Robotics trade fairs show us all kinds of inventions, and predictably, even sex robots. In this article I will propose to you a thought experiment based not only on facts, but also a bit of fantasy. What will happen if these robots, or the services they offer, manage to significantly (to use the marketing term) penetrate the market? Well, there are innumerable possible outcomes. We have already seen, for instance, the first case of a vandalized sex robot – not while engaged in its intended ‘use’, mind you, but as a result of a very vigorous ‘viewing’ during a trade fair (read more). A good start for our discussion!
1. There is already a reasoned opinion on the benefits of this type of machine – a pathology that sex robots can alleviate. Namely, to help people unable to have sex with a (human) partner as a transition period during which they can overcome various issues and eventually lead to action with a living person. So far so good.
2. However, here comes the ‘interesting’ part. Sex robots, allegedly, will give many the chance to experience various fantasies that are strange or frightening to their partners. This will reduce sexual violence over people, they say, because those things will happen to robots. It can lead to a certain alienation, but people will be more satisfied and accomplished through bolder experiments …
It is possible that much of the so-called ‘fantasy experience’ provided by these robots will actually be marketing initiatives intended to increase sales rather than authentic sexual needs. ‘What will you try today?’; ‘Pay for 5 sessions and use within a month!’; ‘If you dare to wish it, we will give it to you!’. Roleplaying a snuff film may well become the new ‘stock clearance’.
Sexual violence is unlikely to decrease as a result of these developments. There may be occasions where it is avoided, but inevitably the chance of unlimited robot abuse will provoke no less violence than saved. To think that the desire for violence will be satisfied by simply replacing the living creature with a robot is to assume that there is some clearly defined upper limit of evil in man. It will be reached and bumping into the ceiling, guarded by a robot, the evil will remain under it. It wouldn’t be bad, I guess. However, there is no upper or lower limit, reaching an extreme will only displace the spectrum of possible forms of violence even further ut. From simple non-violent porn to robots, to robots destroying each other … to the point where robots abuse people*. Do not forget the obligatory pedophilia, but not just with a kid robot, even an adult robot. If you can imagine it, you can get it somewhere!
In addition, sex robots are unlikely to be cheap. There will still be too many people (mostly women) whose lives and freedom will cost much less than a functional robot. It will be like genetically modified corn, which can take up large land areas, but it rarely enters the territories of world hunger. Otherwise, in an institute they claimed and probably believed that it was precisely with this purpose. The market logic is different.
3. And now from the hunger of the body to that of the soul with the part ‘known alienation’, which everyone understands but does not think specifically about. Above all, the degree to which this will increase alienation among users of such robots – particularly from women – can only be guessed at. Modern society has already led to increased difficulties in connecting to the people around us – it is easy to see how the replacement of real with manufactured intimacy may compound these difficulties. Through the rise of social media, more and more acts of communication and social interaction are becoming mediated by technology. The next step, already seen in cinema and literature, this mediating technology will become itself an addressee of communication and intimacy. But until we reach the stage at which this technology claims consciousness, feelings, and the ability to meaningfully reciprocate, we must assume that all such communication has only research value, as a form of life simulation.
Whether we want it or not, sex robots are coming. Without desires and needs, without fantasies, without ethics, without blood and flesh, but with genitals, limbs and faces. Although modern life has largely ended natural selection as an evolutionary process, there is, and will always be, evolutionary pressure. Communication – one of the most important engines of evolution – consists already of a new player – the machine. The roles played by the machine in our evolutionary timeline are still as of yet to be determined. How they will engage in evolutionary pressure is the subject of a self-conscious experiment, and how sex robots will influence our instincts, sexuality, and reproduction, will be fascinating to behold.
Text: Kalina Petkova, Ph.D.
*Here many people would refer to Asimov’s laws for not harming people, but let’s not forget that they are a matter of programming and are therefore always subject to re-programming.
The article was originally published under the title Sex Robots in Humanolic.com and has been translated from Bulgarian language.