How the Furby went from adorable pet to cursed object
Artificial intelligence had been a source of experimentation, speculation, and science fiction since the 1950s, but the Furby represented one of the first attempts at domestic AI mass production. With built-in sensors and infrared detectors, the Furby could learn from and adapt to its environment, which allowed it to respond to shifting conditions. Hold it upside-down, and it would tell you, “I’m scared.” Pet its back, and it would say, “Me love you.” The Furby was meant to be an endearing foothold uniting man and evolving machine, and in some circles, that earnest adoration for the toy still exists today—for example, in a few very wholesome communities on Tumblr—but outside of that niche, the Furby’s cuteness has increasingly become cursed by a culture of techno-paranoia.
Today, as AI and evolutionary algorithms continue to become integrated into our day-to-day, the Furby remains an avatar for our fears of a technological takeover. People have responded with cursed Furby content online, which either involves mutilating the toys or refashioning them into entirely new beasts.
This is probably true of every internet subculture to a certain extent, but it’s my personal opinion that the “Furby torture” people really need to find a new hobby. It’s not that I object to the creation of cursed objects; rather, I think these people are putting a lot of time and energy into something that isn’t that interesting – or even that transgressive, relatively speaking.
I’ve seen things during casual searches on Etsy that have made my skin crawl, and these cursed Furbies have nothing on the “action figure mods” and “haunted dolls” that people routinely create with a (seemingly?) complete absence of irony. This in turn makes me wonder how common and widespread knowledge of these subcultures is. Screencaps of these sorts of things turn up all the time on Reddit, so they’re a part of my daily visual landscape, but is there perhaps a meaningful generational divide between “people who see Furby microwave videos as the shallow end of a very deep pool” and “people who don’t know what Reddit is”?