Today, drones, eldercare and pets. Tomorrow, household servants, love partners and much more. Although some people might find the idea of love with a machine repulsive, experts predict that as the technology advances and robots become more human-like, we will view our silicon cousins in a friendlier light.
In the decades ahead, robots are expected to fill roles as family caregivers, household servants, and voice-enabled avatars that manage our driverless cars, automated homes, and entertainment systems.
New Zealand researchers see a bright future for robot caregivers in this 2-min. YouTube Video. People have also purchased inflatable sex toys for years (see video). However, as crude as today's 'bots may seem, experts predict that as we trek into the future, robotics development will advance exponentially.
Today's machines can vacuum homes, stand in as pets, explore planets, and assist in surgeries. Future 'bots will allow handicapped patients to control prosthetic limbs; and latest drone technologies include swarms of mosquito-sized flying 'bots that could search collapsed buildings for trapped victims; or wield crippling stings to terrorists or criminals holding victims hostage. However, some fear security concerns.
Technologies to build robots that perceive their surroundings, move by themselves, and perform tasks without human oversight should reach fruition by mid-2030s, experts say. By mid-2040s, our silicon wonders could exhibit a human-like mind, with fleshy skin; and possess traits vital for a loving partner.
Jason Nemeth, in his essay Should Robots Feel, believes love-companion robots will be practical in the future, and may one day satisfy all our intimate desires. Nemeth is not sure whether human/robot love will experience higher success rates than love between two humans, but he says tomorrow's robots will unlock the possibilities, and humans eager to experiment will take it from there.
Carnegie Mellon's Hans Moravec believes that by late 2020s, we will create robots in humanoid form. These 'bots would 'drink wine' for fuel, breathe air like us, and appear amazingly human-like.
Design tricks like these, along with soft 'nanoskin' will make tomorrow's 'bots seem uncannily human, encouraging us to perceive them as friends. Author Ray Kurzweil says tomorrow's 'droids could quickly learn to flesh out our positive feelings, providing an addictive allure almost impossible for us to resist.
David Levy, author of Love and Sex with Robots, predicts that as robots become more sophisticated, growing numbers of adventurous humans will enter into intimate relationships with these intelligent 'bots.
A robot partner would be the perfect mate, never showing boredom or being inattentive, Levy says. You will always be the focus and centerpiece of their existence and you never need worry about their being unfaithful or going astray, because loyalty and being faithful will be embedded into their programming.
What about the seamy side of, say, robo escorts. Would this be legal where human prostitution is not?
Today, millions are without regular sex lives or relationships. A world where everyone has someone to love and to be loved might even achieve global peace; a dream humanity has always hoped to realize.
Another area to consider is robot rights. Tomorrows 'bots may prompt lawmakers to make it illegal to turn off' a robot without their permission. In addition, should robots and humans marry? If future robots can evoke true love, robot-human marriages might one day become socially acceptable and legal.
As wild as human-machine relationships may seem today, there are reasons to think that love and sex with robots will happen. Robots are already better in math, logic, chess, and games like Jeopardy. With an intelligent mind and beautiful sexy human-like body, tomorrow's 'bots could easily capture our hearts.
This futuristic journey winds around unknown turns; but whether you love it or hate it; strong public interest suggests human-machine romances could become reality by mid-century. Comments welcome.
Dick Pelletier was a weekly columnist who wrote about future science and technologies for numerous publications. He passed away on July 22, 2014.
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