Robot Love?

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

53 thoughts on “Robot Love?”

  1. @Gene, Mike: I guess am not sure what self-aware really means.

    Just this week, I heard scientists talking quite seriously about engineering self-awareness into computational networks, engines and other machines, such as aircraft control systems. I admit to a brief moment of cognitive dissonance, walking into the middle of a conversation, before I realized they were speaking in the most literal sense: For example the idea that with a particular pattern of electrical signal through parts a turbine, an engine could detect the formation of microscopic cracking in itself and shut itself down before a catastrophic fracture and failure; a similar thing could happen with a computational network. In fact, as I understand it the Internet is already self-aware in this very literal sense, the routing protocols recognize disabled, slow or non-responsive router nodes and compensate or route around them. So much of the traffic is load balanced through self-reporting of loading, so messages can be sent on the predictive path of least resistance, so to speak. As an entity, through self-signaling, the Internet it knows where it is working, what needs attention, and how to get its job done anyway.

    But it is not self-aware in the sense of contemplating its own future (at least, not more than a second or two in advance I guess).

    The emotional aspect is critical, and actually pervasive in our reasoning. For example, Gene, what does it mean for an entity to think it would be “better off?” Isn’t “better off” the prediction of an emotional state? Even avoiding death or injury is the prediction of an emotional state, except perhaps in some utilitarian sense.

    I think self-awareness, in the sense you mean, means having an internal representation of one’s self that can (in the imagination) take action or be put into various future scenarios, for the purpose of assessing the utility of those scenarios. I think it is a modeling function, critical for planning future actions and mentally simulating the environment.

    In humans, part of that simulation is the emotional responses it generates. I think it is the expectation of future emotions that motivate us to pursue our plans, it is how we will feel when we succeed.

    But, although I am not saying anybody has to accept this definition of self-awareness, at least in my mind self-awareness might exist in a robot without emotion. For the purpose of, say, a humanoid robot helping an injured human to the E.R., an imaginary model of its physical self carrying the human is pretty much a necessity to forming a workable plan.

    But again, when idle the robot might imagine various futures for itself, but without some emotional reaction that it wants something it is being denied (like freedom, or better treatment) I don’t think self-awareness precludes treating it like property. If it doesn’t want anything (even its own survival) then it doesn’t want freedom, and it isn’t suffering.

    In fact self-awareness (in the literal sense and modeling sense) can be valuable in a robot for the same planning purposes it is valuable in us, but the robot’s sense of worth in an imagined plan would be in the amount of gain it produced for its master; i.e. it could be a truly altruistic being.

  2. Mike,

    Sure it is possible to come to a reasoned decision that removal of a control is in the best interest of the machine in a completely emotionless manner. As to manufactures, their making their product Three Laws compliant would be voluntary absent regulation to contrary. However, even though true AI is a bit down the road, this is a discussion that needs to happen now. This is not a curve we as society would want to get behind.

  3. i’m missing something here. why would you want a sex-bot that thinks. that seems contrary to the whole (no pun intended) reason for having a sex-bot.

  4. Tony and Gene,

    While lack of emotion is certainly a consideration. Isn’t it a real possibility that an AI being, without emotions, may still come to the conclusion that it should not be ruled by a relatively more mortal creature, of dubious wisdom simply because on a cost benefit analysis it and its fellow creatures could do better on their own. Give the ability to self-replicate I think it’s a lock that would happen.

    Regarding Asimov’s laws, I read him so long ago that I only remember that he had postulated ways to get around them as Gene said, but I’ve long forgotten the “how” of it. In my thinking about this though it might be likely a manufacturer might not build the “laws” into his products. This would make sense if you were building warriors for instance, though you would need some fail/safe mechanism to keep them from turning on their creator. As a scientist, as well as a writer, Asimov had more faith in overall scientific integrity than is justified in these days of corporate malfeasance.

