Robot women? Be careful what you wish for


Ladies I’m worried, and you should be too. Although I realise that ‘you should’ are never two words to use wisely to a woman, trust me on this one – because boffins behind the latest thing in Artificial Intelligence are preparing to replace you.

You read that right; women are facing redundancy, the threat of them of not mattering in the home is looming large and very soon it will be upon us. In fact, this ‘women out’ movement is already well under way and somebody ought to stop it before it corrupts life as we know it.

According to Toby Walsh, the author of Android Dreams, a new book out this week on the future of Artificial Intelligence – or AI, as it is abbreviated in order to clumsily confuse itself with the breeding process familiar to every dairy farmer – the shape of things to come ‘will change your life sooner than you realise’.

Mr Walsh predicts that AI will do all sorts of apparently-handy things: it will replace going to the doctor, as your computer will shortly be able to expertly diagnose the cause of those aches and pains; it will research and report the news, a trial programme of technology to choose which stories to run has already been tested at The Washington Post; and at many companies AI will soon take over the process of hiring staff, and firing them.

All of which sounds like fun; there will surely be no greater emasculation than a ruddy laptop telling you you’re sacked, although I’m sure that a good many crestfallen workers will ‘accidentally’ spill coffee all over the keyboard after the office computer has announced on Facebook that they must clear their desks.

AI is also to take over the roads. As we learned from a recent announcement, the Government has given the green light for an experiment of ‘driver-free’ convoys of huge trucks to hog all the room on the A30, greatly-assisting the laxative effect that is associated with attempting to overtake a three-container vehicle the length of the pitch at Truro City Football Club.

Naturally the Millennials will say that I’m just being a fuddy-duddy old curmudgeon with my grumbles about the advance of AI technology, which has long given us the likes of staff-free checkouts at Tesco and guard-free trains in the South East.

Fine, but will these new young masters of the universe be so irritatingly-hip about AI when the supposed great advance of women-free wives becomes quite normal?

That’s what they claim, that very soon ‘it will be the norm for men to have a sexbot in the bedroom’ and you won’t need a woman.

The norm, huh? Norm as in ‘sorry lads, I can’t come down the pub tonight because I’m on a promise with Plasticine Pam’?

Personally, I can’t see too many guys keen to own up to the kink that has previously labelled them as ‘weirdo’, but apparently I’m wrong. According to the boffins who are already knocking out these rutting robots at up to £11,000 each, research shows that there is a large market for wifi wives which their promotions claim ‘can hold a conversation, can create an engaging simulation of a relationship, will cook, clean and won’t complain [their ill-chosen words, not mine] and are ready 24/7’.

The blurb for these sexbots adds that for a few quid extra they can be customised to have a bespoke voice, mood and personality and that they are ‘an alternative form of relation- ship’. Yeah, well so is a sheep, but I wouldn’t recommend bragging about it.

Rather reasonably, a campaign has already been launched for a ban on sophisticated sexbots. Dr Kathleen Richardson, a robot ethicist at Leicester’s De Montfort University, says that they are unnecessary and undesirable and a while back she warned, ‘sex robots seem to be a growing focus in the robotics industry and the models that they draw on – how they will look, what roles they would play – are very disturbing indeed’.

I’m with Dr Richardson on this one. There may be blokes out there who are already getting hot and bothered at the prospect of having a digital darling which looks like Katie Price and can be programmed to lie back and think of batteries, but I reckon that enthusiasts for a ‘real’ non-woman ought to be careful what they wish for.

For starters, how ‘real’ will the AI engineers make them? Will Susie Sexbot say ‘Ow! What the hell are you doing?’. Will she laugh at your software and say ‘honestly, it really doesn’t matter at all’?

But she’s right, Dr Kathleen, it is very disturbing that men should want to replace women; the prospect alone of losing women’s common sense, smarter thinking and tender affection should have meant that this hi-tech line for losers ought to have been kicked into touch long ago.

Call me old fashioned but in my not-inconsiderable experience there is nothing finer than having a woman in your life; a real ‘real’ woman who understands, as John Lennon put it, the little child inside the man, a woman who comforts, coaxes and, yes, on occasion cusses when you’re out of line – the very best of all creation who can provide what no artificial sweetheart will ever match, that thing called love.

But unfortunately governments including our own are letting this dodgy deviation of AI plough ahead and soon synthesised Cynthia will be available in your high street – unless authorities whom I hope will now include West Country MPs kick up merry hell that there’s surely better things that men can be doing with their microprocessor.

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.