Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger
Almost four weeks ago I read an article in Huffington Post entitled: “Can Loving A Robot Lead to Divorce?” by Vicki Larson, a journalist. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/vicki-larson/robots_1_b_1150679.html Ms. Larson introduces her piece by quoting the claims of a current manufacturer of anatomically correct “sex robots”, who presumably speak and move in sexual ways. I followed the article’s link to the website of the robots inventor, Douglas Hines, who enthusiastically discusses his creation and has a few videos (non-explicit) that demonstrate the robot’s “capabilities”. While the HuffPost article links the Company’s website, I’m not doing it here, since publicizing this device is not my aim. Should you want further information it is available at the articles link. The “sex robot” being produced now is but an update on inflatable sex toys, though with a “skeleton”, rudimentary movement and speech added. It therefore is only an opening reference to a real issue that will shortly become scientifically possible.
The next part of this short article is an overview with of the opinion of Artificial Intelligence Expert David Levy http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=humans-marrying-robots “It also may be the future of love and marriage, if you believe artificial intelligent (AI) expert David Levy, author of Love and Sex With Robots. According to Levy, human-robot sex, love and marriage is inevitable — perhaps as soon as 2025. He predicts that robots may not only be more lovable and faithful than many humans, but they may even be more emotionally available than the “typical American human male.” Not only will they make us become better, more creative lovers, but they also will offer those singles who feel a void in their emotional and sexual lives and married couples with differing sexual needs new, nonjudgmental ways to be happy and healthy. Although Levy believes that the “availability of regular sex with a robot will dramatically reduce the incidence of infidelity as we know it today,” he also acknowledges there may be some potential sticky points. “Some human spouses and lovers might consider robot sex to be just as unfaithful as sex with another person.”
Levy’s view naturally flows into the conclusion of the article which is an E Mail interview with Sonya Ziaja, a San Francisco Bay Area attorney who blogs at numerous law and policy media outlets as well as her own, Shark. Laser. Blawg.
“And what could be more fraught with legal dilemmas than a love triangle among a married couple and a sexbot? How that might impact a divorce? That’s what Ziaja explores in her paper, “Homewrecker 2.0: An Exploration of Liability for Heart Balm Torts Involving AI Humanoid Consorts,” which she presented at the 2011 International Conference on Social Robotics that took place in Amsterdam at the end of November.
“If the doll’s owner becomes enamored with the doll, and leaves his spouse, can the spouse sue as she or he would be able to if the interloper had been human? And who would be sued? The manufacturer? Inventor? The AI itself?” she questions. “So long as we’re intent on adding socially interactive AI into situations that would ordinarily be only human. … socially interactive robots need to be ‘safe to play with’ in a way that manufacturers of toaster ovens never had to imagine.”
Thus we are presented here with a legal quandary instigated by the advent of revolutionary technology affecting serious legal, moral and ethical issues. How should we view this inevitability and how shall we deal with it as a society?
The development of artificially intelligent robots has been a theme in speculative fiction dating back to the 1920 science fiction play R.U.R. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R.U.R. The theme of that play was the development of Robots with artificial intelligence that eventually destroy humanity. Ninety-two years ago this piece of speculative fiction foresaw what is fast becoming possible today. Within the next two decades it is likely that artificially intelligent androids, with realistic sexual features, will be produced. They will be able to carry on conversations and yet if the laws don’t change they will essentially become chattel. The question then will be how this impacts on humanity in general and on U.S. Law in particular?
In one sense this development can be seen as a very positive one for those of us unable to find spouses and/or sexual partners. It may diminish rape, some might argue, but I think that a vain hope, since to me rape is more about power/sadism and less about sex, though sex provides a means to that end. Talking about relationships though, I can see “sex robots” having a profound effect on the sexual lives of many people. More and more today sex has become “commoditized” by Corporations seeking higher profits. It has become a “sales tool” and in the process sex has been sold to many as an aim in itself. In truth, it hasn’t been a hard sell because throughout human history many have seen sex as its’ own end. In the height of my testosterone fueled years, I never viewed sex strictly as an end, which was considered peculiar among my male friends, because for me it was always caught up in how much I was attracted to the personality of a female rather than just her personification as an opportunity for fun. In that sense I don’t think I am typical and so I think many males/females might find a responsive robot an easier companion than a real live human.
The coming of a sexually capable android with Artificial Intelligence (AI) is just years away. As alluded to above this will profoundly affect human society, I believe it will be seen as a danger by many and to others a liberation. If we think the law is severely taxed by complex issues now, wait until the day this evolution in technology becomes common reality. Perhaps initially there will be alienation of affection lawsuits; the assertion of new forms of marital desertion; issues of child custody; claims of sexual deviancy requiring control; and of course a threat to “normal” heterosexual marriage. That is the easy part. In truth, given the power of profit in human dealings all of those objections will be met and dealt with, in new permutations of law that will allow the widespread sale of this innovation.
Having self awareness has always been a criterion that we see as setting humans above and apart from other animals. The true measure of self-awareness is the ability to communicate that awareness to others. Experimentally it has been show that other creatures are self aware, including whales, dolphins, apes, dogs, etc. Despite this, humanity for the most part still exercises dominion over these lesser creatures, via denial and more effectively with might making right. Yet we are now on the verge of having actual AI androids, with self awareness a crucial component of true AI status, which will in effect be the beginning of a new race of beings. They will definitely be a race that seems outwardly in all respects human, but humans will have created them. Knowing humanity all too well I can see that we will expect this newly created race, to serve us well beyond being our “love slaves”. The law will adapt to cover these issues, but with ongoing legal/political warfare stretching over decades. Given the empty hullabaloo about Gay Marriage coming from religious entities today, the long continuing struggle for homosexual equality that has caused such bitterness, just imagine when the first male/female demands to be legally married to their android partner. (Please note here that I’m not even dealing with human cloning which is a parallel issue with the same potential volatile outcomes)
Sexuality and marriage are mere jumping off points for what will be one of the great confusing new realities/conflicts of human history, exacerbated by religious orthodoxy. This new race of beings, whether clone or android, will be self replicating in any of a number of ways. How will humanity deal with them, other than initially seeing them as chattel? If as a being you are self aware, have fair to high intelligence and the capability to self replicate, wouldn’t you chafe under the thumb of human rule? We then see that the basis of the popular “Terminator” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terminator_%28franchise%29 movie series has more depth than merely an excuse for spectacular battle and special effects, despite their creators unwillingness to plumb the less superficial depths of the films implications. Since many of those who regularly comment here are also Science Fiction enthusiasts, like me, they are quite aware that since Capek’s R.U.R., these themes have been constantly explored within that genre. Lately, I have been quite engrossed with Iain M. Banks “Culture” series, which incorporates this very discussion as its major theme. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iain_Banks In the past though Isaac Asimov dealt extensively with this and developed his “Three Laws of Robotics”. Asimov showed perhaps naive faith that all manufacturers would incorporate these “Laws” into their creations. Unfortunately, due to the era Asimov worked in, exploring robot sexuality in depth would have been taboo and possibly legally dangerous. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Laws_of_Robotics
I began with robot sex and marriage, but I’ve ended up dealing with what to me will be the greater issue threatening or benefiting humanity. Given we don’t destroy ourselves first; humans will be creating sentient life very shortly. Since all new technology is impelled by the quest for knowledge, with the quest for profit following closely in its wake, evolutionary/revolutionary change is unavoidable. How we deal with these coming innovations may shape the future of our species for good or ill. I personally haven’t decided where I stand in terms of this beginning debate; perhaps you can assist with my ambiguity?
submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger