Nikki Olsen has a provocative article (pun intended) taking a latter-day look at David Levy’s 2007 book about robot-human relations: Love and Sex with Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships.
Fast forward 4 years (and almost 3 Moore’s Law cycles) and it seems as though his predictions are no nearer coming true than they were when he made them. David Hanson’s skin has gotten more realistic and more people know about Hiroshi Ishiguro’s real looking androids, but many important developments stand in the way of our considering robots something we could one day fall in love with.
While it is true robot lovers are pretty scarce on the ground right now, it seems unreasonable to think either technology or society are changing fast enough to accomodate sex, much less the emotion of love, with a machine in the space of only four years. While Nikki’s expectations may be unrealistic, her conclusion certainly is not:
As counter-intuitive human-robot relationships might seem today, there are many reasons to think that love and sex with robots will happen. Robots are already better in math, logic, chess, jeopardy and many other activities. Is it not probable that eventually, as Levy says, a robot companion will provide much more than a human companion in every conceivable way?
And yet she completely misses the real question! in the long run it might not be whether machines can be better lovers than humans, but instead whether humans can be good enough lovers for the machines.