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IEET > Rights > PostGender > Life > Vision > Bioculture > Virtuality > Interns > Kristi Scott

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Examining Free Reign over Vacant Eyes


Kristi Scott
Kristi Scott
The Yellow Canary

Posted: Jan 27, 2010

Based on the amount of interest in my previous article, and conversations I’ve had or seen in the interim, I thought it was necessary to go back to sex, robots, and ethics.

Writing about sex robots, seeing the release of Roxxxy by True Companion, LLC, and having several discussions with friends made me think more about the intrigue in AI sex robots. What is it about them that are so fascinating and keeps drawing me back in? What does this have to do with the ethical examination of the use of sex technology? What are the trends and what this says about our societal preferences?

Well, it has to do with how we treat these “tools.”  I realize that this topic seems cheap to discuss and people have problems with it. Compared to global warming, it seems like a trash throwaway topic compared to what my peers are addressing. However, unless we completely move away from our sexuality as Ben Goertzel proposes in Sexuality and Beyond, it is something that people need to examine seriously.

Roxxxy Doll Image from True Companion's Gallery
Roxxxy Doll Image from True Companion’s Gallery

Sex dolls are intriguing and they seem to be elevated above the level of just your average toy. After mulling it over, it seems that the sticking point is in the face. There is something about the face that seems to completely change the game. We have created this doll in our image to satisfy our desires of sex and companionship. This doll creates an ethical dilemma around how to treat it and incorporate it in the bedroom.

I go back to the film AI: Artificial Intelligence and Jude Law’s character as a gigolo. Sure, we aren’t at the point where these sex robots can get up and walk out of our house, that is another issue. But we are now to the point where we can keep these types of robots in our homes if you’re willing to pay for them. Yet, it doesn’t seem that you would want to put them up on a shelf in your closet when they are not in use like your other sex toys, does it?

In my previous post, there was a comment made about enslavement. That struck a chord with me. These sex toys are created for our needs just like a vacuum cleaner, but they are more intimate than a vacuum cleaner. They look like us, sexier, but they look like us. They have no rights, but to please us and sit in our closet or on a chair. People are free to treat them as they like in the privacy of their own homes. But I ask, just because they are vacant behind their eyes, is it okay to just treat them as you like, as sex slaves?

What are we teaching western society in accepting a robot in to their home that is not their equal and calling it nothing more than a tool? I know, I know! It has no feeling, no emotion, it is not a person. But we are creating it in our image and treating it like a soulless sex slave. So it has all the qualities of a woman we want to have sex with, besides the actual personhood. This just seems a bit, wrong in my opinion.

Maybe this all stems from a childhood where I watched The Brave Little Toaster, The Christmas Toy, Toy Story and the like. I can get over the fact that my toaster doesn’t come to life at night and desire adventures with my vacuum cleaner and desk lamp. There is no face to these objects, no way to see myself in their place. I can put on a lamp shade, but it doesn’t make me feel like a lamp. However, I can identify with this sex doll, she looks like someone, she acts like someone, she just isn’t someone.

I think that going forward, the use of robotics in the home that emulate us is going to bring up a lot of ethical issues that I look forward to discussing. It’s not cheap to talk about the sex dolls or irrelevant, they just happen to be the industry that got attention in the western world first. The porn industry gave us a choice of VCR versus beta, now they gave us this. What are we going to do with it and how are we going to set the stage for the next better version of Blu-Ray sex dolls?


Kristi Scott M.A. is an IEET Affiliate Scholar. Her work centers on the way popular culture presents issues of identity, body modification, cosmetic surgery, and emerging technologies. She has been a freelance writer since 2003 writing for a variety of magazines over the years, most recently as a writer and copy-editor for h+ magazine.
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COMMENTS


I have no interest whatsoever in sex dolls, and I would not spend money or time on one. If she were sentient, she would be a person and not a sex doll, and I would consider her in the category of persons like I consider everyone else.





I tend to see tools and tech as extensions of their users. Taking this to it’s logical conclusion, a sex bot can be considered a person: the user. Any robot is an extended body that I may inhabit. It has rights that are extensions of my rights, similar to the rights I have in my body and property.

I don’t see this perspective becoming popular, but it seems internally consistent, at least. If the development of autonomous minds proves more difficult than using telepresence to allow people to control and inhabit robots, maybe it will gain some better traction in the public mind.

