Many people have very strong opinions regarding marriage. Whether it’s same sex and inter-racial marriage, there are very heated arguments on both sides of the fence. But have you ever contemplated whether or not you’d be for or against robot marriage?
WILL YOU BE AGAINST ROBOT MARRIAGE WHEN IT’S REAL?
This topic hit the news in October of 2007, when David Levy offered an interview to LiveScience on the topic. David Levy is a researcher at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands, and is considered an artificial intelligence expert.
Coincidentally, he had a book being published the following month titled Love and Sex with Robots. Maybe the interview was just a marketing gimmick by HarperCollins, the publishers, but in his interview, David Levy brought up a fascinating point when he said, “There’s a trend of robots becoming more human-like in appearance and coming more in contact with humans.”
A few interesting examples he offered included Tickle Me Elmo, Sony’s Aibo robot dog and Tamagotchis. You know what? The man has a point.
CONSIDER THE REALITY: WOULD YOU BE AGAINST ROBOT MARRIAGE?
The truth is, this is a concept that is beginning to enter the consciousness of our cultural environment. At a marriage rally in March of 2009, in Raleigh, North Carolina, David Gibbs III was standing in front of a crowd of over 1,000 Baptists, and began comparing gay marriage to other concepts. In the process, he made the statement, “Maybe people will want to marry their pets or robots.” His glib comment regarding robot marriage sent a shock wave through science fiction blogs across the Internet. Had anyone thought of this concept? Could it really happen?
If we think back through the evolution of Western society, it wasn’t very long ago that people would have had a difficult time imagining a day ever coming when a Caucasian woman and a Hispanic husband could raise a family in a American town, and be welcomed as thriving and productive members of society. That day has come and gone. Who would have considered, in the 1940’s, that the building sized “super-computers” would eventually fit into a space the size of your palm – in a device called a “Blackberry.” The truth is, we take these things for granted today, even though the concept barely a few decades ago would have seemed foreign – like a science fiction novel.
HOW WOULD ROBOT MARRIAGE WORK?
How would such a concept become a reality? Many people may not be aware of the advancing technologies within the porn industry. There are now devices that look and feel like human skin, and like certain parts of the body in a very realistic way. At the same time robotics and artificial intelligence continues to advance in unrealistic and unexpected ways, almost in parallel with the rapid advances in computer and electronic technologies. In 2007, Hiroshi Ishiguro, a Japanese robotics expert at Osaka University, created a creepy robot replica called “Germinoid,” that looked just like himself. The robot had human like skin made of flexible latex silicone, it could blink, breath (using compressed air), and even had sensors so that it could react to touch. At the conference where it was unveiled, one person stated that the only one way to tell the difference is that the android displayed no emotion.
As a computer programmer, I can tell you that the issue of emotion is not so much a robotics challenge, as it is a programming challenge. The day when robotics, artificial intelligence and programming experts are able to create a human robot that can respond to you, and even hold a realistic and intelligent conversation, robots will change the world.
THE HUMAN-COMPUTER INTERACTION
In The Human-Computer Interaction Handbook, by Andrew Sears and Julie Jacko, the authors noted the 1996 study by Nass and Reeves that proved that people often have the same emotional responses to computers, television and movies as they do toward other people. Once computer experts understand what causes more powerful human emotional responses, those factors will be programmed into the personalities, behaviors and appearances of future robots. Before long, the droid with the blank eyes at last year’s robotics conference will be next years spokes model who shocks the crowd when she announces, with a smile and a wink, that she’s not human – she’s a robot.
Will humans be able to resist the stunning appearance, or the stunning respect and kindness that these future robots will offer? How long until people decide that they want these “perfect companions” to remain at home, clean the house, make supper and then offer them affection at night when they need it? In fact, you just got goose bumps imagining having one of your very own, didn’t you?
Is it inconceivable that people may opt for such an unconventional union? When that day comes, will you stand against robot marriage? Share your own opinion in the comments section below.