Sex Robots; Fiction & Fantasy, Made Reality
Blade Runner 2049. Photograph: Allstar/Warner Bros
So today I’m going to be taking a look at the emerging technology of sex robots and the moral and social ramifications this will have on our society. We have had visions of sex robots in fiction for years. Shakespeare actually alludes to the concept in The Winter's Tale (1624) where he describes a statue coming to life and having an affair with a woman. This concept has been explored by many authors but was really popularised in the 1970s with books and films such as the Stepford Wives, Westworld and Blade Runner. In most cases, the concept of the sex robot is used to explore deeper questions about humanity and technology. We live in an age where machines make our clothes, make our food, allow us to travel and communicate. With people dissociating from each other more and more as the preoccupation with technology rises it is not hard to imagine people turning to machines for companionship, love, and even sex.
Blade Runner (1982)
A look at the first AI Sex Robot Harmony
Sex Robot Creators claim that the dolls could be used as a sex aid for couples, help people who are lonely or have trouble with relationships and also help to reduce violence, rape, and pedophilia. Others, however, argue that allowing people to purge their desires through acting them out with a doll could be more like training wheels for the real thing. While sex dolls are legal to sell, child sex dolls in the UK are illegal to import but legal to own. It seems that the law is having a hard time keeping up with the evolving technology of AI.
Registered psychosexual therapist, Juliet Grayson Claims the prescription of a child sex doll would be like giving methadone to a heroin user. This is to say that it could help keep them on the straight and narrow. While Jon Brown, the head of development at the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, Claims that there is a risk that using the sex dolls could normalise the behaviour and encourage them to act on these desires on real children. The same could be said for The Sex Robots who are not capable of consent which could lead to people playing out their darkest fantasies with the robots. This is a very touchy subject with very little research to back up either side. I do not think that these dolls will help to cure someone of their darker desires, as I believe those are personal demons that they have to battle, I don’t think an outlet will resolve those issues. Desire comes from within and the problem is at the core of the person. On the contrary, I don’t really believe that these dolls will increase sexual violence either, for the same reason those desires come from the person not from the interactions they have with technology. The Robots, however, make this a much more complex issue due to the interactive element and the concept that they may become more than technology in the future.
A sex robot is an interactive form of media. It has been designed by a group of artists and engineers to create a fantasy for the consumer. All forms of media can be analysed with the use of semiotics which would involve looking at the representations and the meanings within the text. If you look at any form of media designed by men with the intention of titillating men, the representation of women often leaves a lot to be desired. Many feminists argue that Sex Robots are a misrepresentation of real women. That they are designed to be a male fantasy of a woman that is unrealistic in terms of physical appearance and personality. Well yes, they are, but I think that's the entire point of their design. I do not think that this will have a large impact on how people view women as it is clearly a fantasy and not supposed to be a depiction of real women. Yes, the depiction of women is shallow and tasteless at this stage but this is merely a design choice and quite similar to the depiction of women in everything from kids toys to porn stars. I do think a more realistic representation of women would be healthier, however, this is a business and they are probably just making what they think people want.
While many people may scoff at the concept of Sex Robots and they are on the fringes of our culture. An Australian Brothel just bought a second Sex Robot as the first one was proving to be more popular than real women. The first Sex Robot Brothel has opened in Spain and in a U.S. survey 1 in 4 men admitted they would have sex with a robot. As with all things on the fringes of our culture it is possible for this to get swept up into the mainstream. The timing of this is quite interesting with the release of a new series of Westworld and the new Blade Runner 2049 movie which are quite mainstream presentations dealing with this topic, shows that people are fascinated by the possibilities of our ability to form relationships with technology. Meanwhile, AI technology is getting even more realistic and while these sex robots seem kind of one dimensional and shallow, the same can not be said for Sofia the first AI robot to be awarded citizenship in Saudi Arabia.
The Worlds Leading AI Robot, Sofia
It is easy to imagine how far AI will advance in the coming years and as this technology becomes cheaper and more available capitalism dictates that it will be packaged and sold to consumers. This could change the power dynamics between man and machine. In fact, Stephen Hawking stated that AI could mean the end of humanity (2016).
Since this is brand new technology there is not much research to support either side of this argument. I am not going to buy into the fear and predictions of a dystopian future run by robots. After much deliberation I believe that for the majority of people Sex Robots will just be a harmless bit of fun, much like video games, movies or music I believe that most people will have these experiences objectively and with little negative consequences. I do however believe that for some people it may distort their views of reality and that the overarching idea of artificial intelligence does carry with it some rather scary possibilities. The idea that they will replace real relationships completely is kind of far-fetched, because you cannot replicate the human spirit. But if human relationships were, for the most part, to be replaced with artificial ones the consequences could be dire… After all, we’re only human.
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