Blog: Can sex robots really be the ‘perfect companion’?
Almost everybody’s goal in life is to find their perfect companion to share love and intimacy with. The catch is that humans are imperfect beings. To some, the introduction of robotic companions and artificial intelligence may be the answer.
Sex robots are realistic, animatronic dolls designed to allow sophisticated movements that mimic human behaviour. Implementing artificial intelligence (AI) in these robots is a step towards making them even more human-like. With an array of uses, these robots are becoming increasingly widespread, rather than just a sci-fi fantasy.
Japan has paved the way for virtual and anthropomorphic companions, with leading sales volumes in high-priced sex dolls. In 2004, Japan opened up its first doll escort service, demonstrating one of many uses for this new technology. Currently, these robots are purchased for personal use and prostitution services, opening up a new can of worms for sex doll and robot ethics.
AI expert and author David Levy explains the ethics behind robot prostitution for its users and in society. He suggests that prostitution raises ethical issues including its harmful and exploitative nature, many of which could be solved through sex dolls and sexbot technology. While there is a stigma surrounding the use of sex robots, he believes their prime purpose is to pleasure users without the presence of another human. The use of sex machinery such as vibrators and fleshlights is quite common and accepted within society, so why are sex robots different to this?
Realdoll is a company that produces and sells realistic, customisable sex dolls and robots. Its website allows customers to “build your own Realdoll”, allowing each detail of the aesthetics to be customisable from eye colour to nipple shape. With new Realdollx, artificial intelligence allows customers to program their sexbot’s personality to identify with users’ interests and preferences for the mere price of $11,000.
Realdoll founder Matt McMullen believes that sex robots are a harmless tool to serve as an alternative for human intimacy. However, the nature of their creation and customisation fosters female objectification. Sex dolls and robots are ultimately inspired by unempathetic and gendered practices. The dolls and robots being produced are one-dimensional and sexually objectified.
Through their AI responses and physiques, female sexbot’s purpose is entirely based on male gratification. While there are male sexbots available, 80% of buyers are males seeking female sexbots. This gendered purchasing behaviour is the reason sex dolls and robots are typically perceived to be female.
Analysis of sex robots’ representation in the media suggests that the media plays a large role in shaping the public’s opinion of sexbots. Non-fictional media often represents sex robots as a means for sexual intimacy, reinforcing the objectification of women as well as the notion that human relationships can be replaced by robot companions. Through the complete customisation of sexbots’ appearance and interests as well as advancements in AI technology, it can be debated that these machines have capabilities for human companionship rather than just sexual intimacy.
This is a frightening notion for society! For humans to accept that robots with personalities and responses made up of algorithms and software could actually love them is a weakness in human psychology. If this technology could potentially cause us to grow less receptive to human relations, then the widespread use of AI in sex robots must be monitored.
While sex robots and artificial intelligence is still in its infancy scientifically, the predictions for the future are scary. While it is suggested that they are to be used simply as an alternative for human intimacy, it is apparent that the advancements in AI and customisation is setting society up for alternatives for human relationships.
However, I believe human relationships are beautiful in their imperfections and unpredictability. The challenges and growth experienced in a real relationship cannot be replicated by artificial intelligence. If the tragic story of human/AI relationships in both Her and Westworld are anything to learn from, the widespread use of robotic companions are something to be cautious of.