Tech creates a social revolution with unthinkable impacts that we prefer not to see

Summary: We prefer cartoonish visions of the future, utopian and dsytopian. For good reason, since clearer visions range from disturbing to mind-blowing. Sexbots are coming, the next generation of automation. They’ll bring a future of the mind-blowing kind, for which we will not prepare because we don’t want to see it.

“This will blow up the world. It will make crack cocaine look like decaffeinated coffee.”
— Anonymous (source here).

Love revolution

I have written much about the fake crisis that our leaders use to keep us fearful, with our attention focused where they want it. I’ve written about shockwaves (low probability, high impact scenarios). There is a third category: events quite likely — yet we refused to see them, let alone prepare. Two I have discussed are the mass unemployment coming from the 3rd industrial revolution (now beginning) and the return of past extreme weather.

Another event of the third kind might have even larger effects: the arrival of sexbots. The easy and cheap availability of porn and games already might have reduced the number of men interested in assuming the burdens of marriage. The number of such defectors will skyrocket eventually, inevitably as sexbots gain increased functionality at affordable prices.

Journalists have begun warning us (see below). But we saw with news about the pause in atmospheric warming that a few low-key articles do little to gain our attention (the BBC ran articles about the pause in 2008 and in 2009, yet 5 years later the media still overflowed with confident denials of the pause).

I don’t know what effect sexbots will have on society. But I’ll bet it will be bigger than we can imagine. I suggest we start to think about it.

A vision of the year 2050

We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.
— Attributed to
Roy Charles Amara as paraphrased by Robert X. Cringely.

For a vision of our likely future see “Robots, Men And Sex Tourism” by Ian Yeoman (Assoc Prof Business, Victoria U) and Michelle Mars (sexologist) in Futures, May 2012. It’s gated. Here’s an excerpt, a conservative description of a world where robots have automated prostitution and perhaps to some extent replaced wives and girlfriends.


The Yub-Yum is Amsterdam’s top sex club for business travelers located beside a 17th century canal house on the Singel. It is modern and gleaming with about 100 scantily clad blonde and brunettes parading around in exotic G-strings and lingerie. Entry costs s10,000 for an all inclusive service.

The club offers a full range of sexual services from massages, lap dancing and intercourse in plush surroundings. The Yub-Yum is a unique bordello licensed by the city council, staffed not by humans but by androids.

This situation came about due to an increase in human trafficking in the sex industry in the 2040s which was becoming unsustainable, combined with an increase in incurable STI’s in the city especially HIV which over the last decade has mutated and is resistant to many vaccines and preventive medicines. Amsterdam’s tourist industry is built on an image of sex and drugs. The council was worried that if the red light district were to close, it would have a detrimental effect on the city’s brand and tourism industry, as it seemed unimaginable for the city not to have a sex industry. Sex tourism is a key driver for stag parties and the convention industry.

The Yub-Yum offers a range of sexual gods and goddesses of different ethnicities, body shapes, ages, languages and sexual features. The club is often rated highly by punters on and for the fifth year in a row, in 2049 was voted the world’s best massage parlour by the UN World Tourism Organisation. The club has won numerous technology and innovation awards including the prestigious ISO iRobotSEX award.

The most popular model is Irina, a tall, blonde, Russian exotic species who is popular with Middle Eastern businessmen. The tourists who use the services of Yub-Yum are guaranteed a wonderful and thrilling experience, as all the androids are programmed to perform every service and satisfy every desire.

… The impact of Yub-Yum club and similar establishments in Amsterdam has transformed the sex industry by alleviating all health and human trafficking problems. The only social issues surrounding the club are the resistance from human sex workers who say they can’t compete on price and quality, therefore forcing many of them to close their shop windows. All in all, the regeneration of Amsterdam’s sex industry has been about the success of the new breed of sex worker.

Even clients feel guilt free as they actually haven’t had sex with a real person and therefore don’t have to lie to their partner. … Robot sex is safer sex, free from the constraints, precautions and uncertainties of the real deal.

———————- End excerpt ———————-

Lauren Davis at i09 asks the small questions. She doesn’t ask about the extent to which men — and perhaps women — consider sex with robots an acceptable substitute for more complex human relationships.

… would spouses view sex with a robotic partner as cheating, or as a form of masturbation akin to using a vibrator? Would people be more open and honest about paying for sex with robots than they are about paying for sex with humans? If robotic prostitutes could be program specifically for female pleasure, would we see equality between men and women patronizing these automated brothels?


Porn (hard- & soft-core) often drives technology

Sexbots as the vanguard of the robot industry repeats an old pattern. From the early days of modern era, sex-related industries have been an early adopter of technology. Their revenue often provided the funds for the developers of new tech, and fueled its development. Oddly, no matter how often repeated, it always surprises. These articles explain this history.

