Establish a romantic relationship with a robot? The Dutch are not ruling it out


By John

The idea of ​​establishing a romantic relationship with a robot in the Netherlands is accepted by a significant percentage of the population, although in the rest of Europe most are still completely against dating a droid. To quantify these preferences a study, published in the Zenodo open access archive, conducted by experts from the University of Twente and the University of California as part of the SIENNA project, during which 11,000 participants from 11 countries were interviewed, including Sweden, South Korea, the United States, South Africa, Germany, Greece, Poland, France, Spain and Brazil.

Scientists have also investigated the implications of artificial life. «Over 50 percent of the subjects interviewed – says the scholar – expressed concern that such a rampant impact leads to a reduction in control over one’s own life. Only 13 percent expect to gain more control.” Love life aside, the authors’ results also concern the possibility of working with a robot, an eventuality to which less than half of the participants would undergo. «Most people – observes the author again – accept robots and artificial intelligence, but are not comfortable with droids with human-like characteristics. We know that the benefits of interacting with machines can be enormous, but as our dependence on technology grows, we seem to lose some of our autonomy.” Another factor that emerges from the survey is the concern that a robot-oriented society will exacerbate social inequalities. “Our work – concludes Brey – provides a snapshot of what people think of technology and outlines a picture of the benefits and risks perceived by the population in relation to the development and progress of automation”.

«We are getting used to interacting with intelligent automatons – says the expert – from smart vacuum cleaners to speakers or artificial intelligence assistants, such as Siri, Alexa or Google. The direction is oriented towards a world dominated by robotics, but we wanted to outline the boundary between interaction with these devices and the possibility that one could think of establishing a relationship of a different nature”. The sentence tested by the participants concerned the possibility of people having a romantic partner. «12.5 percent agreed, 15.5 percent said they accepted the idea, while 72 percent expressed opposition – reports the professor – even if we noticed a wide variability from country to country in terms of levels of acceptance of the idea of ​​robots as romantic partners, for example in the Netherlands only 45 percent of respondents were completely against it.’ According to data analyzed by experts, in all countries surveyed, people expect rapid developments in the capabilities of machines in human-like understanding and communication, so much so that 80 percent of subjects believe that the revolution in artificial intelligence and robotics will significantly change their country within the next twenty years and less than half expressed a positive opinion on the impact these machines could have. “Findings from data collected in Sweden, South Korea, the United States, South Africa and Germany indicate that more than 10 percent of participants would agree with a robotic love affair, while in Greece, Poland, France, Spain and Brazil the value always falls below 10 percent. The antipodes were found in Greece and Poland (5 percent of those in favour) and in the Netherlands (53 percent)».

«SIENNA, a program supported by the European Union – explains Philip Brey, professor of Philosophy of Technology at the University of California – analyzes the ethics and opinions related to cutting-edge technologies. Our study focused on the possibility of having a loving and romantic relationship with a robot and we found that approximately 27 percent of respondents would be in favor of or would not rule out the possibility of dating a robot, while 72 percent «. The team gathered information on 11,000 participants, finding that in the Netherlands the possibility of establishing love bonds with a droid is accepted by 53 percent of the population, the highest rate compared to the countries involved in the survey, but most people do not feels comfortable around robots that look and act like humans.