One of my students sent me a link to this article on a grad student doing a thesis on "Intimate Relationships with Artificial Partners" -- David Levy, a grad student in artificial intelligence at University of Maastricht in the Netherlands, speculates that robots will become so human-like in appearance, function and personality that many people will fall in love with them, have sex with them and even marry them. He predicts that Massachusetts will be the first jurisdiction to legalize marriages with robots, circa 2050.
Several things come to mind:
First, AI has to attain the status of legal personhood before any such thing as marriage (or any other contractual relationship for that matter) is recognized.
Secondly, as Glenn McGee wrote in an article in the Scientist and on blog.bioethics.net earlier: "As humans build robots that learn what their owners desire, the dilemma of the robots of Blade Runner emerges: What do humans owe “purpose-built” machines who begin to reach awareness, or to so resemble awareness that it becomes a selling point? Should laws be written to protect robots from us, by requiring robot makers to stop short of, say, robosexual devices that learn to be incredibly intimate with humans and yet are owed nothing? If so, do we create such laws in the interest of robots, or to preserve our own human dignity by choosing not to create a new kind of slave, whether or not that slave is fully aware?"
Fourthly, will it ever be possible to 'upload' your thoughts and memories to create a robot version of you? Some organizations are striving to do this -- and if they succeed, it will certainly have an impact on the previous questions.
[Added Oct 24, 2007, 9:14am EST - Editor's note: Our blogger extraordinaire, Kelly Hills, had some really interesting things to say about this, as we covered in a previous post .]