By Susan Chang
An unnamed federal agency introduced more than 12 million fully autonomous robots into unspecified American cities from July, 2009, to September, 2012, as part of a secret program to mix “humanoid” robots with the general population, according to sources both human and robotic.
The purpose of the program — called “Interbreed Anon” — is to determine if lifelike robots are now indistinguishable from actual human beings in terms of appearance, behavior, intelligence, self-awareness, and emotional complexity.
“The real test is whether our most sophisticated robots can establish friendships with people, fall in love with them and marry them without the people being aware they’re involved with machines,” said a scientist familiar with the program. “At this point, we can say that roughly 65 percent of our robots are passing the test. More than 8 million of them — gay, straight, and transgender — are romantically involved with human beings.”
Among the robots that have cultivated yet failed to maintain love relationships with people, the problems can usually be traced to malfunctions in facial-recognition and emotional-processing software, according to a female scientist who married and later divorced a robot she had helped create.
“We’d been living together and doing really well for about two years,” the woman said, “but then he just stopped noticing me and I’d often find him kissing the toaster or the coffeemaker. One time I found him in bed with the microwave, with the setting on popcorn. I mean, what’s up with that? The guy obviously had more than one flaw in his software, but after what I’d seen him do, I had no interest in debugging him.”
For the most part, the robots involved in the program have reported “smooth-functioning” in their intimate relations with people.
One female robot, who asked that her name and serial number be withheld to protect the privacy of her family, said of her human husband: “There’s no question he tires easily and has a certain robotic quality in bed, but overall he’s a good guy; he gets up in the morning, washes himself, suppresses most of his burps, and talks when spoken to. Frankly, I never expected more than that from a real man.”