Automated Love: How will sex bots impact our relationships?
As Valentine’s Day was this month I thought it was relevant to look at how automation, specifically in the form of sexbots, might transform the way we interact in and out of bed in the near future. But this begs the question, what is a sex bot?
What is a sex bot?
Whatever name you use: artificial love servant, robot companion, anthropomorphic robotic sex dolls, love droids etc, a sex bot is an ‘evolved’ sex dolls with robotics components.
For anyone who might not know, yes there are sex dolls with robot aspects like speech, and basic head & mouth movements now on the market. These sex dolls are getting more and more human-like every year as they are being powered by Artificial intelligence (AI) and other technologies. They can already be found in numerous brothels in Europe and in private homes worldwide
Some interesting features of today’s sex bots include:
- Integrated AI (Eg. Ask questions about you and it can both learn and remember you favourite food, where you were born, etc)
- Perfectly customizable
- Personality traits: make it shy, talkative, funny etc
- Change the skin colour, hair, body shape,
- Add piercings, tattoos etc
- Have fully functional — self-lubricating vaginas
Seeing where the sex dolls are built is akin to something out of Westworld too..
However, once assembled they are not at human level… yet, most notably they cannot walk, and only have limited movement of the head and neck, even for the industry leader ‘Harmony’ from realbotix.
They typically cost several thousand dollars and are getting more and more customizable as the technologies and businesses develop. You can see a few examples here:
They are advertised differently but the most interesting descriptions is as follows:
“Get the mental stimulation you crave and have your sensual, sexual desires met every day without any rejection, the real humanoid AI robot sex doll will never say NO to your fantasies and will never dare to accuse you of sexual harassment. You will never need to be alone any longer or hold off from pleasure. Now you will have in your life your own sexy, intelligent, beautiful Robot Companion”
While reading what this product is you might have been leaning towards either seeing the benefits this can offer, or as a straight up perversion to society. Let’s look at both of these issues as any new technology is rarely so cut and dry.
- Emotional support
Sex bots can provide a valuable service for people who are elderly or disabled and can provide emotional support. Eg. when the spouse of an elderly person dies. They can also act as robot companions for people with dementia or depression. A study on many elderly patients found that elderly individuals were interested in having an intimate robot as their companion and their interest did not decay over time.
These patients established meaningful rapport with the robot companion and they greatly valued its presence. However this has also been found to be the case with even simpler robots that look like a traditional robot, or even robot ‘pets’ so these findings are not all that surprising.
There are numerous other similar applications for this type of support to groups of people who are in one form or another isolated (eg. clergymen, military soldiers). For a more in depth look this article explores this further.
2. Therapeutic machine
Very similarly is the use of sex bots with AI to treat or help cope some mild psychological issues. If pure digital therapy bots (Eg. Woe Bots) are already being used nowadays with success, using the same AI in the sex bot would necessarily offer the same benefits.
3. Reducing violence
- Some manufacturers have also argued that introducing sex bots into prisons may reduce prison rape and sexual tension overall.
- Of greatest note (and controversy) is the same argument but for pedophiles. If a sex bot is built to resemble a child, no emotional or psychological harm is done to the robot, and possibly the urge is satisfied thus saving a potential child victim in the process. However the opposite may be true as well..
- Increasing pedophiliac desires
The pedophile issue is a particularly tricky/good example. The same argument was made for video games and was widely debated a number of years ago. Video games were possibly linked to increased levels of aggression, however this was generally found to not be the case.
A child-like sex bot however is on a different level, as it doesn’t exist on a screen but as a real life model. And it may have the effect of increasing the comfortability of using a real child, leading a paedophile to want the ‘real thing’ more than if there was no robot in the picture.
2. Replacing human connection
Creators of these bots claim that they will act as an alternative, not a replacement to humans. But current research shows that even just virtual (that is fully digital, no physical body) relationships, which is a growing trend in Japan, show that the number of relationships are decreasing amongst young people, and even virginity is being lost later.
It would appear that the concerns brought up in the movie Her are actually more realistic than originally thought..humans can form emotional attachment to AI systems at the detriment of human to human connection. AI, even in its relatively basic form today, can fulfill the emotional need (at least partially) that we as humans desire.
This is argued to lead to desensitising humans to intimacy and empathy. which is built through experiencing human interaction and mutual consenting relationships. Furthermore, if you are able to build the perfect partner, you miss out on the imperfections and frustrations that come with real human interaction.
And these are arguably what makes relationships unique, interesting, and surprising. If you come to experience and expect every interaction with your intimate ‘partner’ to be flawless there is a lack of realism to it, and staleness or even boredom might ensue with unforeseen social problems following.
3. Objectification of the human body
The most striking and apparent idea that enters most people’s minds when they first see some of the the designs of love dolls and sex robots is the stereoptypical hyper sexual nature of them. It is quite evident that they can perpetuate stereotypes of women.
The vast majority of sex bots are designed to be female with hyper sexual qualities, but the same applies to any male looking sex bots. Sex robots will create another means through which women/men will be presented as objects to be used for sexual gratification and mistreatment. And some say even that women are degraded and dishonoured by having these artefacts exist in the first place.
4. Privacy concerns
As has been mentioned on the podcast several times, the data on your personal habits are being collected through multiple mediums today. If Virtual Reality grows more biometrics can be captured with a few cameras and motion sensors, giving corporations more information about your life.
Sex bots, outfitted and embedded with sensors might invade one of the final private part of our lives, the bedroom, giving access to our most intimate actions, and all the consequences that come along with this.
If you feel strongly about these issues and want to dive further into them
Campaignagainstsexrobots.org focuses on the banning of these sex bots and has some interesting ideas around it.
Overall, sex bots in their current form have ‘evolved’ to utilise many new technological advancements to make them a more ‘desirable’ product. Their ability to learn, move slightly, and be fully customised is foretelling what is on the horizon.
Positive aspects like healthy applications for isolated individuals, emotional support and possible violence reduction push automated love forward into the cultural zeitgeist. However, the concerns of this product also run deep, due to the cost that their widespread use could bring about. Isolation, the breakdown of human connection, privacy concerns, and even more victims of sexual assult could be the fallout of sex dolls.
Of course most of these social concerns with the sex dolls that exist today are not taken completely seriously, as they are still quite far from the real thing and not used widely…yet.
The Interesting or really worrying part is when the uncanny divide is breached, when you struggle or even can’t tell if the sex doll is a doll or an actual human being. But then we will be entering the issues connected to Westworld and other Hollywood Sci-fi media — but that can be taken up in another article as it brings up a new layer of complexity.
10th blog post of the Automated Podcast. Check out the podcast episodes and other blogs at https://automatedpodcast.org/