Rise of the sex robots: What does this mean for human intimacy?
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Rise of the sex robots: What does this mean for human intimacy?

THE sex bots are coming! (no pun intended)

According to a report published last week, a new sexual “revolution” is almost upon us. Unlike the free-lovin’, women’s liberation version we saw in the ’60s and ’70s, this one comes in a purely robotic form – conversation optional.

Life-sized silicone dolls are being created with orifices made to feel as lifelike as possible for yours, and Larry-the-lonely-basement-dweller’s, sexual gratification. Four manufacturers are currently making the sex robots, ranging from US$5,000 to US$15,000 a pop. Clients can customise the dolls to suit their preferences – after all, you wouldn’t want your lump of plastic to have the wrong hair colour – how off-putting!

The authors behind the Foundation for Responsible Robotics’ (FRR) report believe this new wave of sex robots could serve some good and act as a safe tool for those in need of help in the bedroom, whether elderly people in care homes, or those who find it difficult to have intimate relationships for various reasons, be it past-trauma, disability or erectile dysfunction.

But the group also foresees looming risks and warn the innovation could come with significant ethical implications. The objectification of women could be further increased, the lines of consent blurred, and criminal desires – such as paedophilia – satisfied through the use of these “toys”.

Professor of robotics at Sheffield University and co-author of the report, Noel Sharkey, has in the past suggested the robots could be used to “lose your virginity” – although I’m not entirely sure this is possible.

If this is what the future holds, could we soon see a society of young men who have never had an intimate relationship with a real woman? Could we evolve into a society that lacks any level of human emotional intelligence? Will the electrifying and messy fumbling of first sexual experiences be replaced with cold, pliable plastic?

SEE ALSO: Is Southeast Asia ready for the robotics revolution?

Relationship experience could be limited to a mute woman who puts out and shuts up, and let’s be honest, we all know this is not even close to the chaotic conditions of reality.

It wasn’t long ago the idea of an ideal woman was one that stayed at home, gave her husband sex whenever he wanted and didn’t have an opinion until she was given one. With these dolls, that’s pretty much exactly what you’re getting.

For young women who already have so much to contend with when it comes to sexual activity, these sex robots could pose yet another level of pressure. The deluge of pornography that has swept across the Internet and into the hands of almost any teenager who seeks it has changed expectations, particularly male expectations, of real-life sexual partners.

Could the near future see young women not only be expected to look and act like porn stars, but also to perform like robots – never answering back, never complaining, always eager to please and never having any desires?

For the first time, men would have the technology to refuse the idea of a woman as a whole being of body and mind and instead just opt for the body. Would men be more inclined to get their kicks with a voiceless doll that never argues rather than deal with the challenges and rewards of a real-life relationship?

SEE ALSO: Rich Chinese man takes 8 robot helpers on shopping spree

All of this seems very unappealing to me, and I imagine also, to most men. It seems unlikely sex robots will genuinely threaten the primacy of human-to-human relationships, given our innate desire to be loved, but with routine use of such devices, the threat of emotionally “de-skilling” feels very real.

If your only experience of a relationship is one that you design and control down to the last detail, the patience, perseverance, empathy and forgiveness required of a real relationship would seem almost insurmountable – and would it be worth bothering with?

With technology so enmeshed in our lives, we have grown accustomed to turning to tech to solve even the simplest of problems. The so-called “autocorrect generation” have been found to be unable to spell common words due to our reliance on spell-check. We don’t bother to retain new knowledge as Google can tell us the answer instantaneously, we no longer make the effort to call or see someone in person when it’s just less hassle to text them.

Sex robots are at the extreme end of technology invading our personal arena and they will make for a fascinating case study in how we approach robotics and the humanising of such machines. Given the incredibly intimate way in which people will interact with them, it will be interesting to see its impact and the consequences this could have on human users.

Is it possible we won’t want to interact with humans anymore purely because it’s easier to deal with a robot? On top of all the other life-simplifying usages of tech in our lives, could we now be facing a future in which we opt for zero-effort relationships, too?


** This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of Asian Correspondent

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