Would you consider dating or marrying a robot, even as a joke? This question might sound ridiculous, but many people are seriously considering the idea of a robot partner. To some, the idea doesn’t sound far-fetched at all. We’re already used to the idea that robots can interact with humans. We’ve seen . With promises of true artificial intelligence (AI) gaining momentum in the last decade, the allure of marrying a robot was inevitable.
We’ve seen robots and humans interacting on television for decades. A common portrayal in science fiction films has been the use of android duplicates to fulfill human duties. For example, Alfred Hitchcock created a film based on Ray Bradbury’s book . In the movie, a man named Braling wishes for some time away from his life. He hires a company called Marionettes, Inc. to create a robot clone of himself, leaves the clone with his wife, and thinks he’s free. To his dismay, the robot falls in love with his wife. Like any good sci-fi plot ending, Braling loses his wife forever.
This portrayal of a robot permanently taking over a marital role after falling in love was probably scary at the time. Today, it seems like some people are embracing the idea of having an intimate relationship with a robot.
The conversation about robot partners is happening, but why? in-depth, looking beyond fascination and getting straight to the hard questions: is it plausible, are people really open to it, and will it ever be socially acceptable?
According to robotics experts, once robots become our caregivers, they’ll become our friends, companions, and eventually our lovers. It’s expected that by 2050, it will be legal to marry a robot. Why are people willing to accept a hunk of cold metal in place of real, human companionship? How did this idea become socially acceptable?
In the article linked above, Nguyen describes a study that found 27% of 12,000 millennial participants were open to the idea of dating a robot. The study also revealed an important clue: 70% agreed that smartphones have increased their dissatisfaction with life and has weakened their bonds with other people. Nguyen concludes that isolation causes them to search for other sources of comfort and attention, including robots. Robots would provide that comfort and attention because they can be programmed to be any type of friend or lover a person could want.
Perhaps what’s really going on is people are struggling in their personal relationships and a robot seems like the perfect solution. Another possibility is the intense pressure some cultures place on marriage.
In some cultures, when a person isn’t married by the time they reach the age of 25, they’re seen as unwanted and old. Some people don’t want to get married, but are pressured into it. It’s not fair, especially in China where the population of men far outnumber the women.
The pressure to get married is so great, a 31-year-old software engineer in China to get his family off his back. Other people have built robot companions to spend holidays with, and it’s only a matter of time before we see holiday card photo collages with robots.
Although robotics experts predict that it will be possible to marry a robot, it might be a gray area. The legality of marrying a robot might first require artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities that provide full autonomy to the machine. If a robot is simply programmed to say “yes” at the altar, that may not be considered legal. To make it legal, states (at least in the U.S.) would need to amend marriage laws to allow for marrying an inanimate object.
These are interesting questions you probably never thought you’d be pondering, but here we are in 2018, and the concept of marrying a robot is no longer a joke, but a real consideration – even a goal – for some.