Anna Uvarova. Shadows, 2021 / Facebook, «Siel-Sol»
It is impossible to imagine the modern world without robots. And, it seems that robotics will continue to evolve towards the maximum likening of a machine to a human being. It applies to all spheres of human life. Including love. Will we be able to love robots? And how not to fall into psychological addiction to a humanoid creature?
ROBOTS AND GODS
Creating someone or something in one’s own image has been one of the most powerful ideas and motivations in human cultural development. From the copper giant Talos created by Hephaestus to the clay Golem made by a medieval Prague rabbi. Even statues of gods can be interpreted as wish granting machines.
Today, unlike the ancient Egyptian, Babylonian or Greek, we are able to understand the «abstract» God — an all-powerful being in the over-world dimension, invisible and incomprehensible. But ancient man thought very concretely: this wooden idol, this stone idol is God. Due to the fact that he is human-like, it is possible to communicate with him, mainly on the principle of «you to me — I to you», to feel emotions about him, to enter into various kinds of relationships, up to sexual.
The main purpose of the robot is not much different from the ancient idol: it is a universal helper, giving a person what he wants. In a sense, it is even better than pagan gods – those were quite capricious, you had to ask them, somehow negotiate with them. But a robot, a humanoid creature made of lifeless matter, can be ordered. But even here, it turns out, not everything is so simple.
ROBOTS AND SLAVES
The Roman thinker Marcus Terentius Varro, for example, looked at slaves as «talking tools». That is, if Ancient Rome had not yet thought of humanizing a robot, they managed to turn a human being into a robot perfectly well. Varro considered the highest good to be the fulfillment of the needs of the soul and body. And slaves were perfectly suited for this — they performed all the same things as modern robots, as well as artificial intelligence — freed people from the need for hard physical and even mental labor.
They worked in the fields and quarries, taught, healed and entertained their owners. It can be said that as we move from man-robot to robot-human, our civilization will inevitably face the fact that it will humanize the android. Already now we stop perceiving them as soulless machines and endow them with names and character traits.
The emergence of a robot capable of fully expressing human emotion will lead to the fact that it will be possible to communicate with them productively — to make friends and argue, love and hate. What is the danger of such an unprecedented closeness of man and machine, we do not yet fully understand.
Futurologists, for example, believe that humanoid robots will not only work and make scientific discoveries, but also fall in love and have sexual relations with people. Moreover, for a living person with his neuroses, complex character and mood swings, a robot could be the ideal partner.
NEW ADAMS AND EVES?
Since the Japanese created the first plastic sex doll in 1980, technology has come a long way. In 1993, Douglas Hines introduced the world to the first prototype sex robot named Trudy. Trudy was similar to a human, but moved unnaturally, due to which she could even hurt him. She couldn’t communicate with her partner either. But without «but talk?» what kind of love could there be? However, Hines did not stop there, and his company in 2010 demonstrated a new generation of robots.
Trudy, lonely as Adam in paradise, was replaced by Rocky and Roxy, a man and a woman. They were androids, 170 cm tall and weighing 54 kg, with artificial intelligence and artificial skin, indistinguishable from natural skin to the touch. They could share human preferences, maintain a discussion, respond to touch, and mimic the physical pleasure of contact. And Rocky could even snore at night to create the complete illusion of a marital «idyll».
Now these androids speak several languages and are constantly expanding their vocabulary, being connected to the Internet via wifi. But most astonishingly, the designers envisioned the potential to turn the android into a unique personality.
The work of Carl Jung and William Marston, who developed the DISC personality typology, has not missed roboticists. New generations of androids take this typology into account, allowing you to choose the «personality» that is most compatible with your ideas of an ideal partner.
FEAR AND ADDICTION
The only prohibition programmed in Rocky and Roxy is not to participate in violence. But here, as it is said, no one can give a hundred percent guarantee, because the psychology of interpersonal contact between humans and robots is still in its infancy. And not everything is obvious here.
For example, is the human-like nature of a robot good or bad? Matt McMullen’s company Abyss Creations, which is Hines’ closest competitor, has gone quite far in humanizing the android’s facial expressions. Its experts claim that the more it is human-like, the more fear and loathing it evokes. Roughly the same as a corpse or a zombie. So, in order for humans and androids to interact harmoniously and without conflict, a fine line must be found between similarity and dissimilarity.
