Imagine the partner of your dreams. Caring, always there for you and would love you in a way you want to be loved. Your ideal partner would be exactly your type and would posses all the traits that match with your own personality and life-style. There is just one catch… you soul mate is a robot. The progress we see today in technology and artificial intelligence is coming closer to what we are used to seeing in sci-fi films. Robots not only look more like humans but they are programmed to respond to our emotions, in a human-like manner.
The moral dilemma of self-driving cars Whether machines should be able to think and act independent raises a number of social and moral questions. Let’s take the case of self-driving cars. Imagine you are in your car and suddenly a group of young children jumps in front of you. The car has a choice to make, either protect you and run over the children or change direction and crash. Should the car be programmed to protect you or the group of children? And what if it was an old lady instead of a group of children? What if it was bank robber escaping the police?
The answers to these questions are not clear even to us, so how can we expect to create a code driven program to make these decisions? If you are interested in this topic and would like to see for yourself how you make decisions in lose-lose situations, check out the Moral Machine Test.
Could you ever love a robot? The technological advances make it possible for the engineers to create robots, which look more and more like humans. The facial expressions, gestures, voice and even sense of humour is being programmed to make us feel more at ease. No one would want to be taken care by a piece of industrial metal machine with cables sticking out of its ears. However, give the robotic nurse the look of a kind, caring woman and patients feel instantly more comfortable.
The question of whether we could ever love a robot is very relevant. Although you might think “how could I ever fall in love with a machine?”, consider the fact that that “machine” will perhaps look like the man or woman of your dreams and will treat you exactly as you desire.
Imagine you could not only decide what your robotic partner will look like but also what background and personality traits he has. We all change and grow over time and it is no rarity that partners in romantic relationship often outgrow each other. This could never happen to you with your robotic partner. He can instantly adapt to whatever change in your life you are going through. Perhaps at times you need to have more space, in other moments you need their closeness. The feelings of your robotic “soul mate” will never get hurt. After all, they are there only for you.
Can we trust robots? If a robot looks and acts in a human way with enough conviction, there is no reason not to believe what it says. If it’s summer and the robot says “I am hot”, you have no reason to question its statement. But what if it says “I love you”? This brings us to question what love is in the first place.
No matter how well developed the technology may be in responding to your emotions and being able to communicate with you in a human-like manner, we cannot forget that technology is always technology. After all, aside from the looks, what differentiates your robotic soul mate from the self-driving car?
Currently the advances in technology and artificial intelligence raise more moral questions than ever before. We are forced to consider the meaning of being human, the nature of love and the value of a human life. Perhaps, our doubtful thinking will shift and one day we will accept humanoid robots into our lives as a way of emotional fulfilment. Nonetheless, it feels like the easy way out. Creating connections with other human beings is difficult, messy and uncertain. Real connections make us vulnerable to getting hurt but that’s the part of the deal. After all, vulnerability is a crucial part of life and love.