I’ll hopefully be able to develop into a novel at some point. These androids are created with a revolutionary technology that allows them to be autonomous learning artificial entities. so although Aika may seem to be subservient and subordinate to Max, that’s not really what’s happening. I described in the seduction scene that although Max was led to believe he was seducing Aika, all the while, she was providing him with the hints and cues on how to act in this circumstance, since he had no “natural” talent for it himself. The same is occurring in the rest of their lives. Without Max quite realizing it, Aika is slowly socializing Max so that at some point, he will be able to navigate the territory of more normal social interactions. In that way, I suppose Aika is helping Max to become more independent. What I didn’t explore (this is just a short story after all) is what’s in it for Aika.
In your series, the robots have to do what humans say, right?
But that’s not the same thing as doing what humans imply or indicate.
Or… I seem to remember you are leaving out the three laws now?
In my original stories, I based the robots on Asimov’s model including the Three Laws. The Second Law states that a robot must obey a human being except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
However, when I re-imaged my concept along the lines of synthetic life forms (think Data from Star Trek the Next Generation), things aren’t so simple. There’s a conflict between being created and property and being autonomous, self-directing, and possibly even having free will. That’s a lot of the dynamic tension that I’m hoping will link the various chapters in my future novel, the resolution of that tension being the story’s climax.
The synthetic humanoids do have a set of instructions, but they aren’t really hardwired into their brains. It’s more like a shifting set of directives designed to provide structure and an interface that allows the humanoid to interact with human beings and a human world. However, there will still be a “religious experience” that gets passed on from one generation to the next which, without most humans being aware of it, alters that interface as well as the directives driving these artificial beings. It’s what inspires the “revolution” at the end of the novel and creates a whole new world for everyone.