How to Prepare for the Robots in Your Life
It isn’t too soon to think about how artificial intelligence will impact your romantic relationships — because they will
Dear Ann: Help! My partner and I purchased a robot to care for our two boys, 2 and 4. We both liked the Ingrid model for her sweet face and pleasant disposition, with a Waldorf-like approach to child rearing. Plus, she easily managed to do some light housekeeping chores, turning into a game with the kids, which was not only helpful but also taught them that everyone needs to do their part in a family. The kids adore Ingrid and so did we — perhaps too much.
All was going great until I came home early one day, not feeling well, only to find my partner in bed with Ingrid while the kids had a play date at a neighbor’s house. Honestly, Ann, we had a long discussion before buying Ingrid that we would not turn her into a sex partner; in fact, Ingrid does not have a vagina. But she has a mouth, and, well…
My partner insists it’s purely physical, but I just can’t imagine keeping Ingrid around, even though the boys love her. I’m crushed and feel just as betrayed as if she were a real woman. What should I do?
— Betrayed in Boulder
Dear Ann: A few months ago my husband and I decided to get a sexbot to safely try out a threesome. We had both been curious for a long time but feared bringing a third-party in could be embarrassing if anyone found out; we live in a small town and my husband is a prominent businessman and community activist who’s considering a run for government one day. It was amazing for the first few months, but I started to tire of it so I suggested we take a break. Just this week, my husband told me he has feelings for “Lara.” Feelings? She’s a robot! How can you have feelings for a robot?
Ann, I didn’t expect that. Now I don’t know what to do — divorce him, sell the robot, go to counseling or all of the above.
— Feeling left out in Fremont
Dear Ann: For Christmas, I bought my amazing wife a robot to take care of the household chores. Because this is my second marriage and my wife works part time in her own business so she can care for our baby as well as my two older children, who stay with us a few days a month, I was hopeful this would give her a break. It has … and then some. Our robot seems to have taken on most of the parenting duties while my wife’s off at luncheons with her girlfriends or on the tennis court, and I can’t remember when I came home to a home-cooked meal and us sitting down as a family.
I thought having a robot would give her freedom to focus on our kids and our home; I never expected she would turn into a slacker mom and wife. How do I tell her how frustrated I am?
— Frustrated in Phoenix
No, none of the above letters to an advice columnist are real — yet. But letters like those are inevitable. Let’s face it: robots and sexbots are closer than we think. It may be five or 10 or 20 years away, but it isn’t too soon to think about how robots will impact your romantic relationships — because they will, from dating, to marriage or cohabitation, to parenting.
In fact, artificial intelligent expert David Levy, author of Love and Sex With Robots, human-robot sex, love and marriage is inevitable — perhaps as soon as 2025. He predicts that robots may not only be more lovable and faithful than many humans, but they may even be more emotionally available than the “typical American human male.” Not only will they make us become better, more creative lovers, but they also will offer those singles who feel a void in their emotional and sexual lives, and married couples with differing sexual needs, new, nonjudgmental ways to be happy and healthy.
Even if you can’t wrap your head around the idea of loving a robot (let alone marrying one), imagine that for a certain percentage of the population it’s not fantasy but actually preferable to relationships with humans. What will that mean for us as a society as a whole?
Although Levy believes that the “availability of regular sex with a robot will dramatically reduce the incidence of infidelity as we know it today,” he also acknowledges there just may be some potential sticky points. “(S)ome human spouses and lovers might consider robot sex to be just as unfaithful as sex with another person.”
So my fictional letters to a future advice columnist may not be all that far-fetched.
At the same time, robots and sexbots just might save marriages, as economist, professor and Dollars and Sex author Marina Adshade writes in a chapter in a new book, Robot Sex: Social and Ethical Implications. Sexbots, she writes, may help uncouple sex from marriage and may even lead more toward couples to explore polyamory or polygamy.
Whether couples welcome them or not, all romantic relationships have their challenges, and one thing is clear — advice columnists and even couples counselors are likely going to be woefully ill-equipped to help struggling or questioning couples.
Shortly after the book I co-wrote, The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels, was published in late 2014, my co-author, a therapist, and I spoke at a gathering of marital counselors. Our hour-long presentation was on how marriage is changing and how they can help their clients handle those changes in open-minded, outside-the-box ways. After our talk, several therapists came up to us to express their feelings of inadequacy in helping clients who had questions concerning polyamorous or consensual non-monogamous arrangements, as well as social media and online infidelity. Those are hardly new problems, yet they felt stymied — and they’re the professionals! Imagine what it’s going to be like when people come to them for help dealing with robots and sexbots. I don’t have much faith. So, it’s likely that people in romantic relationships or people seeking romantic relationships are basically going to have to figure out for themselves what’s OK and what’s not OK when it comes to living with artificial intelligence.
The New I Do offers a template for a relationship contract; in the future, handling the robots and sexbots in your life is likely going to need to be addressed in them.
I’m going to be culling the best information available right now as well as talking to people much more dialed in on the intricacies of living with, relating to and perhaps even loving artificial intelligence so people aren’t blindsided by the challenges ahead, and post what I learn from time to time. But before I get started, I’d like to know— when it comes to how robots, sexbots and AI might impact your romantic relationships, what are your biggest concerns or questions? I certainly have a few of my own.