Dawn of the Sex Robots cover

The Dawn Of The Sexbots

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Their increasing appearances in pop-culture (Blade Runner, Her, Humans, Westworld), reflect our growing fascination with the role artificially intelligent, anthropomorphic robots could have in society. The sex industry is set to be an early adopter of such technology, exemplified by the digitalisation of pornography, development of sex toys into teledildonics and uses of virtual reality.  Sex dolls are widely available but in an increasingly open-minded society, demand is growing for interactivity and human resemblance.

SOCIETY FIRST

While potentially harmless from a hedonistic standpoint, the technological enthusiasm of engineers may mean the impacts of sexbots are overlooked. Of the dolls manufactured by Realbotix, 80% are ‘female’ and based on a pornographic representation of women. Their development into sexbots may exacerbate the false imitation of sexual relationships, devoid of intimacy. The supernormal nature of sexbots provides an exaggerated stimulus which could result in a decrease in traditional sexual experiences between humans. Jessica Szczuka, from the University of Duisburg-Essen, conducted research into the future of sex robots, finding 40.3 % of straight males claim they could imagine using one within the next five years.

Long-term use of sexually explicit material has been shown to result in a six-fold increase in self-reported sexually aggressive behaviour. At Linz’s Arts Electronica Festival, sex doll ‘Samantha’ was severely molested by a group of men, suggesting that sex dolls invite abusive treatment. Could this be seen as a predictor of sexbots entertaining male aggression instead of challenging it, by providing positive affirmation for such treatment? Even through marketing True Companions are eroticising female non-consent, perhaps normalising sexual violence, naming their doll ‘Frigid Farah’. The contrary suggestion that they could reduce violence by providing a sexual outlet is currently unfounded given the few sexbots and hence data, available.  It has even been suggested that child sex dolls, like those manufactured by Japanese company Trottla, could be used as a paedophilia treatment  but surely their availability has the potential to normalise it?

The development of intelligence in sexbots points to a larger question about ethical frameworks regarding AI. The prospect of sexbots able to respond emotionally and adapt to their owners’ needs, seems increasingly likely. A consciousness is hard to define, however if engineers aim to produce sexbots capable of making decisions and mistakes, feeling pain, learning, at what point does their existentialism begin to resemble slavery?

Dawn of the Sex RobotsThere is currently no legal nor moral framework to support sexbots’ introduction into society: sex doll engineers work with a passive responsibility with regards to the issues potentially related to their developments. In Hong Kong, Ricky Ma, was able to create an automaton resembling Scarlett Johansson due to lack of laws in place to protect people from this type of violation. The privacy of users is also a concern as they could become vulnerable to hacks if sexbots integrated third party platforms. The consequentialist could argue that in a climate where female rights are a prevailing issue, engineers should be socially responsible as not to dehumanise women to merely ‘plastic holes’ and should consider impacts to customers’ mental health. Could the use of a robot to seek escapism from loneliness, social anxiety or an unhealthy marriage, intensify these issues?  It is important that engineers adopt an active responsibility approach and during R&D investigate the holistic effects of the sexbots on their customers and society.

INNOVATION FIRST

In question is the engineer’s professional responsibility, and so we might consider it the duty of the company as a whole, to define a code of conduct for them to work within. The development of sexbots rather than capitalism is in question here, so we may suspend judgement on the primary measure of a company’s success being economic and consider its secondary motivations. If the intention is to provide an immersive experience, be it companionship or the mimicry of ‘real’ sex, a Kantian stance qualifies the robots’ manufacture as moral, by this positive impetus. The wider deontological perspective also validates their actions, given the engineer’s duty to innovate, in spite of the eventual consequences to wider society, which remain speculative. With these intentions why should the sexbot manufacturer be responsible for foreseeing and mitigating against every avenue of product misuse, outside of the intended design purpose? Given clear guidelines and Ts&Cs, does culpability for ‘misuse’ of a robot not fall solely to the end user? As for speculation that ‘misuse’ of robots could precipitate an increase in cases of human sexual or physical abuse, a recent article builds the case for there being no link between ‘virtual’ and ‘real-life’ violence, as negative correlations fail to hit the headlines.

