The mathematician Alan Turing argued that a machine could perform the substantial equivalent of thinking if it could convince someone that it was human by responding to various questions through teletype, whereas author Phillip Dick suggested that emotions are the necessary ingredient in order to make robots “conscious.” But what will really transform cold silicon into living flesh isn’t so much the ability to execute syntax or mirror primitive emotions, but to engage in intimate sexual relationships. That is, at least, what the coming world of sex robots promises.
It may sound like science fiction, but sex robots are at the forefront of innovation. So much so that a new campaign has been launched in the UK to issue a ban on sex robots on the grounds that they are “weird” and “creepy.”
Dr. Kathleen Richardson, a robot anthropologist (yes, a real profession) and ethicist (a better profession) at De Montfort University in Leicester, UK, is heading the campaign. She wants to raise cultural awareness about sex robots and discourage companies from developing the technology.(1)
“We think that the creation of such robots will contribute to detrimental relationships between men and women, adults and children, men and men and women and women,” Richardson told the BBC.(1)
Multiple companies jump on board the sex robot bandwagon
Abyss Creations, a company that sells male and female sex toys, plans to implement the technology into its products. Other companies, such as RealDoll, plan to sell an artificially intelligent sex doll by 2017. And True Companion claims that it is currently developing the world’s first sex robot appropriately named “Roxxxy,” which (who?) is expected to be launched later this year.
Roxxxy “knows your likes and dislikes, carries on a discussion and expresses her love to you and [can] be your loving friend. She can talk to you, listen to you and feel your touch. She can even have an orgasm,” True Companion states on its website.
Male sex robots are in the process of development as well. Roxxxy costs roughly $6,995.00 but can extend as high as $75,000 for custom-made designs.(2)
Chief Executive Douglas Hines argues that Roxxxy can help fill a void in people lives who lack an intimate relationship, in the same way a pet can fulfill the need for a friendly companion.
“We are not supplanting the wife or trying to replace a girlfriend. This is a solution for people who are between relationships or someone who has lost a spouse,” noted Hines. “People can find happiness and fulfilment other than via human interaction,” he added.(1)
Morally ambiguous or just plain weird?
Nevertheless, substituting real human relationships with artificial ones won’t be an easy sell to a culture that values its integrity. One cannot shake off the feeling that there is something morally bankrupt, if not shameful, about having to rely on robots to have an intimate relationship.
Furthermore, the reality of sex robots is sure to trigger all sorts of unforeseen ethical dilemmas. For example, what if someone wants to marry their sex robot? The same arguments in favor of gay marriage could be used in favor of robo marriage.
In addition, if the folks warning about AI are correct about the nature of consciousness, there will come a point in time when sex robots won’t just appear conscious, but really will be conscious. If this is true, at what point in the evolutionary development of sex robots will the industry be tarred and feathered for robo sex trafficking?
Without doubt, these are the issues that makers of sex robots will face as the relationship between people and machine becomes closer to human. Meanwhile, dating websites can rest assured that they are still in business.