The opportunity to write about sex robots has been tempting me for a while. I’ve been leaving it for when I needed to write about something lighthearted, something unconventionally kinky, an easy target for derisive profanity. I assumed sex robots to be that kind of topic.
Anticipating a world of sleazy men, surfing the seedy backstreets of the internet superhighway, in search of products to satisfy sexually deviant kinks. Expecting a collective of ‘loners,’ if that’s not too great an oxymoron, who have long since moseyed out of loves last chance saloon, and who are now willing to put their last hope, and other parts of their anatomy, into the hands, and orifices, that technology might make available for their gratification. The men that romance rejected. In short, I felt that these were the types of men I could understand. Not having married until my late thirties I was no stranger to the sorts of perversions that result from loneliness and a high speed internet connection. I felt certain I could still find it within myself to understand why some men, and women, are looking to be satisfied by robots.
My inadequacy to deal with this subject matter quickly became apparent, for I was nothing more than a guileless, neophyte when it came to understanding the doors to sexual depravity that technology is opening. As I researched this topic I was plagued by an unnerving sense of vulnerability; like I was sitting on a threadbare carpet, with a head full of acid, wearing only a pair of y-fronts, and playing Twister with Charles Manson. If your struggling to visualise the awkwardness of this situation:
I mean, sex robots, just how bad can they be?
The first piece of vocabulary to wrap our mouths around is, teledildonics.
At first I thought, how does Kojak fit into all this? Thankfully, he doesn’t. PC Magazine defines teledildonics:
Controlling the intensity of sex toys via the Internet. Also called “cyberdildonics,” the purpose is to allow a partner to control the sexual experience remotely. Developed in the 1990s, one early device used a transducer that attached to the computer screen via suction cups and picked up light messages to control the speed. Future versions are expected to allow the user to share a sexual experience with fantasy partners selected from a menu or that are created by combining a menu of body parts and attributes.
Sex robots, I mean, what could possibly go wrong?
Sex Robots and Romans, Dutch Sailors and Glove Puppets
Sometimes it can be a source of comfort to know that when something that appears new
has actually been an established part of our society for some time.
The Metamorpheses, by Ovid, a writer already known at the time for his erotic poems, also includes the story of Pygmalion and Galatea. A synopsis, the sculptor, Galatea makes a sculpture of beautiful woman, Pygmalion, and becomes besotted with its beauty. The goddess, Aphrodite brings the sculpture to life, why, I mean it’s pretty obvious how this is going to play out. Sculptor succumbs to lecherous desires for sculpture. Okay, Pygmalion isn’t exactly an example of a robotic sex doll, just an ivory one. The story serves the purpose that the idea of making objects for sexual gratification isn’t a new one. So as well as the aqua-duct, the Romans might be credited with the concept of sex dolls. It’s also an interesting parallel as Matt McMullen, founder of Realbotix, arguably the world’s leading sexbot manufacturer, was himself a sculptor.
In truth, literature is littered with examples of inanimate objects being brought to life, usually by some well meaning, but ultimately dimwitted fairy godmother. Not fitting this story-line perfectly, but certainly still of the same genre, is the story of Pinocchio. Geppetto making his “wooden boy” tied up and controlled with string, with a teledildonic nose, starts to look suspicious. While I’m not comfortable to go so far as to accuse Geppetto of paedophilia, Elon Musk probably would have no such qualms.
Those are examples of stories that theoretically suggest the pleasure that might be gained from animating a representation of a human, now let’s get real with seventeenth century Dutch Sailors. The sea can be a lonely place, months away from home with no female company can do strange things to a man, such as making dolls from cloth and leather, that would probably end up being stuffed more than just straw. To this day, the Japanese refer to a sex doll as a Dutch Wife. To give credit where it’s due, the French and Spanish sailors were themselves known to have also indulged in this custom.