Even considering ultimate accountability, egoism ethics tells us that if no other human is implicated by the consumer’s use, they are free to do as they wish. Likewise, many religions, including Christianity, cannot negate the concept of free will despite their moral teachings.  In both the actions of the creator and end user, if the intention is to maximise pleasure, then a hedonistic perspective would offer support to such innovation too, just as it supports the sex toy industry, already worth over £250 million a year in the UK.  Hedonism may seem a viewpoint easy to overlook, yet 56 % of brits are predicted to have watched internet pornography?

It has been suggested that pornography will need to play a starring role in virtual reality becoming a viable reality, and the same could be likely with ‘personal’ robotics.  The pragmatist could argue that the more we allow technology to seep into aspects of our lives, the sooner the age of the digi-sexual will dawn and the more likely it will be accepted as an aspect of modern living. The Foundation for Responsible Robotics’ 2017 report, Our Sexual Future with Robots, acknowledges the potential for ‘widespread’ consumption of these products, should societal perceptions evolve. By stifling innovation in this lucrative area, we risk undermining a utilitarian goal by impeding advancements in robotics and AI that could benefit wider society, for example by their application in developing healthcare robots.

50 thoughts on “The Dawn Of The Sexbots

  1. Really interesting article, particularly how 80% of the bots are female and present an ‘ideal’ female appearance – this will surely put more pressure on women to look a certain way, rather than embracing their natural self. Also, it may give men unrealistic expectations regarding sexual experiences and the female form.

    I find it shocking that child sex dolls are available – paedophilic tendencies should surely be reduced via therapy and treatment rather than condoning it through use of sex robots.

    I understand how the market may be lucrative regarding sex bots but surely investing in technology that can be used between actual humans is a better means for development, especially in a society becoming so reliant on technology and less so on human communication.

    1. Thanks for your comment on the article. Men gaining unrealistic expectations of sex and of women’s bodies has the potential to impact both parties in a relationship, and this is an argument commonly used against pornography. A line of argument against sexbots may be that whilst pornography does not provide an immersive experience but merely acts as a visual/auditory stimulus, sexbots go further in mimicking ‘real sex’ and hence have a greater potential to impact human-human relationships by replacement.

      The idea of promoting investment in ‘social technology’ is a very valid one which I think many would agree with based on virtue ethics: not many people want to live in a world where people lose the ability to communicate face to face with another human being. Care ethics, placing a value on relationships, would also support this idea, as existing technology in this sector (such as Skype, FaceTime, etc) helps to strengthen human relationships over distance.

  2. An intelligent article that has been carefully researched. However, you may want to rephrase parts of it. Your sentence “The contrary suggestion that they could reduce violence by providing a sexual outlet is currently unfounded given the few sexbots and hence data, available.” We do not know if it is unfounded. We know it can not be proven at the moment due to the lack of data. (Equally, we know that there is arguments for and against their use.)

    For me, the first issue is are we talking enhanced masturbation or sexual intercourse? If the latter then that implies the consent of both parties. A sex bot programmed to be “capable of making decisions” suggests a degree of sentience and surely they need to give their consent to intimate acts. As you say in your article they could effectively become slaves. As an odd aside, have a look at the etymology of the word robot (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robot#Etymology). (Or are they actually androids and not robots?)

    At what point does a robot with the capacity to make decisions, to feel pain, to transmit emotions become sentient? Perhaps that is the bigger question.

    The second issue, for me, is should engineers be involved in this activity – making sex bots? From a utilitarianism point of view, they should (perhaps) since activities that give the greatest pleasure to the greatest number are desirable. However, from a duty ethics point of view there are concerns. Your citing of the attack on ‘Samantha’ is concerning as “the owner claimed the robot was designed to take a lot and would “pull through””. This implies that the owner believes violence is part of sex. However, it isn’t clear if he believed violence without consent is acceptable.
    What is clear is that the ambiguity around the development of sex-bots is concerning to many, and that may mean that the utilitarianism point of view should be revised. If the majority are not deriving pleasure from this development then it should be discouraged.

    1. On the issues of androids, do you feel that we should maintain a humane behaviour when dealing with items that bear resemblance to us, even if they lack a conscience. The same way a parent would be worried by their child gaining pleasure from disfiguring dolls and action figures, I think we should establish some moral framework when dealing with these dolls.

      If they are considered to have a consciousness though then shouldn’t the same morals we hold apply to them, which of course raises the slavery argument?

