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The Future of Love and Sex - Robots 510

Posted by Zonk
from the oh-robot-girlfriend dept.
nem75 writes "The New York Times has a review of British AI researcher David Levy's book 'Love and Sex with Robots'. He claims that within a span of about 50 years the day will come when people could actually fall in love with life-like robots. While this may seem far fetched at first, he has some pretty interesting views. 'He begins with what scientists know about why humans fall in love with other humans. There are 10 factors, he writes, including mystery, reciprocal liking, and readiness to enter a relationship. Why can't these factors apply to robots, too?' The case he builds goes much further though, and certainly provides food for thought." Update: 12/14 16:16 GMT by Z : This article is very similar to a discussion we had recently.
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The Future of Love and Sex - Robots

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  • by Smidge204 (605297) on Friday December 14, 2007 @12:03PM (#21697986) Journal
    I'd rather have my Companion Cube!

    =Smidge=
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 14, 2007 @12:06PM (#21698048)
      I'll place my order for a Cherry 2000 now!
      • Well, that's a twist!

        "Advice to all future male scientists: be sure you understand the opposite sex, especially if you intend being a computer expert. Otherwise, you may find yourself, like poor Elwood, defeated by a jealous machine, a most dangerous sort of female, whose victims are forever banished--to...

        the Twilight Zone."


        http://www.tv.com/the-twilight-zone/from-agnes---with-love/episode/12725/summary.html [tv.com]
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by cayenne8 (626475)
          I dunno, I think women will be protesting love robots from here to eternity.

          I mean, if they can come up with a realistic robot, that looks like the ideal chick to any guy, will never age or get old looking (nothing sags), won't give you AIDS or any other STD, will NEVER say no, and give you the custom 'ride of your life' every time you 'mount up'........

          No man in the world would ever give the time of day to a real woman ever again.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 14, 2007 @02:12PM (#21699860)
            No man in the world would ever give the time of day to a real woman ever again.

            That's ok, their robot goes all night long and never leaves the toilet seat up.
            • by Bombula (670389) on Friday December 14, 2007 @05:01PM (#21702252)
              You jest, but there is a fundamental asymmetry here between the sexes that really does pose a problem - at least in the short run. Men, broadly speaking, are sexually interested in women in a purely objective, physical sense. The sexual desires of women, on the other hand, tend to be much more subtle, nuanced, and involve the complexities of personality, social status, behavioral context, and many other non-physical factors. There are of course exceptions, and men of course want companionship as well as sex, but for men the act of sex can be teased out (no pun intended) from intimacy. That doesn't happen to nearly the same extent for women.

              The upshot is that it is possible to replicate the object of a man's sexual desires much more easily than the object of a woman's sexual desires, since a man's sexual desires are almost entirely physical. For a replicated male robot to be uber-sexy, it would have to be smart, funny, suave, and have high social status, wealth and power. Obviously, that may all be possible one day but we can all agree that that day is much, much farther off. In the meantime, the asymmetry is going to create a real problem for women.

              One caveat: this assumes that sexbots for men will become available sooner than perfect virtual reality. Once we have VR a la the Matrix, robots as sex-replacements will be moot anyway.

  • by domatic (1128127) on Friday December 14, 2007 @12:03PM (#21697996)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I count 2, and they're on the front of the chestal area.
  • The 11th factor (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Joe the Lesser (533425) on Friday December 14, 2007 @12:05PM (#21698022) Homepage Journal
    of why humans fall in love with humans.

    Because they are not robots.
  • Good (Score:5, Funny)

    by Rhaban (987410) on Friday December 14, 2007 @12:05PM (#21698028)
    Can't wait to get my own Lucy Liu bot!
  • Shallow (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 14, 2007 @12:05PM (#21698038)
    Sounds pretty meaningless and shalow to me. Sex is a _lot_ more than just 'getting off'.
  • A more interesting and likely scenario is tech improvements to sex toys. Imagine what something like Real Doll will be in 10 or 15 years time, and it's not much of a stretch to say you could have a sizeable portion of the population abandoning the dating scene. We already see that in small numbers due to webcams, and it seems reasonable to extrapolate the trend accelerating with accelerated improvements to the tech.
    • by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Friday December 14, 2007 @12:23PM (#21698316) Journal
      Wait, people are going on e-dates through webcams?

