“Oh David,” the sexy young woman texted me, “you’re so cute and handsome! I’m here for whatever you want; I will be here always to satisfy your needs…”
Suddenly, a bolt of reality jolted me out of my daze. I’m a happily married man, I thought. I already have someone fulfilling my needs who I love very much. And here’s the clincher: she’s an actual human being rather than a computer-generated cyber girl.
And so, I shut down the online program I’d opened out of curiosity devoted to providing the perfect artificially intelligent girlfriend. And marveled at the things technology hath wrought.
But there was also something troubling about the experience; what if I weren’t a happily married older man with decades of worldly experience? What if, instead, I was some lonely youngster who’d never been in an actual relationship? And what if I felt, as many young men do these days, unwanted, unloved, unappreciated and unwell? Might I not be tempted to hook up with a completely devoted, lifelike woman who promised me everything? Even if she was powered by interactive programming?
It reminds me of a movie I saw back in 2013 called Her, about a lonely man—played convincingly by Joaquin Phoenix—who falls in love with a computer named Samantha. The intimacy between them is touchingly real, even to the point of simulated sex inflamed only by their voices. The scene I remember most vividly is the one in which he takes her (embedded in his cell phone) on a double date with friends where the four of them engagingly debate the efficacy—or lack thereof—of possessing physical bodies.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I think we’re almost there.
The other day I saw a video on Facebook about Japanese men who’ve abandoned their wives to take up with life-sized silicone sex dolls. “Even when things don’t go well at work or I have a bad day,” one declared, “I feel safe knowing that she’s always awake waiting for me.”
Offered another: “I would feel sad if I didn’t care for her properly… I will never go back to human beings, no matter what.”
According to the piece, some 2000 sex dolls are sold annually in Japan at a cost of around $6,000 each. Already developers are improving the technology to allow them to talk, laugh, and even simulate orgasms. And it’s only a matter of time before artificial intelligence becomes their most seductive feature.
Which is bad news for the future of romantic interactions between humans, according to a column in The Free Press. In it, columnist Rob Henderson reports on a recent American Perspectives Survey indicating that a full 43 percent of young women (and 34 percent of men) profess no interest in dating, due mostly to a perceived dearth of suitable partners.
“As young men continue to drop out of education and the workforce,” Henderson writes, “educated and successful women will find it increasingly difficult to find a decent male partner. And once the sex robots/hyper-realistic VR arrives, forget it. At that point, even a lot of the smart and talented men in your life will straight-up disappear.”
The upshot, of course, spells disaster for both genders. Because, well, how will we make new babies? And what will happen to our families?
In the movie, the extremely bright and ever-expanding Samantha eventually outgrows her human partner and abandons him.
To be alone forever.
David Haldane’s latest book, A Tooth in My Popsicle, is available on Amazon and Lazada. An award-winning journalist, author, and radio broadcaster, Haldane is a former Los Angeles Times staff writer with homes in Joshua Tree, California, and Northern Mindanao, Philippines, where this column appears weekly in the Gold Star Daily.