David Levy is the author of ‘Love and Sex with Robots’, a book which puts forward the shocking and yet tantalising suggestion that humans will be not only be having sex with ultra-realistic androids in the year 2050, they will also be marrying them. Scientific American magazine carried a Q&A interview with him last year. Here is an excerpt :
If people fall in love with robots, aren’t they just falling in love with an algorithm?
It’s not that people will fall in love with an algorithm, but that people will fall in love with a convincing simulation of a human being, and convincing simulations can have a remarkable effect on people.
When I was 10, I was in Madame Tussauds waxworks in London with my aunt. I wanted to find someone to get to some part of the exhibition and I saw someone, and it didn’t dawn on me for a few seconds that that person was a waxwork. It had a profound effect on me—that not everything is as it seems, and that simulations can be very convincing. And that was just a simple waxwork.
And if you or others could be taken in just by a wax figure, even for a moment, imagine what a realistic robotic simulation of a person would do. But if people are aware that a robot’s just electronics, won’t that be an obstacle to true love?
By 40 or 50 years, everyone of a marriageable age will have grown up with electronics all around them at home, and not see them as abnormal. People who grow up with all sorts of electronic gizmos will find android robots to be fairly normal as friends, partners, lovers.
I recently read ‘Love and Sex with Robots’ and would recommend it to anybody interested in virtual sex and the future of ‘artificial’ sex. The only faults I found were that Levy does seem to obfuscate somewhat the distinction between appearing to be conscious, and actually being conscious. He takes a very dogmatic approach to the Turing test (the test that proposes that if a computer appears convincingly to be conscious, then we should assume it is conscious). Yet when it comes to actually loving and marrying the things, even the most lonely geek might demand something of a more stringent litmus test. This somewhat casual approach to robotic consciousness also makes his discussion of the ethics of sex with robots seem even more naive than it probably is. At one point he speculates rather offhandedly whether law makers and moralists will object to robots being programmed to be submissive sexual partners that never say no. Surely central to any answer would be whether or not the robots are indeed conscious or not? And if it is decided that they are, then you can bet your last dollar that the lawmakers and moralists will indeed get involved.
Despite my personal objections to some aspects of his conclusions, Love and Sex with Robots is a truly fascinating and well researched look at what the near future might be bringing to your bedroom. Click to read the Scientific American article on David Levy – Love and Sex with Robots.