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Finding Love in the Arms of a Robot
By Yon Heong Tung
Friday, 18th October 2019
 

Bicentennial Man isn’t the first piece of art to explore the existential question of what it means to be human, and whether man-made machines can truly become sentient autonomous beings, and whether they will one day be placed on the same footing as us homo sapiens.

In the 1999 film Bicentennial Man, Robin Williams plays a robot, Andrew, who is gifted with the capacity of emotion and creativity, Andrew eventually falls in love with a human lady and decides to marry her.

When he petitions a regulatory body to recognise their matrimony, however, he is rejected as they were concerned that he could not age and this would spark an upheaval in society. Andrew then re-engineers his body so that it would deteriorate naturally with time, and then eventually die, thus making him fully human.

Bicentennial Man isn’t the first piece of art to explore the existential question of what it means to be human, and whether man-made machines can truly become sentient autonomous beings, and whether they will one day be placed on the same footing as us homo sapiens. Famous science fiction authors like Isaac Asimov have written hypothetical scenarios where humans are made to live side by side highly intelligent robots. Will there be chaos? Will they rule over us? How do we govern them?

These are but some of the many deep questions that our society needs to address as AI and robotics converge to produce artificial beings who are becoming more life-like. Robots have already bested our finest chess masters and have made thousands of administrative and clerical work redundant with their complex algorithms and lightning-speed processing power.

So what if one day, they are able to replace our spouse as well? Are romantic love and sexual desire just human wants that require a reciprocal response from a willing party, no matter what form it takes — even if it isn’t human?

At WiT Singapore 2019, Professor Adrian David Cheok, Director, Imagineering Institute, Malaysia, sought to address this issue – specifically on the topic of whether humans should be allowed to marry robots.

Read the full story here

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