A growing number of people are using the Internet to diagnose their illnesses—real or imagined—according to a report on CNN.com. Users type in their medical symptoms on Web sites like WebMD and a list of possible illnesses pops up. While some say such online resources are helpful, many doctors say that medical information without an expert’s analysis can turn people into “cyberchondriacs”—those who become anxious or believe they are sick based on what they read online.
Can diagnosing what ails you based on medical information online do more harm than good?
Responses to January’s Question
Will Humans Marry Robots?
In a widely reported doctoral thesis, David Levy, an artificial-intelligence researcher at the University of Maastricht, in the Netherlands, holds that by 2050 there will be human-robot unions. Levy says that extremely realistic-looking robots will be programmed with attributes, including compatible characteristics, that cause people to fall in love. He says that such programming will join with new attitudes about marriage.
Do you believe humans will marry robots someday?
Where’s the Free Will?
I am not sure what marrying a robot would mean. Marriage is a reciprocal commitment that involves some free will for both parties. This would require robots to be independent members of society, rather than property.
I am also uncertain that in 42 years, as Levy says, we’ll be able to design such sophisticated technology or that society will change enough to allow robots to be free members of society.
Accept No Imitations
This is a lofty suggestion, but I certainly believe it is possible. However, just because something is possible does not mean it is good for society. I imagine a robot-human relationship would be merely an attempt to turn marriage into a selfish endeavor to gratify the needs of one person.
Marriage is the union of two individuals promising to selflessly meet each other’s needs for a lifetime. Trying to do marriage any other way doesn’t work. Additionally, for those who believe in God as the Creator, the robot’s lack of a soul would certainly lead to a feeling of emptiness for the human.
Science-fiction author Isaac Asimov would be pleased that this question has finally been asked. He set forth fundamental laws of robotics that would prohibit humans and robots from physically harming one another but would require the robot to do whatever the human asked. With these laws in place, what human wouldn’t want a robot spouse?
However, I’m pretty sure I’ll have to step up my game if my wife hears there is a spouse robot out there that must obey orders.
Barry G. Brown
Ottawa, Ont., Canada
The Robot Family Circus?
I’m sure there will be human-robot marriages among people with strange and unusual fetishes, as well as bizarre emotional problems. Consider, for example, people who believe they love their automobiles and their new electronic toys.
I am not sure the marriages will happen as soon as Levy predicts, or if we will have the legal, political, economic, and cultural infrastructure in place to deal with it. The term marriage will have to signify a new legal definition of entities living together.
By the mid-21st century, what now appears strange to most may well be acceptable to people who have grown up with robots. I suppose divorce will be cheaper, though, because it might involve just unplugging the spouse. I would love to see the comic strips portraying the family dilemmas of robots and humans living together.
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I am sure a lot of people will want to marry robots, but, as with homosexual marriage, most countries, as well as a number of U.S. states, would not allow it. Religious and other advocacy groups would be the main opposition.
Not Created Equal
I don’t believe humans will ever marry robots. Even if they look like humans and possess many human characteristics, robots are machines, and not the same as humans. A more realistic relationship would be master and servant, not spouse and spouse.
Harold A. Rice
Parental, Not Romantic
I don’t think humans will marry robots, though there may be a parental kind of relationship between a robot and its maker. However, without a will of its own, a machine cannot choose to join in a marital relationship.
I have known engineers who fell in love with what they created. One even had to be removed in tears from the radio he designed.
Some people may use robots to satisfy their needs or passions. But the human cannot satisfy the needs or passions of a robot because it has none. There would be no more a marriage than the relationship between a car and a driver.
Programmed for Convenience
After years of great improvement in robot technology, it will not be surprising to have human-robot marriages. For many people, this will have a lot of advantages—no mother-in-law, easy and cheap divorce, and robots may be programmed to allow the human the privilege of holding the TV remote.
Javier Sanz Feito
Can’t Buy Me Love
That there will be robot-human marriage is ridiculous. Would I want to marry my computer? It does everything I ask it to do, it is dependable (most of the time), and does not cheat on me. It also gives me satisfaction, to some extent. But none of this has to do with love, marriage, relationships, holding hands, mutual understanding, surprising each other, and all of the wonderful nonprogrammable human features that lead to real marriage.
Why Marry a Human?
Levy’s idea that a human would want to marry a robot assumes a tremendous rate of technological advancement over the next four decades. But if robots can advance that quickly, why would they want to marry us?
San Jose, Calif.