Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Sexbots. Yes, they will be a real thing.

Of course they remind me of Pris from Blade Runner.

Humanoid robots...yes, I'm more than aware that Pris wasn't a true "robot" but just hold on...that are "pleasure models." They are female in appearance and have lifelike human skin. More critically, their cranium houses an advanced artificial intelligence. It can recognize and understand speech and then respond to it. It can detect emotion. And if you can afford the high six figure price tag, you will have a girlfriend for life.

I've written about this before but I've been coming across more and more articles on the subject. Many of them mention the growing, organized opposition to the notion.

To be clear on the point, we aren't all that close to the type of sexbot I just described. The nearest approximation is the Real Doll. While it is possessed of realistic skin made from latex, it does not have robotic limbs to position itself. It can't even stand on its own and it certainly can't communicate either.

At least that's what I gather from all the articles. Honest.

A sexbot, in concept anyway, will be a far more sophisticated device, particularly if AI is incorporated. There may be a few questions on your mind.

For one, why are these robots automatically going to be female in appearance and physiology? Well, I have read that there are male versions in the works, but the driving market appears to be men just as it is with Real Doll. A survey study on sexbots (yes, there really was such a thing) found that two-thirds of the men recruited for the survey reported they would give sexbots a try. Conversely, two-thirds of the women recruited for the same survey reported they were not interested. From the article: "Such research has huge implications beyond whether humanity ends up using robots for sexual satisfaction—it can also reveal gender differences in how people view modern human relationships."

You might also ask "are sexbots really going to be a thing?" To that I would have to answer "yes." Sex tends to drive technology. The VCR, CD-ROM, and much of the Internet in general was fast-tracked in order to profit from offering adult services. It would be illogical to presume that robotics and artificial intelligence would not be adapted to serve the same market. There are even predictions that human-on-robot sex will be more common than the good ol' regular kind by 2050. Additionally, the potential for these devices is significant enough that people are organizing against them.

Kathleen Richardson is a robot ethics researcher at DeMontfort University. She has co-founded the Campaign Against Sex Robots. Richardson contends that the existence of sexbots will result in greater inequalities in society and will ultimately harm human relationships. She says:

"I'm looking at what we need as human beings. How much we need other human beings. How we learn about being human from other human beings," she said. When the human element disappears, she said, and we are essentially telling people that they can have their needs gratified through a machine. "First of all, that's not possible," she said. "That, in itself, will change humanity."

I'd be willing to see if I could go without human contact. Don't know how it would shake out but I still think it's worth a bash. While that aspect does not concern me as much, I am apprehensive about a few other points encompassed in this issue. If there are human relationships left in a post-sexbot world, and I reckon there would have to be a few, there could be negative spillover into "real" relationships. The sexbot would be property. Someone could engage in skulduggery, abuse, or otherwise be downright disgusting to that property. It's hard to see how someone with that mentality, who might get into a practiced routine with it, would stop with artificial things. I thought I might have been paranoid with this line of thinking, but then I read the comments sections on a few articles. Big mistake I know, but it did underscore a few points I was worried about. I read comments from men claiming that the sexbots would "give them a choice" and thereby end a woman's "control" over them.


There are other thorny ethical issues to tangle with as well. Many of them depend on just how advanced the AI is. If "she" can think, she can feel, does that give her rights? Is it ethical for her to be property even if she is not "human" in the biological sense? Will need to find an answer. Sooner rather than later.

Will you need the Voight-Kampf Test for your next relationship?

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