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Love + Sex with Robots

Love + Sex with Robots

By Hayley Birch

Anything with such a provocative title is always going to have a hard job living up to expectations; if someone hands you a book entitled Love + Sex with Robots, what can you expect other than some sort of feast of sordid/technological, literary indulgence?

Love + Sex with Robots is, unfortunately, no such a banquet.  Alternatively doing little more than whetting the appetite and overindulging to the point of gluttony, it skims over some of the more interesting philosophical questions surrounding human-robot relationships and dwells too long on the ins and outs of the modern sex toy industry.

Although Levy appears to provide a firm grounding for his belief that we will one day embrace robots as lovers and life-long partners, his argument is based almost entirely on our current relationships with computers and technology, and our appetite for pornography and paid-for sex.

Levy claims that computer nerds and those who have problems forming relationships with humans will be the first to turn to androids for emotional and physical relief.  But he talks too much of today's market for sex aids and sex workers, and too little of how we will come to be intimate with our humanoid counterparts.  Although Levy cites various examples of developments in current robotics, most of his vision of the future seems to be based on pure speculation, rather than any well studied map for change - robots will learn to read our emotions, robots will be able to change their physical characteristics at the touch of a button - and consequently the reader is left a little doubtful that his vision will in fact materialise.

The book is split into two parts - the first touches upon aspects of human psychology in order to prove we have the capacity to fall in love with robots; the second uses our sex lives to justify our societal need for robot sex.  But the vast majority of each part feels like a preamble to the real issue, which is, surely, why and how we will interact with robots in the future.

Although Levy cites some interesting research, most seems to be too far removed from the real issues at hand.  And not enough light is made of this genuinely intriguing subject; with a keener sense of fun, Love + Sex with Robots could have been a much more entertaining read, despite its many misdemeanours.

David Levy, (2007), Love + Sex with Robots, Harper, ISBN: 0061359750.

This book is available from the Null Bookshop.  Just click here to buy (or here to pay in dollars).

You might also like to try:
Alternative Ageing by Suzi Grant
Why don't penguins feet freeze? from New Scientist
Collapse: How Societies choose to fail or survive
by Jared Diamond

Or to hear more from Hayley, click here.

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24 May 2011
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