With AI, can one find love in robots?

By Wendy Min Source:Global Times Published: 2019/2/19 16:44:06


Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

It used to be a writer's fantasy and a work of fiction but after trials and first-phase applications of robots performing everyday tasks and taking over jobs ( on a small scale), Artificial Intelligence and robots are now becoming increasingly noticed, used, heavily invested in with perhaps an eventual integration into society. Robot sex dolls are already being produced and robot brothels have opened in Paris and the UK. Realistic with sensors that react to touch, with built-in heaters and other features, £50 ($64) is all a client needs for some 30 minutes of personal time with their chosen robot girl. Companies are now set to introduce more features, making essentially a machine and our own creation to be as human-like as possible where an emotional connection could be made and a warm conversation established between the creation and creator. More news popped up of people falling in love and marrying a robot. We have moved from homosexuals to transsexuals to now - robosexual. Personally, I am fine with whatever sexual preference an individual chooses to have. After all it is their life, not mine. I do, however, like to reflect upon this phenomenon and ponder on what this 'relationship' means.

Writing this made me go back to my high school analysis of Blade Runner. The way AI merged with society and has the ability to either protect or destroy it (similar to another film I, Robot), and the issue of memory implants and human-like features sparking the debate on whether they have the same rights are now as relevant today as they were decades ago. From a robot- child wanting love in AI. Artificial Intelligence to a robot programmed to provide therapeutic care to its human owner in Robot and Frank to a young programmer believing he has fallen in love with AI in Ex Machina, our relationship and what it might mean for robots to be a part of our lives have been thoroughly discussed. The technical and moral debate of controlling and being controlled and the classification of what constitutes a human being and robot and how we should really interact with them often find themselves in between harmony, borderline chaos and full-scale apocalypse.

It is true that human beings can have empathy for both machines and biological creations. This is no groundbreaking finding since our own perception and investment of our emotions direct us to "feel" for whatever it may be. I have always been fond of inanimate objects - my diary, my luggage, my books and my swiss army knife so I can see myself loving my robot especially if it is my own creation. Yet, this attachment is sentimental and does not have emotional depth. Fondness is very different from romantic love. For those who marry and sleep with robots and find comfort in this relationship rather than human connections, perhaps the biggest reason is simplicity. Robots do not argue and reject. Robots do not judge, which paves the way for love. However, does intelligence equate with emotional depth. Since they cannot judge, can robots then be free-thinking without, say excess programming and coding? They do mimic and can spot emotions but can they use this and respond? Can they love us back? Is being robosexual a way for us to find replacement so we can find our version of comfort and love?

As much as we all wish for things to be simpler, especially relationships, interaction is not an algorithm. It is complicated and flawed like humans. 

Can something authentic arise from something mechanical? Perhaps what we are falling for in a robot is not the robot itself but our own fantasy? No matter what it is, AI and robots will not disappear anytime soon.

The author is a freelance writer. She was born in China, raised in Australia, educated in China, Australia and France. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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