People already love their robots. People already have sex with robots. It’s no stretch of the imagination, therefore, to see humans falling in love with and marrying robots in a few decades, argues David Levy in his Ph.D thesis entitled “Intimate Relationships with Artificial Partners.” Levy explains that humans are already getting quite comfortable interacting with non-human objects, and when you examine the psychological reasons for both love and sex, there’s no real reason why they wouldn’t apply equally to human-human relationships as well as human-robot relationships. His thesis was based on some 450 papers on psychology, sexology, sociology, robotics, materials science, artificial intelligence, gender studies, and computer-human interaction. If the current trends in robot development continue (both in software and, uh, hardware), sooner or later you’re going to end up with a robot that looks and acts arguably just like a human. And even if it’s not just like a human, that may not make a substantial difference when it comes to relationships.
This is basically just what I argued in the article I wrote a few weeks ago about one of the Arse Elektronika talks I attended. It’s funny… A lot of readers were unhappy with the subject matter presented at Arse Elektronika. But when you repackage the concepts that the Arse Elektronika conference was about into an academic format like a Ph.D thesis, it somehow becomes legit. In a lot of ways, the porn industry is way ahead of the game, if for no other reason than they have substantial financial motivation to make sex with robots a mainstream reality. It’s going to happen to society at large at some point in the future, but it’s going to happen FIRST (probably sooner than you might think) in the porn industry, and that’s where we’re going to see the ethical issues initially emerge.
One way or another, it’s gonna be interesting.