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Love and Sex with Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships Paperback – November 4, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
In this wide-ranging examination of the emotional and physical relations between humans and the inanimate objects of their desire, AI guru Levy (Robots Unlimited) first addresses the question of love with robots, and moves on to consider the mechanics of actually having sex with them. In order to put the reader at ease with the possibility of human-robot love, Levy compares the phenomenon to the ways in which humans fall in love with each other, their pets, and even their motorcycles. From there, Levy argues, it is a short emotional step to the affection people can be expected to display towards robots. Some readers may be turned off by Levy's fairly graphic descriptions of the mechanics of having sex with robots, and may wonder why Levy chose not to include recent research on the human genome that could one day lead to replacing human "parts," potentially making us more robot-like ourselves. Though Levy's topic is undeniably on the fringe, it will appeal to readers keen on pondering futuristic scenarios.
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Fascinating. It raises important questions about the future of robots…and what our interactions with them might teach us about ourselves. --New Scientist
[Levy] comes up with so many rational, scientific, and sociologically sound arguments that the deeper you get into the book, the more difficult it becomes to dismiss his thesis. --Chicago Sun-Times
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Top customer reviews
Basically what the author does is spend the whole book trying to build a case as to why it could be possible that people will eventually have sex and develop relationships with robots. Chapter by chapter, he tries to assemble the different pieces of the argument: humans have relationships with pets... humans have relationships with AI robots and computer simulations such as Tamagotchi, Furby, AIBO, and KISMET... humans use machines (e.g., vibrators) and sex dolls for sexual pleasure... attitudes toward various sexual practices (e.g., masturbation, fornication, homosexuality) have evolved over the years. Put it all together now: in the future, there's a good chance people could develop relationships and have sex with robots, and we'll be cool with that.
As other reviewers already stated, he does not raise any ethical questions about whether this is a good idea or whether this is where the human race should really be headed. It seems that these types of questions were beyond the scope of this book. But even for what the book is, I kept waiting for it to get better, but it never really did.
If you're looking for better books about the interaction between humans and computers/robots, you're better off reading "Alone Together" by Sherry Turkle or "The Shallows" by Nicholas Carr.
At this point in time, I believe the major hurdle to the mechanization of romance is the unwillingness of manufacturers to be accused of playing God or creating Frankenstein monsters.
Mechanization of things like warfare, agriculture, transportation, etc are fine, but there's something visceral about the mechanization of romance that feels like a punch in the gut to most of us (unless we've been too lonely too long).
What the author does NOT discuss is the social impact of mechanized romance. Disruptive? Yes. Misogynistic? You bet! It's clear enough to me that Levy doesn't discuss such topics in his book because he didn't want to come off sounding sexist, getting sued, or both.
Not discussed is how mechanized romance would be almost all positive for lonely single men, whether for genuine love (for example, asexual hetero men who want to remain in the closet) or just mindless sex (yes, I'm talking to all of you pleasure junkies out there), the 10% or so of men who want to become fathers being the only men who'd really lose out. Imagine that---men tired of years or decades of loneliness and an unbroken string of rejections could simply buy a synthetic soulmate with all the traits they desire, a fembot who'd keep them happy for life. But fembots would be highly disruptive because their widespread availability would cut the legs out from under feminism, prostitution, and the divorce mill, and the advantages single hetero women could gain through owning malebots is less clear. It's difficult enough for interested single hetero women to get men interested in them nowadays without robots making it even more difficult.
Whether you love or hate the idea of mechanized romance, this is a very thought-provoking book, one that forces us to ask ourselves what we've done wrong to make the eventuality of mechanized romance necessary in the first place.
This of course is not the first book to elaborate on the possibility of love affairs or sex with robots. Science fiction has used this in its story lines for many decades now. And Hollywood has brought these stories to life on the big screen, along with others that give alternative, and very terrifying portrayals of human-machine interactions. The virtue of this book is not only its careful attention to history, but also its optimistic tone. The author is in no way intimidated by the possibility of love or sexual affairs with machines, and even embraces it as a desirable development. And of course it is, for it allows humans even more possibilities for exploration and future paths for the curious.
The book is also valuable solely for the history that it contains, and for the psychological insight on the nature of human love and sexual attraction. Its only minus is that the author does not give any hints on what it might take technologically to build machines that could not only respond to human emotions but also experience such emotions themselves. The author should have given a summary of the present status of machine intelligence and just what needs to be perfected or changed to bring about these kinds of machines.
The author makes it a point to inform the reader that he does not view such developments as far-fetched, and if one studies the growth of intelligent technology in the past two decades, ample support for his thesis can be readily obtained. Even more important is his notion that human sexual experiences or love affairs will be actually enhanced by machines. Or, even more interesting, is that the machines themselves will find such relationships with humans even more satisfying than those among themselves. Such a human/machine symbiosis seems not only possible but also desirable.