Falling in Love with a Robot

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David Levy

Read the Italian Version


GP You’re an International Master in chess; attending these meetings, did you find that people who play chess are actually more intelligent than others as it’s commonly thought?

DL Many strong chess players are of well above average intelligence, but not all. Some have just this one thing that they can do very well, like Dustin Hoffman’s character in the movie “Rain Man”.

GP Is the computer always better than a human chess player?

DL Well, the best computer programs are stronger than the best humans. Most people prefer to play chess with humans rather than computers, but the best chess players (including
most professionals) use computers to help them train and study the game.

GP What about emotional intelligence in chess games?

DL I am not sure that emotional intelligence is needed for chess. In fact, to become a really great player it can be helpful to generate feelings of animosity towards your opponent. I am not saying that all strong players do this, but some of them do.

GP You are also President of the International Computer Games Association: what do you think about the Internet Addiction?

DL Too much of anything can be a bad thing, and so it is with the Internet.

GP In your recent book Sex and Love with Robots you claim that within a span of about 50 years, robots will be nearly indistinguishable from real people and that, for this reason, we’ll have intimate relationships with these artificial partners. Indeed, not all that science theoretically permits is actually allowed to be realized. For example, in a few years we’ll surely have access to human clonation, but not for this reason it’s considered as ‘inevitable’ by the States of the world. What’s your opinion?

DL I believe that, in practice, almost everything that can be done will be done. Right now the common perception of human cloning is that it should not be allowed, but I am sure that it will happen. Right now many people are skeptical about the idea of love, sex and marriage with robots, but again I believe that such relationships are inevitable, particularly as love, sex and marriage can be so enjoyable. If people enjoy something, they will do it.

GP You’re recognized as one of the most important expert of artificial intelligence: what do you think about our old ‘natural’ intelligence? Is it still a model in your researches or is it definitely overcome?

DL In some fields, for example chess, computers (and therefore robots) are already better than the best humans. In other fields within Artificial Intelligence, such as conversation, there has been rather little progress during the past 50 years, which is why I believe that it will take another few decades before computers/robots can be completely convincing replicas of humans.

GP I wonder how can somebody fall in love with an object which speaks and behaves exactly the way you programmed it… For example, on Second Life, you may feel attracted by a nice and sexy avatar, but you know that behind it there’s a person. In such a case the avatar is just a medium: who you fall in love with is the avatar’s owner … What’s your opinion about it?

DL Love comes from a number of different directions. In my book I discuss the ten main reasons why people fall in love (with humans), and I explain that in most cases the same reasons can apply to human-robot relationships. For example, one reason is that we are more likely to fall in love with someone who is similar to ourself in some ways. So if a robot is programmed with a similar personality, or with knowledge about similar subjects (hobbies for example), then there will be similarities that help to engender feelings of love.

GP You forecast that around 2050, the state of Massachusetts will be the first jurisdiction to legalise marriages with robots, as it has been at the forefront of same-sex marriage. But what about ethical and legal problems, as social organization, religion, citizenship, human rights, property rights, etc. ?

DL Good question. Between now and then there will be a huge amount of debate on the ethical and legal issues.
In fact Italy is leading the world in this respect, with the creation of a roboethics organisation in Genova by Professor Gianmarco Veruggio and his colleagues. There are many issue that will first discussed from an ethical perspective, and then embodied in laws. The field of robot law will become very important within the law faculties in universities. At the moment we can see the questions, but it will take time for ethicists and lawyers to come up with the right answers.

GP According to your previsions, robots will provide sexual pleasure to millions of people. Will these creations be so different from an electric vibrator that simulate human sex? Do you think they will satisfy also female sexuality, which men usually consider so ‘complicated’?

DL Vibrators are manufactured and sold mainly for women, and for this reason I believe that women will be at least as interested as men in robot sex, if not more interested. And because robots will be programmed with all the knowledge of all the world’s books on lovemaking and sexual technique, they will be virtuoso lovers, as well as teachers of how to improve one’s lovemaking. As to whether sex robots will be so different from vibrators – yes, they will have the physical capability and skills to do more than vibrators can do.

GP Will robots be cheap, for everybody, or will they become a status symbol? How much do you think such an artificial partner could cost by 2050 (compared to today’s cost of life)?

DL In today’s terms I would expect the price of sex robots to come down to around 200-300 Euro, and perhaps eventually to less. But at first they will be hugely expensive – even the very first primitive sex robots, which I expect to be on the market within 5 years from now, will probably cost 10,000-20,000 Euro. So most people will get their first experiences of sex robots by hiring them, just as some people in Japan and Korea hire sex dolls at the moment, as I explain in my book.

GP Do you believe that these androids will have the effect of producing a complete loss of appeal of pornography, prostitution, even ‘modern’ virtual sex?