So far everything goes to the fact that the latest technologies create for us a class of some new personalities, communication with which radically transforms our world: work, leisure, creativity, family relationships. How safe this is, can be judged by the epidemic of addiction to the Internet and computer games. We will not scare the reader with apocalyptic pictures in the spirit of the movie «The Terminator», but the psychological dependence of humans on androids is quite real.
Jimmy Mechel conducted the following social experiment. He created a page of Harmony robot on a dating site. The android talked about himself that he was a female android with artificial intelligence, and confirmed it with pictures of the mechanical brain. At the same time Harmony was a very attractive blonde.
It turned out that the number of men who tried to make a date with an android, times more than those who preferred to become intimate with ordinary women. After this experiment, the question remained open: who exactly is there something wrong with — modern men or modern women? In fact, there are more and more people who prefer androids to living people every year. They have even coined a special term for them — «digisexuals».
The story of Zheng Jiajia, an engineer at the Chinese company Huawei, who, after failing to get a female companion by the age of 31, decided to make one with his own hands, has become very famous. He named his ideal woman Ying Ying and officially married her.
After the wedding Jiajia did not rest and continued to further improve his ideal woman. The ideal man in the personally designed robot was identified by a French woman named Lilly. She claims that the experience of relationships with living men did not suit her romantic nature.
PYGMALIONS AND GALATEAS
We have already drawn your attention to the fact that ancient myths are taking on a fresh lease of life in the new technological age. The stories of modern Pygmalions and Galateas are another confirmation of this. However, this curious story has a fairly sad context.
China suffers from a terrible demographic imbalance and a severe shortage of brides. It is quite possible that the example of Jiajia and Ying Ying will prompt millions of Chinese men to escape loneliness. China’s Pygmalion could only be surpassed by Japan’s Pygmalion.
Being disappointed in women, five years ago Tokyo school principal Akihiko Kondo finally spit on living women and registered his marriage with a hologram — a virtual anime singer Miku Hatsune. By the way, very popular in Japan, with millions of fans who idolize her just like live stars of cinema and pop.
The young family Akihiko and Miku live happily in their own house, equipped with a special electronic base for full-fledged communication. As of today, the Gatebox company has produced and sold about 4000 houses for such couples.
I WANT A BABY FROM A ROBOT!
The trend is gaining momentum. Tufts University conducted a survey in which two-thirds of men said they wouldn’t be against having sex with a robot, while two-thirds of women admitted they wouldn’t do it. In his book Love and Sex with Robots, philosopher David Levy argues that by 2050, human-robot marriages will be the new standard.
Not only will there be sexual differentiation by personality type, but also by age, meaning you’ll be able to observe a whole spectrum of androids, from children to old people. And really, if you can marry the perfect sweetheart, why not create a perfect and beloved grandfather, aunt or nephew?
The perspective of having shared children with a robot also does not seem completely fantastic today. Scientists are already talking about a service that would take a DNA sample from a person, fertilize an egg with it, and then a robot would carry the child in an artificial womb.
NOT YET HUMAN, BUT…
The University of Duisburg-Essen conducted an experiment in which participants were asked to turn off the robot after prolonged contact with it. At the same time, the robot repeated: «Don’t turn me off, please! I’m afraid of the dark!» Of the 43 adult participants, 30 of them hesitated for a very long time before doing so. And the remaining 13 absolutely refused to turn off the robot.
At Washington State University, a similar experiment was conducted with teenagers from 9 to 15 years old. At the end of the game, the robot begged not to be put in a dark closet. 90% of the children agreed that it was «unfair» because the robot hadn’t played yet, and 50% said it was amoral.
At the University of Duisburg-Essen, participants were shown a video of a robot dinosaur. When it was offended, people experienced negative emotions. The journal Social Cognition asked readers in a survey, «Would you be willing to kill the robot you are interacting with to save the life of a stranger?»
Most opted for a human, but the more the robot was «humanized,» the more difficult it was for them to decide to take that step.
HOW DO WE GET EMPATHY BACK?
Maybe it’s not just the future of our outer world that depends on robots, but also our inner world. Indiana University summarized the results of 72 studies over 30 years and found that empathy among college students dropped by 40%, and this drop was especially steep after the 2000 when people began to pay more attention to smartphones than to each other. Could it be that at least communicating with robots can restore interpersonal relationships to their former importance?
For example, neurocomputer interfaces that connect directly to another person will allow us to develop our ability to empathize, rather than dulling it. In any case, we should get used to the fact that with the development of robotics we will not be able to remain emotionally neutral towards robots.