      As for the Real Doll, my guess is that women will respond with ever more drastic measures to look attractive (just as women respond that way to air-brushed magazine pictures of women that don't represent how even those models look cf. Dove). Now, if robots can be more emotionally responsive than men, will men do something drastic to compete with robots?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Now, if robots can be more emotionally responsive than men, will men do something drastic to compete with robots?
        You mean stuff like sharing our feelings and listening to what they have to say?

        Shit. We're done for.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by UbuntuDupe (970646) *
          I know you're half-joking there, but: If it were easy to write a rulebook (algorithm) for how to emotionally connect with others, the Turing Test would already have been passed.

          Pleasing women in that way is not (as far as we know) a matter of following simple rules.
      • by Slashdot Parent (995749) on Friday December 14, 2007 @01:51PM (#21699564)

        Now, if robots can be more emotionally responsive than men, will men do something drastic to compete with robots?
        My gut says no.

        1. Our egos are too big to even recognize the competition. Men see the good-looking men in the magazines every bit as much as women see the good-looking women. But do we go to the same efforts to emulate? "I'm perfect the way I am. Any woman would be lucky to have me. My ego told me so." Most men have no clue how to dress or groom themselves, myself included.

        2. Women tend to claim to want more "emotionally responsive" men, but my real-world observation tends to contradict that claim. Perhaps someone's done an actual scientific study, but I have not noticed men who are in touch with their feminine side having much luck in the meat-marketplace. Cliches such as "Nice guys finish last", and "Women prefer assholes" tend to support that theory.

        My point here is that the necessity of competing with robots for "emotional responsiveness" is probably overstated (assuming a suitably emo robot could be designed), because what women claim to prefer, and what women actually prefer (based on their choices in men) tend to be vastly different.

        3. I think many men would tend to be satisfied with a physical relationship with a robot, to the point of preferring that over the head-games provided by most women. This is especially true because there would be no such thing as a robot that is "out of your league". If you could be nailing a convincing, if robotic supermodel, would you prefer an average-looking emotionally-unstable human female over that smokin' hot robot?

        You may choose to dismiss point #3, but look at the success of prostitutes. A quick perusal of craigslist.org confirms that there are a nontrivial supply of men out there who are happy to pay a few hundred bucks for a 1-hour tryst with a woman they know would never speak to them absent the donation to her college fund.

        I think where I come out on this is that women will face more competition from robots than men will face from them. I am not in the field of robotics, but my software experience tells me that it is probably easier to engineer a convincing sex toy than a convincing "emotionally responsive" companion. And that's assuming that anyone has figured out what type of "emotional responsiveness" women truly desire (rather than claim to desire).

        • by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Friday December 14, 2007 @02:03PM (#21699724) Journal
          Regarding 2: I think you may like this post [slashdot.org] of mine.

          You are correct that "emotionally responsive" is an imprecise term. It's kind of like "genetically fit". What's "genetically fit"? Well, whatever *turns out* to work at passing on genes. You can't know it in advance. Likewise, "emotionally responsive" doesn't necessarily mean wussy -- it means more like, "acting with knowledge of what women will really like, irrespective of claimed desires".

          I would absolutely agree with you that what women claim to want and what they really want are far apart -- more than 42 trillion km. It's rather frustrating to see them espouse feminist notions of how men should act, and then boink the first guy who violates them all. The theory that "Women give flawed advice to cull the guys who actually listen to it from the dating pool" fits the data a bit too well. Look at the Spice Girls song: "If you want to be my lover, you gotta first be my friend". What expert seducer doesn't find that advice abhorrently wrong?
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Regarding 2: I think you may like this post of mine.

            I'd say that post is pretty spot-on accurate.

            I think that we agree that what they do NOT want, is for a man to spew out all kinds of emotional baggage. The more I think about it, "emotionally responsive" is probably pretty close to what women want, in the sense of responding to her emotions. For instance, when a woman is PMSsey, the typical male response is to start nailing her sister or best friend. Most women would prefer, I think, for a man to toss her a bottle of Motrin say they hope she feels bette

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by ari_j (90255)

        Now, if robots can be more emotionally responsive than men, will men do something drastic to compete with robots?

