February 20, 2014

21ST CENTURY RELATIONSHIPS: Are Two Actual People Still Required for a Relationship?

The next logical step, of course, is robot romance. Scientists have already created robots that can wash your hair, serve you tea, vacuum your house, mow your lawn, and even interact with you socially. With each successive generation these robots become more and more human in appearance and behavior. And they’re already pretty darn real. In fact, studies have shown that troubled children often respond more readily to therapeutic contact with a robot than a human caregiver. These well-programmed therapy robots are able improve almost any child’s mood, and they can nearly always get antisocial children to interact more willingly with other children and also with adults. Plus, these robots don’t get annoyed, impatient, or disappointed when children are challenging, unresponsive, or just plain difficult, so what’s not to love? And if children can have healthy emotional responses to non-organic beings, why can’t adults?

How much longer will it be before Rosie, the walking, talking, emoting robot maid from The Jetsons is real? And what will happen when Rosie’s manufacturer decides she’ll sell better if she looks like a supermodel and has realistic sex-toy genitalia? Will we suddenly prefer sexual activity with robots to real people? And if these ultra-sexy robots can be programmed to behave as if they adore their owner, as Samantha does in “Her,” it’s pretty easy to visualize humans bonding with these “beings” every bit as fully and intimately as they might with a real person.

Nobody tell notorious robophobe Matthew Yglesias.