Sex Robots Are Almost Here And One Group Already Wants To Ban Them
If you saw the movie Her, you might have laughed at the idea that anyone (let alone Joaquin Phoenix) could fall in love with an operating system. And if you saw Ex Machina, you might have been surprised to find yourself rooting for the robots more than the humans (no spoilers!).
Those movies might have felt like they take place in some far-distant future, but with the upcoming release of a talking, learning, and yes—sexing—robot named Roxxxy, it looks like human-robot love is actually be about become a thing IRL. And not everyone’s happy about that.
A company called True Companion invented Roxxxy, which they’re referring to as “the world’s first sex robot.” The robot, which will sell for $7,0000, is due out later this year, and in addition to functioning as a highly-engineered sex doll, True Companion also has plans to give her an Artificial Intelligence (AI) component, according to chief executive Douglas Hines.
“The physical act of sex will only be a small part of the time you spend with a sex robot,” Hines said in a report from the BBC. “The majority of time will be spent socializing and interacting.”
And…um…falling in love?
“We are not supplanting the wife or trying to replace a girlfriend,” Hines told the BBC. “This is a solution for people who are between relationships or someone who has lost a spouse. People can find happiness and fulfillment other than via human interaction.”
But is that a good idea? Kathleen Richardson, a robot anthropologist and ethicist (yes, that’s a real-life job) at the Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility (CCSR) in the UK, thinks not.
“Sex robots seem to be a growing focus in the robotics industry and the models that they draw on — how they will look, what roles they would play – are very disturbing indeed.” Richardson told the BBC.
“We think that the creation of such robots will contribute to detrimental relationships between men and women, adults and children, men and men and women and women,” she added.
Richardson has helped to launch the Campaign Against Sex Robots, which aims to — you guessed it — halt the development of sex robots. Or at least, as a start, to raise awareness and get people talking about possible dangers. Mostly, they’re worried that relationships that encourages a human to treat their romantic partner as nothing more than an object designed to meet their every need will inevitably carry over into real-life human-on-human relationships.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Richardson also expressed concern that some businesses plan to build sex robot models that look like children.
Proponents argue that these robots could help protect human women and children from exploitation by standing in for them…but Richardson and the rest of the team at the Campaign to Stop Sex Robots seem to fear that addressing rape culture and pedophilia by saying ’here, just do it to a robot instead’ makes for a potentially dangerous shortcut. (In case you’re wondering, it’s probably a matter of time before a Jude Law in A.I.-style male sex robot exists too, but there’s no male version of Roxxxy underway as of yet.)
Some argue that human-robot love is inevitable. The BBC report noted that “David Levy, author of the book Love and Sex with Robots, believes that there will be a huge market for dolls such as Roxxy and predicts that by 2050, intimate relationships between robots and humans will be commonplace.”
“There is an increasing number of people who find it difficult to form relationships and this will fill a void,” Levy told the BBC. “It is not demeaning to women any more than vibrators are demeaning.”
If robot love is the future, we’ll have some really critical questions to consider as a society, in addition to the ones posed by the Campaign Against Sex Robots. Can people marry their robot lovers? Can half-human half-robot couples adopt kids? If robot relationships are way easier to navigate than human relationships (which seems likely), will humans eventually just give up on having romantic relationships with each other altogether?
“It’s important that we have a debate about this,” Richardson told the Washington Post. “Einstein’s theory of relativity — it didn’t have to turn into the atom bomb, right?”