        I don't know about you, but I'm going to peacefully coexist with robots. I'll drink beer and play video games all day, and not get blamed for a thing!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by sm62704 (957197)
      Fifty years? FIFTY YEARS???? I'll be dead, and none of your penises will likely work by then either. Your robot will be feeding you and changing your diaper and reminding you that your great great grandchildren are coming for a visit.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Ephemeriis (315124)

      A more interesting and likely scenario is tech improvements to sex toys. Imagine what something like Real Doll will be in 10 or 15 years time, and it's not much of a stretch to say you could have a sizeable portion of the population abandoning the dating scene. We already see that in small numbers due to webcams, and it seems reasonable to extrapolate the trend accelerating with accelerated improvements to the tech.

      We already have people who are falling in love with their Real Dolls. There's a documentary

  • The Lonely (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ktappe (747125) on Friday December 14, 2007 @12:07PM (#21698072)
    Rod Serling covered this in "The Lonely": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lonely_(The_Twilight_Zone) [wikipedia.org]
  • "Silver Metal Lover" by Tanith Lee [wikipedia.org]
  • Who hasn't had a crush on a fictional character? As you are largely geeks reading this, I submit that many of you find at least some Anime girls hot - even though you know full well that they are not real: the human heart can vast in its ability to accept.

    I had a huge crush on Ryoko from the Tenchi Muyo animes. This crush didn't even require the physical contact that would be present with a robotic hottie. There is little room for doubt that our emotionally sticky limbic system can latch onto unusual objects of affection - I believe it's not unusual to be loved by anyone...or to love anything.
  • Why not? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by houstonbofh (602064) on Friday December 14, 2007 @12:09PM (#21698092)
    People already fall in love with a car, a boat, a Playstation, a video game character, a crack addicted ex... We can love anything. No news here.
  • by gardyloo (512791) on Friday December 14, 2007 @12:09PM (#21698096)
    I love lamp!
  • by Xaositecte (897197) on Friday December 14, 2007 @12:11PM (#21698132) Journal
    Hey Baby, Wanna kill all humans?
  • Deamon Seed (Score:2, Interesting)

    by spribyl (175893)
    Thats fine until the robots figure out how to reproduce.
    Anyone remember "Deamon Seed" or the more recent Battle Star Galatica.

    Can you rape a robot?
    Can a robot rape you?
  • I'd much rather have a holodeck, the possibilities are endless!

    (That and I already have the sign made to hang over the door that reads:
    Scott's Holodeck of Whores: Enter At Own Risque)
  • >> when people could actually fall in love with life-like robots

    It doesn't even require a life-like robot for a nerd to fall in love with.. Usually a bit of pixels on the screen, resembling some attractive women having sex with men do just fine $)
  • by jockeys (753885) on Friday December 14, 2007 @12:16PM (#21698184) Journal
    from TFA, emphasis is mine:

    Levy spends so much time laying out his logical arguments about how and why we will fall in love with robots that he gives short shrift to the bigger questions of whether we would really want to. I'd have liked a little less gee-whiz, and a little more examination about whether a sexbot in every home, a Kama Sutra on legs that never tires, never says no, and never has needs of its own is what we really want.

    well, that's got to be the stupidest question I've ever read. OF COURSE WE DO.
  • by Stooshie (993666) on Friday December 14, 2007 @12:16PM (#21698186) Journal

    Only on slashdot would someone consider having sex with a robot as a relationship.

  • by pete-classic (75983) <hutnick@gmail.com> on Friday December 14, 2007 @12:17PM (#21698200) Homepage Journal
    I can only assume that anyone who imagines being "in love" with a machine is severely emotionally stunted. What is love without the need, and willingness to sacrifice? What is love without emotional exposure? What is love without the risk of loss?

    It is totally okay with me if this guy wants to fuck animatronics, but he doesn't do himself a service by confusing that with love.

    -Peter
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Here's a criteria I'd use for a healthy love relationship that current machines cannot meet: It has to be capable of returning love. Do not love or hate anything that cannot love or hate you in return. Simple rule. Easy to forget.

      Love = sacrifice? Love = emotional exposure? Love = risk of loss?

      We can definitely satisfy those three criteria with a machine.

      Sacrifice: I had to wait in line to get my Nintendo WII.

