Virtual Love With Robots: The Moral Issues

Virtual Love With Robots: The Moral Issues
July 21, 2017



IT’S EASY to write sex robots off as something a little creepy and niche.


But if the latest report from the Foundation for Responsible Robotics (FRR) is anything to go by, sex robots are destined to become more mainstream.


And it’s not just because Ryan Gosling made a relationship with a blow-up doll kind of adorable.


The FRR predicts that sex robots will move away from being the domain of fetishist and could soon be used as an aid in sex therapy, to keep the elderly company in care homes and help couples enjoy long distances sexual relationships.


So how does that last one work exactly? The Telegraph UK reports that as robotics, telecommunications and virtual reality merge, sex dolls could be created which was silicon replica of a long-distance partner, so that couples could have virtual sex and even speak to each other through the doll’s mouth.


There are currently four manufacturers making lifelike robotic dolls, but the experts who collated the report for the FRR predict that over the next few decades it will become a much bigger industry.


While the robots being used for therapeutic purposes such as the ones lists above puts a positive spin on the new technology, the report also highlighted some troubling developments.


The robot pictured here, named Roxxxy is causing a lot of people concern.

Douglas Hines, founder of the True Companion company, poses with a life-size rubber doll named Roxxxy during the Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada. Source:AP


Roxxxy is a next generation sex robot, in that her vagina, mouth and anus have motors.


She also has a heartbeat and a circulatory system, which helps heat the inside of her body.


The sex robot also comes programmed with different personalities — and here’s where we encounter the big problem.


One of her five personalities is described as “Frigid Farrah”. She is “reserved and shy” and is programmed to resist the user’s sexual advances.


It’s the setting you’d use if you wanted to find her not too “appreciative” when you “touched her in a private area,” according to the company’s website.


As the New York Times put it, “she’s yours to rape for just $US9,995”. The robot has also been branded the “official mascot of rape culture”.

Roxxxy have five different personalities. Photo: AFP Source:AFP


One of the authors of the FRR report, Noel Sharkey, a professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield, England, said there are obvious ethical arguments within the field about sex robots with “frigid” settings.


“The idea is robots would resist your sexual advances so that you could rape them,” Professor Sharkey told Business Insider.


“Some people say it’s better they rape robots than rape real people. There are other people saying this would just encourage rapists more.”


The other troubling personality of Roxxxy’s is “Young Yoko ... She is oh so young (barely 18) and waiting for you to teach her”.


Child sex robots and dolls have been labelled another “sickening” trend in the sex doll scene.

Trottla, founded by businessman Shin Takagi, create anatomically-correct imitations of girls as young as 5. Source:Supplied


“These are already being made and shipped from Japan by a self-confessed paedophile who says he’s never had sex with a child because he made this doll for that reason,” explains Sharkey.


That self-confessed paedophile is Shin Takagi, who set up a company called Trottla that manufactures and markets child look-alike sex dolls. Takagi told The Atlantic last year: “We should accept that there is no way to change someone’s fetishes. I am helping people express their desires, legally and ethically. It’s not worth living if you have to live with repressed desire.”


But Philosophy Professor and robot ethicist Patrick Lin of California Polytechnic rebutted this argument to the Telegraph, saying “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. The ethics of sex robots goes beyond whether anyone is physically harmed.”

Another of the sex robots from the True Companion company. Source:Supplied


The makers of the next generation of sex robots defend the creation of “non consenting” robots like Frigid Farrah, arguing that they are not women, but animatronic objects.


“She’s not a someone. She is a machine,” claim the makers of the lifelike Lumi Dolls.


“Is it ethically dubious to force my toaster to make my toast?”


They also argue that there is no difference between a vibrator for women and a sex doll for men.


“If women can have a vibrator,” the TrueCompanion website asks, “why can’t men have a Roxxxy? Having a sex robot is just another ‘aid’ that allows both women and men to make their dreams become reality.”


But as Laura Bates points out in her opinion piece for the New York Times, “their creators are selling far more than an inanimate sex aid. They are effectively reproducing real women, complete with everything ... except autonomy.”

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