Original article was published on Artificial Intelligence on Medium
Humanoid Sex-A paradigm shift
Sex robots, also known by the commercial name girl friend robots are spreading and flooding the market in recent times. Even online sites like amazon are selling them in the “health and personal care” category (“Emma” the sex robot). The time is not far until they are considered one among the sexual wellness products. There are controversial claims about the impact of these under-researched beings in the future. George and Bewley (2018) concluded in their research1 that sex robots can pave way to safer sex, therapeutic benefits and stimulate the potential to treat pedophiles and offenders while on the other hand there are claims that there is a possibility of “robot sex” encouraging the users to treat women as an object. Kaye (as cited in Waugh, 2016), the research director of the campaign against sex robots says “The very business idea of sex robots is modeled on the already existing businesses of the sex trade and the porn industry. But these claims are not sophisticated enough to derive a conclusion since they lack enough empirical and research data. This piece of work is aimed to discuss a few of the essential questions about “humanoid sex” that demand an answer by all means.
1. Will this new era of sexual liberation by technology spoil our value system by dehumanizing of women and men (end of love, consent, and intimacy)?
2. Can this possibly be a solution for sexual exploitation, slavery, and human trafficking or will it promote them?
3. Will accepting “robot sex” result in social isolation?
These questions can be considerably taken as a driving force of this piece in a propositional sense.
GENESIS OF SEX ROBOTS
Sex robots can be defined as a materialistic representation of a human structure purely created for sexual pleasure. The history of this modern world sex partners goes back to ancient Greek mythology as Pygmalion, a Cypriot sculptor fell in love with the ivory statue he has carved. Aphrodite, the goddess of love, pleasure, beauty, and procreation had granted his statue life as he pleaded her to marry a resemblance of the ivory statue he has sculpted. A reader of today will find this story less entertaining than a comic book since we are living the very era dreamed by pygmalion. Even now after 2500 years, this story stands as a testimony of human’s wildest sexual desire. Today in this AI era, there are living aphrodites like realbotix, synthea amatus, Z-one doll to grant any kind of sexual desire of thousands of pygmalion all around the world. Scientists even warned that it is not so far before they become similar to that of a human partner. Sex dolls come in different materials and price ranges, from very simple inflatable rubber dolls(D-10), plastic/latex sex dolls(D 2000–8000) up to true — to — life highly customizable silicone dolls(D 45,000, sinthetics). Customizing a partner for you with the leverage of changing its characteristics as well as the physical appearance is the latest upgrade added to the current version of human’s sexual relationship.
III. HUMAN VALUES AND CARNAL ROBOTS
Sex is considered an essential fragment of a devoted relationship (short term and long term) in any part of the world. Taking the purpose of procreation out of sexual relationship will still not lessen its value because of its positive physical, psychological, and emotional benefits. But can these benefits which are ultimately attributed to intimacy, an imperative factor of cohabitation be present in this newest form of carnal knowledge (robot sex) humanity is faced with?
As Sophia being the first robot to be granted citizenship, it is inevitable that we are moving towards a world that will demand equivalence between humans and Artificial intelligence. What kind of change that an anthropomorphic machine would cause in defining the fundamental ethics and human values of a society? It could cause the humans to restructure the very system of moral considerability.
ROBOT BROTHEL AS A BUSINESS
One should have a vivid view in understanding how the fundamental concept of slavery, prostitution, and pornography is contributing to the artificialization of our society as well as a sexual relationship. Spokesperson of lumidolls, a sex robot production company said that “customers could use dolls to improve their performances with real-life partners. Can this mere statement be legitimate as we have studies claim the opposite. Darling (2012) robot ethicist and researcher at the MIT media lab, observes, “ Ethical issues arise from concern that we might behave certain ways towards realistic robots that look like a real woman because that behavior might translate to our interactions with real women. In other words, some experts warn that beating, raping, or harming a gynoid (girl like lifeless object) could encourage the users to behave in the same manner with their real partners. A report by the foundation for responsible robotics, a non-governmental organization that advocates mainly for robot ethics clearly states that many of the scholars and therapists believe that engaging in this new form of sexual gratification would be an appeasement capable of stimulating illicit sexual practices. Collectively speaking the weightage of robot sex being a danger to the vulnerable is apparently greater than its positive benefits.
V.MORAL ISSUES IN AI& ROBOTICS: REAL LIFE SEX TRADE
Robot ethics and machine ethics are two terms one must know about in order to understand the intensity of the problem we are confronted with. Machine ethics is a part of the AI which is concerned with the moral behavior of artificially intelligent beings and Robot ethics is concerned with the moral behavior of humans as they design, construct, use and treat such beings. If the very idea of girlfriend robot is a disguised form of prostitution which is manifested in the real-life sex trade ( Farley, Bindel, and Golding, 2009) how will “robot ethics” help to stop the injustice done to these android buddies?As they are beginning to gain significance and rights as equal as humans in some part of the world it becomes apparent that the laws and ethics which are applicable to us is applicable to them also. Above this, some even believe human empathy can be promoted by protecting anthropomorphic robots. If this is the scenario “sexual gratification with robots should be an act of mutual acceptance (According to human morals and ethics), without which it should be considered as an act of violation. How robot ethics respond to this question (violation against robots) is still not clear while there are robot brothels going epidemic in various parts of the world like France, Brazil, UK, and a few others.