      Emotional exposure: I tell my Nintendo WII that I love it and ...it makes fun of me. Or no
    • by bigtangringo (800328) on Friday December 14, 2007 @12:39PM (#21698576) Homepage

      What is love without the need, and willingness to sacrifice? What is love without emotional exposure? What is love without the risk of loss?
      Better?
  • by Farmer Tim (530755) <roundfile@@@mindless...com> on Friday December 14, 2007 @12:18PM (#21698218) Journal
    A robot must never harm a human, unless "kinky mode" is enabled.
  • Feeling loved (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wombatmobile (623057) on Friday December 14, 2007 @12:19PM (#21698234)

    It is easy to love someone or something.

    It is harder to feel loved.

    And harder still to feel loved by something you know does not think or feel.

    For that reason, humans will continue to feel loved (or not loved) by other humans more easily than they can connect with inanimate objects.

    • Re:Feeling loved (Score:5, Informative)

      by justinlindh (1016121) on Friday December 14, 2007 @02:05PM (#21699772)
      I think you hit the nail on the head with this.

      However, the type of people who typically believe they feel "love" for a fictional character/doll/piece of machinery may find it easier to trust them. I think the majority of these people have social issues, maybe including social anxiety or paranoia. A relationship with something that won't judge them is appealing to them.

      I recently watched a documentary about people who own Real Dolls. They personify their dolls as if they are actual people; holding conversations, hanging out with, getting "intimate" with them, Most of these men explained that they're simply unappealing to women, and while they'd prefer the company of an actual person, the doll is better than nothing to them. One of the men did describe how he'd been abandoned and treated in ways that drove him to the dolls, and claims he prefers the dolls because he can't trust a human. He also claimed to love several of his possessions (car, guns, sword).

      I guess my point is that this cascading logic for love isn't universal, though I'd agree it applies to the majority. Some people will fall in love with an inanimate object MUCH faster than they would with a human being.
  • People often overlook things they care about when there is no risk they won't get it. Look at the dating sites. People make a list of what they like, then they date people who match. Then they realize what they should have listed.

    Then again, in an overpopulated society, I definitely would not want to encourage more people to be breeders, and I see lot of good in this notion, even if I think it won't solve all the problems people have. Overcoming people's basic animal and getting more in control of exp

  • ...the day that I first see a robot with a hard-on. It's always a bit awkward saying you're not gay to man or beast or robot or whatever. Not that I know about the last two.
  • by QCompson (675963) on Friday December 14, 2007 @12:22PM (#21698294)
    Toss a Teddy Ruxpin speaker into a Real-Doll and I'm good to go!
  • In a word: Presence
  • I don't want my wang anywhere near a power source strong enough to power a robot.
  • I submitted a /. journal [slashdot.org] with this comment's subject title as its title, and part of it pertains to this subject. Here is an excerpt from the linked journal

    You may live in a ten by ten foot cube that appears to be the whole universe to you, and you will have no way of telling that you are not in fact outside, but imprisoned in your little cell, never meeting another real human, but interacting with robotic simulations that you will believe are human.

    It may get to the point that whoever is in charge (and the

  • by pokerdad (1124121) on Friday December 14, 2007 @12:37PM (#21698532)
    So British AI researcher David Levy somehow got involved in the field of robotics without ever reading/viewing any of the hundreds of pieces of sci-fi on this exact topic (ie. he thinks this is an original idea of his)? Or perhaps he is aware of the sci-fi, but is egotistical enough to think that a researcher talking nebulously about the far future is somehow different than sci-fi.
  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Friday December 14, 2007 @02:20PM (#21699988)
    Do Androids dream of electric sheep?
    Great. New images stuck in my head.
  • by OzPhIsH (560038) on Friday December 14, 2007 @02:33PM (#21700166) Journal
    Star Trek: TOS, Episode 74: Requiem for Methuselah Just watched it last night actually. Kirk falls hard for an android (but he doesn't know it she is one), and goes rather mad in my opinion. I thought he was about to sexually assault her at one point, really. Good thing M4 was around... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Requiem_for_Methuselah_(TOS_episode) [wikipedia.org]
  • Often overlooked (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Friday December 14, 2007 @02:35PM (#21700196)

    I hate to introduce a serious note, but there's people out there who could benefit from a little bot-love. People who are disabled, deformed and badly disfigured have traditionally had a lot of trouble finding partners.

    Masturbation and prostitutes are often their only access to sex. Love is something for other people. A mechanical counterfeit might be more acceptable than the alternative.

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