  3. Really interesting and scary article!

    Another aspect to consider is the consequences on the amount of “real” sex that these robots could have.
    Japan is currently facing a crisis as young people aren’t having enough sex (a third of japonese people of the age of 30 haven’t had sex) which is causing a steep population decline which has been accredited to the fact that Japonese young people “can’t be bothered” due to the easy accessibility of porn.
    Surely the normalisation of these submissive robots could also cause a drastic decrease in the global birth rate and cause huge problems.

    1. Thanks for your comment, very interesting perspective we had not considered in the article. Should sexbot technology take off to the same extent as pornography this may be an argument against it on various ethical grounds: the demise of the human race would surely not be supported by a utilitarian ethics for example.

    2. I don’t think the issue of Japan’s population crisis i down the ease of accessibility of porn. Porn is available worldwide for free, Japan is the only country experiencing this issue currently. It’s not as if the population is being asked to choose between porn and sex for the rest of their life?

      The root of Japan’s crisis is due to their changing culture: particularly for women. Women have more opportunities in life, rather than homemaking: which is great. However, unlike other countries, Japan operates in a ‘children or career’ mentality. And being a single mum? That’s out the window as it is not ‘appropriate’.

      I don’t think these sex robots have the ability to affect population to that much of a degree. Take Japan’s population ~130 million, that would mean 65 million men would have to pack in sex for an entire generation and take up sex robots, unlikely.

      Anyway, is a decrease in population really that much of a disaster?

  4. Very interesting article and definitely raises debate on a topic that can be considered taboo in some circles.

    When discussing some of the dangers of this technology, I feel it resonates strongly with kind of arguments that must have been presented with the rise of pornography, particularly in the early stages of the internet. A utilitarian argument could be brought into both standpoints, further research on what the benefits to society maybe and if they outweigh the negatives would be really interesting. Placing responsibility in hands of engineers to self regulate can often be precarious, although they must act within their professional boundaries and the law, I think they should always be encouraged to simply create the most effective solutions regardless of the subject in question.

    The ‘pro’ argument uses ethical frameworks well to reinforce its case, hinging on promoting responsible consumerism driving responsible production. However with such an intimate subject, I believe the topic will be covered by restricted debate which can often lead to a lack of understanding around the ethical arguments.

  5. My opinion on this topic is perfectly encapsulated by the question: “Could the use of a robot to seek escapism from loneliness, social anxiety or an unhealthy marriage, intensify these issues?”

    Sex dolls inevitably will appeal to individuals who struggle to integrate properly with society as they will offer a degree of stimulus and company that is otherwise lacking. I believe some of these people will become dependent on these illusions of real relationships and as a result, they may further withdraw from society or simply put less effort in to make actual human-human relationships. I understand that this may be a minority and therefore the argument from a hedonisitc perspective is valid – they probably will provide pleasure to the majority of users. However, I think when you consider care ethics and the importance of social interactions upon mental well-being, in the long term I think sex dolls will cause more pain than pleasure.

  6. Wow. The prospects truly are frightening, aren’t they?

    I took particular interest in the part of the article when you talked about the wider ethical problems surrounding AI, i.e. the nuances of what constitutes consciousness, as I feel that, due to the way were are currently trending as a society, this idea of slavery versus existentialism will become a much more pertinent subject in years to come.

    Of course, AI is in itself a very hotly debated and relevant topic presently; however, I also appreciate the way you, with the aid of case-study, made mention of the inherent risks associated with it in terms of also being potentially susceptible to hacks and leaked private information. Given the type of climate we live in today, where hacking seems to be particularly en-vogue, this is one possibility that should never be overlooked or undervalued.

  7. Extremely interesting piece, very well written.

    The article touches on a controversial, yet important, subset of the increasingly signficant debate over what do we do about conscious AI that can experience pleasure and suffering? You do a really good job of providing a rich blend of various philosophical viewpoints and scientific research—helping you to put forward an engaging article. I think it goes without saying that this article is a must read!

