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Ethicists are trying to ban sex robots


sex robot

This summer, thousands of artificial-intelligence researchers called for a ban on robot killers.

And now, in an interesting twist, ethicists have started calling for a ban on robotic lovers — sex robots.

Artificially intelligent (AI) sex robots that could pass for humans don't currently exist, but the Campaign Against Sex Robots thinks researchers and ethicists need to get ahead of the issue before they become a reality.

"Sex robots seem to be a growing focus in the robotics industry, and the models that they — how they will look, what roles they would play — are very disturbing indeed," Kathleen Richardson, robot anthropologist and ethicist at the De Montfort University, told the BBC.

Richardson and Erik Billing, a robotics and cognitive-science researcher from the University of Skovde in Sweden, are leading the charge to ban sex robots. Their new paper, decrying the development of sex robots, is available on their website.

Here's their argument:

  • Sex robots would lead to more objectification of women and children.
  • The relationships between humans and their sex robots would mirror that of the prostitute and the john. The john has all the power and the prostitute is reduced to an object, "just like a robot."
  • People who frequently use sex robots would be deprived of the benefits of relationships with real humans.
  • The widespread use of sex robots wouldn't reduce the exploitation and trafficking of prostitutes. According to the paper, "all the evidence shows how technology and the sex trade coexist" and could actually create more a demand for human prostitutes.

At the rate that AI's ability to mimic human movements and conversational skills is improving, full-size sex toys that look and act like humans aren't all that far away.

Philosopher Nick Bostrom surveyed 550 AI researchers to gauge when they think human-level AI, or AI that has the full breadth of capabilities an average human has, would be possible. The researchers responded that there is a 50% chance that it will be possible between 2040 and 2050, and a 90% chance that it will be built by 2075.

While Bostrom wasn't talking specifically about sex robots, the idea that the AI and robotics fields are developing that quickly will have widespread consequences for all different areas of our lives.

According to Wired, a company called True Companion claims to have built the first sex robot, slated to be released later this year. Douglas Hines, the president of True Companion, told the BBC that the sex robots would be "a solution for people who are between relationships or someone who has lost a spouse" but aren't meant to replace real human beings.

But David Levy, author of "Love and Sex with Robots" told the BBC that humans and robots in intimate relationships will be a common sight by 2050.

"There is an increasing number of people who find it difficult to form relationships," Levy told the BBC. Sex robots, he said, "will fill a void."

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