Robot sex: it’s going to happen and it’s going to be hot.
That, at least, is what David N.L. Levy argues in his book “Love and Sex With Robots.”And that’s what brought the Harvard Book Store’s Philosophy Café together last Wednesday evening.
The monthly discussion group is a reminder that Cambridge is a city brimming with intellectual quirk, both inside and outside Boylston Gate. In his book, Levy argues that people will soon not only enjoy relationships with robots, but will also learn more from them “than is in all of the world’s published sex manuals combined.” Levy predicts that once robots develop enough technologically, they will be able to fulfill all of our sexual and emotional desires.
The crowd at the Harvard Book Store discussing this kinky, futuristic topic is decidedly older and more hipster than the general Cambridge population. A 60-something, talkative man wears orange reflectors around his pant-ankles. Two 20-something philosophy junkies arrive in tortoise-rimmed glasses and striped suits.
The acceptability of love with robots is “all relative,” argues the man wearing orange reflectors, provoking much disagreement. Someone brings up the lady who married the Eiffel Tower. Another mentions Japanese pillow girlfriends. One mentions Kant.
“If you can love a robot and be happy and satisfied then either Kant is wrong or we’re wrong,” he argues. Trust the people of Cambridge to bring Enlightenment thought into a discussion about robot lovemaking. During the break, striped-suit philosophy man introduces tortoise-rimmed glasses woman as his girlfriend. “Do you love her like you’d love a robot?” the man in the orange reflectors asks.
Once debate resumes, discussion gets heated. After hammering out the issue for a while, the group argues over whether or not one can have a mutually consensual relationship with a robot. Questions circulate around the room: How can you tell if anyone is conscious? How can you tell who is human?
“If I were secretly an android, would you still respect me?” someone asks the moderator.
“If you were secretly an android and I respected you less would you respect me less?” the moderator responds. Minds across the room begin short-circuiting. Discussion group members look around shiftily. Can anyone’s humanity be trusted? Maybe not. But if we believe Levy, that may be good news for our sex lives.