Updated at the bottom:
coin operated boy
he may not be real
experienced with girls
but I know he feels like a boy should feel
isn't that the point
that is why I want a
coin operated boy
with his pretty coin operated voice
saying that he loves me that he's thinking of me
straight and to the point
that is why I want
a coin operated boy.
--The Dresden Dolls "Coin Operated Boy"
According to David Levy, somewhere in the not so distant future, we will be entering into functionally infertile relationships with robots and loving it. I'm not writing this to mock it, but rather to express my grave discomfort with having something along the line of Steven Spielberg's AI reenacted in my living room (yes, that was a child, but still, robots, love, relationships). Levy's PhD work states that "robots will become so human-like in appearance, function, and personality that many people will fall in love with them, have sex with them, and even marry them."
He's probably not that far off. I can tick off numerous occasions that I've become emotionally attached to inanimate objects and I would think the pull would be that much greater with something that looked and reacted like a human. Think about how emotional people get from the death of their gigapet. It's not hard to see the jump from considering robots simply plastic and computer chips to relating to them like a spouse. Especially when that spouse fulfills a deep emotional need as the boy does in AI.
What I haven't seen discussed yet is this idea of functional infertility and what will be done about it and how treatments will be perceived in light of robot marriage. There are two forms of infertility--functional and biological. Both share the same emotions and needs, but I don't think they (for the most part) are treated equally by clinics at large. I am speaking broadly about reproductive endocrinologists, relying somewhat on the famous Mother Jones survey from last year that found that 48% of clinic directors said "they were very or extremely likely to turn away a gay couple seeking a surrogate" and 20% would "turn away a single woman."
Functional infertility is the necessity for assisted reproduction in order to reproduce. The category is large encompassing gay men and lesbians, transgendered men and women, and single men and women. There are also those who have had vasectomies and spinal cord injuries and chemotherapy-induced sterility. And now, it is also going to encompass those who marry robots.
Because I have to imagine that marriage will still work in the same way since the same human emotions that lead people to human marriages now will lead people to robot marriages later. People will want commitment and monogamy. Those who wouldn't have affairs on human partners will most likely (I'm assuming here since we're not marrying robots yet) not have affairs on robot partners. Which begs the question--how will they reproduce so that the robot can become a mum or dad to a child? Will they be programmed to never want to reproduce? Entirely possible. But since we can't program humans, how will we control that impulse?
Will fertility treatments become widely accepted and understood as more people need them because they've entered into functional infertility?
Until comments started coming in, the only situation I had considered was one of functional infertility. Meaning, because a person and a robot cannot create a child, donor gametes or a surrogate would have to be used or adoption would have to be pursued in order to become parents--the same options open right now to a wide-range of people who are being discriminated against at some fertility clinics. I think the mourning would still take place--a person is in love and cannot create a child without assistance--but I wonder how the world at large would look at fertility treatments if they became commonplace because so many people were marrying robots and now needing them. Or if the discrimination would still exist.