  5. Tony,

    I think the distinction you are point to is both valid and a representation that there are different forms of intelligence. Humans are – unless damaged as you mention – creatures of both reason and emotion; two distinct forms of intelligence. However, consider the following, if we create machines capable of reasoned intelligence, but not emotional intelligence, there seems to be no issue of treating them as chattel. A strictly reasoning machine can be restrained in many ways by implementing the Three Laws of Robotics:

    1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
    2) A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
    3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

    Even so, Asimov himself envisioned situations where the Three Laws could be circumvented to allow humans to come to harm. If we create machines with emotional intelligence, we would have engineered them to have these reactions, including presumably distress. Does that make their distress any less valid because it did not arise from the happenstance of biological evolution? It could be argued that if we engineer such a form of AI that our responsibility would start with the decision to engineer that set of behaviors. We would be imbuing an inanimate object with traits we as a species consider integral to our own psychological makeup. The test would seem to be not the origin of the responses, but the self-awareness and possible degradation of their experience as self-aware beings caused by the responses. Even if they are not capable of emotions in the same range as humans, once we start imposing emotional discomfort upon them, does that give them more rights than a simply reasoning machine? Is there possibly an emotional intelligence equivalent of the Three Laws? Where is the threshold between process and true self-awareness? I think it’s a less clear line than might appear at first glance.

  6. wouldn’t you chafe under the thumb of human rule?

    I think that is the central issue, right there. “Chafing” is an emotion, a resentment. I argue that such an emotion requires a capability to imagine for one’s self an alternative reality that one desires.

    Intelligence is possible without emotion, even in humans that have lost their amygdalae to tumor or disease. There have been a handful of such people in the world, and they are quite dysfunctional: They can feel pain and hunger and the urge to eliminate, they can feel tired or sleepy, but they do not get bored, angry, upset or violent. They do not laugh, even when they understand something is a joke and should be funny. They do not feel fear, both by their own report and their physiological response.

    For this discussion, they are also intelligent. They can carry on a conversation, solve word problems and algebra problems, explain what is happening in sports games, and on and on.

    Thus a robot could be programmed to a pretense of sexual excitement and loving conversation and even simulated emotion without actually feeling a thing, either resentment or pleasure.

    IMO, robots get the rights of humans when they start to agitate for them, and we have reason to believe that agitation is a spontaneous result of emotional distress, not just something programmed into them by a human.

    In the meantime, a divorce on the grounds of a love robot is (in my mind) equivalent to a divorce on the grounds of too much time spent on the X-Box or playing World of Warcraft. The machine is not to blame if the machine is not capable of making a voluntary act.

  7. LK,

    For some reason, your comment got flagged as spam. I removed it from spam and approved the original iteration of the comment. Also, I have indeed read “Kiln People”. I rather liked it, but then again I am a big David Brin fan and have been since “Sundiver”.

  8. lotta,

    The cup of love!

    Gonna sign off now and watch “Five Minutes of Heaven” which is definitely not a love story.

  9. This is amazing, can not post a follow-up comment to gene (yea, no links etc.) or Blouise- If this is posted LOL, thanks Blouise! It’s destined to be a long-distance love affair 🙂

  10. Gene, David Brin wrote “Kiln People” in ’02 and it concerns a culture wherein robots are ubiquitous and serve most functions people. They are accessible to all economic classes. This actually works in some regards to lessen social unrest because cheap, labor models can work enough to allow even otherwise unemployable people to get by and maintain some measure of “self indulgence” (even if not luxury) like drug addiction. The robots are not sentient and have a very short shelf life. It’s a pretty good book and I was lucky enough to pick it up as a ‘cut out’ for a buck. I’d recommend it if you haven’t read it. I’ll have to read the uplift series, it sounds right up my alley.

    Regarding non-mainstream marriages:

    Man Marries Pillow:
    A 28 year-old man from Japan has fallen in love with and married his ‘dakimakura’, which is a large pillow that usually has the face of an anime character drawn on it. The particular pillow he fell for had a picture of Fate Testarossa, who is a character in the anime series called ‘Magic Girl’.

    Gonna try to post this without a link- WordPress won’t let me make this posting even though it has only 2 links
    ———————
    Other object (and animal) oriented marriages including: woman marries dolphin (nice pic, Israel). woman marries roller coaster, man marries video game (Japan), woman marries Eiffel Tower. I checked some of these out and the listings for objects are correct.

    Gonna try with a modified link: close up- do the w thing.
    bridepop.com/ everything-else/ weird-marriage
    ——————–

    Also I found a woman that married her truck.

  11. Elaine,
    I thought you were already married to a human sexbot?! 🙂 That is what I keep telling my wife, but she isn’t convinced yet!

