Sexbots are at the cutting edge of robotics and have been shrouded in controversy, but now they could be facing their biggest threat yet from a campaign for all out prohibition led by ethicists and social justice warriors.
Dr. Kathleen Richardson, an ethicist at De Montfort University in Leicester and Erik Brilling, an associate senior lecturer in informatics from Sweden’s University of Skövde, are spearheading the campaign.
One of Richardson’s chief objection to the innovative robots is that they will distort ideas surrounding relationships and reinforce sexism and misogyny. Speaking to the BBC, Richardson said, “sex robots seem to be a growing focus in the robotics industry and the models that they draw on – how they will look, what roles they would play – are very disturbing indeed.”
“We think that the creation of such robots will contribute to detrimental relationships between men and women, adults and children, men and men, and women and women,” she added.
But those at the heart of the drive for sexbots argue it’s not realistic to think the robots are intended to replace real girlfriends or wives and that there is precious little evidence to suggest they would reinforce harmful stereotypes.
Douglas Hines, the chief executive of TrueCompanion and the man behind the development of the prototype sexbot Roxxxy said, “we are not supplanting the wife or trying to replace a girlfriend. This is a solution for people who are between relationships or someone who has lost a spouse.
“People can find happiness and fulfillment other than via human interaction,” he added.
The New Jersey company made waves in 2010 when Roxxxy was first debuted at AVN Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas. Sexbots are still in their early stages of development, but Roxxxy will cost around $7,000.
The Campaign Against Sex Robots website, whose partners include Women’s Equality Party and the Campaign Against Killer Robots said, “we believe the development of sex robots further objectifies women and children,” the campaign website said.
“The vision for sex robots is underscored by reference to prostitute-john exchange which relies on recognizing only the needs and wants of the buyers of sex, the sellers of sex are not attributed subjectivity and reduced to a thing (just like the robot).”
But not all robot ethicists fall into the Richardson camp of prohibition and restriction. Ron Arkin, a roboethicist at the Georgia Institute of Technology has said that sexbots could be used to treat a range of sexual problems.
“Should the design of [sex robots] be informed by science? Yes. Is anyone doing true scientific study on intimate robots at this time? Not to my knowledge. I would encourage that line of research to be undertaken if we can get past our Victorian taboos,” Arkin argues.
Aside from the ethical issues, policy experts dispute whether attempting to limit the availability or development of sexbots would even work in practice. Speaking to The Daily Caller News Foundation, head of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, Christopher Snowdon said:
Anybody desperate enough to buy a sex robot will find a way somehow. The people who buy these products are unlikely to publicise the fact and so the impact on the moral fibre of the nation will be as minimal the impact from previous moral panics about technological innovation.
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