I will resist suggesting I am starting off the New Year with a bang when I reveal that a new and very important and/or disturbing (depending on whether you have laced your cornflakes with a David Copperfield mushroom or two) thesis has now been published as a book.
The title might interest many of you: "Love and Sex with Robots- The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships" by David Levy.
And the thesis itself finds a rather neat climax at the very end of the book: "Great sex on tap for everyone, 24/7. What's not to like?" Well, the tap part, for example. Doesn't that rather downgrade the, um, romance part?
You will not, perhaps, be surprised that Mr. Levy is a former chess grand master who, having become bored with the board, became fascinated with the bordello. Or at least what happens within it.
Before I further quote Mr Levy, I want to underline that his is a serious work. He defended this thesis in October of last year at the University of Maastricht.
Alright then, are you ready for this? Mr. Levy believes that Massachusetts will be the first state to legalize human/robot marriages.
" Massachusetts is more liberal than most other jurisdictions in the U.S. and it has been at the forefront of same-sex marriage," declares Mr. Levy. "There's also a lot of high-tech research there at places like MIT."
I'm not sure I have this quite right, but is he suggesting that those who are more liberal about gay marriage will be equally liberal about man in flagrante machina?
Mr. Levy does border on the nonchalant when he declares that intercoursal robots will be mere upgrades of blowup dolls: "It's just a matter of adding some electronics to add some vibration. That's fairly primitive in terms of robotics. The technology is already there."
I am not sure I could possibly turn to my paramour and suggest to her that she is fairly primitive in terms of robotics. But I would very much appreciate it if readers could all try popping this question when they get home tonight. It will be fascinating to see whether there are any men or women who would find this description flattering.
I find myself resisting the urge to imagine what Mr. Levy's sex life might have resembled up to this point (he says he's happily married and that he would try having sex with a robot and wouldn't mind if his wife tried it too), so I turn to the words of Henrik Christensen, the founder of the European Robotics Research Network.
In 2006, Mr. Christensen declared somewhat modestly that people will be having sex with robots within five years. Please mark your calendar. In 2011, Gisele Bundchen, Tom Cruise, Kathy Bates, whichever of these might be your chosen partner, will be yours. With the appropriate added vibration and image licensing rights.
Some of you might be wondering: Cui Bono? Well, Mr. Levy and his fellow techno-electrodollogists have given this subject great thought: "If you ask me if every human will want to marry a robot, my answer is probably not. But will there be a subset of people? There are people ready right now to marry sex toys."
One assumes from Mr. Levy's other proclamations that he has a suspicion that many of these sex toy nuptialists are at MIT.
This perhaps might be the reason why, in the highly prescient ABC series, "Boston Legal," Jerry Espensen, a lawyer known as "Hands" (please don't ask, watch the show) has a blowup doll with which he has a very meaningful relationship. Indeed, when he tried having a relationship with a human, he found himself dumped for an iPhone.
However, I think anyone out there, in Boston or elsewhere, who knows someone, or indeed, has the notion themselves, of marrying a sex toy, should write me and help unblur those lines for those of us who are less enlightened.
In essence, Levy argues that robots will be most welcomed by those who have trouble making relationships with humans: "...those who are extremely shy, or have psychological problems or are just plain ugly or have unpleasant personalities."
Hold on, I know many people who would not be considered attractive with extremely unpleasant personalities who seem to do very well with their target sex. And I am thinking neither of Mickey Rourke nor Jack Welch nor Cherie Blair when I say this.
Levy (at left) is human enough to accept that electrodolls might well cause some friction in those old-fashioned human/human marriages. However, he declares: "Maybe some other relationships could welcome a robot. Instead of a woman saying 'not tonight, darling, I have a headache,' you could get 'I have a headache, darling. Why not use your robot?'"
Leaving aside the gross sexism inherent in his presumption, it seems to me that Levy has his philosophical knickers very much twisted. But to him, a man who has immersed himself in chess and artificial intelligence, having sex with a robot is nothing other than a further evolutional step that began with interracial marriages.
Perhaps I have a romantic notion about relationships, but I find it very difficult to grasp that a robot could ever take the place of those that I love. Maybe I'm the naive one, standing in the way of progress like someone using their hotel phone at the CES conference.
So please let me underline Mr. Levy's scientific credentials. In the 1990s he led a team that won the 1997 Loebner Prize, something akin to a world championship of artificially intelligent conversational software. And today he runs a company that makes electronic brain games. Hand-held, naturally.