As robot technology becomes more lifelike they are sure to move into the bedroom, but with great power comes great responsibility…
I’ve been thinking about sexbots recently. You know, sexbots? Sex robots. Robots for sexual purposes. Before you give me that look, it’s a thing. At least in the very near future, it will be a reality. Recently, a certain individual in Hong Kong spent $50,000 on a lifelike robot/doll that looks like Scarlett Johansson and, while we may titter, we’ve started on that murky electronic path and the floor’s the limit.
The creation of ScarJo 2.0 started the brain turning over. First, it zapped to the blueprint; the original ScarJo, what does she think of it? Does she view it as an affectionate homage or an unchecked, horrific invasion of her privacy? I’d rather not know the level of detail he went into, but if he didn’t use her movies/photographs to make a “faithful” recreation, at some point we will.
What of the new ScarJo? This genesis creation of abject smut? What about her, or it? Is it a her?
As we draw closer and closer to this bizarre, sci-fi reality, the reaction to our acts become more difficult to discern. What do they mean for us? These beings we will be creating, for the express purpose of sexual pleasure, who may or may not possess consciousness, at least to a certain extent.
More and more we are seeing evidence that machines can learn and become, although in a very base way, autonomous. This can, of course, be ascribed to a pre-programmed algorithm that cherry picks reactions based on input, but for lack of better words, that’s exactly what we label in humans as “personality”.
So, these new robot beings, with their own personalities being shaped by the input they’re given, are creating their own worldviews. These are basic for now, somewhat limited to spouting phrases repeated to them (like how a child learns to mimic those who teach it), but as time goes on they will become more complex.
With that in mind, back to sexbots.
For all intents and purposes, these will be machines that are made for sexual conduct. They will likely be no more complex than Fleshlights in the shapes of people with animatronic faces and maybe the ability to move around a little. A Real Doll with a beating, steel heart. With time, though, they may very well be given very basic personalities (and by that I mean a programmed algorithm to respond to the stimuli provided by the clientele, lodging appropriate responses and behaviours).
If we create them, what are our responsibilities toward them? The closer they get to us, do we treat them as equals, or will they always be viewed as an appliance for our convenience, like the toaster?
Our interaction with technology is symbiotic at best, parasitic at worst. We rely on it, depend on it, abuse it, demand from it more and more. On the flip side of that argument, our attachment to inanimate objects is well documented. Be it the car, buildings or the waffle iron. Is it really a stretch to say that someone will fall in love with their sexbot? Then what? Equal cyborg-humanoid marriage rights in 2078? Why not.
With any sufficiently advanced piece of technology that can replicate human interaction and responses, does that make them human? If one that can provide the same levels of comfort and support that a human can, does that make them one of us?
Not a difficult situation to conjure in the mind’s eye.
Technology is a marvellous thing for the advancement of mankind, but so is our responsibility to it. To quote Asimov’s law, a robot must follow orders, but it too must ensure its own survival.
We need to tread very carefully towards the singularity.