In 1984, in her groundbreaking book The Second Self, Sherry Turkle made us aware of the tendency of some people to develop relationships with their computers. Turkle described one such example: an MIT computer hacker who she called Anthony, who had ‘tried out’ having girlfriends but preferred to relate to computers. I believe that the developments in Artificial Intelligence since then have demonstrated a progression in human-computer relationships to the point where we can now say with confidence that, in the foreseeable future, significant numbers of Anthonys and their female counterparts will be falling in love with robots, having sex with robots, and even marrying them.
My conviction that love and sex with robots will inevitably become commonplace is based partly on two important parallels. One of these parallels revolves around the question: why do we fall in love? Ten major reasons have been identified by research psychologists as contributing to the falling-in-love process between humans. Almost all of these reasons could equally apply to falling in love with robots. One of them, for example, is ‘reciprocal liking’ — Peter is more likely to fall in love with Mary if Peter already knows that Mary likes or loves him; so a robot programmed to exhibit love for its human will satisfy this particular criterion. Another reason is similarity — two people are more likely to fall in love if they are similar in some respects; so a robot endowed with knowledge about a user’s hobbies, and programmed with similar personality traits to the user, will again have a head start in its attempts to engender love from its human.
The second parallel relates to sex. Research psychologists have identified the most significant motivations for having sex, and the main reasons why we enjoy sex, and again these reasons could equally apply to sex with robots. The simplest example is the pure physical pleasure of orgasm, which some people already obtain from a high-priced (£3,000 - £5,000) sex doll made of silicone that has no robotic components. In my research I have also explored the reasons most commonly given by the clients of prostitutes as to why they pay for sex - what they get out of the experience. One reason is a desire for variety, both variety in the sexual partner and variety in the sexual experiences that the partner is willing to share with the client. Another is the wish for a sexual encounter that does not involve the client in any longer term obligation to enter into a relationship.
Clearly both desires could be satisfied by sex with robots, which can be manufactured to be of any size and appearance, designed with the capabilities of delivering any type of sexual experience, and programmed to avoid making any demands for gifts, expensive dinners, exotic holidays or longer term commitments. And with robots that move like a human, gasp and moan like a human, and behave in other humanlike ways during sex, the effect will be shattering. Great sex on tap, 24/7.
- David Levy