Would You? Could You?

The Japanese robotics industry continues to make startling advances in creating life-like robots and here is just one recent example.


Gigolo Joe

Gigolo Joe

Is it a coincidence that much of this effort appears directed to creating young female humanoids? I was once told by an internet investor that much of the technological advances in the internet were spurred on by the lucrative pornography business. I wonder if similar motives operate in the world of robotics. Assuming engineers do get there one day, then this raises some interesting questions. Would synthetic sex constitute infidelity? Would robots free individuals from the urges that create so many problems? Or would robot sex lack that essential quality we seek in others? Jude Law’s robotic Gigolo Joe  in Speilberg’s “AI” suggests maybe not. At the moment HRP4C, as she is affectionately known, costs $200,000 but like all technology her price will eventually come down. Maybe so will her value. Would sex with a cheap robot be less satisfying? What do you think?


Filed under Essentialism, In the News

14 responses to “Would You? Could You?

  1. podblack

    Heh. Stephen Fry casually mentions how the wonders of technological advancement could result in ‘robot sex’ in an interview the podcast did with him… 🙂

    It has been the topic of a few books: http://is.gd/1gVkh – you can see similar tomes in the ‘Frequently Brought With…’. The film ‘Cherry 2000’ is another prior-‘A.I’ investigation of the same theme (the lead male eventually chooses the real woman over his ‘sexbot’). I also wonder if ‘Total Recall’, with an implanted memory, would be considered ‘sex with artificial life’?

    There was a rather controversial blog-post by the creator of ‘Dilbert’, Scott Adams, a few years back. He posed the same question and the response was fairly unanimous by his (mostly male, technologically-savvy and usually working in tech) blog commentators that yes, they would strongly support such a move. Some of the comments also tended towards the misogynistic, which is something I guess you’re wondering about.

    What I guess one has to consider is whether it is a judgment upon relating to women or disrespect to them (‘a machine would do instead of relating to another person’), or if it is a sign of a lack of self-esteem in the men who commented (‘I have tried and failed, and thus would never be good enough for a real woman to consider entering in a relationship with me’).

    I find myself tending towards the former, possibly because I am a woman and have experienced misogynistic behaviour that objectified women to the point of dehumanising them… but to be fair – if the latter is considered, it is clearly a bigger problem than just the possibility of robotic-prostitutes and the need for etiquette and socialisation-skills? Maybe even social acceptance of artificial devices (after all, ‘Sex and the City’ merrily feature vibrators designed with women in mind… are they the same? Just how large or detailed does the ‘robot’ have to be to be considered… ‘fully humanoid’?) as being not necessarily a judgmental choice?

  2. Euw, imagine getting a static shock inside one of those?!

    There’s all sorts of configurations they’d have to sort out before it’d be like normal sex – the fake headaches, the interrupting phone calls from her mother… How embarassing would it be if you couldn’t maintain an erection? Would she tell you it was ok, but then secretly laugh about it with her robo-babe-girlfriends (in binary, using YOUR broadband connection?) causing 3 or 4 robo-babes to simlutaneously giggle uncontrollably for a few seconds, thus putting off their owners and creating a cycle of human ineptitude and robotic emotion…? I’m sure there’s a movie in there somewhere!

    Maybe the Japanese are smarter than that and they just won’t give her the capacity to laugh, and then she’ll never be really human.

    • brucehood

      Gosh… I guess we have a long way to go now that you point out all these foibles!:)

      • 01010011010001010101100000100000010000010100111001000100001000000101010001001000010001010010000001000011010010010101010001011001

        That’s “Sex and the City” in binary. And it’s probably less than a decade away.

  3. Arno

    I would definitely say that this is fully possible in the near future. Whether it will have a large market, is something different: though extremely well-made realistic sex dolls are being sold, the market seems relatively small. These robots might just make the difference though and turn into a more lucrative business. And keep in mind that, if a person can seriously become attracted to a robot in that way, it means that the technology would be so advanced that it can serve countless other, much more upstanding, goals, such as prosthetics.
    Oh, and arguing that the robot is ‘faking it’ and not ‘actually enjoying it’, I believe human prostitutes are not much different in that compared to those robots.
    Oh, and on the concept of films, if I recall correctly, I think Blade Runner already had cyborg/android prostitutes. I am 100% certain they appeared in Ghost in the Shell as well (a movie I very highly advise if you like the philosophical question of what ‘real’ is and what isn’t).
    Whether we will change in our conceptualization of what is ‘real’ or ‘fake’ might just also depend on how far we might go in adapting this technology into ourselves: if efficient prosthetics become so advanced that most of the working body can be replaced by them, how can we define a person in such a situation as more than a highly advanced doll with some fleshy bits? Combine this with the prediction of computers that are so advanced that one could download a human being’s full memories and simulate consciousness with it, and the borders between robot and human become flimsy at best. All in all, what is alive and ‘fake’ might just become a matter of degree, instead of two separate categories.

