Discovery Fit & Health
Lori Cuthbert Editor-in-Chief, Discovery News
Depending on how we define "robot" and "love," we already love robots, as well as LOVE robots.
One could consider some vibrators robotic devises. And for between $7,000 and $9,000, you can get yourself Roxxxy, the world's first sex robot. (That might seem like a cheap pricetag for a mate to some.)
In Japan, robotic dogs are being developed that will keep the elderly company, and apparently, those animals are already well loved by their owners. Soon, we'll be able to afford to have robots in our homes, a la "The Jetsons." I know it wouldn't take me long to fall in love with a robot that served me a cocktail before dinner and then did my dishes.
And finally, I point to a Japanese man who married an avatar from the digital dating simulator Love Plus, named SAL9000. Need I say more?
Robot love -- while some find the idea unsavory (or even downright creepy), there are doubtless many others who wouldn't turn their noses up at the prospect of a supportive and well-programmed artificially intelligent mate. In fact, the Dutch artificial intelligence researcher David Levy predicts that human-to-robot marriage will become legal in some parts of the United States by 2050 [source: Choi]. Though not all experts agree with this forecast, robot love may be the next logical step if it turns out to be true, as Henrik Christensen, chairman of the European Robotics Network in Stockholm, predicted several years back, that human-to-robot sexual relations are right around the corner [source: Economist].
Some may ask how a robot lover could ever take the place of a human. It's hard to imagine the primitive and obviously mechanistic robot models of today ever providing the kind of intimacy and companionship that a human partner can give. At the same time, computer science and robotics have come a long way in a short time, and most experts predict that they will continue to make greater advances at a rapid pace. Because of constant advancements and enormous performance gains, processors pack more and more punch. We've created robots that process information, communicate and obey orders, and some robots are even equipped with sensors that allow them to process external information, such as where obstacles are and how to avoid them. Honda's ASIMO robot can climb stairs and run. While these advances suggest tons of useful applications -- for military, manufacturing and maybe even household use -- they are, so far, only tools in human hands. They are only as human as humans are able to program them to be. In theory, however, there's nothing preventing robot manufacturers from using these same artificial intelligence and advanced input/output capabilities to simulate human love, just as they simulate human movement.
Psychologists and psychiatrists are experimenting with robots to use as therapeutic tools. These robots serve as companions for people suffering emotional trauma or for children with underdeveloped social skills. There may come a time when robots can simulate emotions at such a convincing level that we'll be able to form an emotional bond with them. If that ever happens, who will be able to tell you whether or not the emotion you feel for your robot is really true love?
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