According to the Belgian psychotherapist Perel (n.d) “sexually powerful men don’t harass. It is the insecure men who use power in order to leverage the insecurity and the inaccessibility or the unavailability of the women. This statement becomes pledging as other sources of evidence informs us that sex trade of any form (animate or inanimate) is a practice of power where males buy sex from women, girls and even children sometimes.(80% of the sex buyers are male). Using them for the purpose of sexual gratification or brothel (“sex doll brothel”) should be considered as an unethical practice
There are some experts in the field of robotics assert that the robots will serve as a perfect caretaker and even as a therapist. Adding algorithms to feature intimacy in these lifeless toys is a part of their future goals through which it is believed that a more sophisticated connection between machines and humans can be achieved. As changing the face, skin, hair, breast size, and voice being part of the current up-gradation one can hope for intimacy features in future configuration. But few standalone testimonies such as these robots help people with social and emotional blockages which halts them to form traditional relationships with other people and they perform well as a therapist and make people feel happy, satisfied and less lonely are not significant enough to welcome them as a recent addition to our lifestyle. It can be accepted that they may help in treating patients who have issues with sexual functionality and even the physically challenged and might as well the ones with psychological issues like social anxiety about having sex. But the question is, to what extent this statement can stand veracious? Physically disabled people can choose even an already available human prostitution service rather than preferring a lifeless silicone bag with a pre-programmed response.
If as Matt Mcmullen, the CEO of real dolls says that a robot that is capable of engaging not just in sex but most importantly in intimacy also can be created, how would be its impact on the societies that respect “integrity in the marital relationship”? Notwithstanding the anticipation that these robots can be used as a tool to improve customer satisfaction with the real-life partner, there are still numerous ethical questions remaining unanswered which would prevent this practice from escalating. This problem is already immediate as a recent issue by Forbes under the topic “Following public outcry, Houston city council nixes robot brothel” informs us that robot brothel was blocked by the change made in the ordinance of sex business regulation by unanimous voting by the council members of Houston. Statement by one of the members of the Houston city council Greg Travis goes as, “this is not a good business for the city. We are not sin city”. This statement can be taken as a corroboration to the claim that there are societies that define having sex with an anthropomorphic device as a threat to the ethical values of humans and also to the integrity in marital relationships. Another testimony that disproves the argument of successfully using these androids for sexual gratification is the case of decriminalization of prostitution happened in countries like Germany, Netherlands, and New Zealand. Researchers later found out that after the decriminalization of prostitution sex trafficking started increasing, proving that legalizing this new form of prostitution just because of an obtuse faith that they will have a positive impact on society.
Apart from the scientific, psychological and intellectual perceptional questions against this issue there are numerous customary questions like, if one of the sole purposes of these programmed buddies is to improve sexual pleasure and performance with their real-life partners what could possibly be the reason for the companies to make childlike sexbots?. Can sex robots that are representations of children be used for treating pedophiles? If yes, how? Is there any proof? Can these childlike sex robots be distributed commercially in market? Is there a law to prevent them from being used in brothel? What if the childlike sex robot is not a treatment but just another form of child pornography? These are few consequential questions any robot production companies should ask themselves before the situation grows serpentine. But whether the companies that produce these sex robots care about this important issue remains unclear.
THREAT TO MARITAL RELATIONSHIPS
Taking the research works done focusing on the area of sociology into account divulges some frightening and startling occurrences which may have a devastating effect on society, particularly on the intimacy and integrity of marital relationships. Even though there is no denial about the negative impacts of pornography in marital relationships, there are some surprising studies that showed the reduction in sex crimes with the increased availability of pornography. However on the contrary there are other data from Meta studies on the very issue that showed the opposite. In a research work done by psychologist Bauserman (1996) mentions that pornography can lead to sexual aggression. So to further discuss this problem more empirical authentication is required. Piece of research work done by Perry (2017) under the area of sexual behaviour(sex research) in the marital relationships can be taken as a perfect support to push this argument to further level since this work undoubtedly proves the negative effects pornography can have in a marital relationship. In an experimental data produced in one of his works it is stated that men who started watching pornography pathway through a 2-year period doubled their chance of divorce and as for women the number tripled.
