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The Psychology Underlying the Book 'Friday'

Tamara Wilhite is an engineer, scifi author and fan and periodically reviews books.


The titular character “Friday” in the novel of the same name is an artificial person. She’s quite human, but she was created in a lab, born via an artificial uterus and raised in a corporate crèche. Her society sees her as inferior, and she sees herself as inferior. That is despite her greater speed, strength and intelligence. I spent a while wondering why, and then it hit me. It is as much due to her upbringing as the much vaunted “conditioning”, though both are by design. Furthermore, social engineering (or a good PR campaign) of broader society has been undertaken for the same purpose.

Cover of the Book "Friday" by Robert Heinlein

Cover of the Book "Friday" by Robert Heinlein

Friday’s Upbringing and Conditioning

Those raised in an impersonal orphanage like Friday’s crèche are prone to being emotionally neglected. The common end result is reactive attachment disorder. They can’t form loving relationships with anyone because they never experienced it before. They suffer impaired social development and sociopathic behavior. Friday comes close to this, and other “artificial persons” certainly do. Friday struggles with a desire but inability to attach to others. The emotional distance from general humanity supports her ability to kill them. Friday may actually have had this trait honed, killing impediments and targets on command for the approval she desperately seeks from the only father figure in her life, her boss.

Orphans are prone to anxiety and depression because they weren’t loved nor felt like part of a close knit group. In the book “Friday”, the character talks about the rare times she’s been truly happy and accepted. She worries about how to look normal, because she doesn’t know how to act in many private social situations. That’s understandable when you weren’t raised that way, but the matter is actually much more complex.

Friday and other artificial persons seem to have had this honed by political indoctrination. They feel inferior and unlovable because they were raised in an institution by minimally caring adults, and then they’re directly told these feelings are valid because they are inferior. Adopted children often have children responding to an adopted parent’s love. Genetically engineered children raised in a crèche surrounded by minimally caring teachers would generally have trouble connecting with a parent but might not be as adverse as neglected children. However, the very fact that the AP in “Friday” are raised to fill certain roles means they’re probably given strong validation for a job well done to make them want to fill that role. Her view of her Boss or owner as a father she’s eager to please makes her a better servant than if she’s simply going through the motions as trained. Then again, she’s risking bodily harm and her life to fill this role. In short, the emotional void and emotional responses of the genetically engineered in “Friday” is a predictable result of their equally engineered upbringing, and what others blame on indoctrination is simply honing the known emotional responses to said environment. We have strong evidence of this because of Friday’s education.

Friday has holes in her knowledge of human behavior in a family or friendly setting. Given that she’s intimately familiar with human sexuality, deception when dealing with inspectors and gaining the sympathy of captors, why is she ignorant of how to handle someone in awe of her physical abilities? If she can seduce anyone and anything, a knowledge set that requires deep understanding of psychology, why is she clueless about family dynamics? The logical answer is that the teachers intentionally neglected to teach her how to deal with these things, because it was to their advantage.

If you’re given a large number of scripts to handle everything but respect and admiration from others, you don’t know how to handle it and retreat from it. This reinforces the “I’m not good enough, I’m inferior” mindset the masters want. When the Boss intentionally creates confusion with a mix of praise and respect she can’t handle and criticism, she’s left in an emotional morass. People being manipulated emotionally like this will grasp onto any certain command to bring sense back to the world.

In this book, the Boss gives her enough positive feedback to make her happy for a while. He then whips up the emotional confusion and tries to direct her into becoming an assassin. The fact that she doesn’t want to do so is irrelevant to him. Her desire to please the only parental figure she has in her life and inability to cope with her conflicting emotions leads her to read the assassin’s manual in preparation for a job she’d adamantly declined.

The awkwardness she has in response to awe, respect and admiration serves another purpose from the perspective of her owners and creators. If anyone like her immediately responded negatively to such positive emotions, this minimizes the odds of them finding romantic partners and validation through that relationship. When they’re socially isolated and atomized even from each other, they’re more dependent on their job and supervisor for their emotional needs. Friday’s group marriage seems to be an anomaly for her kind, and that ends as soon as she admits what she is. I think that’s by design, too.

The Engineering of Society at Large

The bigotry against the artificial persons is likely a mix of natural reactions and deliberately cultured ones. Creators tend to feel ownership of and domination over their creations. The tyrannical father and devouring mother are destructive in their own way, but society has an incentive to liberate the adult children into productive members of society – so they can add to society. Artificial people are made without parents, and they’re created in large enough numbers that their creators don’t care the way a parent would likely see their only cloned child as their child. Without parents who value them, they seem like industrial commodities. In short, they seem less than normal people to the general population. This certainly makes it easier to argue they should be oppressed.

They’re intentionally raised without surrogate parents who give individualized attention and attachment, creating the emotional deficit that cripples the AP. When someone feels unloved, the vibes they put off make others feel like they are inferior. Read “The Like Switch” to understand the impact between your body language and the emotions you induce in other people.

Now the very emotional patterns created by their upbringing makes them seem less to even themselves while preventing anyone around them from lifting them up to the status of equal.

The next layer would be social engineering. Those who create artificial persons would foster negative stereotypes of them and disgust about them in order to prevent the general population from respecting them as people. If the voting public sees a group as inferior, why would it seek to end their involuntary contract labor or being raised in emotionally crippling creches for the jobs their future employers want them to fill? It is in the best interest of their creators and owners to foster such bigotry, so that others accept the status of most AP as property.

