I suppose if I am going to post on crazy-ass movies like Robotrix I would be remiss if I didn’t also briefly review a non-crazy book like David Levy’s Love and Sex with Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships. From the cover art:
Only fitting. Other little boys seemed to want to grow up to be Batman or G.I. Joe, but I wanted to be Victor Frankenstein.
Levy’s is a good book, though not as exciting as I might have hoped. Levy divides his book neatly into sections on Love and Sex. Love comes across as somewhat ploddingly earnest, an exposition of the almost-obvious. People get attached to objects, don’t they? They very much love their non-human pets, don’t they? They already get attached to robot pets like Tamagotchi and the Sony AIBO. So we can probably expect that when there are humanoid robots that act at least sort-of human, the attachments will get all the deeper.
Yes, I can see that. Even as of 2001, some robots were already looking pretty human:
In the second part, Sex, things do perk up a bit. There’s a lot of good history and exposition here of devices and potential technological precursors to full-fledged sexbots: virtual reality, sex dolls, vibrators and other sex machines are all covered. There’s even an eye-opening account of the teledildonic pleasuring of Net Michelle by Violet Blue at the New York Museum of Sex in 2005 (see p. 267). There are also extended discussions of why men and, perhaps more interestingly, women pay others for sex.
Levy, himself an expert in artificial intelligence, thinks that robots sufficiently appealing to humans to be not just exotic sex toys but something like real partners will likely be in production by about 2050, which might be right — it’s in any event less optimistic than “singularity is near” estimates put out by the likes of Ray Kurzweil. And Levy also thinks that prevailing social trends will make robot sex and possibly even human-robot marriages much more acceptable.
(You mean we have to wait another four decades before you can buy your own robot Selena off of Amazon.com?)
(Life is not fair.)
I’ll offer a technical quibble, which is that the kind of artificial intelligence necessary to make a robot good enough to want to marry would be such a formidable technological breakthrough that we really would be living in an entirely different technological universe, possibly a post-human one in which it would become unclear how or even whether a distinctively human concept like “marriage” would apply. Another possibility, one which Levy himself does not discuss, is that we might be able to make human-like robots whose intelligence rests on modified human whole-brain emulations rather than on hand-coded artificial intelligence. This possibility is one which I’ve written about on ErosBlog before and which is the fictional premise behind the ripping-good science fiction novel Saturn’s Children (by Charlie Stross), which is the book you ought to be reading if you really just want to have fun with this topic.
Though the mention of Saturn’s Children brings up an additional, cautionary thought. In Stross’s novel, ordinary biological human beings die out completely, probably in large measure because robots are more fun to be with than people. Depending on your point of view, you might find that rather sad.