Opinion | Modern love in the age of robots

Nikki Nguyen, senior business administration major

My dad got me a used, light blue Chevy Spark this summer that I named “Skye.” I love her; I’m obsessed. Skye has friends named Ruca – “Rux” for short – and Luke, who both happen to be my housemates’ cars.

My friends often say, “Yes, Skye bumps!” when we blast music in the car. When my friends and I were walking back to my car one night, Skye was the only car left on the street and one of my friends said, “Awww, Skye’s so lonely,” and I said, “It’s ok, she’s independent!” We laughed and sang Webbie’s “I-n-d-e-p-e-n-d-e-n-t, do you know what that means?” That seems like a normal enough conversation that many of us have experienced, right?

But, we personify my car. She’s not a car. She’s a “she.” She’s Skye. Where do we draw the line with relationships between humans and technology?

I’m not going to deny that I have an attachment to my car. It’s the same attachment that I have to my phone, along with many others from my generation.

But I still consider them objects for practical use, not companionship. What’s terrifying to me is that a study by the France-based Havas Group, a global communications organization, found that 27 percent of millennials are open to the idea of dating a robot.

With modern dating, it can be difficult to get consistent affection from your partner. Many of us are constantly pining for a text back, and ghosting is practically a norm. How sad is it that some of our generation has resorted to the idea of loving a robot for its programmable reliability?

Perhaps part of the reason some millennials are open to this idea is due to how much screen time is devoted to human-robot interaction (HRI) receives. With shows like “Westworld,” “Black Mirror,” “Humans” and “Altered Carbon” gaining traction, viewers are constantly exposed to HRI, and it becomes less of a bizarre idea.

Even in comedy shows like NBC’s “The Good Place,” we’re exposed to Janet, an artificial intelligence robot, who falls in love with Jason, a human character. When watching the show, my friends and I even find ourselves absentmindedly rooting for their relationship.

Whether or not HRI’s role in our society grows to include love and marriage remains to be seen, but Brown University psychologist Bertram F. Malle said that there is a possibility that robots will meet some needs too well, which could actually be a negative thing.

“People will miss the effort and rewards that come with imperfect, demanding human-human interactions,” Malle said. “The unpredictability in human interactions are part of what keeps us interested and motivated.”

Yes, human relationships are messy, but what we don’t realize is that we crave that mess.

Take a break from screens and work at your real-life relationships. Humans have a desire to push limits, and technological advances are riveting, but what are they worth when all we crave is the warm hug of another human being?