Listen to Your Feelings – they might have something important to tell you

One of my favorite movies is the 2002 science fiction film Equilibrium. Written and directed by Kurt Wimme, the film is set in a future society called Libria. In Libria it is against the law to feel.

The main character of the film named John Preston (played by Christian Bale) is a law enforcement officer. He is tasked with destroying objects that could incite emotion, including art, poetry and classical music. He is also required to kill rebels, known as “Sense Offenders”, who choose to experience illegal emotions.

The citizens of Libria have been brainwashed into believing that feelings are the cause of war, suffering and conflict. Accordingly, most of the citizens in Libria willingly participate in their own enslavement by taking a daily injection of a drug, known as Prozium II, which suppresses all emotion.

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Marriage Between Humans and Robots (full series)

marriage to robotsThe technology of social robotics is advancing so fast that there could soon be robots that are virtually indistinguishable from human beings, both in how they look and also in how they act. In the picture on the right it is obvious that the object on the left is a robot, but with the pace of technology being what it is, we may soon have robots that look (and even act) like the human on the right. When this day arrives, inevitably people will want to know if they will be allowed to marry their robots. Believe it or not, lawyers and academics are already discussing the ethics and legality of human-robot marriages.

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Marriage Between Humans and Robots (Part 4): customized intimacy and social narcisism

Dr. David Levy told LiveScience that around 2050, Massachusetts will probably be the first jurisdiction to legalize marriages with robots.

Would you exchange your boyfriend for a robot if he was better able to meet your needs?

One final piece of the puzzle must be put in place to understand our imminent psychological readiness to begin marrying our machines. In this post I will suggest that our online interactions are already priming us for the type of disembodied and narcissistic relationships necessary for marriage to robots to seem normal. I will argue that as our digital networks continue to weaken our emotional intelligence, sociable robots may soon answer the need of our narcissistic moment.
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Marriage Between Humans and Robots (Part 3)

robot lovePart 1 of this ongoing series on human-robot marriage explored how popular opinion is gradually shifting from considering anthropological robots to be potentially hazardous to considering them as help-meets towards greater human flourishing. Far from being a matter only of science fiction, many serious thinkers see human-robot relationships as the next stage in our evolutionary development.

Part 2 continued this discussion by looking at some of the legal issues that scholars around the world are exploring as they are seeking to discover whether the legal infrastructure is already in place to legitimize the principle of marriage to mechanical humanoids.

This post continues that discussion by showing that our society already entertains a number of assumptions about ourselves and our world that could enable machine-human marriages to achieve widespread acceptance in the near future.

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Marriage Between Humans and Robots (part 2)

Dr. David Levy told LiveScience that around 2050, Massachusetts will probably be the first jurisdiction to legalize marriages with robots.

Dr. David Levy told LiveScience that around 2050, Massachusetts will probably be the first jurisdiction to legalize marriages with robots.

Romancing Robots: Legal Ramifications

Three years ago when I first came across the idea of humans marrying robots, I thought it was little more than the latest gimmick of the sex industry. But I knew I had to take the issue seriously when I began to see law publications discussing the legal ramifications of machine-people marriages.
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Marriage Between Humans and Robots (part 1)

My Lawfully Wedded Robot

The Matrix

The Matrix imagined a world dominated by machines.

In the 20th century there was a great deal of angst about computers becoming our enemies and taking over the world. This was reflected in movies like Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 A Space Odyssey. Kubrick’s film tells the story of a space mission that goes terribly wrong after Hal, the computer controlling U.S. spacecraft Discovery One, turns sinister and kills Dr. Frank Poole. Some of these themes were echoed in the 1999 hit The Matrix, set in a future age after computerized machines have subdued most of the human race through a simulated reality. In 2004, Will Smith stared in the movie I, Robot about a time in the future when robots, designed to be human helpers, turn on their masters and try to take over the earth.

The film Her raises intriguing questions about whether it might be possible, and desirable, to overcome the tension between physical and virtual reality.

The film Her raises intriguing questions about whether it might be possible, and desirable, to overcome the tension between physical and virtual reality.

Apprehension about machines becoming our enemies is still a very potent feature of our society. But gradually another theme is beginning to emerge in the public discourse. Instead of a dystopian future where our machines are our enemies, many people are starting to experiment with the possibility that we may be heading towards a utopian future where machines are our lovers.

The intriguing possibility of having a love relationship with a robot was explored last year by Spike Jonze’s movie Her. Though the movie deals with the tension and ultimate incompatibility between physical reality and virtual reality, the film raises intriguing questions about whether it might be possible, and desirable, to overcome this tension.
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The Institutionalism of Marriage

The disintegration of the institution of marriage in our society is obvious. However, those things which are often seen to be the sources of this – the rise in promiscuity, divorce, the push for gay ‘marriage’, etc. – are only the symptoms.

The roots of the breakdown of marriage as a social institution actually occurred in the mid 20th century when it began to be assumed that marriage is sustained by an individual relationship that two people participate in, rather than it being understood that the institution of marriage is what sustains and gives integrity to the relationship.

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Maintaining Conjugal Love (Part 1)

This article was originally published in my column at the Colson Center. It is republished here with permission. For a complete directory of all my Colson Center articles, click here.