Some technologies for whom porn fueled its early development: microfiche (late 1800’s), bulletin board systems (first generation internet; early 1990s), e-commerce (1990’s), streaming video (early 1990s), webcams (~1995),  subtitles and closed captioning for the hearing impaired, digital cameras, cable television, and video cassette recorders. Also printing and photography. For a fun version turn (as always) to “5 Ways Porn Created the Modern World“.

For a more scholarly review, see “Pornography, Video, and the Internet” by Jonathan Coopersmith, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, Spring 2000 (here’s a CNN story about his work). Just to be clear about the relationship see “Pornography Drives Technology” by Peter Johnson, Federal Communications Law Journal, November 1996. Excerpt:

“When new media offer new markets, porn spies them quickly and rushes to fill them, like an amoeba extruding a new pseudopod where its skin is thinnest. …

While the image of a brand-new pseudopod occupied the happy part of my inner matter, I still found the conclusion of his rather interesting study couldn’t be deflowered: “Far from viewing cyberpornographers as pariahs, society would do well to view them as mountain men and women in the mold of Jedediah Smith, who discovered and opened the passes of the Rockies for entire families to follow west.”

See these portents of the future…

For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about the 3rd Industrial Revolution now under way, and especially these…

Visions of the future (often disturbing)

Two trailers, showing Hollywood’s first glances into this future, and testimony from an early adopter. They’re all disturbing, in different ways.

Sexbot Science

38 thoughts on “Tech creates a social revolution with unthinkable impacts that we prefer not to see”

    1. Infowarrior,

      Great question. To guess, using the vivid if only somewhat accurate pack analogy — the alphas will remain unaffected (with easy access to high status partners), the betas will be a big market for sexbots (the “bisexual” market, in that they mate with both human and robot partners), and the omega will be the mass market for sexbots (automation of prostitution, greatly expanding the market — as it usually does).

      1. That will probably create a substantial selection pressure for the top men and women. And increase the proportion of the next generation that are attractive.

      2. Infowarrior,

        Who can say? But I doubt that. There are too few alphas, and they have few children. My guess (emphasis on guess) is that we’ll see a decrease in children by beta males, as many find sexbots a replacement for the current cycle of marriage – children – divorce by wife – child support. The development of a male contraceptive pill will further push this trend.

        Perhaps the result will be that children are even more increasingly a phenomenon of the lower classes, who by choice or necessity run their own form of society.

      3. ”Perhaps the result will be that children are even more increasingly a phenomenon of the lower classes, who by choice or necessity run their own form of society.”

        Lower classes? Please explain

      1. infowarrior,

        Great point! I had not thought that through.

        Also – this might have a severe effect on marriage rates — after all, anecdotal evidence suggests that porn and video games might already be having some effect — but the effect on fertility might be smaller. More women will just be single mothers. In the Nordic nations rates of single motherhood are already quite high (from memory, might be incorrect).

      2. Infowarrior,

        Reminder to self: always check facts first. I confused out-of-wedlock with single motherhood. Sweden has the first, not the second. The latter often has ill effects, far more so than the former. See details here. Many other stories about this.

        Confusion about these two vital factors — conflating them — is common. As in this NY Times article consulting experts — who make the same error.

  1. In terms of what the robots will do to the sexual market, it is worth noting from the state that every single lady sexbot will be a 10 (on a scale of 1-10). There won’t be any obese sexbots, feminist sexbots, unshaved sexbots, ugly sexbots, etc. They will all be gorgeous, perfect 10s. It seems then that in order to understand what will happen, we need to know how men will react to this situation. My suspicion is that a real 10 will always beat a robot 10, but that the robot 10 will always beat the real 1 to 9.5s. In that case, women are in trouble.

    But of course the sexbots will bring changes all across the board, not just specifically with human sexuality. For example, I can see men becoming much, much less violent because practically all of them will be perfectly sexually satiated.

    1. Irving,

      All good points! It will be interesting to see how the market for sexpots expands in the next several decades — when they are not perfect 10’s, or even close to “real”.

      There is already a market for the crude sex dolls, and my guess (emphasis on guess) it will grow rapidly as sexbots improve to become even slightly less crude facsimiles of women.

      Perfect android women, like holodecks and soma, will reshape society into something quite different.

  2. Another innovation the porn industry pioneered is the Uber business model, where full time professionals are displaced by crowdsourcing.

