January 11, 2008

Do me like a robot!

Premise of a new book by David Levy, Love and Sex with Robots

“The first half sets out to prove that human beings can indeed love robots, and the second, spicier, section is given over to showing that we will, and in fact already do, have sex with robots.” - via Boldtype
And why not...they're already fantasizing about a virtual woman, obsessing over pillows, falling in love with dolls (there's a word for it - agalmatophilia!), then why not a mechanized one! This one is even better because plausibly the robot gets some joy out of the fingering..er...feeling too!*

Just beware of a Pygmalion twist to the tale -- she may say: "If you really love me, you'd bring me to life." And that, as the scientists who want to be God would agree is yet not in the hands of humans. Not yet, at least!

On a more serious note,
I do NOT want to live in this new world but it is fascinating stuff, nonetheless. I am not going to be a nay-sayer and say this won't happen either. Nothing against the tech-savvy Japanese but expect this dehumanization to happen first in the nation that thought of the digital pet, followed quickly by the country that brought us the Furby, and to be adopted quickly by people who get a kick living their lives in Second Life!

Like a reviewer of David Levy's book writes at amazon.com: "
The lost self thus luxuriates in a technopology of polymorphic perversity." (Say what again!)

Related Links:
NY Times review
Fox News report
LA Times review
MSNBC report
Wired feature

Related books:
The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence by Ray Kurzweil and The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology also by Ray Kurzweil

And lastly, if this is your kind of thing, you may also enjoy reading Warren Ellis's Second Life sketches. Like me, even if you are not a fan of these 'role playing' games people play... go read the sketches. If nothing else, its good for shock value of where the world is going + Ellis, author of futuristic graphic novels like Transmetropolitan does write well.)

Also see an old post of mine about 'ambient intimacy'.

* Two snippets from last year come to mind.

NRI scientists help robots feel
Today's robots can understand human speech, but are unable to feel human touch. But all that may be a thing of the past with two Indian-born scientists at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln having developed what they claim is a small film that can mimic the sensitivity of a human finger. This they say will become useful in the next generation of robots and in automated tools used for microsurgery.

Emotion robots learn from people
Making robots that interact with people emotionally is the goal of a European project led by British scientists. Co-ordinator Dr Lola Canamero said the aim was to build robots that "learn from humans and respond in a socially and emotionally appropriate manner".
I guess the goal of the second study may be easier to achieve than trying to get humans to respond to each other in a "socially and emotionally appropriate manner"!

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