A couple of interesting articles on sex robots appeared in the news recently. Clickbait articles on sexbots appear daily, but these two are worth actually reading.
Sex Robots Are Here But Laws Aren’t Keeping Up
Another article that argues two things that I would dispute – ‘sex robots are here’, and ‘laws aren’t keeping up’. I have argued consistently that sex robots are a little over-hyped at the currrent time. What we have, and are likely to have for at least a couple more decades, are smart sex dolls. Dolls that can self-heat their vaginas, or tell you what the capital of Mongolia is. Such objects do not require any more legislation than does Siri or Alexa, or a typical vibrator. And, of course, the danger is if we try to kneejerk legislation on the basis of a moral panic over something that isn’t even on the horizon, then we end up with awful laws that overreach, stifle creativity and tech progress, and – being ‘sex laws’ – will be awfully hard to repeal.
However, the article I’m linking to here is written by a University of Minnesota associate professor of law, and is fairly thoughtful, and raises some issues I haven’t seen brought up before. For example, he points out that ‘sex robots’ look likely to be used as more than just sex toys/dolls, and in more ways even than providing companionship. And that makes sense. If a true sex robot becomes available, that can genuinely do more to satisfy a man sexually than an inert sex doll, then it would surely be possible (and likely) for the manufacturers to add the ability to do the washing up, or teach the kids algebra. It might not prove to be easy at all to strictly classify, define (and ban or regulate) ‘sex robots’.
The author also acknowledges ‘digisexuality’, and that digisexuals (or in this particular sense more precisely perhaps ‘robophiles’) may have rights as do other sexual ‘minorities’ today.
The Future Of Sex
The second article appeared in the Daily Mail, and as you might expect is a bit less weighty than the law professor’s. Nevertheless, it’s a little more substantive than the the usual clickbait fluff that appear so regularly in the tabloid press these days, although it does focus on the usual Matt McMullen Realbotix ‘Harmony’ hype that still hasn’t delivered (and wont for a very long time – at one point in the article, McMullen says of Harmony – ‘one day she might even be able to walk’). And of course, while the likes of Daily Mail are happy to get traffic from sex robot articles, it’s usually through trying to create a fear of them, and this one isn’t any different.
‘We are going to see robots in people’s homes the same way as we see smartphones in people’s pockets right now,’ Matt says. ‘It’s an inevitable path of technology.’
He gazes at Harmony. ‘This is something that takes it above the sex business. It takes it above love dolls, to a whole other level.’
I gaze at Harmony too, but I see something different. I’m thinking about what he might have inadvertently created.
I ask: ‘Do you not think there’s something ethically dubious about owning someone that exists just for your pleasure? Isn’t that going to distort your view of the world?’
Harmony is blinking, her eyes flitting between Matt and me. I wonder what she thinks. ‘Some people are really worried about robots like you,’ I say. ‘Are they right to be worried?’
Harmony doesn’t miss a beat. ‘Some may be scared, at first. But once they recognise what this technology will do I think they’ll embrace it, and it will change many lives for the better.’
I’m not so sure. Sex robots can offer total control for the men who want it most, the chance to have a partner without autonomy, a partner they can dominate stripped of the inconvenience of her own desires and free will.
A partner who is built like a porn star, but will never gag, vomit or cry.
The likes of Harmony (and Samantha and Eva and Roxxxy and all the other sex dolls in this fast-growing market) are attractive because of their very lack of humanity; they are desirable because they can’t think and feel and choose for themselves.
However high-minded their creators’ intentions, they could be the start of something truly frightening — the end of human relationships. Humanity will change when we can bond with robots.