In this context, the troubling questions come around in confronting the dispelled illusion of the separateness, autonomy, and sovereignty of others. There are critical pieces of human psychology, both in biological and cultural contexts, that revolve around our heretofore insurmountable individuality. The use of robots as additional physical avatars of the same person presents unique challenges to assumptions about human social interaction.

Is it really possible to fool ourselves into believing a robot is really another person, rather than property? What effects does that capability have on our lives? How differently would we relate to other people that present themselves as a robot avatar of a different sex, race, age, or even as a group of robots?





“However, unless we completely move away from our sexuality as Ben Goertzel proposes in Sexuality and Beyond”

It appears from that essay that it was his friend, not he, who proposes this.

“It has no feeling, no emotion, it is not a person. But we are creating it in our image and treating it like a soulless sex slave. So it has all the qualities of a woman we want to have sex with, besides the actual personhood.”

If a real female sexual partner has X qualities, what percentage of X does a robot sex partner have? The way you worded it makes it sound like it’s around 90%, but I think I’d put it more around 10%.





I feel your pain.  I understand where you are coming from.  Maintaining politically correct discipline on topics of a sexual nature is not easy.

But we must, if we are to control the narrative, rather than technological advances controlling the narrative.

Kevin Kelly sees technology as out of control.  But there are ways of controlling just about anything—including our sexual tendencies to cut loose and abandon discipline.

Practice your exercises and visualisations.  Do not relax, not for one moment.





There’s nothing “cheap” about the topic. Sexuality is important. What is cheap, in fact, is the widespread propaganda that there’s something shameful about the topic ... that it’s depraved or at best trivial compared to other topics.

That doesn’t mean that I agree with the conclusion. I think that the feeling that these things are somehow worthy of moral consideration is an illusion, and possibly a harmful one. But by all means let’s continue talking about it.





@Anonymous “The use of robots as additional physical avatars of the same person presents unique challenges to assumptions about human social interaction.” I agree with you. There are going to be a lot of unique challenges that come up with the physical presence of avatars. Currently I am looking at this and the human social interactions in film. However the research and analysis will be varied. Not to mention it won’t be published for some time.

“Is it really possible to fool ourselves into believing a robot is really another person, rather than property? What effects does that capability have on our lives? How differently would we relate to other people that present themselves as a robot avatar of a different sex, race, age, or even as a group of robots” These are all very good questions to ask and ones I am interested in the answers to. Anecdotally I think that yes, it is possible for some people to fool themselves. I think the response will be dependent on the person and robot though. The property aspect of your question is one that I have been increasingly interested in examining further.





@Veronica Yes, it was Ben’s friend, not him. My apologies for this oversight on my part.

I would have to ask what X qualities are really necessary to make them a viable sexual partner. That would be an interesting survey to take about what qualities are truly desired and compare them to each other.

@Russell “I think that the feeling that these things are somehow worthy of moral consideration is an illusion, and possibly a harmful one. But by all means let’s continue talking about it.” Maybe not moral consideration in the sense of passing judgment on those who choose to use the technology. But I would argue moral consideration on the part of the robot. The technology may not yet be up to par just yet, but it is worth discussion. Perhaps ethical considerations would be a better choice here instead of moral.





Off course it is of importance to explore all the possibilities and arguments regarding robots viewed as persons or as slaves and related to human love. And sexual contact is of no less importance to trans-humans is it? Maybe not so with post-humans : but hey.. I digress with my personal ideals.

Can you love a bot? well maybe a shapely bot : yer get me?

Is it ok to have sex with a bot? Well whatever floats your boat. But hang on, what if you love horses and your bot is a horse? Is it ethical to make love to your robot horse? Perhaps it talks as well as walks, but makin’ lurve to Mister Ed is certainly not my cup of tea! Where do you draw your ethical lines? Sex has little to do with love and more to do with the power of seduction and submission.

I get the feeling that these types of discussion relate merely to the short term goals of trans-humanism, whereas the real deal should be in overcoming the cravings and desires and sufferings related to these kinds of attachments. Can you separate your notions of love from your ideas of sexual fulfilment?

Funny is sexy, intelligent is sexy.. Jude Law with plastic hair and a tape recorder up his nose?





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