Now how this is connected with the mainstream issue we are discussing is that these very robots made with the purpose of fulfilling the darkest fantasies of the customers are a pornographic image of women. Richardson in her work clearly states that the pornography industry shapes the very structure in which these sex robots are made. Appearance, ethnicity, age, and even the type of relationship the customer chooses to have with his product is motivated by the porn industry. So the idea behind allowing these new programmed buddies in our life is not motivated by an empathetic human encounter but by a non- empathetic encounter characterized basically by buying and selling of sex . Now this data appears to be more than sufficient to arrive at the conclusion that the very negative impacts made by the pornography would be reproduced in this disguised form of pornography also. Sex robots can promote violence (harassment and rape), lessen the marital satisfaction which will lead to conflict and more importantly it would encourage male dominance and violence in a treacherous form.
Whatever can be the claim, it is impossible to arrive at a definite conclusion as this issue is novel and unforeseeable. The available scientific and also data is also impuissant to provide a discussion that is unambiguous. Moreover as much as we believe it to be a matter of social values and human ethics a more circumstantial view is needed to understand the importance of the perceptional view of an individual towards this complication. Taking few real life testimonies can help this reasoning more purposeful.
1. Eve’s robot dream, a company that is running a robot brothel in LA has announced a price of 10,000 US dollars as an asking price for the virginity of a robot28.
2. While studies are warning about the outrage that may arise with the usage of childlike robots for sexual gratification, an “adult toy” factory in Japan has a facility of producing these toys. Even if as they say these robots can serve as a deterrent against the violation done to the children by pedophiles, what this factory facilitates will leave one traumatized.
v A customer of this company has the leverage of choosing a robot that resembles a child of any age, starting from age three.
v Features (lifelike expressions) such as sadness and fear can be programmed if it is demanded by the customers to fulfil their darkest fantasies.
v Provided with a photograph of the child (real) the customers actually know and interested in, the manufacturer can create a resemblance of it. Paramounting all others is the fact that there is a new version of these sexbots under construction which can stimulate the customers feeling even more by sounding like the real-life child they know if the customer provides sample voice recordings to the manufacturer.
Things like this can leave any parent spine-chilling. What kind of world are we living in? Who can promise security for our children against this sinister at our very doorsteps. What kind of legislation my government can make to protect my prepubescent children from the pedophile that lives next door if he has a robot that looks like a replica of my child?
If robots can replace the human prostitutes in what way it would it be beneficiary for them? Will they be welcomed or accepted for any alternative job? Will they be safe in this vulnerable world where they are the least respected stereotypes? if they are no more a part of the prostitution chain. What if they are forced to sell themselves for a cheaper rate in future because robot brothel is considered safe comparatively? How will the government that allows robot brothels will assure the safety of human prostitutes?
Ricky ma , a designer from Hong-Kong has created a robot that exactly looks like the famous actress Scarlett johanson. This warns us how defenceless our values, integrity and marital relationships are. How much time will it take for someone to own a replica of your wife for the purpose of sexual gratification and control them the way they want to?
If emotional intelligence come to play a role in AI, is it possible to create a product that is as similar to a human in every aspect with “Multi-model processing”? A robot that is going to say “No, I don’t feel like doing it today. If that happens will it be another history repeats scenario?
Even though Houston city is one example of the societies that still values the significance of the humanity, it has to be noted that the amendment of obscenity statute which has banned obscene devices (devices that intended to stimulate human genitals) in Texas was overturned by the fifth circuit court of appeals in 2008. What seem unfavorable today might change tomorrow. But as Albert Einstein said, “The change that happens in the world is the result of the change that happens in our thinking”. Which means, favoring robot brothel would be the evidence of the “denigration of human values”? A collective cognitive process of a society that could objectify women in an upgraded way.
Imagine a scenario in the future where availability of girlfriend sex robots with an inbuilt freezer facility for sperm storage that can store sperm by the end of every intercourse a customer has with it. This could later be bought for money by the sperm bank where the complete database (genetic, physical, psychological, social, and demographic) about the seller will readily be available. Entangling this will be a continuation of this scenario where a woman who has a boyfriend robot can buy a sperm sample of her interest to inseminate her with the inbuilt insemination kit attached to her android partner. This has a possibility of creating a social isolation that the world has ever witnessed.
There are some undeniable benefits of these robots in vast branches of knowledge like psychology, medicine, sociology, science and technology, and so on. But it is in the hand of a potter to use the same lump of clay for different purposes. This is where the problem arises. Companies that claim to produce robots for therapies and treatment, produces a refutation of their promise. It is not the technology that has grown villainous but the mind that works behind the scene. Weighing up the constructing and destructing power of this double-edged sword in our hand with the minimum wisdom available to us is problematic. But if discernment is demanded by giving importance to love, values, ethics, and belief, the very fundamental driving forces of our relationships it is certain that this would definitely cause more obliteration than prosperity. It can drive the course of our cosmic significance towards the extremity of insanity. Even though this can be a constructive tool in many ways, it has a greater chance of bringing out the worst that is in us.