    However, my intuitions seem to differ with yours in the following ways:
    1. I do not think that a Kantian would support this innovation, as you suggest. This is for two reasons: (1) if they are conscious and rational (i.e. able to make decisions), the second categorical imperative formulated by Kant—that rational agents must be treated as ends in themselves and not as means to an end—will apply; and (2) if they aren’t conscious, Kant argued that we owe an indirect duty to animals, not because they are conscious or rational, but because he thought an inhumane treatment of animals could/would lead to an inhumane treatment of humans. In either scenario, it is difficult to see how he would support this.
    2. Also, I think a consequentialist would be against this innovation on the sole ground that, the consequences—the normalisation of sexual slavery and paedophilic impulses—outweigh any potential benefits that the innovation could have. After all, the consequentialist could ask, “who would want to live in a society where sexual slavery and paedophilic impulses are normalised?” With the likely outcome being a moral degradation of society, it is difficult to see how a consequentialist will support this.
    3. However, I do think that we can treat pedophiles by providing a safe, harmless outlet for their impulses, urges and desires. And we do have a precedent for this: the way in which we are able to weaken/treat the impulses, urges and desires of drug and alcohol addicts by providing them with weaker substances—a safer, less harmful outlet.

    I think you may find this podcast episode (https://samharris.org/podcasts/abusing-dolores/) interesting. They discuss the ethics of having sex with robots and the wider debate around conscious AI while considering Dolores in Westworld.

  8. This article is a revelation to me. I am surprised at how expansive the ‘sex robots’ have become. The reference to Jessica Szczuka’s research that found 40.3 % of straight males claiming they could imagine using one within the next five years is really an eye opener to their growing popularity.

    Another interesting point was the lack of laws in place to protect people from having robots made to resemble them, without consent. This could be tricky to deal with as the robot creators may claim any resemblance was just coincidence. Unless the robot is named after the so-called human inspiration, it is difficult to be certain.

  9. Interesting article, however I feel that study regarding increased aggressive behaviour due to long term use of explicit material could be challenged.
    Surely repressed sexuality has been identified long term as a cause of violent in particular sexual behaviour in the past.
    Recent studies around prohibition have demonstrated an increase in rape and sexual violence in countries where bans have been enforced.

    As regards the human/robot and AI debate this must be viewed against previous short term predictions of technological advance that have failed to emerge.
    Sexbots are an extremely long way from successfully copying human characteristics and emotions. I feel that they will remain no more than sophisticated sex toys for a considerable period of time perhaps forever.
    Can we be certain that AI technology at the human reasoning, emotional and self determining level can ever be achieved.

    Of course the ability for individuals to perform acts which would be consider unlawful and unethical with existing sexbots may exist, I do feel this area does require some further ongoing research.
    We need to look at the underlying causes of extreme types of sexual disfunction within individual cases and treat these people, rather than provide an outlet for this behaviour using VR and sexbots.

  10. The development of sexbots is a natural progression of the increasing ubiquity of technology in our lives. The manufacturers would say that they are fulfilling an unmet need in society and if there are customers willing to pay, then there is a market for the sale if sexbots. That is the nature of capitalism.

    There are many people who, because of their situation e.g. loneliness, physical or mental disability etc. are unable to have a sex life with a real human, and would perhaps benefit from using a sexbot. I have a number of misgivings about whether that would be the best form of help, but I would find it hard to deny someone that right should it exist.

    Regarding the potential charge that sexbots could encourage sexually aggressive behaviour against women, I find myself coming back to the argument used in the U.S. to justify gun ownership, which goes “It’s not guns that kill people, it’s people who kill people”- but should we be providing people with an easy way to kill others?

    In the end, we cannot expect the sexbot to do other than complement/mirror the deeper problems in society caused by sexual deviancy such as rape, pornography, prostitution, paedophilia, which are exacerbated by inequality, poverty, violence, lack of opportunity, inadequate parenting and poor education.

  11. An incredibly enlightening article that handles a controversial topic with confidence, providing a careful analysis of the surrounding moral, legal and financial implications of ‘sex bots’. Particularly fascinating is the consideration of the potential commodification of the female body in a climate dominated by patriarchal ideals where gender equality is already significantly challenged.

    Additionally, a further discussion point of great interest is the potential utilitarian debate surrounding the advancement of AI and robotics with regards to healthcare robots – an idea I would have been intrigued to see expanded further.

    Nevertheless, I found this article an informative read and the discussion of theoretical frameworks such as utilitarianism and deontological ethics interspersed with quantitative evidence strengthens the conclusions of the article considerably.

  12. Very thought provoking article, and as others have commented, it stimulates thoughts about a topic many are aware of, but few discuss.

    From reading this article, and a quick google search, there seems to be a difference in opinion as to how best to describe the relationship people have with their sex robot; is it that of a sex toy, or is it as a ‘girlfriend’ type figure?

