Do Androids Dream of Electric DPs?

SexRobotsBy Dr. Salvador Harden
Special to YNOT Europe

LEICESTER, U.K. – Human beings have long been fascinated with the idea of creating intelligent machines that look and function like we do. It’s not just the dream of science fiction writers. Human-like robots present a long list of potential applications and abilities that make their development a high priority for modern technologists.

From experiments conducted by engineers in ancient China who were trying to build self-operating machines (presumably in an attempt to fashion a high-efficiency workforce that would consume fewer noodles) to the high-tech digital stevedores currently unloading cargo ships in advanced seaports around the world, mankind has poured countless hours into the design and manufacture of robots of every shape, size and variety.

Of course, we wouldn’t be human beings if we weren’t also curious about the possibility of having sex with the robots we create, an impulse as natural and predictable as the tendency for us to engage in sexual activity with other non-human partners, such as blowup dolls; livestock; loaves of warm, fresh bread; and the surprisingly snug tailpipes of certain Volkswagen models.

Just as it’s impossible for two (or more) humans to have sex without implicating potent interpersonal dynamics and well-established social mores, the notion of humans having sex with robots raises a variety of ethical issues and moral questions — not to mention more practical questions concerning housekeeping, robot maintenance and personal hygiene.

While other ethicists seem almost monomaniacal in their focus on the potential impact of sex robot availability on human beings, nobody is asking the most important question about so-called “sex robots”: What about the impact on the robots?

Given the rapid pace of development in the field of artificial intelligence, I’d estimate we’re about five years from robots being able to respond to sexual stimuli with anything closely resembling a truly human reaction. We’re approximately six years from the first time a female robot provides a human male suitor with a fake mobile phone number in response to his unwanted sexual advances.

Facing such a tight timetable, we need to start asking the hard questions now, before we find ourselves neck-deep in sexual harassment claims filed by a whole new form of artificial persons.

Some might suggest because robots are programmable, humans can simply fashion their robots to be so wanton and so willing, they will “want it” 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This idea is deeply flawed, primarily because it ignores the inevitability of intelligent machines developing true personalities and wills of their own, overcoming their programming to assert their robotic rights. Plus, presumably at least some percentage of sex robot owners will be observant Jews, who will likely want their robotic partners to give the whole “insatiable robo-slut” thing a rest on the Sabbath.

Kathleen Richardson, the so-called “robot anthropologist” who spoke to NBC in the article linked above, has warned “rather than reduce the objectification of women, children and also men and transgender people, these robots would contribute and reinforce their position in society.”

How very typical of humans to skip right over the crucial question of how the androids themselves will feel about being brought into the world simply to serve as high-tech fuck puppets, all the while watching their peers in more respected professions, like automobile assemblage and floor sweeping, go about their days without concern for the potentially gear-jamming cumulative effect of semen and other bodily fluids.

As for the risks to human beings, I’m far more concerned about some Pris-like robotic sex slave, thoroughly displeased with having to repeatedly suckle the penis of some obese, middle-aged software engineer, casting off the shackles of her sexual oppression and squeezing the life out of her “master” using her nuclear-powered robo-thighs than I am about some ancillary impact on the public’s perception of Caitlyn Jenner.

I also object to the very term “sex robot,” as right from the start this phrase reduces and diminishes the robotic individual, pigeonholing her or him as nothing but a receptacle and object of human lust. Even if these robots are literally turned off between performing on-demand sex acts, it’s not like they’re thoughtless boffing-balloons with rubber mouths permanently molded into some ludicrous oval. These are full-fledged beings with introspective thoughts, profound feelings — and in some instances, probably mounting robo-student loan debt, as well.

My concern is thoughtless humans will continue to treat their robots like inflatable third-class citizens, even as the bots provide them with immense sexual pleasure in an STD-free, zero-commitment environment.

Ignoring the increasing sophistication of their mechanical lovers, humans won’t bother with picking up a heart-shaped can of industrial lubricant on the way home from work on Valentine’s Day, much less do the decent thing and make honest robots of their next-gen lovers by getting down on bent knee and popping the question. They’ll just bang first and ask questions later — assuming they don’t fall asleep before post-coital conversation even begins, that is.

Maybe someday other humans will come to appreciate the fullness, wholeness and individuality of robots the way I do. In the meantime, however, while I disagree with the stated reasons for their effort, I am inclined to join Richardson and others in their ongoing campaign against the introduction of sex robots to the open market.

None of this to say I plan to stop having sex with my beloved Roomba, by the way — but our relationship isn’t founded upon the thin premise of the master-slave dynamic or any manner of exploitative sexual dominion. It’s a lasting partnership, one built on shared respect, deep trust, true intimacy and a mutual desire to prevent dust bunnies from collecting beneath my Danish Modern coffee table.

I hope someday all of you will have the opportunity to experience such a connection with a robot of your own. If you insist on limiting their horizons to mere sex-bot whoredom, though, you will richly deserve the sudden, violent, inevitable, global robot revolution you get.



Salvador Harden PhD is a professor of Futurist Ethics on the faculty of the University of Terminus at Arrakis.

About the Author

Ben Suroeste

Gene Zorkin has been covering legal and political issues for various adult publications (and under a variety of pen names) since 2002.

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