People could be falling in love and having sex with robots in a few decades and even marrying them, according to a British artificial intelligence researcher.
David Levy, originally from London, has made the controversial forecasts about the future of human-robot relationships in his Ph.D thesis.
In “Intimate Relationships with Artificial Partners”, he argues that current trends in robotics and artificial intelligence mean the leap to humans and robots forming relationships is not far away.
Once robots become more like humans, David Levy believes romance between the two, and even sex and marriage, will be possible
Mr Levy, also an International Master in chess, believes robots will soon appear so like humans in the way they look and act, in their personality and how they express emotions, that many people will fall in love with them.
His predictions are based on his analysis of certain trends and on what he sees as the inevitability of how they will continue in the future.
One trend looked at was how the objects of human affection have slowly expanded beyond other humans.
Firstly, it extended to pet animals, then to virtual pets like the Tamagotchi and robotic dogs.
According to Levy’s thesis, this will soon extend to robotic people.
Another trend followed human attitudes to sex as sexual behaviour has become steadily more liberal.
The thesis also examined the principal reasons, identified by research psychologists, why we fall in love and why we have sex.
Most of these reasons are shown in the thesis to be equally applicable to the human-robot relationships of the future as they are for human-human relationships today.
Mr Levy is now set to receive a doctorate for his paper from the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands.
His conclusions were based on about 450 publications about psychology, sexology, sociology, robotics, materials science, artificial intelligence, gender studies and computer-human interaction.
He has already published a book which considered the prospect of human-robot relationships and sex, entitled Robots Unlimited: Life in the Virtual Age.
Another book, called Love and Sex with Robots, is due to be published on November 1 this year.
In Robots Unlimited, more than 60 pages are dedicated to the idea of emotion and love, and sex and reproduction “AI style”.
Mr Levy writes: “The very notion of robots having emotions will be greeted by many people with scepticism, disbelief or derision.
“Surely emotions are somehow sacrosanct? Should they be trifled with? Should they be created artificially with all that that implies for robot love, sex and reproduction?
“Are not love and sex and reproduction at the very core of being human, even to the extent that they are immune to computerisation?
“Yes, they are at the very core. No, they are not immune to computerisation.”
He continues: “An emotionless robot would be a mere machine so a logical step in the development of humanoid robots is to endow them with emotions and enable them to detect emotions in humans.
“Robots can then respond to a person’s emotions in ways that help the robot to interact as humans do.
“Similarly, robots will be able to detect the emotions of other robots with the same result.
“Once the reader has accepted this notion, it is only a short mental step to the concept of humans feeling emotions for robots, together with all that implies, including fears such as: ‘I think my wife is having an affair with her hairdresser robot’.”