In 2050, your lover may be a robot

MAASTRICHT, Netherlands —

Romantic human-robot relationships are no longer the stuff of science fiction—researchers expect them to become reality within four decades. And they do not mean simply, mechanical sex.

“I am talking about loving relationships about 40 years from now,” David Levy, author of the book “Love + sex with robots,” said at an international conference held last week at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands.

“When there are robots that have also emotions, personality, consciousness. They can talk to you, they can make you laugh. They can say they love you just like a human would say ‘I love you’, and say it as though they mean it.”

Robots as sex toys should already be on the market within five years, predicted Levy, “a sort of an upgrade of the sex dolls on sale now.”

These would have electronic speech and sensors that make them utter “nice sounds” when a human caresses their “erogenous zones.”

But to build robots as real partners would take a bit longer, with conversation skills being the main obstacle for developers.

Scientists were working on artificial personality, emotion and consciousness, said Levy, and some robots already appear lifelike.

“But for loving relationships—that is something completely different. In loving relationships there are many more things that are important. And the most difficult of all is conversation.

“You want your robot to be able to talk to you about what is interesting to you. You want a partner who has some similar interest to you, who talks to you in a manner that pleases you, who has a similar sense of humor to you.”

The field of human-computer conversation is crucial to building robots with whom humans could fall in love, but is lagging behind other areas of development, said the author.

“I am sure it will happen. In 40 years ... perhaps sooner. You will find robots, conversation partners, that will talk to you and you will get as much pleasure from it as talking to another human. I am sure of it.”

Levy’s bombshell thesis, whose publication has had a ripple-effect way beyond the scientific community, gives rise to a number of complicated ethical and relationship questions.

British scholar Dylan Evans pointed out the paradox inherent to any relationship with a robot.

“What is absolutely crucial to the sentiment of love, is the belief that the love is neither unconditional nor eternal.

“Robots cannot choose you, they cannot reject you. That could become very boring, and one can imagine the human becoming cruel against his defenseless partner”, said Evans.

A robot could conceivably be programmed with a will of its own and the ability to reject his human partner, he said, “but that would be a very difficult robot to sell”.

Some warn against being overhasty.

“Let us not exaggerate the possibilities!” said Dutch researcher Vincent Wiegel of the Technological University of the eastern town of Delft. “Today, the artificial intelligence we are able to create is that of a child of one year of age.”

But Levy is unyielding. He is convinced it will happen, and predicts many societal benefits.

“There are many millions of people in the world who have nobody. They might be shy or they might have some psychological hang-ups or psycho-sexual hang-ups, they might have personality problems, they might be ugly ...

“There will always be many millions of people who cannot make normal satisfactory relationships with humans, and for them the choice is not: ‘would I prefer a relationship with a human or would I prefer a relationship with a robot?’—the choice is no relationship at all or a relationship with a robot.”

They might even become human-to-human relationship savers, he predicted.

“Certainly there will be some existing human-human relationships where one partner might say to the other partner: ‘if you have sex with a robot I’m leaving you’.

“There will be others who say: ‘when you go on your business trip please take your robot because I happen to worry about the red light district.’”

AFP

  • 0

    Youdontknow

    Much of what's described here sounds like the desire to remake humans for the purpose of that for which they were originally intended.

    In today's fast paced life, where both men and women are too busy to show emotions, these future robots may just be a welcome relief from keeping all those feelings pent up. But how long after will it be before people realise it's perfectly okay to show emotions and passion to the real thing?

    Just a shame so many don't do it now and instead, think love exists in a quick one-night stand.

  • 0

    Altria

    Yeah, robot is a pretty accurate description, and I don't see her improving much over the next 42 years.

  • 0

    thepro

    Yeah, right. And in the 80s they said we would have flying cars by now.

  • 0

    Fair dinkum!

    Well, that fruitloop from Akihabara complained he was ugly and could not find love. There may just be an underlying benefit from this technology. It'll also create a new breed of otaku.

  • 0

    Taka313

    Well...if I'm capable of having a lover when in my 80s, I doubt I'll be too picky as to whether she's human or a robot.

    Taka

  • 0

    capone

    not if you're a well-adjusted human being, it won't be

  • 0

    keshii

    Fair Dinkum, I have one word for you: Chobitsu.

  • 0

    Twenty4Play

    I'm not sure I'd be interested in the robot lover, but the robot sex toy... bring it on! It's about time... woman have had mechanical aids for some time now.

  • 0

    JeromeInJapan

    Cool! Can I be a robot too? But I need lasers!

  • 0

    Hughgarse

    I think my wife is a robot, but not a model that shows empathy, sympathy or understanding.

    hahahaha. nice one!

  • 0

    Triumvere

    "Ordinary human dating: its enjoyable, and it serves an important purpose. But when a human dates an artificial mate, there is no purpose, only enjoyment... and that leads to TRAGEDY."

  • 0

    DenshaDeGO

    But to build robots as real partners would take a bit longer, with conversation skills being the main obstacle for developers.

    Just like the conversation skills of real Japanese girls in this day and age then. Most conversations consist of "YADA", "KIMOI" and "MAJI DE?": you could program a pocket calculator to talk the same.

  • 0

    Rigs83

    I think everyone so far has failed to see the danger this poses to human civilization. Mankind has spent the past 2,000,000 years creating culture, power ballads, math, Coed sleepovers, science,one liners, architecture, clinchers, sports, stories to go with that scar/tattoo, art, polaroid nudes, war and Corvettes in order to convince another person to have sex with them because they are better than the other ape. If sex becomes as easy and legal as buying an ipod them we are all doomed.

  • 0

    Muzical84

    I think this guy is missing the point. No matter how convincingly a robot SAYS "I love you," it means no more than Microsoft Sam saying it if I know it's just lines of code making it say that. The falseness of this robot would be at least as painful, if not more so, than being alone. Only those for whom "love" always equals sex are going to find anything worthwhile about these robots.

    Oh yeah, and the lack-of-a-soul bit. That'll put off a lot of folks, too.

  • 0

    blvtzpk

    If one has a 'relationship' with a robot, it won't be cheating, right? Just want to get that straight before I come home with that giveaway metallic odor and oil on my shirt collar. :)

  • 0

    Sarge

    I liked the female robots in MedievalWorld and RomanWorld in Westworld. And the gunslinger in WesternWorld - that guy sent chills up my spine!

  • 0

    chardk1

    You have to think if scientists could get more dates this research would be less of a priority.

    What does the bible say about human-robot relationships, is that more or less of an abomination than same sex relationships?

  • 0

    lipscombe

    well, bluetiger hasnt said anything so I guess its ok!

  • 0

    8iamhappy8

    "Yeah, right. And in the 80s they said we would have flying cars by now."

    Actually, we already have turbine-powered flying cars. But the price tag is something in the $3 Million dollars range.

  • 0

    keshii

    That bodes well for some very, very lonely and successful nerds... though I suppose they could just find a real woman to marry for money just as easily by then.

  • 0

    flommytherobot

    Flommytherobot is concerned that the humans think that having robots to simulate love will be a problem.

    However, Robots are sure that the humans will rise to the demands of the situation and easily learn to simulate love at a higher level than ever before.

    It is unlikely that any mechanical device will ever simulate love better than a human.

    Flommytherobot is pleased to have been of assistance.

    Google Flommy the Robot

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