Close encounters with robots

Would you have sex with a robot? Would you love one? Would you marry one? These may seem stupid or shallow sci-fi questions. They are not.

Sex cut across a broad range of activities and attitudes, from pure technological development (connected sex toys, virtual reality apps or AI chat-bots) to complex psychological and societal issues. Understanding our present and future attitudes and relationships toward an incoming generation of “synths”, may provide more clues about the progress of our affair with technological than many other much more talked about topics.

A relatively naive question like “do you think that being intimate with a robot would be cheating?” gives us an idea of the kind of thing we are talking about. (Before you answer the question, think twice. I recommend you to forget about the topical image of a robot—like the one portrayed above—and use the more realistic one of a modern sex doll—not portrayed here for obvious etiquette reasons.) Of course, there are plenty of tougher issues, ranging from the usual privacy and security concerns, to other even more complex social ones, like increasing objectification of women or the “dubious and repulsive” possibility of treating paedophiles with robot sex-children.

Very interestingly, some of the companies operating in this space see themselves—tactics? strategy?—as part of the healthcare business and evolution.

We see the sex robot market evolving into one where our robots will be the assistants of their owners and also provide healthcare services (Douglas Hines, CEO True Companion)

The Foundation for Responsible Robotics has issued a consultation report(1) on people’s sexual future with robots, which aims to provide both the public and policy makers with an objective summary of the issues that may arise with this new technology. The report published this week delves into seven questions:

  1. Would people have sex with a robot?
  2. What kind of relationship can we have with a robot?
  3. Will robot sex workers and bordellos be acceptable?
  4. Will sex robots change societal perceptions of gender?
  5. Could sexual intimacy with robots lead to greater social isolation
  6. Could robots help with sexual healing and therapy?
  7. Would sex robots help to reduce sex crimes?

The report is worth reading, but in case you are in a hurry, I think there is little doubt many people would have sex with a robot. However, nobody can answer yet whether the use of sex robots would be of help with problems as complex as sex crimes.

Be that as it may, just be ready to travel and spend holidays in the uncanny valley.


(1) Foundation for Responsible Robotics, “Our Sexual Future With Robots”, June 2017

Featured Image: ibid.

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