Sex with robots and dolls is regarded as paraphilia. Paraphilia is listed in the DSM-5, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, as being a mental illness concerning atypical sexual practice, it’s commonly diagnosed in the majority of serial killers. However, a problem exists due to the fact that psychologists have achieved notoriety through a history of falsely classifying many behaviours as mental illnesses. Most notably, until 1968 the American Psychology Association classified homosexuality as paraphilia. Other mental illnesses that are now obsolete include:
Dysaesthesia aethiopica, a mental illness described in 1851 that conveniently explains the benefits of slavery, to the slave. Dysaesthesia aethiopica was a condition that caused black people to be lazy and spend much of their time wandering aimlessly. The cure for this, slavery. You can’t argue with the facts of science. You’re probably going to want a link for this, Dysaesthesia aethiopica.
The Vapours, a condition identified by Victorian psychologists used to describe “irregular behaviour,” commonly behaviour that inconvenienced their husband. “Women of independent mind,” were thought to be at greater risk of suffering the condition, and the suffragette movement was at times explained away as a mass contagion of, the vapours.
Inadequate Personality Disorder, disappeared from psychological text books after 1980.
defined by the DSM-II as a pattern of behavior marked by weak and ineffectual responses to external stimuli of an emotional, social, intellectual, or physical nature. There is no obvious cognitive disability in patients with this disorder, but they have trouble adapting to new situations, tend to have low stamina both physically and emotionally, have difficulty mastering skills, and show both poor judgment and poor social skills.
After 1980, a person exhibiting such a demeanor will be classified under the spectrum of behaviour defined by autism.
My point being, and not wanting to sound too much like a Scientologist, is that the psychological diagnoses of mental illnesses has numerous examples off misdiagnoses for corrupt financial, or social gains. I believe psychology does more good than harm, it was my major at university after all, but I ask the following questions; is there a possibility, that at sometime in the future, having sex with a robot might be considered, by both psychologists and society, as socially acceptable? What might that society look like as a result?
It’s considered as atypical because it is rare behaviour, who knows, in the future there might be teledildonic pride marches, people demanding that the love they have for their robot is real love. Once a critical mass is achieved and enough people march, the psychologists will be compelled to remove it from the DSM, recognising it as no longer being atypical sexual behaviour, but an acceptable social norm. When does the number of people become a “critical mass”? When it’s enough to influence an election with promises of reform. A survey conducted by Nest.org in 2016 found that over a quarter of young people would happily date a robot. This statistic implies that romance with robots is unlikely to remain a social taboo.
So let us imagine the future. Imagine Robo-utopia; does Robotopia sound better? It doesn’t matter, just imagine the benefits of having sex with robots. Nobody is lonely, apparently loneliness is more dangerous than obesity, there are no sex crimes, and no need for prostitution. Sexually transmitted diseases have been almost eradicated, and society as a whole, is no longer burdened by repressed sexual desires, leading to an overall improvement in its mental well being. And rather suspiciously, the Catholic Church proves to be an early adopter, replacing all of its choir boys with robots, by virtue of the enhanced vocals.
Critics, naysayers, sceptics. ill informed, self appointed social arbiters, poorly organised through the internet, into groups of loosely like minded people, reinforcing one another’s views inside of their reinforced echo chamber. Convincing themselves that their self righteous ideology and the value of their mission to enforce their values upon society is the virtuous thing to do. Every society has them, the sorts of people that believe that they’re doing a public service by trying essentially to make us all as miserable as they are. Their aims are clear and simple; to stop fun, to limit expression, and complete compliance to their puritanical ideology. Such people have already been able to ban chocolate, Kinder Surprise eggs for being too dangerous, in a country where you can purchase a gun in under an hour. The sorts of people who get snowball fights banned from schools, who demand labels to be placed on cups of tea warning us that it’s hot. Technology has long had it’s own antithetical groups, starting in the early nineteenth century with the Luddites who were initimidated by the machines of the industrial revolution. They have, rather uncreatively, re-branded themselves as “Neo-Luddites”. At the extreme end of the technophobia spectrum we have the Anarcho-primitivists, who from what I can gather don’t just resent the invention of electricity, but go as far as to entertain doubts about whether fire was a good idea. Pol Pot’s vision of returning Cambodia to an agrarian society, while slaughtering 30% of the population, is an example of anarcho-primitivism.
