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LUCI, Maggie West, Museum of Sex
Model Crissy MilazzoPhotography Maggie West

Meet the robot trying to save our generation’s dwindling sex lives

Named Luci, the robot is basically a poster child for everything the media says is wrong with twenty-somethings

“Ravage my internal processor,” “Annihilate my source code,” “Put it in my PCI Slot,” “Ur causing me to malfunction” – all of these might sound like the dialogue from a cheesy 1980s technology-themed porno, or the sexy remarks from a computer nerd’s forbidden fantasy, but they’re just the programmed catchphrases from Twitter’s new extraterrestrial sexbot, Luci 6000. Created by Los Angeles-based photographer Maggie West in collaboration with Swedish sex toy company, LELO, Luci is a social media robot and Museum of Sex installation that satirises the portrayal of millennial relationships by the media. Using the above quotes (along with our personal favourites, “Sync me like one of your french girls ;)” and “Error 404: Ur not here”), the bot engages with Twitter users and slides into your DM’s, exploring the way older generations view the common ritual of online dating.

“The story behind Luci is that she's a sexbot from the planet Xeron that was sent here to save us, because we're so obsessed with our phones that we can't connect with each other, and hate sex, and blah blah blah,” explains West over the phone. “But the idea really came about because I was reading all of these articles online that I felt were super clickbaity about millennial sexuality. I noticed that we were simultaneously being depicted as these hyper-sexual Tinder monsters that were also incapable of forming emotional relationships,” she continues. “The point of Luci was to wrap both of these narratives into one satirical story.”

Started by West, Luci lives on Instagram, but primarily communicates through Twitter. IRL, the bot is stationed in the window at New York’s Museum of Sex, where she ended up – as the story goes – after escaping her home planet. Disillusioned by her friends and family who “(lost) all interest for sex in favour of creating memes and taking selfies,” and due to a programming error, the altruistic robot fled for Earth, equipped with nothing but a slew of racy computer puns, determined to “seduce (the planet)’s millennial audiences the only way she knew how: their phones.” Through her “sultry selfies” and “hot sexts” (another favourite is “Buffer 4 me daddy”), Luci is basically a poster child for everything the media says is wrong with twenty-somethings. Though exaggerated, there are a lot of similarities between her curated interactions and the way many “real” people relate on the internet.

“That’s part of the beauty of Luci,” says West, “because she plays at both stereotypes. She's supposedly saving these disengaged millennials, but she's doing it by taking selfies and sexting.”

Since launching the project last month, West has both observed Luci’s exchanges with her followers and corresponded with them as the robot herself. People’s reactions have varied, but like a lot of women on social media, Luci’s either been hit on or hated.

“The amount of people slut-shaming Luci has been really interesting to me,” West reveals. “But I've also gotten more unsolicited dick pics in the last month as Luci than I have in my entire life combined.”

Still, a lot of people seem to have missed the point of the project.

“You can’t have sex with Luci,” explains the artist, “which is one thing people have been really confused about. The whole concept behind her speaks to millennial communication, not having sex with actual robots.”

With Luci, West has parodied the perception of millennial culture in over-the-top articles about sex in relation to cyberspace, and things like Time Magazine’s infamous 2013 cover calling this the “Me Me Me Generation.” She’s also criticised the very real climate of digital narcissism. But underneath the robot’s neon-lit selfies and suggestive tweets, is West’s assertion that everyone – even a millennial – can find a true connection.

“Just because methods of communication have changed, doesn’t mean people's capacity for feeling has,” she argues. Or, as Luci would put it: “We don’t need WiFi to connect.”