The following passage is taken from Richard Baxter’s “sub-directions for maintaining conjugal love”:

  1. Choose one at first that is truly amiable, especially in the virtues of the mind.
  2. Marry not till you are sure that you can love entirely. Be not drawn for sordid ends, to join with one that you have but ordinary affections for.
  3. Be not too hasty, but know beforehand, all the imperfections, which may tempt you after wards to loathing. But if these duties have been sinfully neglected, yet
  4. Remember that justice commandeth you to love one that hath, as it were, forsaken all the world for you, and is contented to be the companion of your labours and sufferings, and be an equal sharer in all conditions with you, and that must be your companion until death. It is worse than barbarous inhumanity to entice such a one into a bond of love, and society with you, and then to say, you cannot love her. This was by perfidiousness to draw her into a snare to her undoing. What comfort can she have in her converse with you, and care, and labour, and necessary sufferings, if you deny her conjugal love ? Especially, if she deny not love to you, the inhumanity is the greater.
  5. Remember that women are ordinarily affectionate, passionate creatures, and as they love much themselves, so they expect much love from you. And when you joined yourself to such a nature, you obliged yourself to answerable duty: and if love cause not love, it is ungrateful and unjust contempt.
  6. Remember that you are under God’s command ; and to deny conjugal love to your wives, is to deny a duty which God hath urgently imposed on you. Obedience therefore should command your love.
  7. Remember that you are relatively, as it were, one flesh; you have drawn her to forsake father and mother, to cleave to you; you are conjoined for procreation of such children as must bear the image and nature of you both; your possessions and interests are in a manner the same. And therefore such nearness should command affection; they that are as yourselves, should be most easily loved as yourselves.
  8. Take more notice of the good, that is in your wives, than of the evil. Let not the observation of their faults make you forget or overlook their virtues. Love is kindled by the sight of love or goodness.
  9. Make not infirmities to seem odious faults, but excuse them as far as lawfully you may, by considering the frailty of the sex, and of their tempers, and considering also your own infirmities, and how much your wives must bear with you.
  10. Stir up that most in them into exercise which is best, and stir not up that which is evil; and then the good will most appear, and the evil will be as buried, and you will more easily maintain your love. There is some uncleanness in the best on earth ; and if you will be daily stirring in the filth, no wonder if you have the annoyance ; and for that you may thank yourselves : draw out the fragrancy of that which is good and delectable in them, and do not by your own imprudence or peevishness stir up the worst, and then you shall find that even your faulty wives will appear more amiable to you.
  11. Overcome them with love; and then whatever they are in themselves, they will be loving to you, and consequently lovely. Love will cause love, as fire kindleth fire. A good husband is the best means to make a good and loving wife. Make them not froward by your froward carriage, and then say, we cannot love them.
  12. Give them examples of amiableness in yourselves; set them the pattern of a prudent, lowly, loving, meek, self-denying, patient, harmless, holy, heavenly life. Try this a while, and see whether it will not shame them from their faults, and make them walk more amiably themselves.

Weekly Reflections on Baxter’s Passage

Monday: Read 1 Peter 3:7

Peter says that husbands are to dwell with their wives in understanding. How do Baxter’s words above help us to understand what this looks like in practice?

Tuesday: Read Proverbs 10:12 & 17:9 & 19:11

These proverbs all tells us to seek love by covering over offences and overlooking transgressions. What does Baxter say which relates to this injunction? How many of the marriage problems do you suppose would not even exist if husbands and wives could learn to cover over offences and “excuse them as far as lawfully you may”?

Wednesday: Read Romans 12:21

Although it is important to overlook the faults of one’s spouse, there are some faults that need to be dealt with and corrected. What advice does Baxter give in #12  about this, and how does it relate to this passage?

Thursday: Read Proverbs 5:19

Here the Lord commands husbands to be attracted to their wives, even as Baxter does in #6 above. This may strike as odd those who are accustomed to thinking of attraction as being fixed, as something that one either possesses or does not possesses towards another person. However, Baxter’s sub-directions for maintaining conjugal love (particularly #8 and #10) show that this assumption is false. Following the teaching of scripture, Baxter shows that there are specific things that husbands can both do and refrain from doing which will increase marital affection. If his advice is followed, can it help to increase the type of sexual attraction commanded in this verse?

Friday: Read 1 Corinthians 13

Often those who are part of a difficult marriage believe that things can only improve if the other person first changes. Do Paul’s words in this chapter undermine such a notion?

Saturday: Read Galatians 5:16-26

If you are married, these words of Paul are your marching orders. Every day, whilst interacting with your spouse, you will have numerous opportunities to put into practice the fruit of the spirit and to resist the works of the flesh. If you are single, there is no better preparation for marriage than learning to walk in the fruit of the spirit when interacting with those you come in contact with, particularly difficult people.

Sunday: Read Ephesians 5:22-33

Throughout this passage Paul continually returns to the relationship between Christ and the church as the paradigm for the relationship between husband and wife. What obligations does this paradigm create for husbands, according to Paul? What obligations does this paradigm create for wives, according to Paul? How does this relate to Baxter’s seventh point?

Lesson for This Week

During his time as a pastor in the town of Kidderminster, the English Puritan Richard Baxter (1615-1691) ministered to hundreds of townspeople, taking an interest in the particularities of their lives and offering practical help for the problems they were facing. His advice to husbands and wives no doubt grew out of these counselling sessions. But it also grew out of his own experience of marriage to Margaret, a high strung woman 26-years his junior. In his article ‘Richard & Margaret: difficult man + difficult woman = model marriage’, J. William Black shared how both Richard and Margaret had their share of problems, yet their marriage blossomed through their love for each other. Yet as both Baxter and the Bible remind us, the love between a husband and wife doesn’t just ‘happen.’ It has to be diligently pursued, protected and maintained.