    ..I honestly cannot wait.
    And yes, if the robot was made well enough to be realistically lifelike, I most definitely would. I even have a list of people I’d like it to look like (lesson number 1: always be prepared for eventualities).

    • Arno

      ..and Bruce…

      “Maybe so will her value. Would sex with a cheap robot be less satisfying? What do you think?”

      What the hell? A bargain is a bargain, what more would you want?! As long as you can’t hear the wheels spinning, or it bits start dropping off halfway, it’s okay with me.
      Besides, is a cheap prostitute less fun than an expensive one? ..That was a rhetorical question btw, I have no idea. Anyone else with more experience want to answer that question? 😉

  4. Arno

    ..what I also just realize, talking about interesting and highly controversial questions… how about robot prostitutes that look exactly like children. Is that a case of advanced masturbation or a case of paedophilia which should be punished, or neither/both? Law seems to say that it would be illegal (there is a law against having sex with characters that appear underage in videogames such as Second Life, and simulating rape and paedophilia as scenarios in sexual roleplay is forbidden as well, even when the actors are all consenting adults, just trying to spice up their love lives), but it is nonetheless worth asking. The robots themselves wouldn’t mind and no one is being harmed in the process either. Interestingly, the idea personally disgusts me, though I have no reason whatsoever to actually consider it immoral from a rational perspective. The only reasons I can consider against it, are
    1. the idea that such simulations increase the chance of engaging in sexual abuse of children,
    2. that photographs/movies of robots in such conditions could be misidentified as being actual children or
    3. that people would smuggle real humans under the guise of being robots.
    And I don’t really consider 1 and 3 to be that realistic, whereas 2 is really not much of an issue either; it would just suck for the police to have a dead end and for the supposed criminal to spend time in jail for not having done anything illegal. Still, I would vote against these dolls and their use, if only for the sake of political correctness and the fact that the idea of such a simulation disgusts me just as much as the real thing.

    Also, what about people who want these childlike robots as a replacement for a lost child?

  5. Mike C

    Sorry to sound naive, but can anybody tell me what the difference is between a humanoid robot and a human anyway? Are we suggesting that there is an essential difference after all? Are we regarding these robots as metalic zombies – resembling humans but empty inside? Are we saying that the robot has no soul but that human beings do?
    This story seems to open up a lot more issues than just ‘is it weird to have sex with a robot?’. Rather, it seems to strike at the heart of what we, ourselves, actually are. If the robot was aware of its own ‘brain’ states would it then actually be conscious and, arguably, human (albeit with a shiny metal body)? I wonder if the issue here is less whether it is OK to have sex with a robot, but whether it is possible to have sex with anything else! I would love to know what other people think about these possibilities.

  6. Would sex with a cheap robot be less satisfying.

    Well… if societal trends in general hold true, then the first sexbots would be created entirely for men, with the goal of pleasing men, and it will be several generations before I would be able to find out whether or not sex bots are pleasing.

    Luckily for me, and unluckily for men, the sex toy portion of the porn industry is designed almost entirely for the pleasing of women, as that seems to assist their male clients considerably.

    Therefore my money is on the first serious generation of sex bot being designed for my sex, and looking something like the most recent incarnation of Wolverine. In which case, I suppose having sex with the bot would be pleasurable indeed, assuming it was programmed by someone with some idea of how to make love to a woman and at least a rudimentary understanding of the female body.

    However, I do think having sex with the bot would amount to cheating, so I would have to refuse to do so, as I value my relationship with my husband and have sworn to forsake all others, robots included.

  7. podblack

    Would Androids Wet-Dream Of Electric Sheep? 😉

  8. ProCyan

    It would be the sensual equivalent of trying to extract nutrition from a really good picture of a hamburger.

  9. Pingback: Umm… robots and supermodels and stuff… « long white cloud meets rising sun

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