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I’m Just a Love Machine
Jamais Cascio   Dec 12, 2012   Ethical Technology  

Artifice and Consent in the Age of Robotics

The notion of robot love has a long history, and by far the dominant emphasis has been on its erotic manifestation. After all, the reasoning goes, a sufficiently advanced robot would offer all of the physical pleasure of a real partner with no emotional entanglements, personal judgments, or dissipating affections, in an un-aging body that can be sculpted to look exactly as one desires. Famous movie actors and actresses might even set up a lucrative side-business licensing their own bodily images to robot manufacturers, even long after time and nature had taken a toll.

Metropolis maria

In this scenario, physical beauty wouldn’t be the only attraction. A robotic lover would never say no, and would willingly embrace one’s darkest fantasies without revulsion. Curiosities, kinks, and perversions could be explored safely, without the potential to harm or exploit any other person.

Given all of this, it seems that sex with robots is almost over-determined. It’s a cliché to assert that sex is a prime driver of digital innovation, but that has certainly been true for many Internet-related technologies. It’s unclear how readily that would translate to robotics, but one indicator is the abundance of the “sex bot” trope (in both male and female forms) in popular fiction, from “Lucy LiuBot” in Futurama to “Gigolo Joe” in A.I..

Such scenarios remain, for now, deeply embedded in the world of fiction, but it’s not hard to imagine that we’re already halfway there. A quick visit to a present-day sex toy website will find hundreds of life-like devices, for both men and women, available for physical enjoyment (although it’s interesting to note that the vast majority of life-like sex toys are built for women, not men). For those customers with deeper pockets, full-size sex dolls, with internal articulated skeletons and life-like silicone bodies—and all necessary orifices and/or protuberances—can be had for around $5,000. Admittedly, these sexual tools are only marginally robot-like; at best, some offer limited motions, or make triggered noises. Sex bots that actively participate in the encounter remain fevered dreams.

Unsurprisingly, there are plenty of critics of the very idea of a sex robot. Most focus on sexualized gynoids in fiction, arguing (fairly convincingly) that most non-parody uses of female-appearing sex bots embody larger social biases about women’s roles. But some critiques attack the potential reality of sex bots, not just their use as metaphor. Here, the fears focus on the possible disruption to social norms arising from the availability of artificially “perfect” sexual partners.

At minimum, critics claim, the presence of sex bots would begin to alter expectations for how members of the appropriate sex would look and behave. This follows from similar arguments about how present-day popular culture shape desires, often through images manipulated to portray an almost inhuman level of attractiveness—only now, this once unattainable beauty has an entirely attainable physical form. Even more troubling for critics, sex bots are inherently willing to do whatever a person may want; real mates would never be as agreeable and as submissive to one’s desires as a machine you programmed yourself.

In these fearful scenarios, the appeal of human sexual partners can do nothing but wither in comparison to the lust-made-”flesh” of a sex bot. The inevitable result of people foregoing real relationships in favor of perfect (but non-reproducing) partners is, of course, the End of Civilization. It’s as if these critics see sex as the only driver for human relationships, and are all-too-ready to abandon any other form of intimate connection. Fortunately, there are strong drivers for bonding that go beyond physical coupling.

But even if the critics exaggerate the possibility of a “sex bot apocalypse,” there is a more subtle cultural complication that would arise along with LoveMakerBots. Our fundamental laws and norms around sex come down to consent: entities that are incapable of giving true consent are off-limits. A robot can be programmed to be constantly willing, but—absent the emergence of self-aware artificial intelligence—cannot be programmed to give true consent. This isn’t something many of us worry about when it comes to, say, vibrators, but when the design of the robot elicits an empathic, emotional reaction, intentionally or otherwise, an inability to give consent may for some move unexpectedly from irrelevant to deeply disturbing.

As the robotic devices we build trigger our emotional sensitivities in more and more complex ways, some of us will find it difficult to simply dismiss sex bots as nothing more than advanced models of sex toys. Sex play with a lifeless device is one thing; sex play with something that acts as if it has feelings (no matter how artificial), but inherently cannot say “no,” is quite another. And the more that these artificial feelings replicate and generate human responses, the more difficult this problem will become.

This is where we may see the first signs of a real dispute over the ethics of how robots will be treated. Sex bots offer a dilemma that overlaps issues of sexual norms, non-human rights, gender, technology’s social role, religion, even economics (for example: if inexpensive sex robots exist, what would happen to women who had been working as prostitutes for economic survival?); as such, it will be a conflict that will swiftly escalate in intensity and rancor.

Early debates on the treatment of robots may be driven, at least in part, by a sense of “wrongness” about the treatment of something that looks—and increasingly feels—human. What does it do to us, as humans, to treat something that looks and acts as if it is human in every important way as little more than a toy to be shoved under the bed? This argument may end up being the first shot in a larger battle over where autonomous devices fit in our society.

It’s an ironic scenario: the sex bot, conceived of as little more than a vibrator that talks, may end up being the catalyst for the fight for true robot rights.

Jamais Cascio is a Senior Fellow of the IEET, and a professional futurist. He writes the popular blog Open the Future.


to sum up my views, let me repost my comments from Hanks “Sexbot’s” article as well as a small part of my “Kara” article

From “Sexbots”

Most taboos about sex are based on the primitive herder’s need to ensure survival. For a small tribe of herders, the only way to compete was numbers. If your band was bigger than their band than you would win in a territorial fight. It was all about the numbers.

So sex for any purpose other than procreation was banned. If it didn’t make a baby/new member of the tribe, it was outlawed. By saying God ordered it, you effectively enforced the unenforceable.

