From “600 Miles in a Coffin-Shaped Bus, Campaigning Against Death Itself”, excerpted from “To Be a Machine,” in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine.
Author Mark O’Connell is talking to Roen Horn, who’s accompanying transhumanist Zoltan Istvan on a trip across the country. Horn is 28 and hasn’t lived much — he’s the son of a devout Calvinist, though he’s become an atheist — yet he decides he likes the idea of living forever. “I want to have fun forever,” he says.
This is though he currently lives like, in O’Connell’s words, “a medieval monk.” No problem, Horn tells O’Connell, he’ll indulge later.
This leads to the following exchange:
“You know one really cool thing about being alive in the future?” he asked.
“Sexbots. … It’s something I’m very much looking forward to.”
He had a particular way of smiling that was half evasion and half challenge. Out of context, you might be tempted to describe it as smug, but the effect was somehow deeply endearing.
“The problem I have with sexbots,” I said, “is why wouldn’t you just have sex with an actual person? I mean, all things being equal.”
He said: “Are you kidding me? A real girl could cheat on you, sleep around. You could get an S.T.D. You could maybe even die.”
“Is that potentially a bit alarmist?”
“No way, man. It happens literally all the time. See, a personal sexbot would never cheat on you, and it would be just like a real girl.”
He said nothing for a time and drank at leisure from his glass of water. He consumed some further forkfuls of salad. He gazed out the window at the parking lot full of trucks, the Interstate beyond, the ever-present vultures hanging in the air.
I said, “Do you mind me asking if you’ve had bad experiences with people cheating on you?”
“I have so far abstained from sex,” he said. “I have never had a girlfriend.”
“You’re saving yourself for the sexbots?”
He nodded slowly, shrewdly raising his eyebrows. You bet he was saving himself for the sexbots.
“Fair enough,” I said, raising my hands in capitulation. “I hope you live that long.”
He said, “I’m pretty sure I will.”
Roen, I wish you well, but you might try a few human beings first — women, men, whatever works for you. They’re not all that bad.