Dr Kevin Curren is a reader in Computer Science at Ulster University and senior member of the IEEE, providing comment on trends in technology. Recently he gave an interview in which he discussed how robots would integrate into human society, including their roles as sexbots.
Q:You’ve talked previously about the inevitability of sex robots. What effects do you think that’ll have on humanity? Will we still have relationships with other humans? Will anyone go outside?!
A:I do think the most unusual thing that robots will be used for is as companions. Robophilia (also known as robot fetishism, or technosexuality) is the name commonly used to describe a fetishistic attraction to humanoid or non-humanoid robots. We’ve already seen a move by the adult industry to capitalise on the advances in virtual reality (VR) headsets such as the Oculus Rift, and repurpose them for porn.
In some ways it’s an incremental move for society to deal with and can be seen simply as a different viewing experience. We should also not presume that a robot/human relationship is automatically inferior to a human-human relationship. People often fall in love with fictional characters even though they have no chance to interact with them in a physical way.
The issue of ‘intimate robots’ and the potential of android-human couples walking hand in hand through the streets and raising families does, however, cause us as a society to pause and think. There may be questions about whether we have sufficient legalisation in place for the issues that can arise in a future where robots are sufficiently advanced as to be indistinguishable from humans at first glance.
I would expect ‘female’ robots to first gain traction in China to offset the gender balance. We would be naïve to ignore market forces for ‘intimate robots’. Building human-like robots is quite easy once the mechanics are taken care of. Google are pumping hundreds of millions into building more advanced robots – turning these robots into attractive companions is simply a case of adding a ‘skin’. Not difficult at all, and the only reason it’s not done much to date is that most robots are built in research-led institutions – not businesses. That time is coming to an end.
Q: Can a robot consent?
A: No, not in the sense that we mean by that statement. However, it can simulate consent to the utmost degree. Ultimately, though, an algorithm – intelligent as it may be – is making the robot answer yes.