A leading robot ethicist has warned that ‘sexbots’ could seriously damage human relationships. Experts hope to use artificial intelligence to create lifelike machines that can talk and have se’x like a human.
However, Dr Kathleen Richardson told the BBC the technology is ‘unnecessary and undesirable’.
‘Se’x 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,’ she told the BBC.
She believes that they reinforce traditional stereotypes of women and the view that a relationship need be nothing more than physical.
‘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 said.
Dr Richardson, a robot ethicist at De Montfort University in Leicester, wants to raise awareness of the issue and persuade those developing se’x robots to rethink how their technology is used.
Previously experts have warned that human relationships with robots are set to become commonplace.
A sex scene between a man and a robot in Channel 4 thriller Humans may have shocked audiences, but se’x between humans and machines may soon become the norm.
As humans spend more time in virtual realities – including online gaming and social media – intimate relationships with androids might even improve our mental health, according to academic Dr Helen Driscoll, a se’x psychologist.
And our physical relationships will come to be seen as primitive in the near future as humanity embraces machines as partners.
Se’x mannequins that you can order online already exist, and rapid advances in technology will enable them to ‘come to life’, according to Dr Driscoll in a blog post for the Huffington Post.
Robophilia – the word for a se’xual attraction to robots – seems like an alien concept to us now, but could become the norm as our attitudes catch up to the technology.
‘As virtual reality becomes more realistic and immersive and is able to mimic and even improve on the experience of se’x with a human partner, it is conceivable that some will choose this in preference to se’x with a less than perfect human being,’ said Dr Driscoll.
In addition to having physical relationships with machines, advances in artificial intelligence could enable machines or even computer programs to become realistic enough to fall in love with.
This was explored in the 2013 film Her, which saw Joaquin Phoenix’s character fall in love with a Siri-like operating system.
‘This may seem shocking and unusual now, but we should not automatically assume that virtual relationships have less value than real relationships,’ wrote Dr Driscoll.
Dr Driscoll points to people who have lost their partner or who live alone as people who might benefit psychologically from a virtual se’xual relationship. ‘After all a virtual partner is surely better than no partner at all.’
Virtual affairs could also present a problem in the future, with some partners seeing se’x with a machine as similar to se’x with another person, according to Dr Driscoll.
The amount of time we spend online – communicating via emails and social media – is already a problem for some people, but our relationships with other humans could soon be conducted entirely online.
As we spend more time in virtual reality and living alone, this will lead to increased mental health problems, according to Dr Driscoll.
The lack of human contact is currently harmful, as humans are social animals and isolation is linked with mental health problems, she said.