Could you love a robot?

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1. Intimate artificial intelligence

The robots are coming. In fact, they are already here, taking roles that once only humans could perform. Though we are still a far cry from sci-fi, we are already used to interacting with robots – at the supermarket self-checkout. In Japan, they are already being used to provide care for the elderly.

If a robot could be built to be as sensitive and caring as humans can be, would you want one? They could enter our lives so totally that we might even fall in love with them.

It’s time to think about robots: what they can do for us and what they might mean to us before we get in too deep.

2. The robots we could love

Imagine a world where robots with artificial intelligence (AI) take the place of humans. Science fiction writers and film-makers have tried to do just that. These four thought provoking films examine worlds where humans have relationships with artificial intelligence – for better or worse.

A robot could fulfil desires conveniently, discreetly and non-judgmentally for either gender. “If you had a beautiful machine that you found aesthetically pleasing and it was sentient, why not? Fall in love, sure.” Director Alex Garland.

Ex Machina (2015)

Lonely people could turn to AI if it demonstrated kindness and if they believed it understood them.

Her (2013)

Entertainment Pictures / Zuma

In Robot & Frank, a robot provides companionship to the elderly hero. With a growing elderly population who need carers, “the question is not ‘human or machine?’ It’s ‘nothing or machine?’” according to director Jake Shreier.

Robot & Frank (2012)

Many parents have to work and with growing childcare costs, we could have lovable child-friendly robots designed to watch over our children such as Baymax from Big Hero 6: “You just want to go up to him and touch him and hug him," says director.

Big Hero 6 (2014)

3. CLICKABLE: A new kind of love

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Today the idea of someone loving a robot may seem strange or even utterly wrong. Yet over history, opinions of what are morally acceptable actions and what are not have changed constantly. There may be no reason to think our attitude to loving an artificial intelligence will be any different.

4. CLICKABLE: The issues of robot relationships

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Our relationships with AI robots will bring up a range of new issues. These will include the possibility of reducing quality of life and exploitation of both humans and robots. By considering these issues now we can save ourselves from misery and heartache in future.

5. How will society react?

This could be the biggest ethical decision of the 21st Century. When the time comes, will you embrace the robots?

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Others agree. The Japanese government is already funding robot carers as it faces a shortfall in human staff.


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You’ve got a while to decide. Widespread sophisticated robots remain science fiction for now. Cambridge academics say even 50 years is an ambitious estimate.

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Many who agree think that human-like AI robots will still repulse us on one level. Some academics say even lifelike robots won’t be 'human' enough to love.

No, and no one should

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No, and no one should

Some people feel threatened by the idea of loving AI robots. You may seem old fashioned when your great grandchildren and their robot friends hear your views.