Throughout the 21st century, our world has seen many great advances in technology. Smart phones, virtual reality headsets, drones, Google Glass, in-ear language translators – the list goes on. One technological advancement that has taken huge form in the past decade is robots – specifically human robots that are made as companions for humans.
Human robots are able to walk and interact with people, but for some, that may not be enough.
Sex robots are intelligent, human-looking androids that have hyper-realistic features and will offer the customer companionship, sexually and otherwise. The next generation of sex robots is even going to offer vibrating genitalia and programmable breasts, anywhere from an AA cup and up, as well as built in heaters to simulate body heat and sensors that can react to touch.
RealDoll is a sex robot company based in California. Their ‘love dolls’, as they call them, range anywhere from $5,000-$10,000. The founder of the company, Matt McMullen, has said that they may even be launching a new company devoted solely to the development of integrating AI with realistic sex toys, as well as potential virtual reality applications.
“I want to have people actually develop an emotional attachment to not only the robot but the actual character behind it – to develop some kind of love for this being," said McMullen.
But is developing an emotional attachment to a robot a good thing? David Levy, author of Love and Sex with Robots, seems to think so. He argues that by using sex robots, many who would have otherwise become social misfits, social outcasts, or even worse, will instead be better-balanced human beings.
"We have already seen rapid changes in human relationships thanks to the internet, mobile devices and social media,” he said. “The next major advance will enable us to use our technology to have intimate encounters with the technology itself – to fall in love with the technology, to have sex with robots and to marry them."
Levy has also said that: “Love with robots will be as normal as love with other humans, while the number of sexual acts and lovemaking positions commonly practiced between humans will be extended, as robots teach more than is in all of the world's published sex manuals combined.”
Makers of these bots say that the sexual experience will be like nothing the user has ever experienced before, but some fear that the dolls could become addictive.
Joel Snell, a robotics expert from Kirkwood College, said robotic sex might become addictive as the robots would always be available and could never say no.
“People will rearrange their lives to accommodate their addictions,” Snell said.
Dr. Kathleen Richardson, a robot anthropologist and senior research fellow in the ethics of robotics at England's De Montfort University, and cognitive scientist Dr. Erik Billing have created a campaign to stop the development of sex robots because of the negative effect they say the robots will have on people everywhere.
On the Campaign Against Sex Robots website, Dr. Richardson writes:
“Over the last decades, an increasing effort from both academia and industry has gone into the development of sex robots – that is, machines in the form of women or children for use as sex objects, substitutes for human partners or prostituted persons. The Campaign Against Sex Robots highlights that these kinds of robots are potentially harmful and will contribute to inequalities in society. We believe that an organized approach against the development of sex robots is necessary in response the numerous articles and campaigns that now promote their development without critically examining their potentially detrimental effect on society. As humanoid robots become more widespread it is necessary to develop an engaged ethical response to the development of these new technologies.”
Gurpreet Singh, a sex therapist, doesn’t agree with all the negativity towards sex robots.
In an interview with the Daily Star, he said, “Let people enjoy sex robots – they will work in the same way couples introduce a toy into a sexual relationship. And if both parties are agreed, I see nothing wrong.”
But he also stated that it would not be healthy for robots to replace humans and that it would be a completely different situation if the person were using the robot because they were scared of human intimacy or wanted to be isolated.
Will robots take away the need for human companionship?
Since the beginning of time, humans have needed companionship. It boosts our well-being, helps us live longer and is a source of happiness. It has even been said that just by owning a pet, people experience less illness, are more content in life and even recover faster from health problems.
Take into consideration Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs – Maslow ranked companionship right behind humans needs for air, food and shelter.
So will robot companions and sex robots take this companionship away? Or will they help give companionship to those who may never find it otherwise?
We may not know the answer to these questions until the day when robots become a major part in our daily lives. But there are a few points to look at.
There is the ethical issue of sex robots not being able to say no, giving the person using it complete control over what is happening. This could become a problem if people begin to bridge the gap between reality and fiction, and start treating humans like they treat their robots.
Billing said in an interview with CNBC: "Introducing sex robots that could replace partners is the extreme of this trend, where we start to objectify our human relationships. We're on the brink of these applications being sold in stores. In five to 10 years time this will be a common product in any random sex store."
Another problem is that when these robots begin to satisfy all of a person’s sexual needs, the person may no longer require real, human intimacy. Without real human interaction and intimacy, society as a whole will change. This could also decrease the population rates in the upcoming decades.
There are also benefits to these robots as well, such as lending companionship and intimacies to people who are lonely, isolated, disabled, or have recently lost a loved one.
Robots, sex or otherwise, will impact the world in a massive way once they become a way of living. It’s hard to say whether that impact will be negative or positive as our world has never really experienced technology like this before. However, it can be said that as long as people continue to treat robots as robots, not as real people, there will still be a need for human interaction and intimacy. Sex robots are a great alternative for people who may need it or even for couples who want to spice up their sex life, but they should only be treated as ‘sex toys’ rather than as people.