Made in Our Image

Love and Cruelty with Robots

future research / speculative / story-telling / film / art direction

Widespread ownership of humanoid, socially and emotionally intelligent robots in the near future, considering their increasing sophistication and plummeting prices, is widely predicted. However, would owning a product that we are lead to feel as if it was a person (it looks like us, it ‘feels’ like us) have a disrupting affect on our society? What will be the relationships between us and an utterly compliant ‘being’?


This project aims to explore such questions through the visualisation of the potential future relationships and behaviours people exhibit with a fictional humanoid social robot called Tonii. These behaviours are categorised into two sections: love and cruelty. Love looks into the possible consequences of over empathising with a robot and is divided into loneliness, trust and replacement. Cruelty, on the other hand, offers a glimpse into the human capacity for callousness to life-like objects and the dehumanisation of a humanised robot. This is divided into slavery and abuse. It is my belief that both areas arise from over anthropomorphisation, they are two sides of one coin, and my intent is to provoke from the audience a sense of unease.

My role in this project is as a speculative anthropologist. I say this as my interest lies not in the current and future technology of social robots and their applications, but with the humans who own them. It is speculative because it imagines scenarios in a near-future where robot ownership is common, and to use the term anthropologist implies observation over judgement. My intent is less to critique the coming of social robots, but to provide the audience with fictions that reflect the concerns of experts in this field, and allow them to make their own judgements as to whether these are problematic or desirable. 

For more information, you can view my thesis on the subject here: