Contributor Spotlight: Derek Berry

Derek Berry on “Android Boy Builds A Body


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This poem, one of a series featuring the eponymous Android Boy, questions the relationship between the body and the mind. In this poem, intelligence is divorced from the body, operating in the realm of Internet persona, whether modified or wholly fabricated. Unlike many Internet users, whoever, the speaker is not human, but instead a form of artificial intelligence.  In the Android Boy poems, the speaker explores what it means to be human and what it means to be not-human, what it means to exist in the periphery consciousness.

This poem focuses on how Android Boy might approach desire, especially with the ability to use bodyless avatars in earlier iterations of AOL chat or messenger apps like Grindr. How might one understand sexuality and sexuality without a body with which to enact related acts? Would artificial intelligences, then, seek to construct a physical form? How else might one understand the body except to possess one? Android Boy considers these existential questions, and in turn, I hope that the reader will reframe their understanding of human sexuality. If, for example, we consider online personas, on which we are pretending to be what we are not, then are the stores we tell to confirm our own humanity anything more than faulty code? Do we consider the chemical impulses born in the brain more sophisticated than those that might navigate the actions of a robot?

There is hubris in the construction of a body, like someone attempting to build a house and instead building a house fire. We know this from pop culture, from Frankenstein to Ex Machina, but I find particularly interesting the questions that might arise from an artificially-intelligent robot building their own body. This will become a more concrete reality as machine learning progresses, but what will the machines learn? What will they learn from us? Will they peer down upon their human predecessors with pity—human cruelty & human want—and will they then instead learn to become something better? Perhaps manifesting desire in the body was the first mistake, the creation of a vessel that would carry our mistakes forward into history.