Will it be possible for humans and robots to procreate? Could bots see the demise of female humans? And what about pedophiles – should they be given child sex dolls? RT went to the Love and Sex Robots Conference to find out.
The event, which had its venue changed from Goldsmiths University to a secret north London location following “threats from Islamic extremists,” saw ethicists, computer scientists, and sex toy developers discuss how robots are set to affect our intimate lives. It was previously banned in Malaysia for being “too extreme.”
The ethics of robot sex is hotly debated. But with ‘digisexual’ now an accepted sexual preference, the world’s first robot brothel opening in Barcelona, and buyers able to customize sex dolls to an extreme level – nipple color, body shape, and breast size – there’s no denying the rise of sex bots is inevitable.
Conference organizer Professor Adrian David Cheok told RT that robot-human love will soon be the norm. “As robots become more intelligent, more realistic, more people will fall in love and have sex with robots,” the founder of Mixed Reality Lab said. “It is not just erotic.”
Dr. David Levy, author of Love and Sex with Robots, added that robots already play an important role in society. “There are millions of people in the world who for one reason or another have no one to love, and no one who loves them. There’s a huge void in their lives. And this void can be filled by sex robots, who make people who are currently very lonely much happier.”
Pedophiles and child sex dolls
Robotics philosopher Marc Behrendt of ULB University in Belgium told the conference child sex bots (CSBs) could be used to treat pedophiles to stop them from offending on real children.
“A CSB – like any other sex bot – would be an autonomous, animated, articulated machine with advanced AI that is designed to sexually assist the human users. At this stage of robotic tech, we are still not talking about self-aware or conscious machines.”
But he said CSBs are “inevitable,” adding that an ethical framework is “urgently needed.”
It “might seem immoral, preposterous and creepy… [but] how do we as a society protect children from sexual predators?” Behrendt asked. “Should we incite pedophiles to unlearn and suppress sexual urges as it has [been] until now with limited success? Or should we, in addition to other therapies, try to divert to CSBs and not real children?”
Using CSBs to treat pedophiles may be “in the collective interests of society,” he suggested. He said they could be used alongside other therapies, overseen by doctors or an ethics committee.
Levy told RT it is not yet known whether CSBs could stop pedophiles from offending on real children, or actually encourage pedophilia. “I think until sex robots are available in very large numbers, and there has been a lot of experimentation, we won’t know which side of the coin will come down.”
“A lot of work needs to be done between now and then by lawyers, lawmakers, physiatrists, and those who develop software to use AI for therapeutic means. And eventually it will have to be a gigantic experiment to see what the results are – will the use of child sex dolls in fact wean pedophiles off their predilection, or will it in fact make matters worse? We don’t know,” he added.
Human-robot hybrid babies
Levy, a leading expert in the field of artificial intelligence, has predicted robots could have children with their human owners to create a new hybrid species. He said given recent progress in stem cell research, artificial intelligence and robot genetics, “it is possible.”
Levy pointed to the work of researchers at Ohio State University, who have developed a nanotechnology-based chip that can successfully inject code into damaged skin cells to repair them. Levy says in the future, scientists will be able to use this process – Tissue Nanotransfection (TNT) – to allow “the genetic code of a robot to be passed onto its offspring along with human genetic code.”
“Suddenly the very real possibility has appeared on the horizon of the robots of the future manipulating human skin cells to create human sperm and human eggs,” he said. He adds that from those eggs, robots may be capable of “creating an entire human baby whose embryo can be nurtured and carried through pregnancy by a mother surrogate.”
“This is how I believe it will be possible, within the foreseeable future, for humans and robots to make babies together.”
TNT could render in vitro fertilization (IVF), and even sexual intercourse, redundant. “I think it is an odds-on cert to happen before the end of this century,” Levy said.
Robots will see humans’ demise
For Kathleen Richardson, a professor in the ethics of robots at De Montfort University, sex robots are a disturbing development that humans should fear, not fantasize about. An opposing voice at the conference, the co-founder of the Campaign Against Sex Robots said that if action isn’t taken to curb the growth of sex robots, “society will come to an end.”
Richardson believes it’s damaging to our society to promote sex robots as alternatives to having a meaningful experience with a human being. She added that sex robots will isolate lonely people further, dehumanize and objectify women, and see men “not relating to a human female, or even recognizing her as a female.”
“In our world, what matters is how we relate to each other as human beings – as men and women, as adults and children. If we can’t get that right, if we keep perpetuating practices that turn the other into an object – into an ‘it’ – then that’s a problem,” Richardson said. “I can tell you where things are going, and it’s not looking pretty.”
Anxieties over AI’s potential dangers are not uncommon. A professor of robotics at Sheffield University, Noel Sharkey, has warned that teens may soon have their first sexual encounters with specifically-designed robotic dolls, saying the trend could ruin human relationships and have terrible consequences for humanity.
Space X CEO Elon Musk has repeatedly said AI will be a threat to people, and renowned theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking has warned that sentient computers, able to think and learn for themselves, could enslave humans or wipe us out if not developed carefully.