In the weeks leading up to the debut last night (Jan 13th) of the new Fox TV show Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles much of its national outdoor advertising campaign (bus-stop and billboard posters) featured the poster (shown left) of the show's attractive actress Summer Glau who plays the half-woman/half-robot terminator unit Cameron Phillips sent to protect John Connor -- Sarah's son.
No doubt this image of a sexy woman who is really a robot will fuel discussion or at least fantasies (especially with lusty hetero males) on the popular, recurring Sci-Fi theme of the possibility of humans having relationships with human-like robots.
But really, just how likely is a time when humans will have sexual or loving relationships with lifelike female, male, or transgender robots? Well, according to David Levy, an expert in robots and artificial intelligence, a time when humans will routinely be having sex with robots is actually only about forty years into the future.
Levy is the author of Robots Unlimited, published in 2005, and more recently the provocative book Love + Sex With Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships, which was just published by Harper Collins. He asserts that such technological advances are just around the corner and that they will be not considered weird but, he believes, generally be very warmly accepted.
If he is right, by the year 2048 companies like Apple or Microsoft will be releasing some new interactive, fully functional lifelike robots. And you thought the new iPhone or the latest Xbox created a buzz! Wait 'til the new seXbox or the new iSexbot hits the marketplace! Can you imagine the lines? The pre-orders!
And no doubt in this rapid-paced, inbuilt obsolescence tech-economy, every six months a newer, updated, more advanced model will be unveiled. I can already imagine the advertising copy in 2049: "Announced yesterday at Macworld's computer show at San Francisco's Moscone Center is the new iSexbot II! Available March 1st, the new model will be issued in all colors of human like skin, programmed with improved voice features, and twice as long lasting batteries. Pre-order now and get a free companion, personalized, damage-safe iTravel case."
But isn't the idea of sex with a manufactured object just plain creepy? Not at all, writes Levy in his new book, noting that it is a natural progression of human development. Already he points out humans have sex with a range of artificial objects, including vibrators. In fact, as Levy writes in his new book, robot sex already exists in the form of sex dolls, usually female, carefully manufactured with almost human-like "cyberskin" plus simulated heartbeats that are programmed to increase in speed as the dolls are programmed to mimic arousal. Check out the Reuters News video clip below about the obsessive 45 year old Japanese man who collects these dolls, which cost about six thousands dollars apiece, and has already spent over $170,000 on them. Strange? Maybe, but if the typical male already treats women as mere sex objects (as they are regularly accused of) this next step seems like a natural one for such a "typical male."
Levy writes in his book about the popular "doll experience rooms" in certain Korean hotels where individuals (nearly always men) pay $25 an hour to rent a room outfitted with love dolls. The advent of these "rooms" came about after the Korean government cracked down on prostitution in 2004. Regarding the impact of the new sexbots of the future, Levy predicts that they may put prostitutes out of business.
As Levy sees it, in the not-too-distant future sex with robots will be common with "about 50% of the population experiencing man-machine mating at least occasionally." Of course, just in concept alone the idea of sex with robots raises numerous issues -- especially moral and religious ones. And undoubtedly with the actual advent of these robots there will be endless debating on the topic.
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