Sociologist, Laurie Essig, PhD, a professor at Middlebury College, writes in a recent article in Psychology Today (see references below) that due to our ever present need to find something “better” and the incredible advances that have been made in computer technology and specifically robotics, that it’s not a stretch to imagine people having emotional relationships with machines, or even marrying them.
This is not a new idea of course, science fiction has been rife with human/robot connections for years. What is new is that what was once fiction, is now beginning to show up in real life. We have little robots to entertain people in nursing homes, or to keep a child occupied. We have robots that can clean our carpet or remind us of important appointments. And most importantly, we have robots that we can talk to, and that can talk to us, and that can listen.
It’s possible that last point might turn out to be the real reason people turn away from the love offered from another person, in favor of a machine. Robots can be programmed to be very good listeners, while real life partners, cannot.
Imagine a spouse that never complains or brings up your past mistakes, or never has a bad day and takes it out on you. Imagine a spouse that never tires of hearing your old stories or bristles when you teeter into dangerous territory; or laughs at your jokes and always finds you not only funny, but charming; just as charming perhaps, as your real spouse did when you were first dating.
And that’s what Dr. Essig, is getting at. Because of our demonstrated desire for something better, newer or brighter, we are clearly suckers for a mate that will always be the way we want; who will always be better than something human. And that’s why it seems almost a given that one day, people won’t be able to figure out why anyone would want to have another human being as their partner; especially if robots become more lifelike in their ability to connect with us physically.
What man would ever choose a human woman over a “female” robot that never said no? What women would ever choose a male human over a “male” robot that didn’t fart in front of her or try to manipulate her into doing what he wanted?
Granted, there are a lot of good, real live human beings, but because they are human, they are susceptible to screwing up. Robots won’t be, because they will learn over time what screwing up means, and will be programmed to never, ever let it happen.