Should humans should be allowed to marry robots? Slate thinks so.
If you haven’t read this piece yet, you should. It’s a fascinating take on how the Obergfell ruling weakened the definition of marriage by expanding it to include same-sex couples, and why that’s a good thing. A rough summary of their argument in favor of robot weddings is that the modern understanding of marriage has evolved, and it should keep changing to include our robot friends.
Robot-human marriage is not about robot rights; it is about the right of a human to choose to marry a robot. While few people would understand or support robot-human intimacy today, as robots get more sophisticated and humanlike, more and more people will find love, happiness, and intimacy in the arms of a machine. Robot sex and love is coming, and robot-human marriage will likely not be far behind.
Slate is right. We might one day find sexual gratification and companionship in a robot, but suggesting that the purpose of marriage is personal gratification is just embarrassing. But before I get to the part about why all of this is totally insane, I’m going to share my story of what it’s like to be replaced by a robot, and why marrying them will make humans obsolete.
I Was Replaced By Robots At Work, But That Shouldn’t Happen In The Bedroom
Okay here’s a little bit about me: my dad owns a machine shop that manufactures plastic parts. As a teenager I spent a good portion of my summers there sorting, packaging, and delivering orders to his customers.
On more than one occasion I would arrive at work to find a set of metal fingers whirling about, grabbing plastic parts from the press I was supposed to stand at, and dropping them into boxes. My job had been eliminated for the duration of that order.
Sometimes a mechanized flap paired with a machine’s timer settings would be enough to make me obsolete. Those days were probably the low point of my career as a mold press operator. While I was excited that my dad had rigged up a machine to cut down on overhead expenses for his business, it was admittedly a little demeaning to realize that I could be replaced by a piece of flapping sheet metal.
A robot taking my job at 17 was fine. After all, I wasn’t depending on the income to survive. Sometimes I was even grateful that I would no longer have to stand in a hot room grabbing hot plastic from a hot press. A robot would have to endure the heat, not me.
It was usually a better worker than I was, too. It didn’t need breaks for lunch, or to go to the bathroom, or to go home and sleep at the end of the day. It never complained, and usually could outpace me. Aside from the occasional malfunction, that robot was great at doing my job. Once again, mechanized flaps and fingers are threatening to replace me in the near future, but this time as a wife.
Marriage Is More Than Personal Satisfaction
If getting a perfect chef or bedroom companion is your reason for getting married, then go get yourself a robot.
Unlike humans, a robot will never age, will never get impatient, and will always be up for sexytime. They’re designed to be perfect, but the truth is: a robot will never love you back. Marriage and love entail putting someone else’s needs and wants before your own, and a robot simply cannot do that.
This is a hard lesson Ryan Gosling’s character had to learn in the movie Lars And The Real Girl. If you haven’t seen it here’s a quick rundown: it’s a movie about a guy who falls in love with a doll he orders from a porn site. He’s convinced that his doll/girlfriend Bianca is real, and a therapist suggests his family play along until they can get at the root cause of his delusion. At the end of the film, he ditches his plastic boo for a real-live one, and everyone is happy.
Okay, so it was cute to watch Gosling wheel around his plastic girlfriend in a wheelchair on screen for an hour. In real life however, if a robot or a doll were getting in the way of a relationship with me and Gosling, I would lose it.
Living in a generation of instant gratification, having exactly what you want when you want it in a partner seems appealing. If we stop and think about it for a moment, it’s obvious that normalizing robot-human weddings is like advocating for relationships and marriages built around personal satisfaction. Don’t be fooled by the appeal. This is basically anti-love.
Are robot weddings just a plot to end the human race?
We all know how Skynet takes over the world and tries to kill off the human race in the Terminator movies. On screen, the artificial intelligence system creates robot killing machines to gun us all down. So if artificial intelligence does try to kill us off in real life, wouldn’t it know better than to use brute force? Slowing down our reproduction efforts would be much more subtle and effective. No more sex, no more babies, no more humans. Bing, bang, boom.
This Futurama clip explains it pretty well:
I’m not seriously suggesting that the human race is under attack by sexy robots designed to lure us away from procreating. But population problems in countries like Germany and Japan won’t be helped if people are seeking intimate relations with hardware instead of each other.
Hollywood loves to play with the idea that machines can have feelings. AMC’s new show Humans plays with the idea that robots can have thoughts and feelings and act independently of what they’re programmed to do. The most recent terminator film shows a terminator machine that is capable of love and self-sacrifice.
While this is a fun trope to watch, its totally false. A machine cannot have feelings or love, because they simply do not have the capacity of free will. If they show affection to us, it’s because they were programmed to do so. Consider episode 7 of the Twilight Zone, in which a man (Mr. Corry) sentenced to isolation falls in love with his robot wife. He is totally convinced that she is a real person and is capable of loving him. When he is rescued, there’s not enough room for her on the ship and he must leave her behind.
The closing lines of this tragic episode are perfection:
On a microscopic piece of sand that floats through space is a fragment of a man’s life. Left to rust is the place he lived in and the machines he used. Without use, they will disintegrate from the wind and the sand and the years that act upon them. All of Mr. Corry’s machines, including the one made in his image, kept alive by love, but now obsolete.
Those lines are terribly revealing of what robot love really is. It’s kept alive by delusion, but on its own it falls apart and rusts. To legalize robot-human nuptials would be to redefine marriage as a mechanism of self-gratification, and would perpetuate the delusion that self-love is real love.
Stop the madness, don’t marry your Roomba.