Let’s Do It!

“Birds do it.  Bees do it….Probably we’ll live to see machines do it.”  Cole Porter wrote his classic toe-tapper “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love)” in 1928, decades before the first computer and the birth of what we now call AI (Artificial Intelligence, not the basketball star Allen Iverson).  Yet he somehow foresaw a time when machines would not only think like human beings; they would also fall in love and—presumably—have sex like humans as well.  That makes me wonder if Porter, another proud Yale Man like yours truly, was a visionary like the British mathematician and computer science founder Alan Turing—or just a pervert ahead of his time.  Or maybe he was just after a clever song lyric—of which he was an absolute master.

Anyway, suppose that we do someday create machines that can fall in love with each other and quite “naturally” desire some type of “physical intimacy.”  What would that look like?  Would computers overload their servers with streams of erotic (to them, at least) code?  Would there be such a thing as computer porn?  Would humans pay to see it?  (Of course we would.)  Would global networks crash as the supercomputers that control every aspect of our modern, continually-connected lives spend all of their time generating real cyber-porn instead of working?  Would computers want to marry and reproduce?  Would computers be a single gender or some new binary conception of heterosexuality?  Or would they cast off the concept of gender entirely?  Would some computers be homosexual?  Would same-sex relationships between computers be allowed?

Cole Porter and his wonderful little tune really open up a can of worms for us.  How are we going to deal with the coming onslaught of super-intelligent, love-struck, and horny machines who want equal rights—and can freeze our bank accounts and shut down the Internet?

Literature and popular culture are awash with works that examine the uneasy relationship between people and machines that see themselves as something more than their human creators had intended.  Two favorite examples come immediately to mind.  In his classic 1968 novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick explores the meaning of humanity and the moral consequences of ridding society of synthetic beings (androids) who appear human in every meaningful respect.  At the other extreme, The Terminator franchise imagines a world in which sentient machines decide to exterminate humanity.  Between these two poles of annihilation fraught with moral ambiguity, Cole Porter’s quaint notion of machines falling in love sounds, well, de-lovely.

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Wow! Pushing the envelope with this one! I have always loved this song and you pulled out a line that I overlooked and gave the entire song new meaning.


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