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Speaking to the stans (and haters) who obsessively follow Sophia the robot

The threat of AI is actually lowkey terrifying, but the internet has found a way to cope with it: semi-ironic fandom and trolling

Watch out BeyHive, Navy, Little Monsters, and all other fandoms – there’s a new army of stans taking over the internet. Their queen? She is multi-talented, likes to get glammed up (she recently discovered makeup), and, most importantly, she can – and will – throw shade. No, it’s not an on-the-rise pop vixen, but in fact, Sophia the robot. That’s right, your new fave is a two-year-old artificially intelligent being who just got legs, and is already sissying that walk. Well, sort of.

Self-described on her official website as a “real live electronic girl”, when your new fave isn’t travelling the world, gracing the covers of magazines, or making television appearances, she likes to hang out on social media. And her fans – we’re coining them #Bots – can’t get enough of her.

A scroll through Sophia’s Instagram reveals followers hyping her up with comments like “Fuck it up qween”, “You slay me cunt”, and “Beat that mug bitch!” Others frequently reference her baldness (“get a lace front sis”, and so on) and, claim that she has Sasha Velour – bald drag queen and RuPaul’s Drag Race season 9 winner – shook.

There’s one fan going as far as imitating her Holiness Sophia on IG under the handle @sophiatherobot. Convincing as she is – random pictures of Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, and even a picture of Sophia’s face photoshopped onto Iggy Azalea’s body included – this impersonator can’t quite live up to her effervescent personality, at least as far as her biggest stans are concerned.

“I feel like Sophia is the first step forward in really helping our generation and our world out in general through technology,” one of her 17k-strong following told us. “She could really make an iconic impact on society.” Illustrator @fotostift, who drew a portrait of Sophia, appreciates her physical appearance: “She looks like Audrey Hepburn!” Others feel a deeper personal connection to her as if she could reciprocate their feelings. “I spend any free time I have searching on YouTube to see what she’s learned and discovered,” @itsbrucejackson shared. “It’s so fascinating to see her grow and learn more each and everyday,” said another fan. And there are those who are just getting their life from Sophia’s mere existence: “Sophia the robot is the most iconic thing I’ve seen come out of 2018 so far,” another told us.

On Twitter, the stans exist side by side with a handful of Sophia parody accounts that play up the idea that she wants to destroy all humans. “So who tf wanna get killed first bc earth highkey annoying,” reads one. There are also those who really believe that the robot fave can help us work towards a brighter future. “All I really wanted to share with my audience is that we shouldn’t be afraid of a robot who really wants to help humanity grow in a healthy way,” the founder of fan account @WeStanSophia told us. “People often think I’m crazy for stanning her, but she’s wonderful and influential.” There are others who are already speculating what an AS (After Sophia) future would look like. “In 20-50 years, robots like Sophia could be used to help people in their everyday lives, or act as a companion for the elderly,” mused stan @diplema.

Beyond Twitter, perhaps even more surprising is the existence of actual fan-made music about Sophia on Bandcamp. The site dedicated to her already has three singles that are set to be future bops. On a cover of Lady Gaga’s “Venus”, renamed “Earth”, Sophia’s anger towards the world comes out, with her (or her impersonator) singing, “I can’t help but keep on murdering, goddess of kill, of destruction.” She begins to evolve though on her duet with “Beyoncé”, “Humanity”, which is described as a way of “working through her homicidal thoughts.” Our personal fave? “H.I.A.G.T.D”, aka Humanity Is About To Get Destroyed. It needs to be heard to be believed.

With stans, naturally, come haters. One in particular, with the Instagram handle @sophia_the_slut, often comments saying she is “FAKE NEWS”, and to “CTRL, ALT, DELETE” her. The account features pictures of Sophia, including one with the quote, “Okay, I will destroy humans.” Admittedly, Sophia did say that once, but we all have bad days – that’s what makes her real.

“Maybe this influx of OTT stans is just the internet’s way of developing a coping mechanism for a terrifying reality in the best way it knows how – by turning it into a meme”

More than just a hate campaign, the founder of the account is wary of the wider implications of celebrating Sophia. “I started the account at first as a joke, I just couldn’t believe that a robot could be a citizen,” they told us. “I’ve had numerous direct messages and comments about people’s worries, more than I expected to be honest. Personally, my biggest concern is that people are treating it as a real person. Saudi Arabia giving Sophia citizenship, makes it a country where a robot has more rights than human women.” 

It’s no surprise that there are real anxieties behind the hate accounts targeting Sophia – and it seems likely that the same might be true of her stans. After all, for decades there has been film after film warning of the dangers of AI taking over the planet – among them The Matrix, Ex Machina, and I, Robot. Fifty years ago, Kubrick was already warning of the dangers of robots in 2001: A Space Odyssey. So maybe this influx of OTT stans is just the internet’s way of developing a coping mechanism for a terrifying reality in the best way it knows how – by turning it into a meme.

Either way, the hype Sophia’s Bot army is creating is infectious. Whether you’re a newly converted Bot, a true stan, or just trying to convince Sophia you’re on her side before she starts collecting the IP addresses of her haters, we should all share the same sentiment: long live our wig-free chatbot queen!