06-09-2016 | | By Paul Whytock
Sexual relations with robots has been a sporadic cinematic theme ever since those perfectly behaved and submissive Stepford wives hit the silver screen.
Now though it seems that robot relationships of a conjugal nature could become a reality with one expert on the subject predicting that sex and marriage to robots could happen in around thirty year’s time.
There is no doubt that robots are becoming increasingly lifelike. Take a look at the headline picture of Jia Jia, the product of three years' work by a team at the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei. Jia Jia is undoubtedly an attractive looking robot that can respond to speech and whose facial movements look natural.
And how about Ricky Ma, a Hong Kong-based inventor, who created a robot that looks a little like Scarlett Johansson (pictured)? She smiles, winks and responds to compliments. Some pretty smart 3D printing techniques were used to make this particular droid with the inventor creating a human skeleton which included intricacies such as complete rib cage and pelvis.
But despite all the very advanced electronic and software technology involved in creating these lifelike droids do you still find the thought of an intimate relationship with a droid unappealing? I certainly do which is why I was surprised when I read a press release saying that robots and sexuality will be examined at the 12th IFIP TC9 Human Choice and Computers Conference staged in Manchester, England.
Themed “Technology and Intimacy: Choice or Coercion?” the conference will explore how technology is influencing the ways that humans create and express intimacy. It will feature a keynote by Professor Charles Ess from the University of Oslo on: “What’s love got to do with it? Robots, sexuality, and the art of being human”.
Program committee chair, Dr David Kreps of Salford University, said the event will consider the latest research and theories about how humans engage with robots, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other forms of technology to explore issues of intimacy and sexuality.
The subject draws strong arguments from advocates and opponents of robotic relationships. David Levy’s 2008 book, “Love and Sex with Robots” suggests that humans will fall in love with and even marry social robots in the not too distant future. Alternatively robotics ethicist, Kathleen Richardson, is campaigning to ban sex robots because she believes these kinds of robots are potentially harmful and will contribute to inequalities in society.
A particularly perspicacious view comes from a Dr Kreps, the author of the paper “Performing the Discourse of Sexuality Online.” he poses the question just how genuinely human can any robot ever be?
In his view love takes two people – it’s about human beings. A very large part of the physical and chemical connection between humans relies on eye contact and you’re never going to experience that with a machine, no matter how much AI is pumped into it.
Currently there is not really any robot that can provide all the complexities involved in human relationships although there is a company in California that will sell you something called a Real Doll which can, according to the company, be programmed to suit different personalities.
But the real question about whether there will ever be robots that can completely replace humans in intimate relationships comes down to one thing, money. And there lies a big problem. Despite all the technological advances made in robotic design there are still some huge hurdles to jump like making a robots skin exactly the same as a humans, having a robot capable of reacting to a human facial expression and what about remembering the things their human partner likes and dislikes? Creating a droid with that capability will take massive investment and in reality the money is not there.
Investors, banks, venture capitalists are incredibly cagey when it comes to backing sex related projects. They know that there may well be customers for such products but actually marketing them is difficult because of potential legal or moral restrictions.
So will Robosex become a reality? In my view the majority of humans will continue to want humans.
And from a male perspective, can you ever imagine Artificial Intelligence really being able to emulate the intricate mysterious of the female human mind?