AI egghead: Human-robot humping, marriage by 2050
No different from same-sex, or inter-racial nuptials
Among university roboticists, the scenario of humans having sex with robots is normally seen as inevitable. Further support for this (the assessment of robotics boffins' worldview, not the likelihood of mechanised jigjig going mainstream) appeared last week, as a PhD thesis on the subject was defended at Maastricht University.
The author of the thesis, David Levy (described by the Dutch academics as "an International Master at chess from London") contends that humans will not just be shagging robots in the near future, but also falling in love with them and marrying them.
"My forecast is that around 2050, the state of Massachusetts will be the first jurisdiction to legalise marriages with robots," said Levy at a press conference.
The chess-loving brainbox reckoned that Massachusetts would be the first region to OK people marrying their droid concubines because it had given the thumbs up to same-sex weddings, and because the Commonwealth is crawling with love-starved tech geeks.
"Massachusetts... has been at the forefront of same-sex marriage," Levy said. "There's also a lot of high-tech research there at places like MIT."
According to Maastricht U, "[Levy's] PhD research has encompassed the fields of psychology, sexology, sociology, robotics, artificial intelligence, and gender studies."
Perhaps quite specialised sociology. Levy reportedly reckoned that any stigma attached to getting ones' ashes hauled by a machine would be swiftly dealt with by adventurous ladies-mag journalists.
"Once you have a story like 'I had sex with a robot, and it was great!' appear someplace like Cosmo magazine, I'd expect many people to jump on the bandwagon," he said.
Jump on something, anyway.
Levy reckoned that sex with robots would be on the cards well in advance of marriage, his views roughly chiming with those of Henrik Christensen, who reckons the first proper robo-rogering will happen in 2011.
Depending on your definition of "robot", the machine nookie upsurge could be said to be underway already. Presumably to Levy's way of thinking, today's "dildonics platforms" aren't proper robots, though it wouldn't seem difficult to hook one up to a chess-playing computer of the type he has spent much of his career coding.
Even so, there doesn't seem to be a lot of difference between an electric vibrator and a humanoid (or whatever form factor, erm, tickles your fancy) "robot" programmed to simulate sex with humans. They're both basically masturbation machines, and suggesting an analogy to same-sex relationships between two human beings seems fairly ridiculous, not to say offensive. Suggesting legal marriage to a wanking machine - with all its implications of citizenship, property rights etc - is outright stupid.
At times, Levy appeared to hint that it wasn't just homosexuals who were in the same frame as wankbots.
"One hundred years ago, interracial marriage and same-sex marriages were illegal in the United States. Interracial marriage has been legal now for 50 years, and same-sex marriage is legal in some parts of the States," he said, seeming completely lacking in any grasp of the difference between human beings and masturbation aids.
Just because people are willing to screw machines - or apple pies, or sheep, or holes in trees - doesn't mean that Massachusetts is going to say they can marry them. (Or that any Cosmo scribes are going to admit doing so.)
Genuine artificial sentient beings might be produced on Levy's timeline (though not Christensen's, we submit). They might be of a nature which led to their being granted human rights and status, at which point it might be possible for a marriage to one to have some meaning.
It's difficult to imagine a machine like that having any inbuilt urge even to reproduce itself, though - let alone any desire to have sex with humans. Unless it had been externally programmed to have such urges - which would seem somewhat perverse or even criminal, in the case of a genuine artificial sentience. The postulated AI spouse of the future might be willing to hand out a sympathy shag to please a sweaty human partner now and then, via networked wankbot perhaps, but it would probably be quite difficult to tell the difference from ordinary machine relief.
Apparently, Levy's PhD work was supervised by Professor Maaike Meijer, of the Department of Gender Studies, and Professor Jaap van den Herik, of the Department of Computer Science. He got his doctorate from Maastricht U.
Heigh ho. No point getting worked up about another stupid PhD thesis, especially as it doesn't even mention the cybernetic baggage in Terminator 3. Coverage from LiveScience.com is here. ®