Monday, April 14, 2008
She’s giving me good vibrations…
A new book has just arrived in a bookstore near you. It’s called Love and Sex with Robots and is written by David Levy, an expert in artificial intelligence. In the review of it that I read yesterday (the excellent Christopher Hart, Sunday Times), it appears as though we have already entered a world that science fiction has presaged, for decades, with gloom. We are long used to blow up life-size sex dolls and penis-substitute paraphernalia but Levy recounts that the rich are already ordering replicant females for their entertainment and gratification. Replicant? Well, if you’ve seen Blade Runner than you know what I mean. These are state of the art, electronically wired and programmed, flesh-simulating, indiscreet objects of desire (to parody Bunuel). They can be programmed to service whatever proclivities their owners have and, apparently, provide this perfect companionship for life – providing you keep the batteries charged.
There is no doubt that making and keeping relationships is an arduous, rewarding but sometimes ill-mannered process. We often find balance between ourselves and our partners difficult to attain and maintain. Our joint sexual needs can seem to have random harmonies and discords – which are all part of the messy business of being human. As we age we note the changes in our sexual appetites as if they have become the true markers of mortality, the first light-fingered touches of death.
So, what better than rid ourselves of this whole awkward business and, for less than the price of a luxury car, buy ourselves one half of perfect immortality, a partner who is compliant, designed to please, stays forever young and whose eyes mirror, not reality, but an egotistical Dorian Gray.
On many occasions in these blogs, I have pondered on the nature of identity as the technology we create, slides over us, wraps round us and infiltrates our pores, our cells, our neurons. Technology should, at best, remind us of the glories of transient human life – providing we learn to love ourselves with all our failings. If we hate what we are, then technology becomes our master or mistress and erases our very reason for being.