Monday, October 15, 2007

Sex With Robots - David Levy - University of Maastricht

(photo: V 2)
Isn't it already sex with a robot when a woman uses a vibrator?

Anyhow, at first I was hoping for a good hoax, but the story looks legitimate.

That is, there does appear to be a person called David Levy who has earned a Ph.D from the University of Maastricht with his thesis, "Intimate Relationships with Artificial Partners."

"Levy’s thesis
(not he?)
argues that trends in robotics and other areas of artificial intelligence will, within a few decades, result in robots that are so humanlike in their appearance and functionality, in their personality, and in their expression of emotions, that many people will be falling in love with them, having sex with them, and even marrying them."

(photo: simon pais-thomas)

The university also quotes Levy (but misspells his surname) saying,
"The question is not if this will happen, but when. I am convinced that the answer is: much earlier than you think,” says Levi."

It may even be true that anatomically realistic robots will be around in 50 years_ after all that's the same timeframe futurists are predicting nanotechnology will make it possible to build anything, and teleportation will be coming down the pipe shortly after that.

On the other hand, I haven't seen much progress made on the artificial heart (a simple pump, right?) in a while. And methinks human ethics may lag behind what's technically possible. See: the debate on cloning.

I mean, there are questions of shame and disgust here, not to mention sanitation; societies don't throw off deeply held taboos overnight. And there are evolutionary reasons they don't.

But to my main and most cynical thought:

I reckon it's not exactly rocket science to notice that robots are "hot" right now, and sex always sells, so why not try to link the two concepts in a book? All you need is an author with a light veneer of credibility and *hey presto* you have a potential best seller.

Lo and behold, there's a book due out this month from Harper Collins called "Love and Sex with Robots," by an author called David Levy.

And I see he was _ for lack of a better verb _ pimping similar ideas in his 2006 book "Robots Unlimited."

At the time there was a full-blown interview with him on the "Chessbase" website. Excerpt:

(photo: chessbase)

"ChessBase: Are you really so sure of your predictions about love, marriage, sex and reproduction with robots? Isn’t this all rather science fiction?

Levy: No... I think that my book provides ample explanation as to the concepts of love, sex and reproduction with robots. And as for marriage, I accept that the concept of marriage to a robot is outside most people’s frame of reference, but it is certainly not fiction. If someone had said, one hundred years ago, that within a century same-sex marriages would become legally and socially acceptable unions, how many people would have believed them? Social mores change, and along with so many other aspects of modern life their rate of change is much faster nowadays than a century ago, so I think it is quite reasonable to predict that people will be marrying robots fifty years from now. By then robots will be just like people in so many ways, just different on the inside."

Plus ça change...

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