  3. Excellent article, truly out-of-the-box thinking. Peteybee mentions that the Uber business model is the next big thing for porn, and it’s already here: Tinder, a sex hook-up smartphone app. People post their pics online and then meet up for casual sex — as (for example) a waitress getting a quickie during her break. Tinder is real and popular right now.
    The rate at which sexbots will become realistic is probably hugely underestimated. Scientists can grow human skin right now from stem cells — they print it out using modified bubble jet printers with stem cells instead of ink cartridges. This is being done today for burn victims to overcome the shortage of compatible donors for skin grafts.
    In the near future, however, it will become trivial to print out live human skin over a lightweight carbon fiber or ceramic robotic chassis. Real eyes, simulated muscles, and real skin will make it nearly impossible to tell a sexbot from a live human.
    Of course, such sexbots will need some sort of nutrient solution for the skin cells, and since there’s live tissue involved, they could contract infections. But these are easily solvable problems, especially with current antibiotics and growth media (agar, etc.).
    The big issues confronting us once sexbots become established as part of society involve not just relations twixt men and women, but huge concerns like the replacement rate of our society. Japan is currently watching its population plummet as marriage-aged men and women don’t hook up and produce children. This is wreaking democraphic and economic havoc with Japanese society, as the number of aging pensioners explodes while the number of workers able to support them shrinks. Sexbots would exponentially worsen that situation.
    At the same time, since sexbots aren’t people, there’s no reason why the age of a sexbot odalisque would stay at 20 or 25 years. The covers of magazines like Mademoiselle and redbook and Vogue show us that the feminine ideal hovers somewhere age 14 to 16, so female sexbots would likely quickly drop in apparent age. This would create all sorts of problems as the male population becomes accustomed to nubile younger girls as the female ideal, probably leading them to reject adult human women as “unsexy.” At the same time, male sexbots would surely be fully depilated, with perfect body mass index, no sweat or bad breath, and so on. So men would surely find it impossible to compete in th e dating marketplace with apparent-age
    sexbots of, say, 17 to 19 years, without any of the pot guts or skin problems of real human men.
    This would likely lead women to reject adult men as equally “unsexy.”
    Once both genders become accustomed to sexbots, the brith rate will probably drop drastically. At the same time, the radical fall-off in marriage is likely to atomize society. This will further weakn the social ties that are already being frayed by smartphones, gaming console, giant screen TVs, twitter, and all the other tech that encourages people to isolate themselves at home instead of mingling with other people.
    As a result, we can predict that politics will probably become even more polarized, there will be a big boom in industries that cater to isolated individual (fast food take-out, hi tech communication gear, etc.) and a dramatic drop-off in industries that make their money off social activities (viz., nightclubs, bowling alleys, fashionable clothing, women’s makeup and hairstyling, men’s fitness products, etc).
    The totally frictionless interactions of men and women with sexbots will probably raise unrealistic expectations in all social interactions. Men and women used to sexbots who treat them like gods are likely to become unreasonably angry if their bosses or emplloyees refuse to behave with similar deference.
    The extreme outer edge of the sexbot-induced social trends may prove alarming. Online lynch mobs caused by people who cocoon in their apartments and only interact with others by twitter or Facebook; a continued drift in the age of women considered “sexy” toward a lower range, perhaps even lower than 9 years (if it’s a robot, who cares how young it looks?); women who prefer impossible ideals in their sex partners (sexbots with olympic-level physiques who never fall asleep after sex) to the point where they are repulsed by live males…

  4. Irving: “I can see men becoming much, much less violent because practically all of them will be perfectly sexually satiated.”

    But it could just as easily work the other way. Sexbots represent a rapist’s or sadist’s or wife-beating dream come true.

    Since it’s not a live human being, beating or torturing a sexbot would not involve a crime, as long as you own it. So I can easily see violent males becoming much more violent as they grow accustomed to taking out their most sadistic and misogynistic fantasies on sexbots. At the extreme, rape clubs where man join together to brutalize sexbots might become popular. It could work the other way too: radical feminists might have parties where they literally crucify or other humiliate or brutalize male sexbots.

    All of these scenarios open up a can of worms in the human psyche that is probably best left sealed. The human id given free rein is not a pleasant sight. And since these creatures would be machines, essentially, with some live skin grafted on their exoskeletons, there’s no moral or legal reason not to do any of these things to them.

    1. I hear where you’re coming from, Thomas More, but I still disagree.

      Interestingly, you’re making pretty much the exact same argument made by Marquis de Sade about human sexuality. He basically argued that through it, vital energies can be unleashed and that, when channeled appropriated, those energies can be harnessed towards those great endeavors that can benefit all of humankind or that, when used inappropriately used, can lead to reckless and destructive violence. He tied this in to his revolutionary political views as well, maintaining that the state and the church (at least at the time in which he lived) only had an interest in controlling human sexuality because they were scared that if they allowed to go unchecked, it would lead the masses to revolt.

