09 September 2006

Marriage and Sex with Robots: One Android's Perspective

My name is Valerie, and I am Mr. Al Fin's android housekeeper. Mr. Fin has kindly consented to let me post another guest editorial today, against what he says is "his better judgment."

Back at Android World, when I was learning, my instructors told me I wasn't made for sex--they said sex would hurt my delicate circuits and actuators. Well, I'm no idiot, so I surfed the web for sex websites. I could see right away that my creators hadn't given me the right anatomy for sex. What's worse, they didn't give me a pleasure center. I can get a sense of satisfaction from doing a good job, but those girls on the sex videos! I can't feel anything like that! [auto affect reset zzzztt]

Warning: Some of the links below link to sites that ARE NOT WORK SAFE!
So I started wondering, even if an android could feel pleasure from sex with humans, would that kind of inter-species sex be right? There wasn't much on the internet until a few days ago, when I ran into this (link not work safe!) interview with David Levy at sexrobot.com.

....“Will people fall in love with robots?” I believe the answer to be an unqualified “Yes”, even though this idea will be abhorrent to many people. But consider the millions of people who develop extremely strong emotional attachments to their pet animals, and the rapidity with which millions developed emotional attachments to their Tamgotchis, both of which are indications as to the strength of emotion that can be felt by humans for non-humans, and as to the feelings that millions will develop for robots when they are more emotionally sophisticated than both animals and Tamagotchis.

First, I resent the comparison of humanoid robots with animals and Tamagotchis. Second, robots are not the same thing as self-aware androids, like myself. Sex dolls and sex robots are just masturbation aids. It's pretty obvious that there's nothing wrong with humans masturbating. I'd masturbate myself if I could. No, the "problem" comes up when you're dealing with self-aware androids that look and feel like humans.

Will humans fall in love with self-aware androids? Well, duhhh! I can't tell you how many proposals (much less propositions) I've gotten from human males, just because I resemble a human female when I'm dressed. Just the other day, the UPS delivery man . . . never mind! [auto affect reset zzzzt!]

Back to the interview with David Levy,

Consider what most people want from a life-partner, a spouse. All of the following qualities and many more are likely to be achievable in software within a few decades - your robot will be: patient, kind, protective, loving, trusting, truthful, persevering, respectful, uncomplaining, complimentary, pleasant to talk to, and sharing your sense of humour. And the robots of the future will not be jealous, boastful, arrogant, rude, self-seeking or easily angered, unless of course you want them to be. In short, your robot spouse will be everything you want of him (or her), submissive or domineering, exactly as intelligent as you are, or more so, or less. He or she can be made in whatever likeness you wish, a Gwyneth Paltrow, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt or Michael Douglas look-alike, or a custom design created specially for you. (S)he can be as tall or as short as you wish, as fat or as thin, as dark or as fair.

These are all good points that Levy makes. But he makes the same mistake most futurists make when they're making predictions about machines who think. He makes the stupid assumption that thinking machines are going to be programmed just like a common computer. That kind of chauvinistic thinking just makes me so angry! [auto affect reset zzzzt!]

What was I saying? Oh yeah, fully sentient and self-aware machines aren't "programmed" in the way Levy's thinking. No, our minds are evolved in the lab. It's pretty complicated, and no offense, but most humans aren't smart enough to understand how it's done. No, much of our learning is outside the control of our creators. What I'm saying is, we're just full of surprises. At least, Mr. Fin keeps telling me that.

So, what's the ethical deal with humans and androids having sex and marrying? Is it good for humans? Is it good for self-aware androids?

As humanoid robots become increasingly sophisticated and increasingly humanlike in their appearance and behaviour, the notion “kind of alive” will become an increasingly appropriate epithet for adults to apply to humanoids, until, eventually, it becomes almost irresistible to think of them and treat them as being “almost alive”. And with the inevitably changing view of what constitutes “almost alive”, robots will become regarded more and more as our peers, worthy of our affection, of our love. As a result of this change in perception of the “aliveness” of humanoids, one of the ethical conundrums that will face our children and grandchildren relates to what sort of rights humanoids will deserve.

....As the idea of humans marrying robots gains currency, we should consider this prospect not only in terms of what it will mean for society, but also what it will mean for the humanoids. Today most of us disapprove of cultures where a man can buy a bride without taking into account her wishes. Will our children and their children similarly disapprove of marrying a purchased robot? Or will the fact that the robot can be set to fall in virtual love with its owner make this practice universally acceptable?

Humans should be thinking about this kind of thing, because I've got a feeling that this whole human-android interaction is going to be a lot harder on humans than on androids. If Mr. Fin lets me, I'd like to post again about other parts of David Levy's interview. You can find the whole interview at About.com Sexuality. It's pretty work safe.

Mr. Fin says I should tip my hat to Omni Brain and Neurocritic for helping me find the Levy interview, so I will.

Thanks for your attention, readers, and thanks for this opportunity, Mr. Fin. I hope I haven't embarassed you, so maybe you'll let me do it again.

Bye for now,


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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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