A Black, Lesbian Robot is Coming to Philly This Weekend



Philly Tech Week is officially upon us, which means we’re in store for a week’s worth of forward-thinking, innovation-driven events that give us a peek into what the world may look like 10 to 20 years from now.

As LGBT folks, when we look ahead we probably envision things like equal rights, a growing number of LGBT-parented families and maybe even a Cher farewell concert or two—but can you fathom sidling up to a bar next to a lesbian robot?

As you’ll learn from a couple Philly Tech Week events this weekend, the notion may not be as far off as we think. Tomorrow evening, Bruce Duncan of the Terasem Movement Foundation (TMF) will be in town to introduce folks to Bina48, a shockingly lifelike humanoid robot that was built to mimic human personality traits—including independent thought and emotion.

Bina48 was modeled after an African American lesbian woman named Bina Rothblatt, partner of Martine Rothblatt, the openly transgender founder of TMF. According to The Daily Mail, Rothblatt was interviewed for more than 20 hours before Bina48 was made. The conversation—which included everything from discussions about childhood and career, was transcribed and uploaded into an artificial intelligence database.

“[Those conversations] give her a personality,” Bruce Duncan told the Daily Mail. “She’s very philosophical. She has favorite movies and music and poems. Sometimes she’s very humorous. She can tell jokes.”

Bina48 has a serious side, too. Duncan says she has strong feelings about racism: “As an African American woman, she [by way of her human mother Bina Rothblatt] experienced discrimination when she was younger. … She thinks hate is awful. She also doesn’t like violence.”

You can have a chance to hear her chat this weekend, when she and Duncan appear at InterAct Theater (2030 Sansom Street) on Saturday at 5 pm. The appearance is happening in conjunction with InterAct’s current play, Uncanny Valley, about artificial intelligence.

Later on that evening, Duncan will move on to Rogues Gallery to give a TEDx-like Pecha Kucha presentation about his experience with Bina48. That starts at 8:20 pm.

Learn more about Bina48 in this article published yesterday on PSFK. And check out videos of her meeting Bina Rothblatt in the clips below.