    The treatment of ‘Samantha’ cited in the article is surely only concerning if the user views her as a ‘girlfriend’? Do most dildo users treat their dildo exactly as they would a real penis? If the user viewed the sex robot as only a sex toy, then there is no reason to assume the user would treat another human being badly.

    The greatest concern the article gave me was the risk of further alienating young men with low confidence, who may not have ever had sex with a real woman. In the early 1900’s, it was far more common for men to lose their virginity to a prostitute than it is now, largely due to changes in societies opinion on casual sex. However for those young men in society now who do not engage with casual sex due to being nervous around women, would sex robots offer them such a good alternative that they wouldn’t feel the need to ever engage with a real woman?

    Another user commented on the link between the rise in men who do not have sex with real women (due to consuming pornography instead), and the falling birth rate – would sex robots not encourage a trend like this, only more rapidly as it satisfies more of the bodies urges than pornography e.g. physical intimacy etc?

    Although one could argue, that the world population is increasing at an uncontrolled rate – could sex robots save humanity, by lowering birth rates?

    1. Thank you for your comment, you tackle some controversial points very directly here. Firstly I think this distinction is crucial: are we talking about sex toys or companions when we think about sexbots? In part this may come down to the level of AI reached, and whether manufacturers can cross the ‘uncanny valley’ with the sexbot aesthetic (https://www.buzzfeed.com/danmeth/welcome-to-uncanny-valley?utm_term=.diAqVW3JX#.tro1l85jK).

      With regards the treatment of ‘Samantha’: criminals committing violent acts towards human beings are often found to have been guilty of animal cruelty earlier in their life. Is treatment of a lifelike sexbot not a potential gateway to mistreating a human being?

  13. This is an excellent and informative article. Every comment is backed up by solid research and the confidence with which the conclusions are reached is commendable. It is unapologetic in its findings. I feel the issues tackled in this article are hugely concerning and there ought to be a greater focus on this in public policy.

  14. The article is very well written, and interesting.
    I found it very hard hitting the first couple of paragraphs into the link between https://www.bu.edu/sph/2015/10/20/viewpoint-domestic-violence-whats-porn-got-to-do-with-it/
    I personally do not understand the obsession of AI for the purpose of sex but I have widened my perspective after reading your report due to the demands for the latest in pornography.
    However I believe there should be some sort of regulations because this is creepy and very disturbing especially reading about the guy who made his doll look like Scarlett Johansen.

  15. A really interesting and informative article. The statistic of 40.3% of straight men being able to envisage themselves using one of these dolls in the next 5 years is shocking!

    I’d be interested to learn more about the use of AI sex dolls by women and the statistics there. Realbotix, the company you mention in the article, have thus far only created female dolls. However, due to large demand, are in the process of creating male dolls for the female market. The AI aspect of the doll, with its ability to adapt emotionally to its owner is expected to appeal to women particularly.

    The CEO of Realbotix has stressed that these sexbots are more than just sex dolls, they are companions – what are the potential positive outcomes and/or repercussions that engineers ought to consider? Is it dangerous to actively encourage emotional attachments to these robots and use these dolls as a substitute to human relationships – do engineers have a moral responsibility there?

    1. Thanks for your comment! The point you raise about the expectation of AI incorporation appealing to women particularly is very interesting, and I can well imagine this to be the case but I’d like to read the research you’ve found on this topic? I fear my opinion is based on stereotypes!

      I definitely agree with your comment that, though the idea of a companion may be more wholesome, this is potentially more concerning than an AI sex toy in terms of customers’ and their potential partners’ mental wellbeing.

  16. Very interesting and thought provoking article. I was not even aware of how popular these sexbots were. It is very informative, argues both sides and generates good discussion.
    I personally, find a bit too strange to choose an inflated doll over a real woman, since even for the very shy or unsocially adaptable, there are still enough professional prostitutes who are able to deal with all sorts and provide human contact.
    Although in my view this concept is very strange and I would regard someone with a sexbot very weird and definitely with some serious unresolved issues, it might be the best solution for them. A sexbot may prevent them abusing or violating a real person.
    On the other hand, is that the direction the world should be going, less and less of human interaction? It is hard for me to see sexbot as the best solution to whatever mental issue people might have.

  17. To begin, I must say the article is well written, thought-provoking, and challenges its reader to be aware of the ever-changing dynamics that surround ethics and professional responsibility.

    We live in a day and age where AI has become both prevalent and pervasive in all aspects of our lives. From Siri on IOS to Sophia the robot citizens, I found it interesting that the blog has provided another view for readers.

