Robot Love: Part 1

Trick or Treat Rafflers. Sorry it’s been a while, but I’ve been promoting. I have also been researching a topic that is a theme in The Raffle Novel: “Robot Love.”

To me (and in The Raffle Novel) “Robot Love” means many things. It means falling in love with a robot; robots falling in love. And it also can mean “making ‘love'” with a robot. Yes, this is a tricky topic, and all of those play out in The Raffle Novel.

So, one of the first questions is, in the real world (i.e., not the world of The Raffle Novel), can a robot fall in love? According to some European AI experts, the answer is no. But, they also argue policymakers must take that possibility into consideration. Well, in the world of “The Raffle,” I am already doing so.

In Part 3, while sitting around a campfire in Joshua Tree, Sarah tells Ramsey love is an algorithm she is still trying to compute. Ramsey laughs at her like an asshole. She gets hurt. She feels. All NHCs feel. It’s the way they blend into society to protect The New United States. If she feels, eventually she will figure out she can love, which will be explored in The Raffle’s future post the novel.

In Part 4, Noah tells Ramsey he thinks he loves Sarah. He thinks he does because he feels jealous when Sarah leaves Camp Pendleton to join Ramsey on his journey. Was Noah programmed by the NUS to think he loved Sarah or did he actually love Sarah? And, is there an actual difference? Can we program a robot to love? And can we be programmed to fall in love with a robot?

I am not the only person fascinated enough by this subject to explore it. There are many others who want to know if humans can fall in love with robots. And I and others are not the first to explore this topic.

In one of my favorite episodes of the original Twilight Zone (Season 1, Episode 7), “The Lonely,” a man is “imprisoned” on a remote planet. He is alone, and that is the real prison: his loneliness. We learn he’s been there for 4 years. We also learn he is visited several times a year by a supply ship. But, they only stay for extremely short stints.

At the commencement of the episode, the captain of the supply ship tells the man his pardon is not coming, but he has brought the prisoner something secret in a crate that is vaccumed-sealed that will help with the loneliness. Once the ship departs, our prisoner opens the crate and finds the secret: a humanoid-robot named Alicia.

At first the prisoner rejects her. But once he hurts her feelings and sees her tears, he caves and gives in to her love. By the end of the episode he is convinced she is real, and not a robot. But, when the ship returns with news of a pardon and that he must leave alone, the inevitable occurs: the murder of Alicia.

I’ve been a Twilight Zone junkie since I was a child. I’d watch the marathons on holidays. And, once older and committed to learning as much as I could about each episode, I would read the Twilight Zone Companion as I watched each episode. But I didn’t realize how much an impact “The Lonely” had on me and The Raffle Novel until I re-watched it last month.

From the solitude of the desert prison, to the vagueness of the political changes mentioned back home on planet earth, to the vacuum-sealing of Alicia, to the dreary thoughts of the prisoner conveyed in his voiceover, “The Lonely” had more of an influence on me than most other Science Fiction tales. And as I read more about love, loneliness and robots, I wonder what our future holds for the inevitable relationships between humans and AI.

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