Technology as a Gender-Distinguisher

I subscribe to a website called Dust, which weekly posts short science fiction videos gathered from talented filmmakers who need an audience. I don’t mind recommending the site. These shorts are almost all high quality and thoughtful engagements. It is a wonder what these talented artists accomplish in just a few minutes. Sometimes it is stunning.


A recent fictional story short I watched explored something I have never seen before: how men and women interact differently with our increasingly pervasive technology. I encourage you to interrupt your reading of this post and go watch the 6 minute Dust video called: Empty, written by Blake Armstrong and directed by Timothy Troy.


Then come back.


What did you think? Originally, I thought it was a story about how the husband was losing himself in his virtual world building, sadly withdrawing from the real world to do his gaming. He didn’t want to live out in reality. He wasn’t interested in doing things like she did. She seemed to be the more healthy one. Then I realized that they both were embracing the isolation of immersive technology.

One caveat: I have to point out that the robot technology envisioned is not possible because of Gödel’s Theorem. Any AI we can create will still be a Turing Machine and so will have limited number of functions it can compute. This is a limit un-respected by robot fiction writers. The sensitivity demonstrated by the AI in the movie goes beyond what could be computed.


Still, it is a prescient story of how the genders will likely interact with the increasingly immersive tech of our lives.


One of the commenters below the video, Myk Streja, put it well:


“This one is depressing. The concepts are just too real. I thought it especially telling that the addictions were based on gender stereotypes: he wants to have the perfect world that he builds himself, she wants the perfect companion who is a foil to her needs. I think that’s why I reacted so viscerally.”


Helpful analysis, but there is something deeper than stereotypes here. This is a likely future in a couple with nothing greater to live for, untouched by redemption. They seem to want to continue connecting to each other, at least in the beginning, but they are addicted. Their addictions are both even somewhat wholesome. But, facilitated by the tech, they pull the couple apart. Yes, it is sad. And ominous.


The film also shows us how our technology use is another way that distinguishes gender.


What do you think?


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