You may have spotted a hand-wringing campaign against ‘robot sex’ in the news this week. I’m here to give you the lowdown, and explain why we should embrace – not reject – our robotic lovers…
Apparently futuristic technology that could see us getting it on with robotic lovers is ‘unnecessary and undesirable.’ A robot ethicist from De Montfort University (that’s an ethicist who focuses on robots, not an actual ethical robot) has claimed that sex robots are “very disturbing indeed.”
Personally, I initially thought the campaign was a hoax, but having been widely interviewed it seems that the ethicist – Dr Kathleen Richardson – is quite serious. In her campaign, she draws parallels between robots and sex workers, which I find bizarre (is she implying that sex workers can’t think and consent?) and goes on to say that if we can have unthinking sex with something mechanical, then it will naturally influence the way we treat humans.
I disagree. In fact, as someone who frequently has sex with a robot (it’s called Doxy and it’s the love of my life), I can tell you that if they created robot lovers tomorrow, I’d be one of the first people to jump on board.
I won’t go into deep detail about the arguments that Dr Richardson puts forward: I’ve read her paper and as an ex-philosophy student I could bore you to tears with a tedious footnoted rebuttal of all the strange and dodgy conclusions she leaps to. What I will do instead, though, is second what someone else has said:
The Chief executive of a company called True Companion, which is planning on creating electronic, responsive sex dolls, pointed out in response to the campaign:
“People can find happiness and fulfilment other than via human interaction.”
And I think that nails it. I think there’s often an idea that sex is something that must always be shared between two people, or that sex is somehow a unique and special thing which requires and element of love and commitment. Sometimes it does, and when it does that’s awesome, but it doesn’t always have to. Sex can be something you do with a partner, something you do with a group of people (you lucky thing, you), or something you do on your own. It can be for pleasure, as a stress relief (hello again, Doxy), as a functional thing (like wanking before a date, which I have known guys to do occasionally), or even just because you’re bored and there’s nothing on telly.
The key when it comes to sex is that it works for you – that you know what you like and what your partner (if you’re doing it with one) likes, and that you make sure everyone’s happy with what’s happening. When your partner is a sentient robot, like Data off Star Trek but in a sexy thong, then you’d apply the same rules there. But until then, your sex toys are no more sentient than your toaster. The only difference is that your toaster gives you crispy bread products, and your sex toy gives you a lovely orgasm.
I’m biased, of course, but I think in order to look at the future of sex toys and see only doom and gloom, you have to be convinced that humans are inherently bad. I’m in the other camp – humans are inherently good and occasionally bad. We’re also, of course, frequently horny. I don’t think letting ourselves enjoy our sexuality is going to turn us into monsters.
What do you think of the campaign against robot sex?