Fear not for the future, just the controversy


Illustration by Bryan Gomm

Movies and books that can heedlessly draw the most attention are those that are set in the future. We’re fascinated by the wholly accurate depictions and the completely maniacal and bogus predictions and we appreciate the way they make us excitedly anticipate or dread the future. Back to the Future II informs us that hover boards and pizza-enlarging ovens are allegedly going to be available by 2015, although you can’t pre-order them online yet. At the same time, I Robot informs us that we’ll have a cheap labor force of milky colored robots complete with Ted Bundy-esque facial expressions who’ll make it that much harder for uneducated, unskilled humans to find a job. However, one thing that most people don’t note is the innumerable additional laws that will be enforced in such a future.

For instance, all of you may be aware that one of the prominent debates that has been going on for the past decade has focused on the exact definition of marriage. But while everyone is chewing on that, would politicians be able to answer what constitutes as a legitimate conception? This is something that we should at least figure out before 2025, at least according to Stanford scientists, who have already constructed a general framework of how to produce artificial sperm and eggs. One can even include and exclude specific genes from the sperm and egg, essentially endowing folks the ability to create a custom-designed child through a futuristic MadLib process.

Hell, if we can give our future offspring perfect traits, why not our lovers? David Levy claims a woman can buy herself her own Robocop and a man can buy himself a Stepford wife by 2050 – both of which should be able to act and talk like a normal human being. Why should we trust Levy? For one, he’s made a career out of studying the technological trend of sex toys and dolls, culminating in the 2007 publication of his book Love and Sex with Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships. Secondly, he’s earned a PhD from Holland in – get this – Intimate Relationships with Artificial Partners.

If the sexbot doctor’s assumption is true, then this will no doubt open a Pandora’s box when it comes to marriage laws. Will human and robot weddings actually happen? If not, will there be an ACLU branch for robot rights? Relationships among young men and women who live in the West are already short and shallow for the most part. Just imagine what will happen once robot companies are releasing subsequent generations of robot lovers as fast as Apple releases new generations of iPods. Who would want a lover as outdated as an 8-track player?

Of course, another conundrum that could surface is how the robots will outlive us all: or will they? Some theorists say that future humans will not only be able to live as long as robots, but will eventually become robots. Welcome to the Singularity Movement.

Singularitarians believe that with the aid of transhumanist technology, such as microscopic robotic cells, which will help keep our immune system at peak condition, and digital implants of information in our brains, humans will one day be cyborgs. Imagine the heated debates over topics like legislating a specific death age for people once overpopulation becomes rampant or whether the government should regulate transhumanism so that we don’t accidentally send the 14.3 million medical workers in the country straight to the unemployment offices. Also, the issue of whether or not we will get screwed out of retirement will be poignant to most of us reading this, considering this is predicted to go down in 2045.

So the next time you’re watching the news find yourself relieved that a controversial topic has finally reached a favorable solution, just remember that that won’t be the end of it. There’s many more cans of writhing worms just waiting to be opened up in the near future, such as when we start examining the ethics of custom-crafting your kids, or defining rights for robotic lovers.

Of course, that’s if we’re not robotic lovers ourselves by then.

One Response to "Fear not for the future, just the controversy"

  1. janel   March 6, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    ha ha. i love this. cool article.

    Reply

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