Opinions

Programmable, controllable lovebots and their potential impact

 

In the era of talking phones, machines that can diagnose disease, and touchable holograms, a world where humans might form sexual and romantic relationships with robots isn’t too far off.

While different forms of technology have been replacing human workers for centuries, One thing computers are not supposed to be better than us is loving or feeling emotions. This is supposed to be a  trait unique and essential to humanity. But is it really?

In fact, an AI lover could make a much better partner than a human as Alex Garland’s movie Ex Machina, and Spike Jonze’s movie Her, illustrate. Lovebots could be the ideal conversational and bed partner, as you can have complete control over all interactions you have with them.

They also don’t have to be robots; they can be holograms or digital voices accompanied with sensor technologies.

Japanese scientists at Tokyo University have developed touchable holograms, and engineers at the University of Pittsburgh have succeeded in controlling machines through telekinesis, the power to control things with your brain. Both of these technologies can result in the advent of sexbots.

These technological advancement means  which could then be used to make interactions with a sexbots can be more than just typing away on a keyboard or giving voice commands. Companies like MacMil Cybernetics and TrueCompanion have already begun producing sexbots whose physical traits and “personality” can be designed by customers.

Moreover, in an AI relationship heartbreak and divorce would not be as dramatic as in a conventional relationship.

One of the basic concerns with lovebots is how they will impact human sexuality. “We’re just at the cusp of a whole new age of mechanical sexual interactions that are going to change the way we look at sex and sexual relationships, ” said Laura Burman, a sex and relationship therapist, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

This cultural shift raises new and difficult questions for our society to answer. What does consent mean with a programmable machine? Should machines that can think like or at least act like a person be treated the same way as a person? Can humans and robots marry? If humans get so good at making robots seem like people that we can’t tell the difference should we intentionally mark them in some way so we can tell robot from human?

If we are truly at the beginning of a new age of machine and human sexual and romantic interaction then we need to set limits. Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, among others, released an open letter in January that advocated the need for safety regulations when it comes to AI such as retaining “some form of meaningful human control.”

The concern of human control over AI is a necessary concern and is one of many problems. Society needs something more than a patchwork system when it comes to these problems.