THE VIRTUAL HISTORY OF ARTIFICIAL BEINGS
Yod is even an anatomically complete male, Avram arguing that his illegal creation must look completely human to remain undetectable.
Although Yod doesn’t know a great deal about emotions and misses subtleties such as the meaning of metaphors, Shira watches it steadily become more human as it learns from Avram, Malkah, and Shira herself. But when it acts with stunning violence to save Shira from attackers, she also sees that it enjoys killing. Despite this, she connects to the android, telling it:“I already communicate with you better than I did with my husband,” and falls in love. She finds their sexual relationship extremely satisfying because “Malkah had pro- grammedYod sexually on the principle that it was better to give than to receive. Malkah had given him an overweening need to please.”
In this observation and others, Piercy uses the liaison between human female and android male to comment on how real women and men treat each other. For instance, Shira is hurt that, unlike a human lover,Yod gives no special weight to her appearance because, it says, it has not yet developed standards of human beauty and finds all humans equally interesting to look at. But she comes to realize that the removal of this particular expectation gives her new freedom within the relationship.
More significant for the meaning of artificial beings are the ethi- cal questions raised byYod’s existence.When, golem-like (the story of the golem is an intertwining secondary thread in He, She and It), it goes on guard duty to protect Tikvah against attacks from Shira’s ex- employer (which would like to possessYod’s technology), the towns- people discuss whether it is proper to pay it a salary. Yod shows a turn toward Judaism and attends synagogue, arguing that it is capable as any human of carrying out the good deeds central to the religion— which sends a panel of rabbis off to debate whether “a machine could be a Jew.”
The deepest issue arises over a decision to use Yod as a self-de- stroying bomb that will blow itself up along with the leadership of the hostile corporation.This lays bareYod’s internal conflict: