An article written by Ian Kerner for CNN asks what can sex robots teach us?
The article has been inspired by the fluctuation of AI as a subject in media corresponding with our advancements in technology towards creating artificial life.
Piece de resistance
A few of the most popular examples of course as TV shows West World and Humans, and more recent films such as Ex Machina, and some a little older like I Robot; that very much saw the beginning of this tradition in visual culture.
Though created for viewing pleasure, these shows and films have also provoked controversial moral and ethical dilemmas; debating the humanity and consciousness of artificial creations. Made in our image many argue they are therefore not human and so do not feel or understand and therefore cannot be damaged.
Others however, have begun to ask, if made in our image are they not like us? As such meaning they have rights and freedoms very much the same as we do in our civilisation and society.
It appears currently a riddle with no answer, though it would seem out of the torrents of visual culture, currently debating and chewing over this issue, that many have opted to present the idea that artificial consciousness will develop to be on par, if not an improvement on our own, and humanity will pay for a mistake in failing to identify this, if we do indeed choose to abuse artificial intelligence by decreeing it is lesser.
At the centre of these mixed views, understandings and blurred lines on this topic that is still a very unknown and shaky future for humans; we must consider the potential key issues that may be created. One at the forefront and always highlighted in the kinds of shows and film is the idea of where these creatures may sit among our relationship to and experience of sexual identification.
Kerner hits the nail of the head when he asks Is a world where robots are at our beck and call be nearer than we think? And what will that mean for our sex lives.
To begin let us think of what is already available to us that has changed the face of how humans interact with sexual desire. The introduction of the virtual reality headset had promised an enticing gaming experience, that will allow the user to interact in gameplay like new before, reaching new levels of reality close to being indiscernible from our own.
A genre of game being developed for this platform include sexual experience games, that essentially will allow the user to role play any sexual fantasy they desire, and the experience is said to believably close as to sleeping with a real person.
Ethically there are many arguable pros and cons to this material. Some believe it will aid current sexual behaviours and deviances considered harmful, insulting and offensive. They have said by allowing an outlet for these sexual fantasies, gender inequality and issues concerning the objectification of women as objects may be lessened; the games being a tool for release instead.
On the other hand, it could be considered that the introduction of virtual reality erotica, is only advancing the kind of porn already available to the public. And as has often been discussed many believe porn has been harmful to increasing and normalising sexist behaviour. By indulging our fantasies, we have lost the ability to identify the boundaries between the two, and it has encouraged the practice of fantasy to become reality. In many cases, it has been noted, the acts displayed in porn are not representative of real life sex between two adults.
Since children are getting younger and younger when first exposed to sexual materials, they are not able to learn the relevant awareness needed when being audience to this information. In this case, being unable to criticise the things they are being shown, it may be polluting their minds and teaching them the things they are seeing are ok, and are what everybody else does.
Sex and Gender
Gender identities can play a large part in how we relate to one another sexually. The biases and traditional gender roles of our society have birthed an expectation of women and their performance sexually, and the idea they are a gift for a male to enjoy. Though not everybody agrees or prescribes to these behaviours, it is undeniable that a gender gap exists between those identifying as male or female.
Our society is built on patriarchal beliefs and this has affected the ways in which our foundations have been built and the roles we have been required to play within that. The effects of rape culture have been widespread across many different cultures, and in the past couple of years, more and more attention has once again been brought the inequalities facing women in our society.
There is concern our advances in technology may be harming and regressing us in other ways. Perhaps encouraging sexual freedom, and heightening experience virtually may be restraining us sexually in reality, when the things being achieved or a screen, or on a robot turn out not to be achievable in our waking lives.
The AI Conundrum
Ex Machina, Humans and West World have been pro-active in exploring the presentation of AI robots and cases of sexual interaction between them demonstrating the notion that indeed by engaging with these ideas, and using them as a tool for our sexual desires, could be dangerous. Though it would seem technology is still an age away from creating robots that can function as believable sexual partners, it is perhaps something we are gradually moving towards.
Though there may be some convincing scenarios where this could offer resolution and benefits to individuals: Kerner discusses the idea of a robot fulfilling the sexual fantasies of individuals with higher libidos, and perhaps may be an aid for partners looking to bring excitement to their relationship, there are certainly some concerns into what else it may add to the mix. There are certainly some dangers that this idea presents and creates that we should be mindful of if indeed we are moving further towards AI Robots being a reality.
What do you think? Is the idea of an AI robot as a sexual partner a good or a bad thing?