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Robots are getting closer to integrating into human society. Last week a robot deveoped by Willlow Garage (co-founded by a developer of Google) passed through eight doors and plugged itself into nine outlets. Going through doors is basic to sentient beings but difficult for machines, and imperative for robo-domestic staff and robo-pages in office environments. Plugging itself in is necessary, of course, for power.

It’s not quite robot butlers (or Pintsize), but it’s a step, as it were, in that direction. So where will this lead? Robots are already encroaching on unskilled labor—in factories, for example—and skilled but low-level jobs are a natural next step. And once they’re in our houses, it won’t be long before they move into our bedrooms.

Once the dust has settled and same-sex marriage is recognized nationwide (except New York, at this rate), human-robot relationships are going to be on the radar. Loebner Prize winner David Levy argues (somewhat) convincingly in Love & Sex with Robots that when robots can simulate love, people will fall in love with them. A minority, to be sure, just as a minority of people today are promiscuous as a sexuality, or see prostitutes exclusively, or mate for life (or are gay, for that matter). But there will be some people who find that it’s not humans of any description but robots who excite them; or they may simply happen to meet that special robot who makes them happy.


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June 2009
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