And Now, You May Kiss the Robot

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But that's where the love affair stops. A watchdog buried deep in my brain recognizes irrational gluttony when it sees it and steps in, directing my reasonable self to ponder the damage that eating too many deep-fried, chemical-saturated potatoes can do—even the curled ones, as attractive as they may be. I come to my senses, stop eating, pick the chip remnants from my beard, and refocus attention on the things that really matter in life, like my children and a large glass of ice-cold water.

So when I say I love potato chips, I mean it figuratively. You assume that, right?

But when David Levy, an artificial intelligence researcher at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands, writes of the human love affair with technology, throw your assumptions out the window, because he is being disturbingly literal.

Granted, Mr. Levy's cognitive abilities could be slightly compromised and he could be excused for an occasional flight of fancy, given Amsterdam's notoriously liberal hashish laws, but a university ranked first in quality of education among all Dutch universities by the Dutch Ministry of Education has awarded him a doctorate on a thesis entitled—get this—"Intimate Relationships with Artificial Partners."

Even if the vast majority of Dutch universities have surrendered to those liberal hashish laws by limiting their degree programs to the study of shiny things or the Wizard of Oz/Dark Side of the Moon phenomenon, a doctoral thesis from any nation's top-ranked university certainly deserves to be seriously contemplated. Right? Then contemplate it I shall. OK...there...done. Finally. Time now to mock it for its utter lunacy.

In "Intimate Relationships with Artificial Partners," now-Doctor Levy theorizes that trends in robotics and shifting attitudes on marriage are likely to result in sophisticated robots that will eventually be seen as suitable marriage partners.

Maybe it's just me being a narrow-minded technophobe, but I'm thinking there is no degree of trending or shifting that will ever result in a sane human marching arm-in-arm with a machine to register at Macy's for flatware.

Levy begs to differ, concluding that human attitudes toward affection, love, and sexuality are just as applicable to human interaction with robots of the future as they are to the relationships between humans today.

Questions abound.

 

  • At what stage of robotic and human evolution will it become acceptable for a guy to look at an automaton from across a crowded room, turn to his buddies, and say, "Would you check out the [censored] on that number?!"
  • When will a teenage girl swoon to the touch of a glorified laptop?
  • Would a human being delusional enough to form a deep emotional connection with a blue-eyed appliance have any friends or family left to attend the nuptials?
  • Would it be considered immoral to cheat on one's robot-spouse with a human?
  • Should the human half of a hybrid couple ever feel obligated to pitch in with household chores, or should he or she just acknowledge the fact that his/her beloved is a tireless android that can (and should) be programmed to never complain?


Time and space are the only limits to the number of derisive, yet legitimate questions I could conjure.

I'm sure there are those even outside the faculty at the University of Maastricht and the opium dens of Amsterdam who are all too eager to buy into Dr. Levy's grotesque and insulting view of the human race. A reasonable person might even point to the new Bionic Woman on NBC and argue that Levy's got a small point, because admittedly this latest iteration of Jamie Sommers is kinda smokin'!

And while I'm more than happy to argue the case with Dr. Levy that Lindsay Wagner (Bionic Woman, circa 1976) is much hotter than this new pretender, I will point out that only a few of the bionic woman's extremities and one eye are robotic. Her heart, mind, and soul—the true essence of Jamie Sommers—remains human, so it's OK to be in love with her...if you're able to move beyond the fact that she's fiction.

I know what you're thinking: What a frivolous argument. Then again, what better to counter the frivolous Dr. Levy? Can I have my doctorate now?

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a date with a bag of Lays Sour Cream and Onion.

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