Would you want to have sex with a robot? “God no!” The 30 year-old bank teller moves back in her seat, staring at me as if I’m the devil incarnate. Not even with Judd Law’s sexy Gigolo Joe in Spielberg’s tear-jerking “AI”? She saw that movie: “That poor child!”
I decide to start with the “tougher species,” men. They are used to the idea of sex dolls: dames des voyages traveled with sailors since the 17th century, rubber dolls for fornicatory purposes entered the market in early 1900 and who hasn’t heard at least one joke about today’s inflatable vinyl vixens who burst at their seams when jumped.
What better than a 250 guest wedding reception to field my question? People open up after their first signature cocktails.
“Excuse me, sir, how would you feel about intercourse with a robot? Two dozen guys between 30 and 60 agree that it’s out of the question if it looks like a machine and finish the thought with a grin, “But if she’s got big boobs…(butts, lips…). ”
Interestingly enough several male Millenials, supposed to be the “hook-up” generation, weren’t excited by the proposal at all, human looking or not. They claimed that they are looking for intimacy, not one night stands.
After being showered with jovial jokes, a middle age photographer sums it up for me: “Men have sex with anything beautiful. You should know that by now.”
Yes, okay. (Really?) What was I thinking? I switch back to women.
After some hesitation the female servers at the wedding get into it. While their guests are munching steaks, medium rare, they put their heads together considering how their best bot would, or should, feel. Later during cake time a few middle-aged ladies, asked about their desire to order a customized man of their own, look over their shoulders and answer in whisper mode: “No more fear that he’d leave me for somebody younger? Yes!”
My workout trainer and her colleague didn’t hesitate a second to go out with Mr. Robot with the sole intention of entertaining sex. A handsome workout machine providing exactly what they want without having to hope and pray that a human would understand their sexual desires? Artfully coded orgasm assistance is their dream come true. I could have sold two bots right there.
With my girl friends the discussions went immediately to just that: humanizing the macho machine and loading him with “true” lover qualities. A dream come true. Most of us have scribbled the dream dude into our journals at one time in our life, a meticulously carved image of our emotional twin far away from the ridiculously reduced attributes used by dating websites.
But will the perfect robot lover of our dreams be programmed to always agree? Are we that tired of standing up for our true desires and getting what we really want that we long for a Yes-man? I would not miss fights about visiting an art show instead of a football game or of steak being part of our diet or not. I’d love to be listened to, even if I talk too much and to get a smile when I change my mind five times. I see my bot holding my hand when I flip out and not asking me if it’s “that time again.” I’m not good at naming things, so I’d let botty chose how to address him. Let’s say he deducts that Orion is a fit. My Orion would have a bitch meter to protect him and to correct me when I’m unfair; knowing my ideal me he’d deliver creative criticism. I’d vow not to code it out of him even if I don’t like to hear this stuff. If I have the pleasure of living with my perfect Android I’d be grateful and treat him like the king he is. He wouldn't come on a white horse but with a bouquet of my best features, powers and passions. He would the best mirror ever and I could advance from princess on a pea to rebel queen. The vision is glorious but what about love at first sight, the ideas of soul mates and twin souls? I might just be too romantic in the end...
The Millenials and a couple spiritually inclined folks agreed to finding programmed love “not meaningful.” Kissed by a robot we can’t be sentimental; “love” has nothing to do with it. It would be like an arranged marriage in which only one person is truly happy and satisfied, a completely one-sided “I do.”
“You mean, we’ll create slaves,” comments the 26-year-old PHD student, whose focus is machine learning.
If we want to love machines they should have free will. If they have free will we're back at square one. No guarantees for a happy ever after whatsoever.
Which brings us to the next discussion: the ethical treatment of robots. Korea, as one of the leading countries in robotics, already has a law to protect them from their human handlers. Is raping a robot a crime? What about pedophilia and sex with animals? Matt, the owner of Abyss in San Diego, sells an average of 6 to 10 freakishly real looking customized silicon sweeties a week. Their animation is a plan of the future. He refuses to create kids and dogs, but there will surely be a company that does.
Futurist, entrepreneur and expert in intimacy Heather Schlegel brings up that sexbots could help socially handicapped people as in the movie “Lars and the real girl”, but she has a different idea for her own life. She’ll keep her human guy for sex and a gender-free robot as her second life partner. She’d create a copy of herself, an androgyn android not only with perfect knowing of all she is and ever could be but with the characteristics and knowledge of friends, “programmed with traits of my parents or Joseph Campbell and Philip K Dick. It knows me intimately but can offer different perspectives. I could integrate genetic coding of a million people.” Her android would be a mentor, therapist, career advisor; an assistant on so many levels.
I feel a little jealousy creeping up; there could be somebody like me, just much better?
Perfect robotic live-ins, with or without sex, could easily create crazy jealousy and make humans relationships a living hell. We could easily hate our robots as they show us our feeble existence.
When living with perfect androids what would we need human relationships for? For the “true” cuddly feel, the challenge, the unpredictable dramas? The romance of ever after movies?
Most of us already prefer hanging out with our smart phones than with real people. We are in “can’t live without you” affairs with our smart devices. What happens when they look like us and can answer and have fun with us? Imagine Siri without her glitches, as smart and witty as you'd want her in a body you designed.... Our feelings might be messier than ever – at least in the first decade.
Androids will change our lifestyle, that’s a given. It’s just a matter of time. Predictions have it happening in as little as 20 years. In Love & Sex with Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships, artificial-intelligence expert David Levy stipulates that by 2050 robots “will have the capacity… to make themselves romantically attractive and sexually desirable to humans.”
Journal about it. Feel it out. Prepare yourself for the future.
Some of us will be okay with the illusion of love, others will adore their amazing bots as their assistants and therapists, but it's pretty sure that we wouldn't stop there. We are described as being created in God's image and as such we are creators. We would want the best. Perfect silicon beings would get their free will.
To avoid that we, as simple carbon based life forms become pets to our godlike AI creations we'd augment our smarts and physical powers; we'll became Cyborgs.
And here's where the loop closes: we’d be back to square one. As emotional equals Androids and Cyborgs will bicker and fight. 'Cause we're programmed by humans. We love perfection as long as there's imperfection.
Only one thing seems clear: Androids are coming to our town. There better be a manual.