Sex machines: You’ll be more likely to have sex with a robot than another human in 2050, report says
Would you ever have sex with a robot? If the answer to that question is “only if everyone else is doing it”, then you’ll be happy to hear that a new report claims human-robot sex will be more popular than human-human sex in a matter of decades.
The report, published by futurologist Dr Ian Pearson, draws up a timeline for the rise of the sex bots. Pearson says that, by 2030, virtual sex via VR devices will be as prevalent as porn is today, by 2035 the majority of people will own sex toys that work in conjunction with virtual reality sex, and by 2050 sex with robots will have overtaken human on human sex.
The report was released in partnership with leading UK sex toy shop, Bondara. As you’d expect, the focus of the report is very much on how strong the future sex toy industry will be – apparently tripling in value over the next 20 years.
Pearson points to the hype surrounding virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive as evidence of an impending wave of VR porn. From there it’s only a matter of linking VR to sex toys before you get an emerging market for sex robots.
“A lot of people will still have reservations about sex with robots at first but gradually as they get used to them, as the AI and mechanical behaviour and their feel improves, and they start to become friends with strong emotional bonds, that squeamishness will gradually evaporate,” says Pearson in the report.
“While some people will enthusiastically embrace relationship-free robot sex as soon as they can afford one, as early as 2025, it won’t have much chance of overtaking sex with humans overall until 2050.”
Some have warned that the emergence of sex robots will lead to greater objectification of humans. Campaign Against Sex Robots, led by Dr Kathleen Richardson, a senior research fellow in the ethics of robotics at De Montfort University, says that these robots will reinforce negative power relations and reduce human empathy. They are calling for greater debate about the societal implications of creating robots used for sex.
If you doubt the ability for humans to sexualise robots, you need only look at news that Japanese company SoftBank has felt the need to remind users of its friendly Pepper robot not to have sex with it.
The humanoid Pepper uses a series of sensors to read the emotions of its users and respond accordingly. According to its manufacturers, the French company Aldebaran Robotics, it is intended to “make people happy”.
This apparently doesn’t extend to sexual intercourse. The user agreement for the emotion-sensing robot states: “The policy owner must not perform any sexual act or other indecent behaviour.”
Pepper has proven to be immensely popular in Japan. 4,000 copies of the 198,000 yen (£1,080) companion robot sold out in under a minute when first released, and a new batch is due to go on sale in October.
I’m not sure how someone would have sex with Pepper, but it goes to show that, as soon as you begin to humanise an object, you open it up to sexualisation. This raises a mass of ethical questions about our relationship with technology, as well as other humans. When we humanise objects, do we also objectify humans?
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