    Personally, I am a big fan of movies and tv series and while I may not watch all I do my best to have an idea of whats on show. I point this out because while it seems that sex bots appeared out of nowhere the writers of this blog post have shown perfectly that this has been a fascination of society for a long time. Blade Runner was released in 1982 and the Westworld the tv series is based on a 1973 film of the same name.

    On the ethics surrounding sexbots, I feel all responsibility is down to its user. As this post has pointed out, some people use it for filling a gap of intimacy, and on the flip side, the sexbots are used for inappropriate causes. With advancements on the horizon to enable the bots to have emotions, improper use of the bots may have more of an ethical implication than present day.

    Overall I enjoyed this article, and I hope that more readers share their views and keep the conversation going.

  18. a very bold and well investigated article into a topic many others would shy away from. The article has given me much food for thought after reading, especially after considering the daily advances that are being made within robotics and AI. It would be interesting to see your viewpoint on virtue ethics given the statements associated with Aristotle’s views pulled from the virtue ethics section in the book-ethics, technology and engineers: virtue ethics should “strive for the highest good”-it means leading a life as humans are meant to lead it; one should excel in the things that are a part of being human”. From Aristotle’s viewpoint it may be argued the use of sex dolls takes away from being human as human intimacy and interaction is hindered by the use of sex doll substitutes. Moreover some may argue the use of sex dolls equates to not leading a life as humans are meant to lead.

    Another interesting point you could touch on would be care ethics; if the excessive use of pornography is already established as a reason for some peoples social and intimacy failures within real human relationships then sex dolls surely pose to exacerbate the issue. Therefore in the long run mental health issues may propagate from the use of sex dolls posing negatives to which care ethics would disagree.

    Overall it was a bloody cracker of an article and as such you’ve enabled yourself the ability to investigate many ethical theories here for your next piece. Congrats.

  19. Interesting yet troubling article. The options to escape reality and personal connection are ever increasing and sexbots are the latest. Relationships require 2 parties willing to engage and discover one another. These robots are not a willing party but instead have been programmed or designed to complete a specific task for a paying customer.

    If engineers and technologists continue to innovate in this space and create even more sophisticated bots that can “substitute” for a human being, we will have an increasing amount of individuals who have little desire or the ability to build real relationships with actual human beings. Technology should really be giving us new ways to connect with one another and not new ways to disconnect.

    1. “Technology should really be giving us new ways to connect with one another and not new ways to disconnect”, I could not agree more with this statement and I feel at the moment technology is being driven by profit and the identification of new markets. I do not think these sexbots offer any real solutions past a hedonist standpoint and as a consequntialist I think their effects on society will only make this innovation immoral.

      1. I think it may be too early to label this innovation as immoral, as even porn has brought about benefits to society. Looking at the influences some famous pornstars like Lisa Ann who has stated in the past that fans have told her how much her work has taught them about sex and how it has helped bring couples closer who have watched it together, I think these sexbots are worth a go.

        Although if they are to developed into more sentient beings or androids then we need to revise how we define robot ethics so they are not just considered sex slaves.

  20. A really eye-opening article for me. I knew about the advancements in the technology for sex robots, but 40.3% of straight men saying they would try it, that’s a real shock as i thought it only appealed to a niche group of men.

    The issue’s brought up are fascinating, the use of sexbots adhering to violence and aggression, representing a form of slavery, a spin on religion condoning it. Whether these aspects are believed in or not by the reader, it is thought-provoking and stimulates conversation about them.

    Again, it was a really captivating article, short enough to make it an easy read, and every aspect explained and backed up. Will definitely be showing it to other people to read.

  21. A very well written and thought provoking article. I found it shocking that long term use of sexually explicit material has been shown to result in a six-fold increase in sexually aggressive behaviour, yet these robots are still allowed to be manufactured. I disagree with that by halting innovation in this area we are preventing further AI advancements that would be beneficial to human health – they are two different areas and I cant see how sexual advancements on a robot will help advance medicinal benefits, especially as you could spend time and money directly on enhancing healthcare robots.

    1. Whilst I agree in an ideal world we wouldn’t need this industry in order to enhance similar technology in other fields, the reality is that the money needed to enhance these fields is coming from the sex robot industry. You can’t simply spend the money on healthcare robots as the equivalent financial backing wouldn’t be there without the sex robot industry.

