Portions of this article were originally posted on The Telegraph.
That’s the scenario envisioned by David Levy, author of Love and Sex and Robots, who predicts it won’t be long before we’re all doing it—with machines.
Can you imagine the practice of sex with a humanoid robot being commonplace in society? Apparently, this will be the norm in a few short decades. Futurologist Dr. Ian Pearson has recently released a report in which he predicts the future of sex.
He recently released the report in partnership with one of the UK’s leading sex toy shops. Dr. Pearson makes the point that robotic sex toys have been in use for around a century, and that virtual reality porn is about to become mainstream.
So, what really is the taboo around sex robots which have got some people incredibly fired up?
In the report, Dr. Pearson states:
☒ We will start to see some forms of robot sex appearing in high-income, very wealthy households as soon as 2025.
☒ By 2030, most people will have some form of virtual sex as casually as they browse porn today.
☒ By 2035 the majority of people will own sex toys that interact with virtual reality sex.
☒ We will start to see robot sex overtaking human-human in 2050.
☒ Leisure spending could grow by a factor of five, and the sex market in 20 years could be three times bigger than today and seven times bigger by 2050.
☒ Sex toys will account for a UK market of over $1 billion.
He makes the point that augmented and virtual reality technology are in development, with Oculus Rift (Facebook-bought virtual reality gaming headset) being due for release in 2016. As with the internet–over a quarter of internet searches, according to the report, are related to pornography–this will almost certainly be used for sex.
Some think that the ethics of watching virtual reality porn–simulating sex acts with a fake, 3D person–are no different than the ethics of having sex with a robot. People are constantly looking for new ways to spice up their sex lives. This is proven by the fact that the sex toy market has been growing by 6% every year.
Dr. Pearson says: “That rate of growth can’t continue forever or it would soon be our entire spend, but underlying economic growth could stay around 2% for the next few decades at least, tripling incomes, and basic survival will take a smaller share of that due to automation and other technology reducing costs.
“That means that leisure spending could grow by a factor of five, and the sex market in 20 years could be three times bigger than today and seven times bigger by 2050.”
It’s the belief of Dr. Pearson that, like porn, once a lot of people use it and it becomes normalized, people won’t be freaked out by it anymore.
This belief is shared by sex robot developer Matt McMullen, who has made it his life’s work to develop something that can turn humans on emotionally and physically. McMullen uses a phrase called the ‘uncanny valley’ – he believes that if a sex robot is too human-like and too realistic, we get put off. He thinks it’s more effective to keep them slightly unrealistic. He said: “A moving doll is different from a, you know, detailed-to-the-finest-skin-pore copy of a person—and then making it move, for me, is a little off-putting. If you keep it far enough away from super-realism, I think you’re in safer territory.”
Dr. Pearson is of the opinion that when robots improve in terms of look and feel, people will be less squeamish. “A lot of people will still have reservations about sex with robots at first but gradually as they get used to them, as the AI and mechanical behavior and their feel improves, and they start to become friends with strong emotional bonds, that squeamishness will gradually evaporate.”
He continued: “While some people will enthusiastically embrace relationship-free robot sex as soon as they can afford one, as early as 2025, it won’t have much chance of overtaking sex with humans overall until 2050.”
Is Having A Sex Robot Ethical?
Needless to say, the prospect of sex with robots is unquestionably something that has been influenced by the normalization of pornography in our society and represents new ways to justify the exploitation of human beings, if not in person, certainly in idea. And what a dangerous idea it is.
Some think that the ethics of watching virtual reality porn—simulating sex acts with a fake, 3D person—are no different than the ethics of having sex with a robot. After all, people are constantly looking for new ways to “spice up” their sex lives. This is proven by the $15 billion dollar and growing sex toy industry, and now, it’s proven by growing interest in lifelike sex dolls that will eventually be able to talk and respond to verbal commands.
Spain’s sex doll brothel is just the first public example of the fast-growing trend of sex without intimacy with another person. Now, manufacturers around the world are working to create uncannily realistic sex robots programmed to fulfill the fantasies of people who want to get with a lifeless machine.
Kathleen Richardson, a Senior Research Fellow in Ethics of Robots, sums it up well in this TEDx talk.
The whole idea of humanoids replacing real, intimate connections between real people is concerning to those who know the real scientific harms of pornography and that sex is healthiest when it’s with a real person, not a robot. Robotic sex is even more concerning to those who understand the very real negative effects this could have on humans sexually and socially.
The truth is, we don’t have to wait until 2050. This is a reality that is gaining traction every day. As more people opt for yet another counterfeit to what real relationships and intimacy can offer, the effect of porn, sex robots and other forms of artificial love, will continue to harm individuals, relationships and society.
We can’t be okay with technology taking the place of real, healthy human relationships. Whether it’s a computer screen or a sex doll, we need to be educated and take a stand for healthy sexuality and human connection. Science, facts and personal accounts all agree that porn kills love, and that’s just not cool.
The key to remember is this:
Better yet, make that “Love someone that loves you back.” After all, love takes two.
What YOU Can Do
Spread the word on the harms of synthetic sexuality. SHARE this article to help fight to keep love real.