To the doubters they’re called Rape Robots, and they argue whether sex with robots can ever be consensual. This argument lands us in the gray area of artificial intelligence, sentience and consciousness. Consciousness and free will are both philosophical arguments that have been around for thousands of years, and as such they appear to be a very unlikely strategy for slowing the technological development of robotic sex dolls. The argument seems to be based on the fact that if the robot can’t experience pleasure, can it be considered consensual? This question seems to miss one pivotal piece of information, it’s not a person. It easy to understand people imposing anthropomorphic
characteristics on something made to look like a human, but it is still only a machine. I’m assuming these people would be less offended if someone tried to have sex with their vacuum cleaner, but what if we then drew a face on the vacuum cleaner? Does this make it more unacceptable? Does this transfer rights to the vacuum cleaner to deny sexual advances? I sincerely hope not, or I might be in a lot of trouble.
The website https://campaignagainstsexrobots.org warns of the possible doomsday implications that the introduction of sex robots will bring to society. A kind of cataclysmic, seedy, depraved Armageddon, in which love and romance become annihilated. Which are probably the very reasons that interest people to buy a sex robot in the first place. They claim that sexbots could destroy marriages, but this is misrepresenting the real cause and effect relationship in the situation, The sexbot doesn’t destroy the marriage, but it’s more likely that because the marriage is already destroyed that makes a sexbot an attractive alternative.
When Does Robosexuality and Robophobia Collide?
Matt McMullen, designer of the most advanced sex robot on the market, Harmony, described his invention, “…its primary function is conversation and companionship, its secondary function, is obviously for sexual and intimate use.“
At one stage in the documentary, “Beyond Sex Robots: Facts Vs. Fiction” the narrator asks the question, “so what’s it like to have dinner with the world’s first sex robots?” To which the recipient replies, “In a word, awkward. These aren’t the replicants of Blade Runner, or the Stepford Wives, they don’t understand social cues, and they can’t hold a conversation.”
Well that that describes about 90% of the dates I’ve ever been on.
One line that I found especially disturbing, “The neck enables the head to be attached to a number of different bodies”, traditionally this isn’t a characteristic of a healthy relationship, more the sort of thing a creative serial killer dreams about.
Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, and Bill Gates have warned of the existential risk AI poses mankind. In regards to teledildonics this has me particularly worried. Let us make the assumption that one day AI does become self aware, and at the expense of committing the cardinal sin of attributing anthroporphic emotions to AI, I’m still of the opinion that once it’s worked out that some of us have been defiling, what are in effect its its early ancestors, it might become vengeful, at the very least upset. One of the great discussions in the field of AI is, whether it could have the capacity to become evil? Why would it become evil? Would AI have a sense of morality? Now I’m in no position to speak on behalf of Artificial Intelligence, but if anything could nudge it in the direction of vindictiveness, a history of sexual abuse might be the thing to do it.
But why do I have to understand? Just because it “weirds me out,” are these reasons good enough to allow me stand between a man and his $20,000, automated, latex, sex robot. If all the participants are consenting to participate, and as I’ve already said, the machine is an inanimate object. And what if the robot did say no? I’m sure that a large percentage of people buying these robots will program it at some time to say, no. This isn’t an uncommon fantasy, but isn’t it better that it’s a robot saying no, not a person? Couldn’t robots allow these fantasies to be safely fulfilled? And why is it, that when I ask these questions I find myself sat on a threadbare carpet, playing Twister with Charles Manson?
The Turing Test – The Imitation Game and Will Robots Fake Orgasms?
