Congratulations to Kylie Jenner on being named an almost billionaire. Kylie earned the valuation thanks to the profits and potential of her Kylie Cosmetics makeup line, but she really made her money by expertly mapping her face and body to the demands of the Instagram platform, attracting its users to her feed, and then finding something to sell them. Her very flesh has been manipulated for peak marketability: When she was still a teenager, she inflated her lips with injectable fillers and then leveraged the spectacle to sell lip-related products to fellow teens. She gives whole new meaning to the term “self-made.”
In this episode of “Internetting,” we examine the fembots of the internet, real and imagined. The Siris and Alexas who help us Google stuff and buy things; the C.G.I. Instagram models and robotic YouTube stars who ply us with entertainment; and the real women like Kylie Jenner, who are starting to look more and more like cyborgs as they meld with the platforms we watch them on.
Three times during the season, we’ll be answering your questions over on our YouTube channel. Share your deepest, darkest internet quandaries at email@example.com or comment on this page.
Follow your fembots: Here we have the woke C.G.I. Instagram model Lil Miquela, her mysterious Trumpian frenemy Bermuda, their buddy Blawko, and the shadowy talent management company that rules them all, Brud. Then there is the robo-themed YouTube star Poppy, soon to be on tour to promote her new album “Am I A Girl?” And of course, Kylie, whose latest viral gambit is — voilà — dissolving those fillers.
This video was inspired by an article I wrote in February, “The Rise of the Social Media Fembot.” Shout out to the cyborg queen Donna Haraway. I also love this essay on feminized tech by Janna Avner, in which she notes that the fembot creator “turns the limitations of bot technology into a kind of strength.” In other words: though the field of artificial intelligence is bent on creating robots that seem realistic — ones that can pass the Turing test by persuasively mimicking human beings in conversation — the subfield of fembot creation seems more fixated on creating something physically perfect but mentally deficient. Hot, simple, cold to the touch. Want more? Find a master list of fembots in film that is a little creepy in its completeness at FembotWiki.com.
Beep bop boop beep,
“Internetting With Amanda Hess” is a video adventure through our unending dystopian nightmare, in 10 parts. Sign up for email reminders about the latest episodes, or subscribe to our YouTube channel.
Orignially published in NYT.