      On the other hand, however, who are we to say that the needs of the people that can be helped by the advancements in healthcare robots through the sex robot industry are more important than that of the needs of the people that may be put in danger by the increase in sexually aggressive behavior towards them?

  22. An article that covers a very current and worrying issue. The real impacts of Sexbots is not fully investigated, however i feel they will be heavily weighted on the negatives. They are likely to exacerbate sexual violence and be a step back for women’s rights. They are programmed to satisfy the consumer’s desires, not considering whether they should be satisfied, for the benefits of themselves or anyone else.
    A very well written article.

  23. A very interesting article adding fuel to the debate surrounding the rise of Artificial Intelligence. This is one of many ethical and social arguments that will continue to arise as technology and humanity become increasingly integrated.

    It is interesting, albeit not surprising, to note that 80% of dolls manufactured by Realbotix are female. In a time beleaguered by sexual harassment (e.g. Harvey Weinstein, Whitehall, NGOs etc.) the further objectification of women in the form of sex robots does little to change society’s views toward women and ameliorate gender inequality that has only recently come to the forefront of policy agendas (E.G. equal pay, HeforShe campaign).

    1. Thanks for your comment! I find it surprising there have not been more comments highlighting the issue of eroticising of women’s bodies and objectification of women in the media. Perhaps because this is a deeper societal issue? Would you feel differently about ‘sexbots’ if they were made in the likeness of what the media terms ‘real-women’ ? Or perhaps if the doll/bot market was a 50-50 split between likenesses of male and female ?

  24. A very well well-written article on a subject that perhaps doesn’t get as much attention as it should. Shocking how quickly a prototype of this doll, was severely molested by a group of men.

    Whether or not this type of behavior leads to an increase in sexual violence at the moment is not entirely certain. As mentioned in the article some studies have shown that violent video games do not automatically correlate with violent behavior. We will have to wait until more comprehensive studies are conducted before discussing the regulation of these products.

    The case of Japan having less sex than before is concerning, especially for a country with already low birth rates.

    While negative birth rates perhaps wouldn’t be a bad thing for countries with out of control birth rates, high-income countries like Japan have a lot to lose with an ageing population. I don’t see how the introduction of sexbots helps this problem.

  25. Would you agree that sexbots would only act as a stop gap for real issues like birth control, loneliness etc, and that engineers have not even fully evaluated these as possible benefits? It seems like their actions are driven from a duty ethics standpoint, that duty being to innovate.

  26. Very enlightening article, I find some of the reasons for the use of sexbots quite interesting especially. I think the mental health of men is something not discussed enough at the moment in society, there are men out there suffering from loneliness who although feel comfortable in society just need some form of companionship on a more emotional and sexual level.

    I do feel it may be a bit too early to start integrating Artificial intelligence into sex dolls as we need to really need to understand the impacts they could have on society before producing them on such a large scale

  27. Really nice article, I was aware that there was a growing sex robot industry but did not realises how close they were to becoming a reality! I think the closest parallel for making a judgement on this is probably the porn industry. At this time where female rights are a prevailing issue I don not think it is the right climate for the development of sex robots.

    Even in the porn industry there have been a recent series of reported suicides which show that even the women who give off the perfect image of sex may struggle to deal with the expectations of the society we live in. From a consequentialist perspective I feel they are not enough benefits to justify the innovation of sexbots at this moment. We are still trying to understand the society we live in and are not ready to produce sentient beings into it by our own creation as of yet.

  28. An interesting read which challenges both sides of the argument. I think with such a taboo subject many people will be reluctant to have discussions about the ethics of the situation. The point raised about feeding sexual aggression rather than taming it is a valid one and this should be investigated by manufacturers of these sex dolls. The implications of AI should be investigated further before implementing it into the bots in my opinion

  29. Really interesting article!

    Im not sure how this will work though. It will probably interest those that like to explore and experiment with sex toys and pornography. There is more to sex than the physical act, what happens to relationships when you have a sexbot? It negates the whole purpose of the creator when one has to turn to a sexbot for pleasure. In practicing “freewill” then your need for pleasure will not only be limited to the accepted standards and values God created. After sexbots, the world will want something else…

  30. This article shows a thought provoking approach of the subject. Even though the main points about the ethical ideas are thought of, also the economical ideas are there.
    The most interesting point in the article is that they are thinking about using sex robots as a treatment of paedophilia but my first thought when I read that was why would you want to encourage that thought in their head, instead of curing it wouldn’t it normalise it.
    But sometimes things that are considered bad or taboo could have long term gains, it could help innovate new robots that are more useful as one of the examples says development in healthcare robots could be helped by the ideas and development of these sex robots.

