Sunday, December 02, 2007

Sex in Robo-space

Just how bizarre can this unhinged world become? Are there any limits left? The New York Times today reviewed a new book by David Levy called, Love and Sex With Robots.

Yes, it will happen; and yes--not to worry--it is just fine. In fact, it is already happening in rather low-tech modes. (No details will be given.) Why? Because humans personalize their pets and their stuffed animals, even their laptops. So, why not personalize a robot as a sex partner--at least when the technology makes it enjoyable (and safe) enough? After all, we accept all sorts of other sexual kinkiness, so there is nothing wrong with robotic sexual encounters (even if no one is home on the robotic end).

The reviewer is a bit chary about this, but (of course) does not reach the level of astonishment or outrage. The New York Times reserves these responses for Christianity, Intelligent Design, and the Republican Party. Maybe the author is embracing this robo-love too uncritically. Just maybe...

The very idea of robo-sex trades on three themes, all of which undermine culture and sanity, all of which have receded into the intellectual background (thus giving them greater power than when they were merely controversial).

The first notion is that technological innovations are almost entirely good and "progressive." If you can build a better (and sexier) robot, then why not? Are you against progress, you Luddite prude?

The second idea is that sexuality is entirely for personal enjoyment, apart from any encounter with genuine otherness (that is, another human being) and apart from any sense of given-ness, of normativity, of original design. We have a sexual urges; what we do with them is up to us. Sexual expression (the key word) is not reserved for certain human relationships, but is open-ended and experimental.

The third claim is that sex is the same as love; the concepts are conflated. So, one may "love" one's robotic "partner."

The lost self thus luxuriates in a technopology of polymorphic perversity. Freud meets Frankenstein (with better technology). Having sought out every possible permutation of strange flesh, the untethered self now sniffs out strange circuits. Instead of "the flesh pots of (ancient) Egypt," we have the "circuit pots of (postmodern) Babylon." Perhaps these new robotic partners can outperform their fleshly counterparts. Of course, no one is performing, no one is enjoying, and no one is loving. Instead of a marriage covenant, you have a guarantee (and maybe an extended warrantee).

Welcome to the brave new world of robotic wonders.


Dave said...

I stumbled across the first whiff of this a month or so ago.

C'mon...why not be able to design the perfect partner that never complains, never has to sleep, and gives perfect sex on demand? Isn't that God's design???

Oh's only God's design when we're playing God.

We do a lot of that. Seems we're way underqualified, though.

D. A. Armstrong said...

Anyone who's read in science fiction has known this day is coming. I knew that people would start thinking like this before I knew what the whole process of sex was.It was only a matter of time.