Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Not-So-Living Doll, Revisited

Warning - adult theme ahead. You have been warned.

Last March, I wrote a post titled "The Not-So-Living Doll" that discussed a CNN report about the big business of making high-end, ultra-lifelike sex dolls. Having a perfectly good doll of my own that I married almost 35 years ago, and being in any case unwilling to spend north of $6,000 for a customizable artificial date, I found the story to be of only academic interest ...

... and then I read this article in the online journal Quartz earlier this month: Humans and Robots Are on the Cusp of a Sexual Intimacy We May Never Reverse.

Well, how about that?

The article is based on a study done by the Foundation for Responsible Robotics, the mission of which is, according to its website, "To promote the responsible design, development, implementation, and policy of robots embedded in our society ... to influence the future development and application of robotics such that it embeds the standards, methods, principles, capabilities, and policy points, as they relate to the responsible design and deployment of robotic systems."

The study - which is utterly fascinating and is titled "Our Sexual Future with Robots" - looked at seven "core questions" concerning the ethics and the technical issues of humans engaging in sex with robots. I found four of those questions to be particularly interesting (my comments added):

#1. Would people have sex with a robot? If there are people who will pay large sums of money for high-end sex dolls to have sex with today, I'm sure there will be people who will pay even larger sums of money for sex with a robot that would probably provide a more "reactive" experience while avoiding the potential emotional and financial entanglements of a human lover.

#3. Will robot sex workers and bordellos be acceptable? I think most people, particularly those who oppose the sexual exploitation of women, would accept such workers and businesses. There would, however, probably be the same backlash from religious groups that there is against "normal" sex workers and establishments, for the same moral and ethical reasons.

#5. Could sexual intimacy with robots lead to greater social isolation? We're living in a time when the widespread availability of online pornography ... not to mention simple online game play and the draw of constant communication on smart phones ... already causes social isolation. I'm not sure the involvement of robots would make things any worse.

#7. Would sex robots help to reduce sex crimes? This is an interesting question. One might suspect that allowing persons who commit sex crimes to commit them against robots instead of human beings might help reduce the number of such crimes. However, a human rights lawyer cited in the Quartz article noted that

"... [sex] trafficking has a lot to do with domination and power over another individual: things you can’t experience with a robot."

Robots are already replacing humans in many jobs, and in a dystopian future it's possible that they may replace emotional and physical intimacy for some people. In any case, concern over the relationship between humans and robots has been a fixture of science fiction literature for a long time.

Many years ago, as an impressionable teenager, I was hooked on a comic book series called "Magnus, Robot Fighter," that chronicled the adventures of a heroic human who fought against various robots that threatened humanity ... but as far as I remember, he never ended up having sex with any of them*.

Czech playwright Karl Čapek wrote a play titled "RUR" ("Rossums Universal Robots") in 1920, which predicted robot workers rising up against their human masters ...

 and author Isaac Asimov wrote a classic series of novels and short stories about relationships between humans and robots, starting as far back as 1939.

In the 1960s came a TV comedy titled "My Living Doll" that starred Julie Newmar** as AF-709, also known as Rhoda, a sexy female robot under the care of a psychiatrist. 

More recently, I've been watching the HBO series "Westworld," based on Michael Crichton's novel of the same name, which explores the interaction between humans and hyper-realistic robots that are slowly becoming self-aware and realizing how they are being victimized and exploited. The superb film "Ex Machina" covers some of the same moral and ethical terrain with the android Ava ...

And there are countless other examples of robots good and bad, from Commander Data of Star Trek to the villainous Ash and David of the Alien film series.

As we move into higher and higher realms of technology, augmented reality, and virtual reality, we are facing moral and ethical challenges we've previously had to face only in science fiction literature. We need to be careful.

Brave new world, indeed.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* And believe me, as an impressionable teenager, I'd have remembered that!

** Nobody could say "That does not compute" like she could.



Great blog post

Every year scientists and engineers are making advances in miniaturizing sensors but there's another aspect of this phenomenon to which a lot of enlighten people have given a good bit of thought. Is having sex with an ultra-realistic robot hooker cheating?

Chuck Bear said...

What if someone marries his or her sex robot?

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

Is this a little like "I Dream of Jeannie" without the Edenic navel?

Mike said...

Don't forget the Borg 7 of 9. Jeri Ryan never looked so good as when she was in that outfit.

koi seo said...

Is having sex with an ultra-realistic robot hooker cheating?