  31. Very interesting article, posing several interesting perspectives on a controversial topic.

    Coming from a legal background, as technology advances in relation to sex robots their legal status becomes questionable. Under current law, sex between two consenting adults is permissible. However, it is also illegal to engage in sexual intercourse with animals, the reasoning behind which is varied, but fundamentally they cannot consent. Analogies can be drawn between both sex robots and animals, especially if with advancements in technology they can respond emotionally and adapt to their owners needs.

    I think this definitely provides an interesting perspective on the future of sex robots

    1. Very interesting point about if the robots can consent or not, with the aim of technological advancements being to make the robots replicate humans as closely as possible, will they one day reach the point of requiring consent?

      1. I think this point for the industry will come when these robots contain human genetics. Not like real hair or anything aesthetic but when there is enough human in them to become sentient, an actual human thought process. Until that point they are exactly the same as a car that looks like the human.

  32. I liked how a variety of viewpoints were expressed concisely yet effectively.
    However, it seems that the general framework (as opposed to the substantive content proper) of the concerns expressed in the article resemble those that often predate the introduction of new technology. As a society, we are generally hesitant to change, and with good reason in many regards. Nevertheless historically, we have been particularly cautious to technological change and arguably, these concerns have frequently been overstated, where most of those raised never in fact materialized, or if so, nowhere near the extent to which it was feared.

  33. Very controversial read! The presentation of facts and research findings provide a safe ground for a healthy discussion.

    Having read this article a few times I can only see a recipe for a collection of individual disasters here. The issues with pornography and “sex addiction” in society are only just being tackled by the NHS. Why then do we feel the need to dehumanise sex even more, and create a platform for rapists and child abusers (referring to the Japanese child dolls) that we will only then turn around to tackle in a few decades. Reading the article I tried to draw some benefits to this to society as a whole (not just an individual male or female) but I couldn’t quite come up with any..Open to any other views? In my opinion, reducing what is meant to be the highest expression of intimacy between two individuals, to a simple act with a doll you can pull out of your closet, is the beginning of the end of relationships as we know it…..

  34. Interesting article, but raises the question to me why is it the responsibility of the engineer? Surely the responsibility of the end user? We do not say prostitutes are responsible for making sure their clients don’t mistreat them, so why should the engineers be responsible?

    One could argue that skilled engineers could be used to develop a wide range of other products, which benefit more people, as opposed to the few with the disposable income to buy a sex robot, but this is not the case in modern societies (e.g. engineers who develop F1 cars, Rolex watches etc) so why is it any different here? I think the taboo surrounding this subject clouds many peoples’ opinion.

  35. We see this topic as controversial and yet a study claims over 40 % of men asked, could see themselves having sex with a robot in the next five years – so surely we are not all so shocked by the idea of this technological advancement. Statistics on people’s sex lives and their sexual predilections are known to be skewed based on what level of anonymity participants perceive data collection to have (https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/lying-about-sex-common-men-and-women_n_3353446). It is difficult to establish what the majority deem to be ethical if the conversation is not open.

  36. I believe that due to technological advancements and the deterioration in mental health of many, many humans will inevitably turn to sexbots for gratification.
    Currently many human beings are engaged in unsatisfying sexual relationships which could be replaced by satisfying mechanically-induced euphoria.
    In future sexbots could be used for the eradication and ultimate extinction of sexually transmitted diseases.

  37. “Why should the sexbot manufacturer be responsible for foreseeing and mitigating against every avenue of product misuse, outside of the intended design purpose? Given clear guidelines and Ts&Cs, does culpability for ‘misuse’ of a robot not fall solely to the end user?”

    The answer to this question lies within the scope of morality and more specifically how we define morality i.e. what is good or bad.

    Complications arise when assessing this morality across different societies and cultures, who vary greatly in their moral compasses driven by the religious, liberal or conservative views of the general public.

    It is near impossible to apply a one size fits all code of ethics or morality across all these groups. Furthermore, how do we account for the growing liberal worldviews of the population contributing to a rising demand and acceptance for these sort of products.

    The definition and implications of morality are crucial to the outcomes of this discussion.

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