Summary: Slowly, reluctantly the media — educated, prosperous, liberal — begin to grapple with the coming sexbot revolution. Perhaps this recognition is sparked by the holobot seen in Blade Runner 2048 –non-corporal, and so non-threatening (and hence respectable) in Hollywood. As seen in this article from “Wired”, they see it coming but remain stuck on denial. Because they are written by the prosperous and beautiful, while sexbots will be used by other segments of society.
“Love in the time of robots” by Alex Mar in Wired.
Today, the technical ability to produce a robot that truly looks and moves and speaks like a human remains well beyond our reach. Even further beyond our grasp is the capacity to imbue such a machine with humanness — that ineffable presence the Japanese call sonzai-kan. Because to re-create human presence we need to know more about ourselves than we do — about the accumulation of cues and micromovements that trigger our empathy, put us at ease, and earn our trust.
Someday we may crack the problem of creating artificial general intelligence — a machine brain that can intuitively perform any human intellectual task — but why would we choose to interact with it?
Ishiguro believes that since we’re hardwired to interact with and place our faith in humans, the more humanlike we can make a robot appear, the more open we’ll be to sharing our lives with it. Toward this end, his teams are pioneering a young field of research called human-robot interaction.
HRI is a hybrid discipline: part engineering, part AI, part social psychology and cognitive science. The aim is to analyze and cultivate our evolving relationship with robots. HRI seeks to understand why and when we’re willing to interact with, and maybe even feel affection for, a machine. And with each android he produces, Ishiguro believes he is moving closer to building that trust. …
As complex as we assume ourselves to be, our bonds with one another are often built on very little. Given all the time we now spend living through technology, not many of us would notice, at least at first, if the friend we were messaging were replaced by a bot. And humans do not require much to stir up feelings of empathy with another person or creature — even an object. In 2011 a University of Calgary test found that subjects were quick to assign emotions and intentions to a piece of balsa wood operated with a joystick. In other words, we are so hardwired for empathy that our brains are willing to make the leap to humanizing a piece of wood. It’s a level of animal instinct that’s slapstick-hilarious and a degree of vulnerability that’s terrifying. …
Sorbello talks about the desire for intimacy with androids — something he’s clearly thought a lot about. “Can you imagine what it would be like,” he asks, “to want to kiss a robot? To want to kiss that rubber, not-human flesh? There are people who have those kinds of desires. Imagine if you could run heat through its skin so that it feels not like cold rubber but warm to the touch? There are people who want to try things with that.” Human sexual and romantic relationships are unavoidably messy, he says, and many people would like to keep their lives simple — in which case a relationship with an android might be a solution. “I think this is the future,” he says. …
On Sorbello’s recommendation, I later read Love and Sex with Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships, a 2007 book by AI expert David Levy. In it he proposes that we are not far from a time (he suggests roughly the year 2050) when humans will desire robots as friends, sexual partners, even spouses — a premise he seems unnervingly OK with. It all comes down to our willingness to believe in the robot’s emotional life and desires. Designed with the physical proportions that its human owner prefers, the preferred voice timbre and eye color and personality type, and the ability to recall and riff on its owner’s personal stories and little jokes, android will captivate human. …
These are pretty radical ideas about human nature and intimacy, and yet I recognize the desire some might have to turn to an android for closeness, for companionship — for comfort when you’re far from home, maybe on the other side of the planet, on assignment for weeks at a time. And if someone provides you with a salve, why not take it? Most of us already allow technology to mediate what was once simple, direct human interaction — what really is the difference? And is that difference so essential to the experience of being human that it must be preserved?
Ms. Mar sees life from the top. How does it look from the bottom.
“This will blow up the world. It will make crack cocaine look like decaffeinated coffee.”
— Anonymous (source here).
Alex Mar is a talented and successful writer, author of the award-winning best-seller Witches of America (see her website). She is a beautiful young woman. Her analysis is brilliant and incisive. It’s a class-based view of the world, seen from the top.
But she shows little sympathy for the ugly, the socially inept, the losers of society — especially male. The lesser betas and the omega — the involuntarily celibate. Men for whom today companionship means porn, masturbation and prostitutes (in addition to booze, drugs, sports, and video games. Sexbots will give them new options. Just as did sex for chat lines, video rentals, and the internet. Vast fortunes will be made meeting these people’s needs.
Look further into the future, sexbots will gradually become more lifelike, offering increasing competition for women. Nobody wants to talk about that.
Let’s not get too excited. They’re not here yet.
“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 another perspective see “Erica – Man-Made“, a documentary by The Guardian, April 2017.
“Erica is 23. She has a beautiful, neutral face and speaks with a synthesised voice. She has a degree of autonomy – but can’t move her hands yet. Hiroshi Ishiguro is her ‘father’ and the bad boy of Japanese robotics. …Hiroshi Ishiguro and his colleague Dylan Glas are interested in what makes a human. Erica is their latest creation – a semi-autonomous android, the product of the most funded scientific project in Japan.”
Much of the article is bogus. See this debunking. Here is an especially bizarre description by roboticist Dylan Glas, co-designer of Erica, of a mechanical device with less sentience than a banana.
“I think she is very excited to interact with people. I think she really looks forward to that all the time. And I think she’s very interested in learning about the outside world because she doesn’t get a chance to see it really.”
Exaggeration by innovators and journalists is commonplace. But let’s not let that blind us to the massive changes sexbots will make to society as they grow more lifelike.
For More Information
- Tech creates a social revolution with unthinkable impacts that we prefer not to see.
- Three unmentionable insights about people, free from Ashley Madison.
- Our scary future: sexbots are coming, powering the ‘sexodus’.
- A look at sexbots, prototypes of a radically different future for society.
- Technology will shape our society as porn and sexbots destroy 21st century marriage.
- Experts look at the future of sexbots and society, but can’t see it.
Books about the coming revolution
- Love and Sex with Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships by AI expert David Levy (2007).
- Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle (2011).
- My Fair Ladies: Female Robots, Androids, and Other Artificial Eves by Julie Wosk (2015).
- “What’s love got to do with it? Robots, sexuality, and the arts of being human.” In Marco Norskov (Ed.) Social Robots: Boundaries, Potential, Challenges Charles M. Ess (2016).