Ethicists Launch a Campaign Protesting Artificially Intelligent Sex Robots

Tuesday, 15 September 2015 - 2:18PM
Technology
Weird Science
Tuesday, 15 September 2015 - 2:18PM
Ethicists Launch a Campaign Protesting Artificially Intelligent Sex Robots
Is society heading towards a real-life Westworld? Prominent ethicists, led by De Montfort University researcher Kathleen Richardson, have just launched the Campaign Against Sex Robots, which claims that artificially intelligent sexual partners will soon be both ubiquitous and detrimental to a society concerned with social justice, unless we do something to prevent it.

Inanimate sex dolls are nothing new, but adding artificial intelligence into the mix has only been on the horizon in recent years. True Companion has been developing "the world's first sex robot," Roxxxy, for many years. According to the True Companion website, Roxxxy "knows your name, your likes and dislikes, carry on a discussion & expresses her love to you & be your loving friend. She can talk to you, listen to you & feel your touch. She can even have an orgasm!"

A Roxxxy prototype was unveiled back in 2010, but none of them actually made it into the commercial market. There still seems to be a demand, though, as RealDoll creator Matt McMullen recently started a project called Realbotix, which would also produce an artificially intelligent sex robot.

Opening quote
"What is she thinking, does she like it?" McMullen said in June. "If you can create [that reality], or the illusion of that, it is going to be a much more impressive pay-off than 'Wow, she can gyrate her hips by herself.'"
Closing quote


The researchers behind the Campaign Against Sex Robots claim that sex robots will be a commonplace product in sex stores in as little as five to ten years, and that this will be extremely harmful to human relationships for several different reasons. First, they claim that it will increase isolation, as it will encourage us to continue the trend of replacing real-life relationships with technology, and will reduce our empathy towards one another, as it reinforces the notion of people as objects.

Opening quote
"Introducing sex robots that could replace partners is the extreme of this trend, where we start to objectify our human relationships," he said.
Closing quote


And since the dolls are primarily (in some cases exclusively) female, the sex dolls may be particularly harmful to women. While some would argue that sex dolls are harmless, as they're not real women, or possibly even beneficial to the women's rights movement, as they could serve as a replacement for prostitution and pornography that potentially objectify real women, the ethicists contend that this is not the case.

Opening quote
"When I first started looking into the subject I thought, 'oh sex robots, that's harmless and perhaps these robots would reduce demand for real women and children,'" Richardson told CNBC.

"But then as I researched the subject more I found that the opposite was true-that rather than reduce the objectification of women, children and also men and transgender people, these robots would contribute and reinforce their position in society [as objects]. We have the real use of women and children in the real world [as sex objects] and this kind of paraphernalia reinforces that message."
Closing quote


As a feminist, I tend to agree. Sexism isn't just the result of outright degradation of women, but the proliferation of the idea that women are subservient to men through the media and other more subtle, subliminal messaging. So it stands to reason that using an artificially intelligent sex doll that approximates a perfectly obedient, servile, sexualized woman would reinforce retrograde notions of how women are supposed to behave. 

This hypothesis seems to be supported by a comment on an article in The Independent on the Campaign Against Sex Robots (it's not actual proof, since online commenters are always the worst of the worst, but it's still disturbing):

Opening quote
"Woman over machine, sure. A compliant robot over a squawking feminist? Every time!"
Closing quote
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