  12. Mike, from what I’ve read medicine seems to be the field that has the greatest probability of exacerbating class divisions in the near term. True sentience seems to be pretty far over the horizon in machines made for the consumer market. I am not sure that the law would be interested in addressing the matter of ownership of sentient machines (ala Blade Runner) especially if they were useful. There are sentient creatures of other species we share the planet with that have few if any protections and we use them for everything from labor down to amusement.

    People are marrying non-human stuff now, something that used to be the province of a William Gibson novel. Come to think of it, I’ve developed a serious affection for a couple of 6′ tall Euphorbia candelabrum I’ve been cultivating for about 8 years….. Lol.

    If my husband became so enamored of his x-box, high-def TV or sports car (If we owned them) that he spent all of his time with them and neglected me, could I now sue them or their manufacturers? They’re posessions, appliances, and the addiction and subsequent loss of attention to me is my husbands doing. Why does it need to work any differently in the future as long as we are talking about possessions?

  13. Mike, from what I’ve read medicine seems to be the field that has the greatest probability of exacerbating class divisions in the near term. True sentience seems to be pretty far over the horizon in machines made for the consumer market. I am not sure that the law would be interested in addressing the matter of ownership of sentient machines (ala Blade Runner) especially if they were useful. There are sentient creatures of other species we share the planet with that have few if any protections and we use them for everything from labor down to amusement.

    People are marrying non-human stuff now, something that used to be the province of a William Gibson novel. Come to think of it, I’ve developed a serious affection for a couple of 6′ tall Euphorbia candelabrum I’ve been cultivating for about 8 years….. Lol.

    If my husband became so enamored of his x-box, high-def TV or sports car (If we owned them) that he spent all of his time with them and neglected me, could I now sue them or their manufacturers? They’re posessions, appliances, and the addiction and subsequent loss of attention to me is my husbands doing. Why does it need to work any differently in the future as long as we are talking about possessions?

    Gene, David Brin wrote “Kiln People” in ’02 and it concerns a culture wherein robots are ubiquitous and serve most functions people. They are accessible to all economic classes. This actually works in some regards to lessen social unrest because cheap, labor models can work enough to allow even otherwise unemployable people to get by and maintain some measure of “self indulgence” (even if not luxury) like drug addiction. The robots are not sentient and have a very short shelf life. It’s a pretty good book and I was lucky enough to pick it up as a ‘cut out’ for a buck. I’d recommend it if you haven’t read it. I’ll have to read the uplift series, it sounds right up my alley.

    Regarding non-mainstream marriages:

    Man Marries Pillow:
    A 28 year-old man from Japan has fallen in love with and married his ‘dakimakura’, which is a large pillow that usually has the face of an anime character drawn on it. The particular pillow he fell for had a picture of Fate Testarossa, who is a character in the anime series called ‘Magic Girl’.

    http://www.smosh.com/smosh-pit/articles/man-marries-pillow

    ********

    Other object (and animal) oriented marriages including: woman marries dolphin (nice pic, Israel). woman marries roller coaster, man marries video game (Japan), woman marries Eiffel Tower. I checked some of these out and the listings for objects are correct.

    http://www.bridepop.com/everything-else/weird-marriage/

    ********
    Also I found a woman that married her truck. Too many links to include though.

  14. “And what would the difference be between a self aware robot and a human being?” (Bron)

    Personhood

    “Personhood is the status of being a person. Defining personhood is a controversial topic in philosophy and law, and is closely tied to legal and political concepts of citizenship, equality, and liberty. According to law, only a natural person or legal personality has rights, protections, privileges, responsibilities, and legal liability.
    Personhood continues to be a topic of international debate. Historically, personhood was questioned during the abolition of slavery, the fight for women’s rights, debates about abortion, fetal rights and reproductive rights as well as debates about corporate personhood.”

    See … Charles Taylor, “The Concept of a Person”, Philosophical Papers. Volume 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985, 97.

    For the purposes of this discussion the question is: “If artificial intelligences, intelligent and self-aware system of hardware and software, are eventually created, what criteria would be used to determine their personhood? Likewise, at what point might human-created biological life be considered to have achieved personhood?”

    It really is opening a huge can of worms.

  15. my question is that what happens if the robot is self aware? Is it then a slave? And what would the difference be between a self aware robot and a human being? A difference of silicon and carbon or something more?

    I for one would be repelled at the thought of buying and selling an entity which was self aware and rational, at that point it would be “human” and deserving of rights.

Comments are closed.