A new report from the Foundation for Responsible Robotics considers the problems that could arise from sex robots, including social isolation, love, prostitution, and pedophilia.
“Would people have sex with a robot?,” “What kind of relationship could we have with a sex robot?,” “Will robot sex workers and bordellos be acceptable?,” “Will sex robots change societal perceptions of gender?,” “Could intimacy with robots lead to greater social isolation?,” “Could robots help with sexual healing and therapy?,” and “Would sex robots help to reduce sex crimes?” are all questions included in the 44-page report.
“In 2017 most liberal societies accept or tolerate sex in many different forms and varieties. Sex toys and masturbation aids have been used for centuries and can be easily purchased in stores in many countries. Now companies are developing robots for sexual gratification,” explain the foundation in their report. “But a robot designed for sex may have different impacts when compared with other sex aids. Those currently being developed are essentially pornographic representations of the human body – mostly female.”
Such representations combined with human anthropomorphism may lead many to perceive robots as a new ontological category that exists in a fantasy between the living and the inanimate. This is reinforced by robot manufacturers with an eye to the future. They understand the market importance of adding intimacy, companionship, and conversation to sexual gratification.
The aim of this consultation report is to present an objective summary of the issues and various opinions about what could be our most intimate association with technological artefacts. We do not contemplate or speculate about far future robots with personhood – that could have all manner of imagined properties. We focus instead on significant issues that we may have to deal with in the foreseeable future over the next 5 to 10 years.
On the topic of robot sex workers, the report claims, “While we have no direct evidence about the acceptability of sex robot bordellos, one poll suggests quite strongly that they would be acceptable,” before adding, “The additional repertoire offered by robots could well increase demand. Although we found no evidence for the notion that sex robots would stop sex trafficking, we found some evidence to the contrary.”
For the potential issue of social isolation, the foundation admits, “We have no direct evidence to answer this question and it would be considered unethical to set up controlled experiments.”
However, they also explained that the cited scholars in the report “are pretty much in agreement that sex with robots could or will lead to social isolation.”
“The reasons given varied,” they elaborated. “Spending time in a robot relationship could create an inability to form human friendships; robot don’t meet the species specific needs of humans; sex robots could desensitize humans to intimacy and empathy, which can only be developed through experiencing human interaction and mutual consenting relationships; real sexual relationships could become overwhelming because relations with robots are easier.”
On the issue of using robots for “sexual healing,” the foundation claims that “it is possible” the machines could “potentially help some people” with anxiety and other sexual issues, while the topic of using robots to stop sex crimes proved controversial.
Some of the cites sources claimed pedophiles and others with sexual disorders or aggressive desires could be stopped from enacting their fantasies in real life by using robots. However, others claimed it could encourage them further.
You can read the full report online.