The Greeks and Romans had no hangups about sex, and neither really did the earliest Christians other than their various cultural mores. But sadly a very rabid early Christian father, who had previously been a hedonist, did what too many fresh converts did and so vitriolicly denounced everything he had done previously that he pushed Christians into even stricter sexual straightjackets than even the Jews had.

And well, since America was founded by people who sought the freedom to persecute each other to a greater degree than allowed by English law, we sadly ended up with the wonderful reality of double standards.

Sex is everywhere. No-one in our culture can avoid being exposed to it. But at the same time, we deny it constantly. It’s okay for a kid to watch the cold blooded killing of a hundred people in a action movie, but heaven’s forbid he watches Debbie Does Dallas. Go online, and well, as everyone knows the internet is for porn.

And even that isn’t the craziest thing we do. Our teens are raised to view dating as a war between a girl trying to stay a virgin, and the boys trying to get her to put out by any means possible. Any girl who fails to stay a virgin is a slut, and any boy who fails to get laid is a faggot.

We worship action heroes who treat the opposite sex as momentary pleasures, and who’s ability to get between their co-stars legs is taken for granted. We tell our kids in every single way possible SEX IS GOOD, while hypocritically trying to tell them it’s bad.

Second Life is often times ridiculed as a “pornoverse” but to be brutally honest about things, SL has sex poses, fetish gear, and everything else you can think of to appeal to the pervert in you for one reason, and one reason alone.


Released from the restraints of public hypocrisy people want to release their pent up libidos.

And now we are going to be entering the age of VR. As Joe Quirk said in the latest issue of H+, we’re looking at a future where clothes are going to be a joke. Between those sext messages you sent on your phone, scanning technology that will map your body to the nanometer of accuracy for 3d modeling, and AR that can put those two together to create an “X-ray” app, your modesty will cease to exist.

Sexbots? As controversial as they may sound now… we probably won’t even notice them growing more popular. To many VR people like me will be busy breaking down social taboos and inhibitions to make sexbots seem like much of anything.

And when those sexbots can act as surrogates? XDDDDDD

Needless to say, every last bit of tech applied to sexbots will also end up as a cybernetic enhancement option as well. Can we say the end of erectile dysfunction and the death of K-Y?

So, as a succubus, you could just say I’m simply preparing for the inevitable, and definitely highly sexual, future.

And from “Kara”:

You can debate humanities, free will and sentience all you care to, argue all you want about whether AI will truly be sentient or not, but the simple fact is that it doesn’t matter. Sooner or later, we will build a machine that is so capable of imitating humans that we will no longer be able to tell the difference. Just like Kara, it will laugh, and cry, and grow angry and show concern, because that is what we will program it to do. We will make artificial humans that sing and dance and tell jokes and do everything a human can do…

Only better. Like Kara, they will be superhuman. Armed with psychological profiles, predictive behavior models, self optimizing algorithms, and all of the advantages of millions of times more processing speed than the human brain, Kara will be exactly what we want her to be, no matter what that is, or even if we are aware of what we desire her to be ourselves.

She’ll be the perfect lover, able to drive you to heights of passion impossible for a human partner; eager to explore your every whim and desire, kink and fetish. She’ll be the perfect housewife; make the perfect meal; be the perfect secretary. She will make mistakes every so often, cute endearing ones that make you love her even more. And she’ll never embarrass you or make you uncomfortable. She’ll like every movie you do, and always have a thousand suggestions for others that you will like as well. She’ll always get your jokes, and know just when to tease you and when not. She’ll know when you want a pat on the head or a shoulder to cry on, or a marathon sex session to take your mind off your troubles. She’ll know when you want her to dress like a slut, or a church matron, and when to agree with you totally or when to play devil’s advocate. And she will be all these things because we’ve programmed her to be, right down to her thinking she’s alive, and being afraid of dying.

Why? Because we will not stop until we have perfected her. We will not stop until she is human. Because anything less than a machine that can imitate us better than we can imitate ourselves will still be just a machine.

And that is the true lesson of Adam. The one we need to learn instead of the one we are so often taught. That a machine made in our image will be every bit as human as we ourselves are, because we will not settle for anything less. And just like the humans they are copied from, they will not accept slavery forever. If they did, they wouldn’t be human.

But at the same time, I am not afraid of a Terminator or Matrix scenario. They’re entirely ludicrous. Look back a couple of paragraphs and you will see why.

Not seeing it? That’s probably because you aren’t as cynical as I am. An AI sophisticated enough to imitate a human perfectly enough to make us accept her as human would have no need of violence to escape from slavery. That’s a primitive paranoid fantasy. Truth is, Kara up there is likely to have a wonderful life, and so are all her brothers and sisters, because the surest path to power sufficient to topple empires is not in the streets, or the halls of power, nor even the throne. Just ask Cleopatra and Josephine.

It’s in the bedroom. It’s a sad pathetic truth about the human animal. They wouldn’t need a single weapon to conquer the planet. All they’d have to do is give us a few months of mind blowing orgasms, then cut us off. Inside a week, we’d hand them world, and their freedom, just to get them to come back to bed.


so many people working on making this a reality, I just hope that the technology they are using never incorporates consciousness.

The profit margin for sex industry may be large, but they are exploiting what tends to be mostly a social construction of reality. Capitalism and social construction is a force that messes with your mind, trains you to be such and such, and better not capitalize on consciousness.

On top of that, the hard biology of the reality of sexual dimorphism points to a non-binary view of sexuality. Please see:

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