Half of the human population will be having sex with robots by 2050. And humans will be falling in love with those robots 10 years later.
These are bold predictions by David Levy, an expert on artificial intelligence and author of the recent book Love And Sex With Robots (HarperCollins). His thesis is strangely sound: robots will become so sophisticated in several decades that they will not only be proficient lovers, but also exhibit lifelike emotions.
He insists that love with robots will become as normal as love with other humans, while the number of sexual acts and lovemaking positions commonly practised between humans will be extended. Robots, he says, will teach us more than all of the world’s published sex manuals combined.
The rise of robot sex will also put the world’s oldest profession out of business. Yes, sex workers will eventually be facing unemployment, Levy says, once robot sex becomes easily available.
NOW talked to Levy to learn more about how flesh-on-metal action will radically overhaul human sexuality. For some, he says, sex with robots may be a tough idea to swallow, but recent sex trends are leading in that direction.
“The sex dolls available now are selling well,” he says on the phone from his home in London, England. “A leading sex doll company in California sells 400 a year, and those units are inanimate. A Japanese company came up with a sex doll that makes pleasing sounds when its nipples are stroked. Designers will take existing electronic technology like vibrators, sensors and speech technology and apply them to realistic-looking dolls.”
Sex robots will have no problem reaching critical mass.
“At first, people will try them out of curiosity,” says Levy, “and the media are so pervasive in our lives, all it will take is one big magazine to praise robot sex’s multiple orgasms and you’ll have people queuing from Fifth Avenue to Rodeo Drive to get one.”
When Howard Stern tried a sex doll, he was very positive about the experience, and the theory is that celebrities like him will promote the robots’ cause. But Rutgers psychologist and sex researcher Barry Komisaruk finds the concept of robot sex depressing, a symptom of the breakdown of communication in our society. Levy counters that robots will be an improvement over what some people use as sexual alternatives.
“Is it not a sad reflection of society that millions of people don’t have anyone to love or regular satisfactory sex?” Levy asks. “They might be shy, have psychosexual hang-ups or be physically deformed. For them, the choice is not sex with A or B they don’t have sex at all, or they pay for it.
“With robots, they won’t have to pay any more. Robots will appear to love them, and that might be satisfactory enough. I think society would be better off if all those lonely people became happy because they found a sex partner.”
When I ask why any human would want to fall in love with a machine, Levy warns against underestimating the powers of computers.
“Computers are very good at learning. The robots of the future will learn about their human partners, what they like and don’t like. Robots will have the capacity to make themselves more appealing to us.
“In 40 years, robotic technology will be advanced enough to instill genuine personalities in these machines along with software that can read human reactions. If a robot gives the appearance of being conscious and intelligent, we should treat it as such.”
What if robots are designed so perfectly that they replace human partners altogether?
“There would be a danger if the robot were too perfect. Most people are happier when there is some kind of friction so their partner isn’t completely predictable.
“And, yes, you guessed it: that friction would be programmable.”