Monday, February 16, 2015

So, does that mean a robot will have virtual orgasm?

Even normally I feel like I don't belong to this age--I should have been born like, oh, thirty years ago at least, I think.  I am an old-fashioned guy trapped in a world that is not for me.  And then there are days like today when reading this in the WSJ makes me feel like I am Andy Rooney ready to complain about what the world is coming to!
Is another human being necessary for satisfying sex?
You see why I am feeling like I am the Andy Rooney incarnate?
Today’s sex robots are so rudimentary that they are essentially unusable. But as sex-robot enthusiasts are quick to point out, the shoebox-sized cellphones of the 1970s were nearly useless—but they were the first prototypes for today’s ubiquitous smartphones. Eventually, sex robots will have reasonably humanlike facial expressions, limb movements, voices and even odors. The futurist Stowe Boyd has predicted that by 2025, “robotic sex partners will be…commonplace, although the source of scorn and division.”
Ah, yes, the big sized cellphones of the old days.  But, robotic sex partners?  Commonplace by 2025?  So, then swingers will be swapping their robots?  What the hell is going on, right?

The author of that piece is a neuroscience professor at Johns Hopkins, which means that unlike me he is a real professor who knows what he is talking about.  He writes there:
Though the engineering challenges of simulating human sexual interaction are difficult, there’s no reason to believe that they are impossible to solve. Sex that entirely lacks human feeling and attachment may sound unappealing or even repugnant to many people, but at some point in the future, sex robots will become viable. A central question is whether that arc of progress will take so long that they will be leapfrogged by a different technology: neural virtual reality.
The neuroscience aspect reminded me of a post from about a year ago, in which I quoted about "connectome":
In 2005, two scientists, Olaf Sporns, professor of brain sciences at Indiana University, and Patric Hagmann, neuroscientist at the University of Lausanne, independently coined the term ‘connectome’ to refer to a map or wiring diagram of every neuronal connection in a brain. By analogy to the human genome, which contains all the information necessary to grow a human being, the human connectome in theory contains all the information necessary to wire up a functioning human brain. If the basic premise of neural network modelling is correct, then the essence of a human mind is contained in its pattern of connectivity. Your connectome, simulated in a computer, would recreate your conscious mind.
 Which means these neuroscientists are damn serious that they can track down the neurons that make use feel, well, ready for the hanky-panky:
The Holy Grail in neural virtual reality—for simulated sex or any other experience—involves the ability to precisely sense and control the electrical activity of many individual neurons in the brain with a device located outside of the skull. Even if we had this technology today, we would not yet be able to synthesize sensations with great finesse. No one yet knows the precise group of neurons in your brain that we would need to stimulate to make you see an attractive human face smile and wink at you. Nor does anyone know those that would give you the sensation of a warm hug.
When such a neural virtual reality device finally becomes available, it will be the ultimate feedback-driven experience.
Andy Rooney here is getting really agitated at where we are headed!  But, he feels a tad comforted with this:
Such technology raises profound ethical issues, even beyond those raised by sex robots.
That is a tad understated!
For now, it is just a speculative fantasy, and the best apparatus for physical intimacy remains what is has been for millennia: human touch.

But, I worry this is not for long.  My best hope is that all these will come to pass after I am dead. 


Anne in Salem said...

Many thoughts on today's post:

I can imagine few things less pleasant than robot sex.

If liquids are dangerous for electrical equipment, how does the user not electrocute himself?

Who wants to hug a robot?

Who is on top?

Are these humanoid robots or robotic versions of vibrators and blow up dolls? Are they supposed to be interactive partners or a means to an end?

I hope the designers/programmers are women because, according to stereotype, men have no idea how women work! :)

If the robots are to be humanoid, how can anyone write the algorithms necessary to program a robot to respond to human emotion? We humans can't "read" each other even with years of experience and more sensitive receptors.

If you are to die at 75, I am sorry to say the math is against you. These will exist before your demise.

Sriram Khé said...

Apparently there are some rudimentary versions already out there--at more than a few thousand dollars. Which is why there was that comparison to cellphones--how much they have changed in 20 years ...
No, not some jazzed up versions of any pervy dolls and gadgets these will be in the future. If you watched the movie "Her", well, imagine that kind of a responsive computer with tangible, tactile, human-like object. If you haven't watched that movie, well, you should so that you, too, can get freaked out like how I and "the friend" are about such a future that will soon be here :(

Ramesh said...

Please !!! I cannot think of an more awful concept.

Much tickled by Anne's "rational arguments" :)

Sriram Khé said...

Yes, an awful idea ... but, it is happening :(

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