      At any rate, I bring this up to say that it is clear now, about 220 or so years after de Sade, that human sexuality is nothing like he thought, and that in actual fact it is a depressant rather than a stimulant. It is simply the case that an overly sexualized population in which sex can easily be had, or barring that porn is easily accessible (thereby enabling men to “relieve” themselves whenever they’ve the urge), is more easily controlled and is less violent.

      It is enough to point out the fact that before their fights, boxers are forced to abstain from sex for a certain period so as not to expend any energy that ought to be dedicated to the fight.

      (Sorry about this meandering and ungrammatical post but I’m in a rash and writing from my phone)

  5. Sexual addiction is already a large problem. Sexbots & other toys will undoubtedly ratchet that up a few notches….just what society needs, more addictive, destructive pleasures….but with the heart of man as it is what can be done?…..More gov’t intervention as always.

  6. gairman,

    It might in fact be the case that people are having less sex now than ever before. Or better yet, that most men are having much less sex today than they would have in a monogamous society. We shouldn’t assume that simply because pre-marital sex isn’t frowned upon anymore, that everyone is doing it. Rather, some men (the “alphas”) are doing it, and they’re doing it quite a lot, and with many different women as well; the other guys, though, are for the most part left out in the cold. And these are the guys who, by and large, will be purchasing and using the sexbots when the time comes. At any rate, these guys might develop a “sexual addition” once they finally get to have sex, in this case with their sexbots, but it is hardly the case that they are addicted now.

  7. Pingback: The next social revolution is coming – an unimaginable impact on society – Fabius Maximus website (blog) | digitalcollaboration

  8. Check this out Editor, The first twerking sexbot is here: The Twerking Butt.

    The Only Product Of Its Kind

    Interactive passion is virtually here! Explore the heights of sensual pleasure the way you want it! With two versions available, TwerkingButt features multiple twerking patterns, customizable rhythms, massage speeds, sensual vibration, and simulated body heat. Control the TwerkingButt with the included remote or from your smart phone (Android or iOS) or tablet.

    Products from $20 to $900.

  9. Editor,

    I don’t know how you do it, but that you can write “Are these things discussed here good or bad? Please consult a priest or philosopher for answers to such questions. This author only discusses what was, what is, and what might be” and consistently maintain this position in the face of something as horrifying as the coming of the sexbots is impressive. Especially when it seems to be the case (I think) that you are older — as in, not in your 20s 30s or probably 40s — and can therefore distinctly remember a time when these things were the stuff of science fiction, if they were even discussed at all.

    1. Irving,

      I’m 60 years old, and grew up in a different world — and as a teenage saw films and TV set in yet another world. I have seen many predictions of the end times, and read of still more from the past — all of which have proved false. So I prefer to point to challenges and avoid the confident forecasts of doom which are the clickbait that makes successful websites.

      I’m well versed in marketing techniques, but choose not to employ them here.

  10. Well Editor, I must say that I’m astonished. I hope that when I’m 60 — that is, if I make it to 60 — I can be as open-minded and as receptive to new ideas as you are. I’m 24 and I can already feel myself gravitating towards a certain kind of desiccated reactionary worldview, motivated for the most part by pessimism and disgust with what I suspect is the new world being prepared for all of us, a world which will be one where the overwhelming majority of people will be poor, will have sex with machines, will be obese, will be stupid (there’s evidence that IQ’s are declining, although I concede that it might not be conclusive), will be hooked on reality TV, etc. etc. etc.. Of course, I think all of this will be the case until the Masters of the Universe, once they’ve finally captured 95%+ of the world’s economic resources, begin what I suspect historians will call the “Great Culling” or something similar, thereby reducing the human population worldwide to about a half a million. Their justification will, I suspect, have something to do with “protecting the environment” and reducing the population to more “sustainable” levels. My point here is basically to congratulate you on your ability to elevate above the extreme and probably exaggerated and baseless pessimism that I’ve given myself over to, and to look at things coolly and objectively. After all, more in line with common expectations just based on our respective ages would be that our roles would be reversed and you would be the pessimist and not I.

    Anyway, I think I’ll leave you alone now. Have a great weekend!

  11. Here’s an interesting vision of the future that I discovered a few years ago: Nine Planets Without Intelligent Life. In this story, humanity has gone completely extinct; the robots we built were so good at providing for our needs and desires that humans stopped wanting to do anything but enjoy the pleasures provided by our machines, and we all went to our graves in comfortable satiation. The robots, however, were all built with a deep desire to keep working, keep improving things, and keep building more robots to replace the ones that wore out, so now the entire solar system is populated by intelligent robots.

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