Fostering the bigotry against artificial persons in the Heinlein universe serves another purpose. If the average person is repulsed by an AP, they won’t fall in love with one. They won’t become dear friends. They may respect the work it does, a good tool or workhorse, but they won’t become deeply attached to it. They won’t advocate for the creature’s rights as one might a slave they’ve come to respect. They won’t marry one and then demand equal status for their spouse. Deliberate society-wide social engineering like this is not unreasonable when the world of “Friday” outlaws religions, sends assassins to kill influencers those in power don’t like and openly conditions its creations. And we see the results of it when Friday is kicked out of her group marriage when she announces she’s an artificial person. While her boss says someone like her could marry and have children, the public relations campaign and innate human biases make that almost impossible.

The Biological Engineering that Reinforces It All

There is a theoretical solution to this issue for artificial persons. Friday says there are a million people like her. In a world of billions, you’d expect them to still find each other once in a while. And she does meet a few. The problem is that it is very unlikely they’d ever marry and make their own families. In “Friday”, the central character interacts with one of her own kind undercover and the belief that they have to parrot propaganda against AP is so strong that the main character retreats to her room to cry. Suppose they did meet, admit their mutual conditions and marry. They’re still unlikely to have children. Friday was an adult before she saw a pregnant woman, and she was repulsed by it. In the book, the character says artificial persons consider artificial reproduction cleaner, safer, less painful, superior. Given such a mindset, it is very unlikely an artificial person capable of reproducing would do so. (And most are sterile.) Now they’re overwhelmingly cut off from the default natural solution – if you don’t have a family, you can still make your own.

The sterility of the creations contributes to their control. A parent may sacrifice more for the sake of their children than a non-parent, but they may disobey direct orders to do what they think is best for the child. Furthermore, we naturally value that which we create. An artificial person who becomes a parent may feel a sense of connection, purpose and love from their new child. That undermines the emotional complex that enables their oppression. And by having a natural “human” child, the AP creates a bridge to broader human society. If an AP doesn’t have a soul, do we say that their naturally born child lacks one, too? Wouldn’t their child advocate on their behalf? It is far simpler to simply sterilize them.

The ending of "Friday" validates this premise, though I won't give it away here.


Linda S Fox from Rock Hill on October 20, 2018:

I like this analysis. I'd read Friday a long time ago, and this makes me want to read it again.

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Tamara Wilhite (author) from Fort Worth, Texas on July 28, 2018:

Dr John Bridges I know artificial wombs are under development, if only as a life-saver for preemies.

Dr John Bridges from Portland, OR on July 28, 2018:

Ken check this out....

Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on July 28, 2018:

This was an interesting review, Tamara. I read the book many years ago, and I liked the story. Thanks for bringing more details to the plot and characters.



Tamara Wilhite (author) from Fort Worth, Texas on July 27, 2018:

Ken Burgess The biggest difference between replicants in "Blade Runner" and "Friday" is the childhood for artificial persons.

Replicants are decanted as adults, as shown in the latest "Bladerunner" movie. Artificial persons in "Friday" have years in the corporate creches. They're emotionally neglected by caregivers and raised in large groups without attaching to their "siblings", but they have teachers and structured educations. There are no implanted memories. There are some individual experiences outside of the expected norm.

Ken Burgess from Florida on July 27, 2018:

Interesting review, I know I read that book some 30 years ago back when it was a rather new release, but I can't seem to bring much of it back to memory.

"the character says artificial persons consider artificial reproduction cleaner, safer, less painful, superior. Given such a mindset, it is very unlikely an artificial person capable of reproducing would do so. (And most are sterile.)" but of "greater speed, strength and intelligence."

Curious that the topic is similar in ways to what the 'Blade Runner' movie was about that came out the same year 'Friday' was first published. In regards to corporate engineered superior humans... I wonder if that were a more widespread that thought/topic during that timeframe or if its just a coincidence.

Garry Reed from Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas on July 27, 2018:

Wow. From early teens to early adulthood I was a rabid SF fan and most rabidly a Heinlein fan. I read everything I could get my hands on by Heinlein. But I always read for plot and storyline. When i read Friday I thought she was a robot, thought the story just meandered and the plot went nowhere so it was the first and only Heinlein book I never finished.

Since then I've spent 10 years with a first wife who was diagnosed as manic-depressive, who was always then and to this day totally closed off emotionally for reasons I could never discover, and have come to the conclusion that the only explanation is that she has been a psychopath from birth. My and our children's experiences with her were emotionally and psychological damaging.

Also since then my whole worldview has evolved. Philosophically I discovered Ayn Rand and the wider world of libertarian thought that helped me transform emotionally and intellectually from a victim into a confident and successful person and to thrive in a 35-year loving relationship with my current wife--we have never fallen out of love and never will.

After reading your review of Friday I realize I need to go back now and re-read Friday from an adult and vastly more nuanced worldview. It may not help me understand my ex-wife any more than I've ever understood her (she has been institutionalized for the last 10 years) but it may help me to better understand myself and my youngest son who has tragically never recovered from her as his two older siblings and I have.

Thanks for that review! I look forward to reading Friday again.

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