Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sex and Marriage with Robots?

One of my students sent me a link to this article on a grad student doing a thesis on "Intimate Relationships with Artificial Partners" -- David Levy, a grad student in artificial intelligence at University of Maastricht in the Netherlands, speculates that robots will become so human-like in appearance, function and personality that many people will fall in love with them, have sex with them and even marry them. He predicts that Massachusetts will be the first jurisdiction to legalize marriages with robots, circa 2050.

Several things come to mind:

First, AI has to attain the status of legal personhood before any such thing as marriage (or any other contractual relationship for that matter) is recognized.

Secondly, as Glenn McGee wrote in an article in the Scientist and on blog.bioethics.net earlier: "As humans build robots that learn what their owners desire, the dilemma of the robots of Blade Runner emerges: What do humans owe “purpose-built” machines who begin to reach awareness, or to so resemble awareness that it becomes a selling point? Should laws be written to protect robots from us, by requiring robot makers to stop short of, say, robosexual devices that learn to be incredibly intimate with humans and yet are owed nothing? If so, do we create such laws in the interest of robots, or to preserve our own human dignity by choosing not to create a new kind of slave, whether or not that slave is fully aware?"

Thirdly, would these robots be sentient -- capable of experience pleasure and pain? Because the act of creating potentially sentient beings carries with it the corresponding responsibility for their actions and for the impact on the human community, the biosphere of the earth and the universe as a whole.

Fourthly, will it ever be possible to 'upload' your thoughts and memories to create a robot version of you? Some organizations are striving to do this -- and if they succeed, it will certainly have an impact on the previous questions.

[Added Oct 24, 2007, 9:14am EST - Editor's note: Our blogger extraordinaire, Kelly Hills, had some really interesting things to say about this, as we covered in a previous post.]


Kelly Hills said...

And for various reasons, I ended up doing the interview for Florida Matters on this subject. Tho it was linked here already, I figured I'd add it in the comments as a related topic (and also make it easier to find for the people at ASBH asking about it).

Anonymous said...

Provocative line of thinking. Did something like

"by choosing not to create"


"by requiring robot makers to stop short of, say, robosexual devices that learn to be incredibly intimate with humans"

ever work out? Hm... try not to think about pink elephant. Still have doubts? Think about recent example of stem cell research. It may be better to think what to do with the fruits of progress, rather than thinking how to stop progress.

I'm reading David's book right now (picked it from you recent post) and it seems to me that the focus of the book is not exactly on marriage. Did marriage ever was a major concern from male point of view? Good point to make in a "women's" blog :)

Creating sentient robots is an interesting point, though. From my point of view this will lead to creating an ideal partner for a given person (I'm taking as granted that robosexual devices will be available much earlier) and thus giving this person ultimate independence from other human beings. Oh, this will kill dating industry if not humanity.