Reboot: Do you want a Mate or a Robot?

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Ask your single friends what they want in a relationship partner, and their responses are likely to be a grocery list of character qualities, career attributes, and physical features. Now, having standards is one thing, but if their list of must-haves is an obsessive litany that only benefits them, then it’s not a mate they’re after—it’s a robot.

Where do these ideas come from? Our earliest examples of a relationship usually come from parents/guardians. As children, we view them one dimensionally—as parents, not as flawed human beings. We see their fondness and affection for each other as a finished production, but no child gets to binge episodes that showcase how that union came to be. Fathers often treat their daughters as princesses, sitting high atop mountains of worship, setting a mythological standard. While mothers make sure their young princes are smothered with compliments that validate their every whim, which leads to reasoning that they must always be right.

Though well-intentioned, these parenting practices do us no favors. Now, this adult woman expects her ServiceBot to slay a dragon, drive through tornados, and defeat the final boss all before their first date. The adult man now anticipates his home to be a gingerbread house where he can come home to an endless supply of food and fawning provided by a ServiceBot who can bring him peace of mind (and a sandwich). Both are guilty of only acknowledging their parents’ highlights and using them as a standardized blueprint for choosing a mate.

Social media has added to the societal pressure of partner-seeking. The online images of couples drinking mimosas for breakfast while rock climbing in overdressed Easter suits influences some singles to seek a FunBot to play dress-up and showcase like a prop on Instagram. A man finds a FunBot to flaunt its attractiveness to his guy tribe for their approval, whether it be online or at a bar meet-up. A woman will hope to find a FunBot with a friendly smile to pose with over a candlelight dinner for a pic and a hashtag.

Sure, the FunBot will take overpriced trips with other couples, so that the beach photoshoots make them all look like one big, cool collective despite secretly hating each other. The FunBot’s presence is for validation (because, lest we forget, self-worth is overrated). It tells judgmental friends and the online world that someone finds you worthy, and therefore, you must be important. But whether your goal is to party or to procreate, there’s a Bot for you.

Depending on who you ask, many things can influence the desire to have children. The drive may be biological, intuitive, or traditional, but all are reasons that can motivate seeking a partner for producing offspring. The successful, independent woman whose career accomplishments are ignored by her family may succumb to their pressure of “life being meaningless if you’re not a mother” and search for a companion to impregnate her. She will judge her BirthBot on its height, weight, complexion, and overall movement. The qualifying Bot will produce a child that fills the perceived void that makes her post-30 life abnormal to the outside world.

The man will follow the tradition of past kings he’s admired: seeing a woman’s only purpose as bringing him a male duplicate. Adoption or the understanding that legacy is subjective is a blind spot to a man fixated on the traditional ideal that success starts with two kids and a wife. Neither is concerned about the needs of the other—only what the Bot has to offer, so that they fit in, in the world and not stand out. 

The trouble with blind interest is that it eliminates the understanding that humans are imperfect beings with needs and desires. To seek a relationship only as a transaction—with an eye toward personal gain at minimum investment—is as unreasonable as it is unrealistic. One cannot look for a partner to be a soulless machine whose purpose is to carry all the emotional baggage of the relationship without addressing any concerns of their own.

Vulnerability is a two-way street, and both sides need to feel secure enough to express to each other. It’s okay to admire your parents 30-plus-year marriage, but attempting to replicate it is only doing a disservice to yourself and your potential partner. It is better to live a relationship based on your own life choices and circumstances, than to do it for the praise of others. Find a partner who will match your efforts and demonstrate the ability to compromise; otherwise, order a robot from Westworld and call it a day.

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