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Dating a droid? A quarter of people haven't ruled out the idea of a robotic relationship


About a quarter of people haven’t ruled out the idea of dating a robot, according to a new survey, and the Dutch are the most accepting of the idea of artificial amour. 

Researchers from the University of Twente used data from the EU-backed SIENNA project that studies ethics and opinions surrounding cutting edge technology.

They surveyed 11,000 people and found 27 per cent either supported the idea of dating a robot or hadn’t completely ruled it out, and 72 per cent were completely opposed to the idea of a digital dalliance.

In the Netherlands support for someone having a robotic boyfriend or girlfriend went up to 53 per cent, the highest of the 11 countries involved in the survey. 

The multinational telephone survey by the Dutch research team also found that people were uncomfortable with robots that look and behave like humans.  

About a quarter of people haven't ruled out the idea of dating a robot, according to a new survey, and the Dutch are the most accepting of the idea of artificial amour

About a quarter of people haven’t ruled out the idea of dating a robot, according to a new survey, and the Dutch are the most accepting of the idea of artificial amour

We are getting used to interacting with intelligent machines, from robot vacuum cleaners, smart speakers that can control our lights and AI assistants in our phones. 

Millions of people ask Siri, Alexa or Google to help with homework, for the weather forecast or to book a table for dinner every day.

The developments and shift towards a world dominated by robotics and artificial intelligence devices are already visible, explained the Dutch team.

Having a robot clean up the carpet in the living room is very different to taking one on a date or to the bedroom.

Across all 11 countries just 12 per cent outright support the idea of dating a droid, 15 per cent are on the fence and 72 per cent are completely opposed to it. 

People were asked how much they agreed or disagreed that ‘It’s acceptable if people have a robot as a romantic partner, that is a girlfriend or boyfriend’.

There was wide variation by country in terms of levels of acceptance to the idea of robots as romantic partners, the authors explained. 

The Netherlands was the most accepting, with 30 per cent agreeing that this was acceptable, 23 per cent undecided and 45 per cent outright opposed. 

Sweden, South Korea, the US, South Africa and Germany all had more than 10 per cent of those surveyed agreeing to the idea of a robotic romance. 

Greece, Poland, France, Spain and Brazil are the countries least supportive of robotic relationships – all with under 10 per cent of agreeing to them being a good idea. 

Greece and Poland were least supportive of people dating a robot at five per cent, with France and Spain on six per cent and Brazil on eight per cent.   

Researchers from the University of Twente used data from the EU-backed SIENNA project that studies ethics and opinions surrounding cutting edge technology

Researchers from the University of Twente used data from the EU-backed SIENNA project that studies ethics and opinions surrounding cutting edge technology

In all countries surveyed, people expect rapid developments in intelligent machine’s capabilities to understand and communicate as well as humans.

The survey found that 80 per cent of people polled thought that the AI and robotics revolution would significantly change their country over the next 20 years. 

Under half were positive about the impact that these machines might have on their country, while a third were negative about the possible impacts. 

The Dutch and South Koreans were the most positive, whereas the French were the least positive, the survey revealed. 

The wider study also examined the implications of artificial life, intelligent machines and human-like robots on society. 

More than half  thought that these technologies would lead them to have less control over their lives, with only 13 per cent expecting to have more control.

In the Netherlands support for someone having a robotic boyfriend or girlfriend went up to 53 per cent, the highest of the 11 countries involved in the survey

In the Netherlands support for someone having a robotic boyfriend or girlfriend went up to 53 per cent, the highest of the 11 countries involved in the survey

Aside from love life, there was also concern about human-like robots in the workplace, with just over half saying they don’t want to work with a bot. 

‘Most people are accepting of robots and artificial intelligence, but they do not like the idea of robots with human-like features,’ said Philip Brey, project coordinator.

‘We know the benefits of interacting with machines can be enormous. However, as we increase our dependence on technology, we also stand to lose some of our autonomy. 

‘Unless everyone has access to technology on the same terms, we risk building an unequal society’, the professor of philosophy of technology explained.

According to Brey, the survey results clearly show that people believe that an increase in inequalities is one of the risks stemming from these transformations to society, something that could lead to a reduction of our individual autonomy. 

‘The data from these surveys give a snapshot of what people know about technology, and how they view both its benefits and risks’, he said.   

The survey results are available from SIENNA. 

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