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Accepted Contribution:

From cyborg despair to AI romance: evolving relationships and personhood in Blade Runner 2049  
Neelesh Agrawal (University of Washington) Wes King (University of Washington)

Short abstract:

Blade Runner 2049 delves into the complex ties between humans, replicants, and disembodied AI, focusing on Joi and K's relationship. It offers a nuanced exploration on artificial intimacy and AI personhood, while prompting more debate on the heteronormative lens on these concepts.

Long abstract:

Blade Runner 2049 expands upon the science fiction genre by delving into the intricate relationships between humans, replicants, and disembodied artificial intelligence, centering particularly on the portrayal of Joi, a holographic AI and her relationship with K, a replicant. This sequel moves beyond the cyberpunk roots of its predecessor, focusing on the intimate and emotional connections. Joi’s character is reminiscent of current romantic companion chatbots like Replika (see Elyakim Kislev (2022) Relationships 5.0, Depounti et al (2023) Ideal technologies, ideal women).

Joi's disembodied presence and her interactions with K serve as a vehicle for discussing the complexities of AI personhood, challenging traditional notions of embodiment and the physicality of relationships (see Margaret Archer (2019) Considering AI personhood, Gunkel and Wales (2021) Debate: what is personhood in the age of AI?, Trothen (2022) Replika: Spiritual Enhancement Technology?, Renz (2023) The boundaries of legal personhood: Disability, gender and the cyborg). This is particularly intriguing in the world of Blade Runner 2049, where multiple forms of artificial and human beings coexist, thus prompting questions on how relationships and identities are constructed and understood, and what may be considered “real”, in their world and ours. Finally, the character of Joi, as well as her relationship with K, is framed through the typical heteronormative lens that we see with real-world chatbots like Replika (see Zhou and Fischer (2019) AI love you, Stardust et al (2023) Queer and feminist reflections on sextech). This offers scope for further debate on Joi’s character beyond this lens.

Combined Format Open Panel P272
Making and doing relationships with AI, cyborgs, robots
  Session 2 Friday 19 July, 2024, -