Sean Morrow
March 18, 2013 5:30 am

I love my computer. It like, shows me websites, plays music, does Skyrim, flicks nets and once it even let me do work! But I don’t love my computer. That would be weird, right?

Not to Hooman Samani, National Taipei University professor and proponent of robot love.

Samani is developing a line of robots called Lovotics, which all have to do with love. The flagship Lovotic is the Kissenger system which “consists of a pair of robots to transfer kiss over distance.” ‘Kissenger’ is a portmanteau of ‘kiss’ and ‘messenger,’ one would presume, but to me it immediately brings up images of former Secretary of State and Nobel Prize Winner Henry Kissinger, who–no offense Mr. Kissinger, you’ve done some great work–I have no interest in making out with.

The Kissenger is actually a pretty cool idea, it’s not really about loving a robot–you get two units, one for each in a pair of lovers. You hook them (the robots, not the lovers) up to a computer, and you each kiss your own robot, and it somehow transfers the kisses. It would actually be pretty cool if it could mimic each user’s kissing to the other user–if the kiss planted on one robot was replicated by the other robot – but I’m not sure if that’s how it works. It would be great for long distance relationships.

Other Lovotics are single-user (queue collective sad sitcom audience ‘awwww!’) and are made to simulate the experience of being held or companion-ized by another human. Samani suggests it be used for elderly people with not much family. This video explains it, and I’m not sure if I just don’t understand, or if it actually makes no sense.

This whole thing begs the question (what a dumb phrase) of the legitimacy of loving something that can’t really love you back, of being attracted to something that doesn’t have true sentience. Is it sad? Is it perverted? Is it acceptable?

The reason something like sexually loving an animal is wrong is because you don’t know if the animal consents, and unless the AI is like super smart, we don’t have to worry about it consenting (I hope it doesn’t turn out that computers are sentient; if so I’ll have a lot of explaining to do), so is there anything wrong with loving a piece of artificial intelligence if it makes you happy? It doesn’t appeal to me, I’m just a regular ol’ humansexual myself, but if it’s what someone else wants, why not? Something else that’s always creeped me out is the phenomenon of ‘Real Dolls’ – which I won’t link to because this is a family website, but they’re hyper-realistic sex dolls, with supposedly extremely real feeling skin. The concept creeps me out (even though I’d like to see what fake skin feels like), but if it makes someone happy, why not?

Love with robots has been extensively covered in science-fiction, and I’m sure I’ve crushed on a fictional android-y type thing in the past, given one portrayed by a human (like with blood and cells and stuff) actress.

The only way a loving relationship with a robot is sad is if you’re 102 and on you’re death bed and you’re like “I was loving a robot this whole time? Crap, that’s really unsatisfying” and then you die. That’s really sad. But if a robot can keep someone happy, why not? Happiness rules. Love’s pretty cool. Robots are awesome. Let’s do it, science!

Featured image via shutterstock

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