Sex with Robots?
December 9, 2007 7:10 PM   Subscribe

What to ask David Levy, author of Love & Sex With Robots?

I am doing an e-mail interview with David Levy, the author of the new book "Love + Sex With Robots." He's an accomplished AI researcher who asserts that in the future, people will use highly developed robots as sophisticated sex toys, therapeutic partners, and may in fact fall in love and marry these remarkable machines.

I'd like to ask him things that haven't been asked of him before, and he's had a little bit of press already in Wired, New Scientist, the New York Times and more. But I'd like to do something newer, a little less direct. Do you have suggestions for this piece, or questions you'd like to ask a man who has probably spent WAY more time thinking about actual sex machines than the rest of us?

Thanks in advance ...
posted by chinese_fashion to Society & Culture (11 answers total)

Mains or batteries?
posted by orthogonality at 7:18 PM on December 9, 2007

One of the things that you could ask is about the limits and impediments that might come across when trying achieve whatever these predictions are. You could either ask him directly about them, though I can't imagine him torpedoing his own ideas, or you could ask about any that you think of on your own.

Since his stuff seems a bit far into the future, you might be able to draw some interesting insights into what might derail what he's imagining—if funding for AI/robotics research would be able to keep up, how egalitarian his ideas are (I can't imagine the poor having much access to these things), any nagging problems in the field that just can't seem to be overcome, etc.

Try to place his ideas outside the realm of Computer Science and Engineering and think about it in terms of psychology, sociology, economics, or whatever other field you can think of. I imagine that, in terms of questions, it would be quite generative.

And tell us when the interview runs!
posted by Weebot at 7:37 PM on December 9, 2007

Oh yeah. Read his book before you interview him. Your questions will be much better as a result.
posted by Weebot at 7:39 PM on December 9, 2007

Christ, that book sucked... it was basically how people like sex, and will go about getting the most sex-like activity possible with the least amount of effort. Beyond that, it was just speculation that eventually robots will be able to supply all the different emotional and physical aspects involved in sex, but with the approximate scientific accumen of a retarded lemur. It's like all the people who predict human-level AI in the next N years, but don't have a goddamn clue how it would happen or what the important problems that need solving are.

If I were going to be bitchy about it, I'd first start looking at his educational bona fides; a brief look at wikipedia suggests he's something of a hack - I'm not entirely sure what the reputation of Masstricht University is, but it does seem somewhat sketchy that he only earned his Ph.D. recently - like, in the last year. Basically, he has no scientific cred that I can see - go after specific advances that would need to happen for robotic sex and love to happen: what kind of computing power are we talking, battery life, and the like. Ask him for details on research that will eventually lead to love-capable 'bots - e.g., reinforcement learning, neural simulations - what are the underlying technologies and scientific advances he thinks need to be there in order for robots to have sex with you and mean it? Ask him to cite references and double check them.

I mean, if you want to be confrontational about it...
posted by logicpunk at 8:03 PM on December 9, 2007

Whats better, fleshbot or Orgasmatron?
posted by artdrectr at 9:21 PM on December 9, 2007

Ask him about the 'current'(hyuck-hyuck) state of the art - browse through Sex Machines and ask him to comment on it and the people in it. Point out that the helped make so successful that they could afford to buy the Armory for $14 million dollars, and ask what he thinks that implies. Hell, the Sybian has been around since the mid 80's. Not what he describes, but points on an arc he's outlining.
I, for one, welcome our new mechanical overmistresses.
posted by Orb2069 at 9:23 PM on December 9, 2007

Ask him about Cherry 2000? Has he seen it? What does he think of it? That kinda thing. In these kinds of entirely hypothetical situations, having a common reference, even if it's a movie, is a good place to start.
posted by Kattullus at 11:58 PM on December 9, 2007

I don't have any questions for you, but FWIW, he was interviewed on the radio show Coast To Coast AM about a week ago. (It was probably about a three hour interview; unfortunately you'd have to pay to listen to it, unless you can find someone who taped it.)
posted by Crabby Appleton at 1:31 AM on December 10, 2007

He was just on Howard Stern Last week (or maybe the week before) and I thought Howard was going to goof on him the entire time but he approached the interview really interested in the topic/book and the guy really went along.

So my advice would be (granted very difficult over email) is try to let him knowyou are not goofing on him and you may be able to get a bit more out of him.
posted by doorsfan at 6:41 AM on December 10, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for this help, MeFites. I really appreciate it. I have to say that I wasn't that nuts about the book myself -- and while the idea is intruiging, it takes about 5 minutes to explain.

Michael Sullivan, creator of the Sex Life of Robots video was at the reading. During the Q&A, he shouted "excuse me, but in the future, won't people still seem kinda silly for wanting to fuck a robot?"

The room fell apart with laughter.

What I can't get out of my head is this scenario: a group of adolescent boys finds a secondhand sexbot and keep it in their treehouse/basement/a shed, much like some of us oohed and aahed over a crinkled stolen Penthouse in the days before internet porn. Difference being, they actually take turns using the thing. Why is that bad? Why might it be good? Why can't I stop thinking about it?
posted by chinese_fashion at 12:31 PM on December 10, 2007

For anyone still following this, the interview's up and it got Boinged.

Here it is.
posted by SlyBevel at 8:49 PM on December 28, 2007

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