Married, With Glitches

Will human-robot interactions be undone by technical difficulties?

Marriage humans and robots
Findings from the first major study on human-robot marital discord since the passage of the Automaton Marriage Act of 2050. Bruce McCall

“My forecast is that around 2050, the state of Massachusetts will be the first jurisdiction to legalize marriages with robots.”
—Artificial intelligence researcher David Levy
Maastricht University

From The American Journal of Annulment and Divorce
June 2053

In the first major study undertaken since the passage of the Automaton Marriage Act of 2050, questionnaires distributed to 125 recently divorced couples have yielded the following findings:

Humans tire of their robot mates almost three times faster than robots tire of humans.

1. The key reasons cited by humans for dissatisfaction with robots are:
   • “That infernal humming.”
   • Stench of overheated or burning electrical wires, especially during lovemaking.
   • Robots can’t go in the water, limiting family vacation options.
   • Simple maintenance regimen among robots (software upgrades, frequent oil changes) spawns corrosive resentment in flesh-and-blood partners.
   • Robots refuse to perform household chores, citing “degrading leftover stereotypes dating back to crude 2010-era robot clichés.”

2. Robots disenchanted with human spouses list three primary causes:
   • Human minds comparatively slow and sluggish, with limited memory and frequent lapses; need to use pen/pencil even for simple E=mc2 calculations.
   • The human need to eat and sleep creates “hopeless” scheduling incompatibilities.
   • Snoring.

Our surveys reveal that extramarital infidelity is the “tipping point” for the deterioration of human-robot relationships.

1. As noted elsewhere in roboliterature (see “Russian Robot Wives Date Cyclotrons,” National Enquirer, March 2047), a notorious flaw of robots’ artificial intelligence technology is an underdeveloped moral sense. Over 75 percent of human-robot marital spats involve rampant robot promiscuity.

2. Survey Q #36: “Is ‘monogamy’ absent from the robot word-recognition program?”: Yes: 98.6 percent. Ought to Be: 1.32 percent. Don’t Know: .08 percent.

Post-divorce life for humans is generally more fraught than for their robot ex-partners, according to statistics compiled by Massachusetts’ Suddenly-Single Outreach Program:

1. Almost 95 percent of divorced robots patronized a downtown club, appliance store or singles bar within two hours of the final decree. (Figure for divorced humans: 4 percent.)

2. Survey Q #59: “Plan to keep in touch with human former in-laws?”: No responses.

Can the robot-human divorce epidemic be curbed? It’s too soon to tell. But helpful clues have surfaced:

1. A panel of ex-NASA pastors concludes that a joint prenuptial reading of any up-to-date robot technical manual can nip many ill-advised person-machine romances in the bud.

2. Given the sobering fact that at least half of all human-robot marriages occur within 48 hours and 15 square miles of major electronics expos, it would appear that the glamorous swirl typical of such venues raises unreal expectations for both human and robot. Better for initial “hookups” to take place in more emotionally neutral settings; e.g., a lab or biomechanics conferences not held in Las Vegas.

Bruce McCall is a writer and artist in New York City.