The idea of a human falling in love with a creation made of steel and silicon seems rather far-fetched today — even the most “realistic” robots seem more creepy than endearing. But people already do form attachments to their robots. People treat Roombas like pets, and soldiers form strong bonds with their minesweeping robots.
Men have purchased inflatable dolls as sex-toys for decades, and those toys are becoming increasingly realistic. Will artificial intelligence and animatronics actually make these dolls so appealing that people will want to marry them? An MSNBC report cites one scientist who thinks they will:
“My forecast is that around 2050, the state of Massachusetts will be the first jurisdiction to legalize marriages with robots,” artificial intelligence researcher David Levy at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands told LiveScience. Levy recently completed his Ph.D. work on the subject of human-robot relationships, covering many of the privileges and practices that generally come with marriage as well as outside of it.
At first, sex with robots might be considered geeky, “but 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,” Levy said.
My first instinct upon reading this is to believe that people won’t get as much satisfaction from such relationships as from “normal” human relationships, but I’m not sure this will be the real problem with human-robot marriage. People need much less feedback in a relationship than you might think. They assign emotions to their pets (and robots) that these creatures simply don’t possess.
I think the much more powerful force rallying against robot-human marriage will be social stigma. Just as sex toys and dolls are hidden in closets and under beds, robot-human relationships will be part of a clandestine subculture. Sure, there will be a market for robot romantic partners, but there will also be considerable social backlash. Even in Massachusetts.