You’ve got metal fever, boy! Metal fever!


by Jeff Fecke | March 4, 2009 • So we all know that same-sex marriage will lead inexorably to polygamy, and then box turtle marriage, and then the world ends. But every so often, we learn the world could be ending in new and exciting ways:

Jeff Fecke is a freelance writer who lives in Eagan, Minnesota.In addition to his own blog, Blog of the Moderate Left, he also contributes to Alas, a Blog, Minnesota Campaign Report, and AlterNet. Fecke has appeared as a guest on the “Today” show, the Alan Colmes radio show, and the Mark Heaney Show. Fecke is divorced, and the father of one really terrific daughter. His debut novel, The Valkyrie’s Tale, is now available.

Two well-known conservative Christian commentators who spoke at the rally described a breakdown of society should gay couples be allowed to marry — including a rise in single-parent households and in the number of dependents wanting Social Security and health insurance benefits.

David Gibbs III, a lawyer who in 2005 fought to keep brain-damaged Terri Schiavo on life support, told rally participants gay marriage would “open the door to unusual marriage in North Carolina.

“Why not polygamy, or three or four spouses?” Gibbs asked. “Maybe people will want to marry their pets or robots.”

Not…not the robots! You let robots and humans get married, and the next thing you know, robot/human hybrids are playing the piano with their dead fathers! It’s a madhouse, I tell you, a madhouse!

Like most people, I am opposed to people marrying their Roombas. This is, of course, because Roombas are not sentient. They lack any sort of human intelligence. Like border collies and box turtles, they aren’t capable of a human level of rational thought, and therefore they should be excluded from the ability to enter into human contracts.

But let’s posit the existence of the robot most people think of when they think of robots, the self-aware, artificially intelligent android. If an android is as self-aware as a human, then why wouldn’t we allow two self-aware, intelligent beings to join their lives together? Why should I care? If that android over there is as capable of abstract thought as I am, then why shouldn’t she be granted the same rights that I am?

Indeed, failing to grant sentient, sapient creatures full and equal rights would be a serious moral failing, one as wrong as slavery. The fact that we created them would be irrelevant; once created, a sapient being is its own self. Treating them any other way creates a system that is ultimately and fundamentally immoral. (And of course, this doesn’t merely apply to androids — any sentient, sapient computer program must be allowed its liberty.)

Once we accept intelligent robots as full and equal beings, there’s simply no logical argument against allowing them to marry — nor any logical argument against allowing a human to marry them.

Ultimately, I have never understood why I should care who someone wants to get married to. As long as everyone involved is mentally competent and an adult, and free to make their own decisions, I don’t understand why it’s any of your or my business who they choose to partner with. Polygamy, as it currently exists, runs afoul of a couple of those points — but it’s posible to imagine a polyandrous marriage between multiple people that was chosen willingly by all parties, and I fail to see why I should interfere in their right to live that way. I certainly don’t understand why I should worry about two adults choosing to marry each other, just because those two adults happen to be of the same gender. This world has little enough love in it; what love there is should be supported and celebrated, no matter who the parties to it are, be they straight or gay, male or female, human or robot.

(Incidentally, some of these themes are explored in Mandolin’s “Eros, Philia, Agape,” which is available for free over on Tor’s website.)