Sunday, April 29, 2012

The End of Cheating

Much like issues with the end of judgment and the end of insurance, will future technology bring the end of cheating?

I am, of course, referring to sex robots. They are coming. They are quite literally an inevitability. I would imagine that our first ostensibly human-like robots are less than twenty years away, and our first affordable robots that are at least functional for sexual purposes at a price that people can afford is maybe another twenty years after that.

As with so many things in the future, our ability to understand and thus manipulate the blocks of the world that represent "reality" forces questions upon us. We take so much of the world at face value, which of course makes perfect sense. We evolved in a world where we had to take things at face value. But as concepts like souls, free will, identity, and humanity fall apart under analysis, where we will go?

As regards sexbots, will we be forced to recognize the philosophical issue of not knowing what happens in another person's head? And our concept of a "person" is extrapolated from behavior of a creature that looks like "me." We already have studies showing that human-like robots can be "blamed" in the same way that we blame other people. We know that the robots are not human. We know that they are nothing more than lines of code. Yet, our emotional drives are apparently willing to ascribe human-like souls to robots if they are suitably human-like.

This drive is there even with robots that look more like Wall-e than Wally, so when robots that look very human, this drive will likely be as strong as they would for real humans. Will the inevitable sexbots change our conception of cheating?

For example, very few people would count masturbation as cheating. Likewise, complex masturbation through tools and sex dolls would also not be seen as cheating. Cheating, at least for most people, requires another person. But what happens when sex dolls look like another person?

Aside from the surface issues, we also get into thorny problems like intent. Would it be cheating if the cheater thought that the robot was another person? Could a person program an impossibly-attractive robot to specifically seduce someone for the purpose of destroying a relationship? Would we accept people being in "relationships" with robots? Many more questions present themselves, because this isn't just about sex, it's about love, friendship, emotions, and our ability to socialize.

My answer to these problems is one that Dan Savage would love: the end of relationships as we know them is less than a lifetime away. Traditional relationships with fidelity and monogamy are, by and large, social constructs. They don't even work very well when we only have human people running around, what with over 50% of marriages ending in divorce, as many as 70% of people cheating at some point in their life, and 10% of men caring for kids that they think are theirs... but aren't.

When sexbots come out, our traditional conceptions of fidelity and relationships will be ripped apart, and we will finally be free from the shackles of our ridiculous, socially-prescribed conceptions, free to live and love as we see fit.

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