Sure, it sounds like a bad porno flick (or maybe a good porno flick depending what you’re into), but it’s a legitimate question about our ultimate urge to merge with technology, in the most intimate way, that is the focal point of recent research. Researchers are predicting that human beings will be having sex with robots within five years.
Marina Adshade at Big Think gives the question and its social and moral implications a good workover beginning with the most urgent benefit for human/robot sex — eradicating sex trafficking and sexual diseases from the planet. Moral implications aside, it’s hard to fight any cause that would accomplish this.
While she outlines some compelling points (particularly about how governments might react to Robot Sex), I’m not completely convinced by other arguments she points out from the research (particularly in regard to how marriages might change (for better and for worse) by Robot Sex). Marina herself draws a few conclusions in this area that I question. For example, she states that:
“I personally don’t see wives happily waving their husbands good-bye as they head out to spend $10,000 on android sex (which is the 2050 price suggested in this paper) any more than I see husbands cheerfully sending their wives off to do the same thing.”
How many wives out there would happily send their husbands into the arms of an Android for a few nights (for a reasonable price) to get a break? We might be surprised by that answer. As for men, we might also be surprised at how many men might actually get turned on by their wives having sex with robots. Still, without a doubt, extramarital Robot Sex would would certainly change the dynamic of marriage (already changing in ways we are struggling to understand). But we should assume that the change would be for the worse.
Sure, human beings have a tendancy to project our emotions on to inanimate objects that we become attached to or dependent upon. It’s not a stretch to imagine an emotionally-starved person easily convincing themselves that their robot cares about them, “understands” them, has “feelings” or should be treated lovingly. It doesn’t mean men would leave their wives in droves for Robots (especially robots that can’t procreate) but it’s a compelling thought experiment given what we know about human nature so far and seeing this being the future (we will be having sex with bots – it is a done deal).
Of course, this is all far more complicated than the Big Think post was able to outline (or my previous paragraph for that matter). I’m surprised there was no mention of the likelihood of unwanted pregnancies and birth rate declines as a result of mainstream (or even subcultural) Robot Sex (honestly, wouldn’t that be the biggest point of contention in the debate?). Again, would this be a horrible thing? Perhaps, perhaps not. But if you’re going to do research on this topic, I would imagine our inability to procreate at the same rate would be a significant factor in every conclusion made in the paper.
It might turn out that Robot Sex will be too easy, too convenient and way too predictable to be a threat to national governments, marriage and birthrates (of course, the robots can be programmed to “play hard to get”, to be “unpredictable” and even “argumentative” if desired with just as many personality traits as you can want or imagine in any spouse).
Former Digital Philosopher and Cyborg Anthropologist, Amber Casey (@caseorganic), has done extensive research on cyborg anthropology (the eventual merging of human beings with robots) which I wrote about a little over a year ago here. I could only imagine what she thinks of this.
Marina ends her piece by asking the question we may all have to answer one day: Would you have sex with an android?
I’m in. When you think about all of the bad sex you’ve had with people that make you say to yourself years later, “What was I thinking?”, and all of the experiments with gadgets, sex toys, assorted food items and costumes, you realize that knocking the boots with a bot ain’t that far off from your other “human” sexual shenanigans.
As a matter of fact, if my robot can send me into fits of ecstasy at night and make me pancakes in the morning, I’d marry him/it.