By mid-century, people will be marrying robots, asserts Levy, author of numerous books on chess, computers and artificial intelligence (Robots Unlimited: Life in a Virtual Age, 2005, etc.).
To doubt that, he writes, is to be unaware of the rapid progress being made in artificial intelligence, materials science and other relevant technological areas. Levy explores the changing relationship between humans and robots, from industrial and service robots to children’s toys and virtual pets—think Tamagotchi—to the caregiver robots being developed in Japan to help the elderly. Once a more human-like appearance can be achieved, says Levy, robots will move on to roles as companions and lovers. He analyzes the reasons people fall in love with each other and finds the same reasons applicable to human-robot relationships. He notes that social mores regarding marriage are changing, and he predicts that the combination of dynamic changes in social and cultural thinking with major advances in technology will move society toward acceptance of human-robot marriage. The advantages—a partner programmed to one’s individual desires, one that can never truly die or fall out of love—are considerable. As for sex with a robot, Levy devotes an illustrated chapter to technological solutions to the problems facing the amorous human partner, ranging from old-fashioned mechanical devices to virtual-reality software systems. It’s easy for the casual reader to be swept along by Levy’s assumptions and arguments, so that statements such as, “If we can accept that a robot can think, then there is no good reason we should not also accept that it could have feelings of love and feelings of lust” may seem reasonable on first reading, but highly questionable upon deeper reflection.
Levy is willing to go far out on a limb with his predictions, and even the reader who remains unconvinced may well enjoy this thought-provoking and entertaining ride into the future.