No, it isn't possibleby Margaret Boden / February 10, 2017 / Leave a comment
Many of us say we have relationships with our dogs, and some—still—with our childhood teddy-bear. Some might claim to have a relationship with their car. And others, although they might not admit it publicly, feel they have some sort of relationship with their sex-doll.
Are all these people deluded? Can we really have relationships with non-human beings?
If so, what about robots? Computerised chat-bots, such as the “personal assistants” Siri (from Apple’s iPhone) and Cortana (from Microsoft), already exist which can remember many of their owner’s likes and dislikes, and respond helpfully to their questions, recognising their individual voice and accent.
The silky computer-seal, Paro, can’t use language (yet), but it can make affecting eye-contact with the person cuddling it, and appears to enjoy being stroked.
In the near future, so we’re told by the manufacturers of “computer carers,” the residents of old people’s homes will find solace and companionship, and endless opportunities for satisfying conversation, with robots (or screen-based AI systems) using natural language. These will be able to discuss their fondest memories, as well as their most trivial everyday irritations.
As for the sex-doll equivalents, I leave it to you to imagine the increasingly lifelike (and huskily speaking) robots that are being researched/marketed around the world. (Siri and Cortana are already being engaged in sexually explicit interchanges—sometimes, almost 300 times a day—by lonely male users.) The sexual gizmos of the future are described by their supporters as offering not only “sex” but also “love.”
Sex-with-robots is certainly possible, and perhaps no more distasteful than other types of impersonal sex. But love-with-robots? Personal love (which is not at all the same thing as lust, or sexual titillation either) is a complex relationship between two people who each have their own motives, goals, and preferences but who each respect the other’s interests and also adopt them to some extent—even, sometimes, putting them first. That involves a significant degree of cognitive-emotional (computational) complexity on both sides. The sex-dolls anticipated so eagerly by the porn-market have not even the beginnings of such complexity.
Nor do the personal assistants or chatbots destined for use in old people’s homes. Unlike dogs (with whom we can have genuine,…