Can Artificial Intelligence Offer Human Companionship?
My latest book, a slightly-futuristic erotic romance called Programmed To Protect, revolves around a very human police agent named Wyatt who falls in love with a Beautiful Doll sex robot named Ginger. I’ve gotten some wonderful feedback from readers about how satisfied they were at the believable relationship these two share.

Wyatt and Ginger truly love each other, each in their own way. And together, they manage to save their world.

Ironically, last week hubby and I were watching a DVD of the movie Her with Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson. Have you seen it? It’s a powerful story of how humans can project exactly what they need onto another person, robot, or, in this case, a high-tech operating system named Samantha (voiced by Johansson). Joaquin Phoenix was amazing in his very emotional portrayal of a lonely writer who falls in love with an OS.

And now this morning in the newspaper (yes, I still read the newspaper) there was a story about emotional robots going on sale in Japan next year. A walking, talking robot named Pepper from a company called Softbank has been designed for companionship and is supposedly capable of reading human emotions. Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son says the aim is to develop “affectionate robots that can make people smile.”

So this seems to be a trend.

What do you think? Can artificial intelligence offer the kind of companionship that humans crave? The closeness, the intellectual stimulation, the emotional support? It’s definitely what I portrayed in Programmed To Protect. Ginger was exactly what Wyatt wanted, and Wyatt was exactly what Ginger needed.  Still, my book is a work of fiction.

Could an actual human being be happy with a machine?

I think I was so affected by the movie Her because I could easily see operating systems customized to an individual’s needs becoming addictive.  I mean, who wouldn’t want an OS best friend/virtual lover who is always there at the touch of a button? Just look how smart phones have already taken over our lives! 

It's a sobering thought.  I’d like to hear your opinions...

Jenna
www.jennaives.com


7 Responses
  1. It's an interesting question! On one hand, perfect companionship is tempting...someone literally "made for you." On the other hand, part of the thrill of a human relationship is not just that you've chosen the other person, but that the other person has chosen you, (be it as a friend, mate, mentor...whatever). When you take out the choice element of the other "person"--which I assume is the case w/a robot--do you lose that thrill?


  2. Alyssa Kress Says:

    There's definite growth in having to adapt and deal with the unknown, uncertain, and sometimes downright unpleasant. If a robot could be programmed to sometimes make you damn mad - well, then I suppose you might as well be in a relationship with a human being!


  3. I think that society has become so comfortable and 'connected' with electronics that it's highly likely people will eventually buy robots to be their friends, confidants, and perhaps…partners. For those who are lonely or don't make friends easily, this could be a great way to enjoy companionship - even if it is manufactured. If you look at how people are attached to their cell phones, it's not far-fetched.


  4. Carly Carson Says:

    It's an interesting question. I think it will happen, but will the robot be able to surprise you? More importantly will he/she be able to make you laugh? Great topic for a book.


  5. Delaina Lawson Says:

    I'm a diehard Twilight Zone fan (the old ones). In one episode a man is imprisoned on as asteroid, alone and desolate with a space ship bringing him supplies every few months, one of which included a mechanical 'person'. Tom Hanks had 'Wilson' to talk to and valued his opinion. As children, we have pretend friends. Don't we use our pets for companionship and love? As humans, we do what we have to for that connection, whatever it is. As an adult, sex is an added bonus!


  6. I haven't seen that movie, Her, but it looked intriguing. I could see some people turning to robots for companionship, but being looked down upon.


  7. Kady Winter Says:

    I think robots and customized operating systems have potential to fill some real human needs, particularly for the lonely. However, even in the film "Her," (spoiler alert) the happy ending involved each protagonist growing out of the relationship, in his case, into a relationship with another human.


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