Not completely, but they will have a big impact on just about every aspect of human sexuality and our interest in sexually related matters.

GP Could Robot sex reduce sexual violence or pedophilia?

DL I believe that robots can be used in two different ways to reduce pedophilia. First, just as there are now computer programs that provide psychological therapy (I mention one in my book), so in the future there will be programs and robots that can act as sexual therapists, helping to cure those humans who are curable. But in the case of a human who is not curable, I believe that robots can provide many of them with the sexual gratification they are seeking, which will reduce the need for pedophiles to be looking for children.

GP If science can easily reach the target of creating human-like appearance robots, couldn’t it go any further and, for example, make robots even better than what human beings are, ‘perfectioning’ the human model (ex. strongest, more good looking, with more skills) ?

DL Yes. Ultimately that is what can and will happen. Much of what we see now as science fiction will eventually become science fact.

GP Who should be allowed to sell and buy these robots? Because you can buy a robot to have a splendid sexual life, but you can also buy millions of robots to invade a State. Will robots be the invincible and immortal heros of future wars, just like the demigods of ancient Greek mythology?

DL Big questions! Yes, you can buy millions of robots to invade a state, but you can already buy millions of guns and people to use those guns. The US military is hoping that within about 15 years one-third of all military flights will be controlled by robots, without a human pilot. So in future wars, 15 years or more from now, robots will play a significant role. Can a robot be a hero? We will have to wait and see.

GP How is your book “Love + sex with robots” selling and where has it encountered the greatest interest and success? Are you going to publish the book in Italian?

DL My book was launched in the USA on November 6th with huge publicity. The book is written for everyone to read – no technical or scientific knowledge is necessary. My publisher, Harper Collins, flew me to New York for several interviews. So far I have been interviewed twice on TV and more than 40 times on the radio. There have been many reviews, for example in “The New York Times”. The book has been generally very well received and is selling well. Of course some people are sceptical about my forecasts but even in that group there is a majority who find the book interesting.
I already have a contract for a Spanish edition and I hope to find publishers for editions in other languages, including Italian. I have already given lectures on this subject at two conferences in Italy, and I travel to Italy often because my wife and I have a holiday home in Liguria, which we love. In 2006 I was interviewed in the magazine “La Repubblica delle Donne” Edizione speciale: Idee Progetti Visioni Per il futuro”.

Giuliana Proietti


David LevyDavid Levy was born in London on March 14 1945. He attended secondary school at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar
School Barnet and East Barnet Grammar School. He studied Pure Mathematics, Statistics, and Physics at
St. Andrews University, Scotland, from 1963 to 1967, where he graduated with a B.Sc. degree. He taught
practical classes in computer programming at the Computer Science Department of Glasgow University from
1967 to 1971, before moving into the world of business and professional chess playing and writing. (He wrote
more than thirty books on chess.) Having represented England at chess while he was still at school, he was
selected to play for Scotland in six World Student Team Championships (1965-1970) and in six Chess
Olympiads (1968-1978). In 1968 he won the Scottish Chess Championship, and in 1975 he shared that same
title. He was awarded the International Master title by FIDE, the World Chess Federation, in 1969, and the
International Arbiter title in 1976.

The development of David’s interest in Artificial Intelligence started with computer chess, which was a logical combination of his addiction to chess and his work in the field of computing. In 1968 he started a bet with four Artificial Intelligence professors, that he would not lose a chess match against a computer program within ten years. He won that bet, and another one for a further five years, succumbing only twenty-one years after making the first bet, and then to a forerunner of the program that defeated Garry Kasparov in 1997. David was first elected President of the International Computer Chess Association (ICCA) in 1986, and after a gap from 1992 to 1999 was elected once again, a position he has held since then (the
association now being named the International Computer Games Association (ICGA)). Since 1977 David has been involved in the development of many chess playing and other programs for consumer electronic products.

David’s interest in Artificial Intelligence expanded beyond computer games into other areas of AI, including human-computer conversation. In 1994 he brought together a team to investigate pragmatic solutions to the problem, resulting in his team winning the Loebner Prize competition in New York in 1997. Since then David has published a primer on A.I., Robots Unlimited. His fiftieth book, Love and Sex with Robots, will be published in November 2007.

David has had a lifelong interest in organising mind sports events, and was one of the organisers of the World Chess Championship matches in London (1986 and 1993), as well as the World Checkers Championship match between the human champion and a computer program (1992 in London and 1994 in Boston), in addition to dozens of computer chess championships and similar events. His hobbies include classical music and playing poker.

David has two children, Alastair (born 1979) and Katherine (born 1984). He lives in London with his wife Christine and two cats.

Giuliana Proietti

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