“In 1816, the German Romantic fabulist ETA Hoffmann published his unsettling short story “The Sandman”, in which a moody university student falls in love with and passionately woos a pretty but uncommonly reserved young woman, only to lose his mind and leap to his death when he discovers that she is in fact a cunningly built automaton.
“A century later, when Sigmund Freud wrote his essay on “The Uncanny”, tracing the various ways that corpses, ghosts, coincidences, and other things ambiguously suspended between one order of being and another can provoke unease and alarm, it was no accident that out of all the literary examples he could have chosen from, Freud picked Hoffmann’s “Sandman” for his Exhibit A. It was as true then as it is now: nothing says “creepiness defined” like the prospect of human intimacy with robots.
“This is apparently news to David Levy. Or if it isn’t, don’t look for the evidence in his oddly – very oddly – fascinating new book, Love and Sex With Robots. Levy’s thesis (and it’s precisely that: at the age of 61, after decades as a successful, self-taught expert on computer chess, he submitted this book by way of a dissertation to the University of Maastricht’s computer science department and came away with a PhD) is as straightforward as it is brazen.
“By the year 2050, Levy claims, social attitudes and robotic technologies will have evolved to the point that “humans will fall in love with robots, humans will marry robots, and humans will have sex with robots, all as (what will be regarded as) ‘normal’ extensions of our feelings of love and sexual desire for other humans”.