Coming soon: sex with robots

The influence of technology on our society is growing exponentially. Last week, at the Brave New World conference in Leiden’s Stadsgehoorzaal, David Levy, chess player and artificial intelligence expert, predicted the first marriage between a human and a robot.

In 1968, British Grandmaster David Levy bet scientists that a computer would never beat a human at a game of chess. Now, he argues that computers will be so far advanced in 35 years’ time that we will fall in love with them, make love to them and marry them. “I think that human-robot marriage will be legalised by the middle of this century.”

Levy gave a lecture called “Will we fall in love with robots?” last week in the Stadsgehoorzaal as part of Brave New World, a conference about the growing influence of technology.

“When you enter a room full of people in 2050, you won’t be able to tell at first glance who’s a robot and who’s not”, Levy claims. “They’ll look and act like humans. Their faces, body language and facial expressions will be very, very convincing. They will be capable of holding interesting conversations with us, developing a personality and their bodies will be warm, like ours.”

So it would seem, at any rate. “Nearly everything we know about humans can be simulated with software, so they can always be controlled with that software. But we won’t be able to predict their behaviour exactly and it will seem as if they can think independently and make their own decisions.”

Levy has written more than forty books on chess and computers. In 2008, his book Love and Sex with Robots, the subject for which he was awarded his doctorate from Maastricht University, caught the public’s attention. The book predicted the first human-robot marriage. He thinks it will happen in Massachusetts: “It’s a very liberal state, with technical top-rate universities like MIT and Harvard. The proximity of the technology, combined with the progressive attitude of the society there, means that love between humans and robots will be accepted there first.”

A love that could help many lonely single people. “To me, that is the greatest advantage of life-like robots. There are millions of people who can’t build good relationships due to mental problems, a lack of social skills or because they aren’t good looking or interesting. They are missing out on an important part of life. A robot could supply that and improve the quality of life considerably.”

At the moment, there are very few robots of this kind on the commercial market but that will change soon, according to Levy. “RealDoll, a company that makes life-like sex dolls, will introduce a model with this type of technology to the market next year. These dolls talk to you, they’re warm and they move. At first, they’ll be quite primitive but it’s the same with all electronic products: it fascinates us, so we buy it, so companies invest more money in it and so the products will become more advanced. Like smartphones. We can’t conceive how quickly this technology will develop.”

Anoushka Kloosterman

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