A conference exists where the ethical quandaries regarding humans’ relationships to robots. Excuse me. Allow me to clarify: humans’ sexual relationship with robots. Sex robots, that is.
That seems an obvious starting point for this story. Experts from around the globe gathered in London for the Second International Congress on Love and Sex With Robots. There they discussed such topics as Entertainment Robots, Intelligent Electronic Sex Hardware, and Teledildonics (a top 5 name for a field of study). They also hosted keynote talks on “Why Not Marry A Robot?” and panels debating “What is the Future of Robotic Sex?”
One eyebrow-raising idea posited during the Congress: What if sex robots over-exerted humans and decreased their desire—and ability—to have sex with other humans? And what if sex robots over-exerted humans to the point of collapse?
This idea was forwarded by Oliver Bendel, of the University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Northwestern Switzerland, who argued that the full field of machine ethics should be applied to sex robotics.
At Love and Sex with Robots conference. Someone has just shown me a photo of a ten grand sexbot who looks rather like Melania Trump. pic.twitter.com/lFZwy7FVnN
— Rowan Pelling (@RowanPelling) December 19, 2016
According to the Register, Bendel explained that “machine ethics sees machines—whether self-driving cars, chatbots, military drones, and presumably, your basic pleasure model—as potential moral agents in their own right.”
This path of thought led Bendel to wonder if sex robots should include moral skills, if robots could enter into “contracts,” if robots could “entice” users, and if robots should reveal they are, in fact, robots, among other queries. One more big question from Bendel: Should humans have access to sex robots at all times? Or be limited in their availability?
Another important line of questioning followed the depiction of these robots in TV and film. State University of New York professor Julie Wosk discussed men’s quest to craft “The Perfect Woman,” like the ones seen in The Stepford Wives. But recent years have shown female robots lashing out against their creators with programs like Ex Machina and Westworld, as robots exhibited their own moral and personal agency.
Other quandaries raised were if sex robotics could help save marriages of busy partners and what to make of cloning popular female actresses like the recent robot that eerily resembles Scarlett Johansson. That’s not even mentioning David Levy’s prediction that marriage to robots will be legal by 2050.
As if human sexuality wasn’t complicated and convoluted enough, it seems adding robots to the mix could lead to more problems down the road. For that, only the future will tell.
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