Thursday, June 19, 2008

Conditionally In Agreement

I imagine that, deep down, most of us consider the ideal relationship to be one in which there is "unconditional love", and in which our partner will never leave or reject us. And I'm not only talking about romantic spouse-type relationships-- these aspects, for example, are often cited to me by dog-owning friends as reasons why dogs make better companions than cats.

But here's a story that might make you reassess. It's about the prospect of developing "robot lovers"-- robots not just as sexual partners, but as full-on romantic partners. Technical challenges aside, the article raises the interesting question of whether such a robot should be programmed for eternal dedication, or not. Dylan Evans, a British computer scientist who has published several books on the interface of technology, emotion, and psychology, is quoted as predicting that an "unconditionally" loving robot would become boring to, and perhaps even be "abused" by, its human "partner". Evan asserts, in fact, that "what is absolutely crucial to the sentiment of love, is the belief that the love is neither unconditional nor eternal" [emphasis mine.] He thinks that a robot designed with the free-thinking ability to reject its human would probably be more fulfilling, at least as long as it stuck around, but for obvious reasons "would be a very difficult robot to sell."

When you put things like this, aren't there some implications for human-human love? Even if "unconditional", "eternal" love were to exist (I'm dubious, in case you can't read my tone), would we all be better off to stop trying so hard to pin it down and get us some?


Blogger Weeble said...

There are very few constants in this world. When it comes to relationships, change is inevitable. In fact change is what I hope for. I hope that my future partner and I work toward growing together as we change and enriching our relationship as opposed to growing apart. It takes commitment. I think that is what makes the journey interesting and worthwhile.

6/19/08, 2:36 PM  
Blogger Claire Colvin said...

I don't know if unconditional love can exist between two people. (I think it occurs in a parent-child relationship, but that's very different dynamic.) But if you can find two people committed to making it work, committed to honesty and forgiveness and to doing the work of being in a relationship together then I don't think you'd need unconditional love. Instead you'd have two people who've said, "OK this is going to get messed up at times, but we're in this together."

As for eternal love, I hold out hope for that. I have seen people love for a lifetime and even beyond it. My best friend growing up lost her Dad when she was 6. It's been 20 years and her Mom still loves him, very much. There is love that lasts beyond death, love that is still there even after a person falls in love again.

I think we get ourselves into trouble if we buy into the idea of an breakable love. Sometimes things happen that mean two people cannot be together, even if they do still love each other. Love is not effortless, but it's worth it.

6/19/08, 4:04 PM  
Blogger Claire Colvin said...

argh. That should have been "buy into the idea of an UNbreakable love..."

6/19/08, 11:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Three words for you: The Princess Bride.

"True love is the best thing in the world, except for cough drops. Everybody knows that."

6/20/08, 10:42 AM  

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