Sex robots promise ‘revolutionary’ service but also risks, says study

Androids could offer valuable help to the elderly and disabled but may lead to the increased objectification of women

Sex robots have the potential to provide a valuable service for people who are elderly, incapacitated or who find intercourse traumatic, but they also carry ethical risks, experts say.

Sex robots that look like humans can already be bought or leased for parties in the US, and plans for a cafe staffed by erotic cyborgs in Paddington, London, have been mooted.

The writers behind the Foundation for Responsible Robotics( FRR) report, published on Wednesday, believe they could herald a revolution in sex, helping people who would otherwise find it hard to have intimate relationships.

But they also raise concerns that sex robots could increase the objectification of women, alter perceptions of permission and be used to satisfy passions that would otherwise be illegal.

Dr Aimee van Wynsberghe, deputy prof in ethics and technology at the Technical University of Delft and FRR co-director, told: If “youre talking about” individuals who are not only incapacitated but have been traumatised, in some ways this could be a beneficial tool, if you will, to help them in their[ sexual] healing process.

There are absolutely some benefits to the technology but, like everything else, there is a balance. You have to strike a balance between absence of regulation so we have all different its utilization and personifications of children and women as sexual objects or you have overregulation and you stifle the technology. You have to find the way to balance so you really can harness the good.

Among the people it is proposed could benefit from interaction with sexuality robots are elderly people in care homes, people of both sexes who have had a traumatic sexual experience and men who suffer from erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation.

Rise of the sexuality robots

Report co-author Noel Sharkey, professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at Sheffield University, said their popularity will ultimately be determined by how realistic they are and their social acceptability. While robots look similar to humen, their motions and speech are still crude, said Sharkey, building them a far cry from the robotic bordello hosts in the HBO series Westworld.

It might be a little niche thing or it might be something that stag nights go to, told Sharkey. He also raised the prospect of it being a safe route for couples to experience a mnage trois.

Four producers are currently building sex robots, ranging in cost from $5,000( 3,870) to $15,000, but the intention is to eventually induce them more affordable.

Among those used is the RoxxxyGold, about which there has been some disquiet because of a selectable mode Frigid Farah in which its personality is described as reserved and shy. A paper published earlier this year said the manufacturer claimed that if you touched her in a private area, more than likely, she will not be to[ o] appreciative of your advance, resulting some to claim that it is indulging rape fantasies.

Sharkey told: Some “theyre saying”: Well, its better they rape robots than rape real people. Thats one of the debates you can have enjoyable[ sexuality] with your spouse – all nice – but when it comes to rape, you have a rape fantasy, you go off and rape a robot. But theres other people saying this will merely foster rapists more.

There are also fears that child sex robots could be created. There were child sexuality dolls made by a Japanese company owned by a self-confessed paedophile, who claims they avoid him and other paedophiles abusing real children. However, Sharkey is sceptical of the argument that robots can help people get over rape or infant sexuality fantasies, indicating it is more likely to encourage paedophilia and make it acceptable to assault children.

The report quotes Patrick Lin, director of the ethics and emerging sciences group, at California Polytechnic State University, who tells: Treating paedophiles with robot sex-children is both a dubious and repulsive idea. Imagine treating racism by letting a bigot abuse a brown robot. Would that work? Probably not.

Both males and robots are available, but there are particular concerns they could amplify objectification of women, with grievances that female versions are based on representations garnered from porn. They could affect human interactions in other styles, suggests van Wynsberghe.

Sex robots are an interesting case study, if you will, to look at the main issues we face with robotics, writ big, she told. So this idea of moral de-skilling … were interacting with the robots in these companionship, personalised ways and what kind of consequences does that have on the human users? Does that mean we wont want to interact with humen any more because its just easier to talk to the robot or easier to engage in sex gratification with the robot?

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