Day By Day

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The End of Western Civilization

Everyone by now knows about Europe's demographic crisis -- an aging population, too few children being born, mass immigration, that sort of thing. Well, if David Levy has anything to do about it, the situation will get much, much worse.

Der Spiegel reports:

Andy, whose measurements are 101-56-86 centimeters (40-22-34 inches), has what many men want in a woman: "unlimited patience." At least that's what the manufacturer, a company called First Androids based in Neumarkt near the southern German city of N├╝rnberg, promises. Andy also comes with options, including a "b***j** system, with adjustable levels," a "tangible pulse," "rotating hip motion" and a "heating system with adjustable controls" to raise the body temperature.

"Except in the feet -- they remain cold, just like in real life," says David Levy. The British scientist's interest in Andy is purely academic, he insists. For Levy, his high-tech sex doll is nothing less than a harbinger of a new world order.

The technical term is "robophilia". I don't know about you, but Levy scares the hell out of me, especially when he says things like this:

"Nowadays, it is relatively commonplace for people to develop strong emotional attachments to their virtual pets, including robot pets.... So why should anyone be surprised if and when people form similarly strong attachments to virtual people, to robot people?"


When it comes to sex, robots could soon supplant the original flesh-and-blood human experience, says Levy.
Read the whole thing here.

Yes, I know that this sort of thing is a hoary cliche in science fiction, but it's one thing to read or see stories about some alternate society in which replicants or Stepford wives are possible and something quite different to confront the technology in the here and now.

I can't help but think of Clifford Simak's "City" and Webster the robot waiting endlessly for the now extinct humans to return.

A commentator reminds me that a better reference might be the ending of Spielberg's "AI". Maybe.