A longstanding fantasy of those who have endured too many bad relationships and awkward singles scenes (see previous blog) has been to bypass the whole business by literally manufacturing the perfect date instead – a logical idea for tool-making creatures such as ourselves. Witness the artificial love objects in Metropolis (1927), My Living Doll (1964), Cherry 2000 (1987), or, for that matter, "Pygmalion" – not the play by Shaw but the 2000 year-old poem by Ovid in Metamorphoses. Nor is this purely a male fantasy. In the pleasant movie Making Mr. Right (1987) directed by Susan Seidelman, the heroine, unlike the hero in Cherry 2000 who falls for the real woman, ultimately opts for the robot over the real man.
Calvin Klein whiffed enough of this to take the precaution of trademarking the term "technosexual" for future use, though the company has no specific product in the works for it yet.
We already employ machine intelligence in war, in part because robots, as The Economist noted in a recent article, "have the potential to act more humanely than people. Stress does not affect a robot's judgment in the way it affects a soldier's." Sad, but hard to dispute. It is not a stretch to expect robots might love more humanely, too – or at least simulate love, which is close enough for many folks.
A roboticist named David Levy has gone to the trouble of writing a book about the subject titled LOVE AND SEX WITH ROBOTS: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships. He describes the high but, in his view, surmountable technical obstacles; mostly, though, he is interested in the social aspects. "Love with robots will be as normal as love with other humans," he says. The lumping of robots with “other humans” in that sentence gives me some pause, but otherwise his message is surprisingly unsurprising. It is no great revelation that people can love (and have sex with) almost anything; a truly anthropic machine should have no trouble getting dates. There are few insights in the book that most readers wouldn’t already have going in.
Some might point out that with birthrates already dropping below replacement level in all highly industrialized countries, these robots, if and when they arrive, could lead to a population crash as we abandon each other for techno-toys. Perhaps we need not fear extinction at the hands of robotic killers like the ones in the Terminator movies. Perhaps our machines will love us to death.
My own tale of robotic love, “Going through the Motions,” can be found at http://richardbellush2.blogspot.com/
ANDROID GIRL (MUSIC VIDEO) from Aaron Potter on Vimeo.