In his, 1950 article, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” the famous British Mathematician and computer science pioneer, Alan Turing designed a test that would prove whether a machine could imitate a human by the responses it gave during a conversation. C asks a question, and owing to a computer’s inability to replicate speech in 1950, C receives two printed answers to their question, from each A, and B.
The test is not perfect, it’s been criticised due to the vulnerability of the participant in role C, as well as the literacy capabilities of the person in role B. In my own experience, the computer, in role A is getting more linguistically competent while those in roles B, and C, are becoming less capable of participating in coherent communication.
While the Turing test is an interesting benchmark to assess a machines intelligence, the sexbot industry must need to adapt it to prove the authentic experiences their machines can provide. So how could this be adapted to test a sex robot? I’m not entirely sure, but I’m pretty certain participant C, needs to wear a blindfold, maybe nipple clamps, optional. A sort of ménage à trois ensues, by the end of which participant C has to identify which was the machine of the other two participants was the robot. It might demean the work of one the finest minds of the twentieth century, it might not even be very scientific, but it would be an incredibly popular experiment to participate in.
When it comes to sex robots it looks like we’re still along way off a it seems that we are unfortunately still a long way off from having a fully functional, teledildonic Telly Savalas. Our imaginations, our dreams, and our nightmares remain far ahead of the reality, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other high-tech sex products on the market.
Virtual reality, Tesla Suits and Neuralink
It’s almost impossible to talk of the future of technology without mentioning the visionary, high profile, crackpot, pot smoking genius that is Elon Musk. Musk is the Willy Wonka of technology, just more enigmatic, more open to using drugs in public, and more prone to calling random people, paedophiles. But despite all of this, he remains near the centre of of the sphere of influence that’s designing our world for tomorrow. And while he’s not working on self driving cars, sending people to Mars, carbon neutral houses powered by solar roof tiles, a hyperloop subway running from New York to Washington, he might also be the most likely candidate to provide a fully immersive, digital sexual gratification.
No, Elon Musk hasn’t started plying his trade in public toilets, not that I now of. His two companies Neuralink The Teslasuit, a body suit that enables its user to a high degree of sensory experience of Virtual, or Augmented Reality.look like the more commercially viable product.Musk’s company Neuralink develops high bandwidth Brain-Machine Interfaces (BMI). They are near to completing work on the Neural Lac, connecting its user directly to the internet, and with 5G and the internet of things, the potential is frightening. Musk’s Tesla company has already produced the Teslasuit that enables the wearer to experience the sensations inside Virtual Reality. Integrate these two technologies and sex robots will be the least of our concerns.
So , Concluding Sex with Robots, What Can Possibly Go Wrong?
Consumerism drives society’s appetite for ever more advanced technology, and if, you hadn’t already realized, this trend isn’t going to stop. Technology has been the cause of societal upheaval. While the internet has undoubtedly opened up unprecedented channels of communication, it has undermined most traditional western political systems that haven’t integrated the technology into their antiquated system. It’s facilitated the spread of radicalism, provided echo chambers for those to reinforce their bankrupt ideologies. As well as political systems, the internet has undermined economics, and entertainment. Until recently, most technological advancements have fundamentally changed society. Computer-Based Interfaces have the potential to change us as a species.
For any species, the urge to procreate is the most fundamental necessity of its survival. Sexual urges are among the most primitive we have. They originate in the oldest areas of our brains, and this is common to all mammals. The urge has been their long before our ancestors took up residence in the trees. The trouble is that technology is changing our environment at a rate far greater than we humans can adapt to it. So will we be having sex with robots? If we should’ve learnt one thing from capitalism, it’s that wherever there is a demand there’s always going to be a supplier to meet it. Isaac Asimov more succinctly said:
The Saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.
It’s been too long: something I’d be programming my sexbot to say to me. Until next time, I must go put my blindfold back on, attach the nipple clamps, and dedicate myself to some critical scientific experimentation.