Love, Sex & Robots

I love technology in the same way I love weather — it’s liable to change every 5 minutes; sometimes it’s great and you’re really happy with it; sometimes it’s dramatic and exciting; and, sometimes it just totally pisses you off.  I love technology, but I’m by no stretch of the imagination, a techno-geek. I don’t keep up on what’s happening minute-by-minute. I won’t stand in line for 2 days to be the first one to own whatever Apple is launching on a particular day. And I’m not really into science fiction – even though the science fiction of today becomes the science fact of tomorrow.

For instance, I haven’t thought too much about robots. I just assumed they were 1960s science fiction things and that the closest we could really come to actual robots is owning robotic vacuum cleaners. That was so silly of me.

The other day, I read this article in the Globe & Mail and  I thought, “holy shit!” And then I looked up some more stuff.

Did you know that the Japanese are actually building robots — androids — that look exactly like humans? Like this guy.

One of them is the android and one of them is the guy who helped make him. I can’t tell the difference, can you? And this isn’t just a wax figure – this is a fully functioning robot. A robot that can walk and run, respond to questions, make decisions, help with household chores and who-knows-what-else.

The South Koreans (Samsung) are using robots to patrol their borders and say that there will be a robot in every home by 2020.

So, this Globe article asks, what’s going to happen when humans get attached to these robots and the robots get attached to humans. What if they fall in love with each other? These robots will look like humans. They will possess extreme intelligence, be self-aware, think and even be able to feel. Scientists are apparently foreseeing human-android romantic relationships as a distinct possibility.

Writing in the journal Computer Law and Security Review, Anna Russell of the University of San Diego asserts that the cyborg (humanoid robot) can no longer be regarded merely as a literary device in science-fiction stories. For all practical purposes, cyborgs exist. And it is inevitable that complicated legal issues will arise, she says, as soon as traditional human “love lines” are blurred, when humans become intimate with machines.

David Levy, President of the International Computer Games Association has written a book, Love and Sex with Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships which does a fairly thorough examination of the whole concept of human-robot love and sex relations.

It was just 30 years ago that a madcap crazy nerd called Bill Gates was predicating a computer in every home and most people at the time thought that was a ridiculous fantasy.

The American Bar Association is already puzzling out all the legalities that are bound to arise from the assimilation of robots into our society – specifically liability issues surrounding the actions of robots.

The other day on her blog, Zoom  asked if we wanted to live long enough to witness aliens visiting earth. Most people said no. Now I want to ask if you want to be around to live among robots/androids/cyborgs and why?  What are we going to do about the whole robot-human dating paradigm? What if they go nuts and try to kill us all? (Like the robot soldier  back in 2007 in South Africa that went crazy, killed 9 people and injured 14 more?). Would you like to have a robot lover? The thought certainly makes the mind race with possibilities, doesn’t it?

And, if you haven’t seen him yet, please watch this video of Honda’s robot, ASIMO (Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility). They’ve deliberately not given him any human features, but tell me this doesn’t still freak you out a little.

PS: This post is for a special boy who, I’m told,  really likes robots and who’s having a very special birthday this week.