23/12/07

Sex with robots? Call the unions!

David Levy at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands tells MSNBC’s Live Science that we’ll be having sex with robots within five years. Without wanting to reflect too much on whether long-married partners would consider sex with robots to be much of an innovation, I think the issue raises important ethical questions. Will robots be unionised, and if so will the be allowed to join the same unions as others who provide sexual services? Will there be a price differential in the sex trade, and if so, will robots be priced higher or lower than humans? Is it possible there may be a danger of client-to-client HIV transmission, with a robot acting as a reservoir for infected body fluids? (we worried about this a lot when the female condom first crackled into life).

Finally, a question of concern to policy-makers in Washington: will organisations working to secure safety for robots and their clients be allowed to accept funding from the US government, or will they, too, have to sign the “loyalty oath” that prevents us from improving working conditions in the sex industry?

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This post was published on 23/12/07 in Good sex and bad, Ideology and HIV, The sex trade.

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  1. Comment by colson, 23/12/07, 02:46:

    Whatever the outcome of these policy considerations may be, a ( female)robot at least may prevent in action questions like “Darling, the ceiling needs painting”.

  2. Comment by Lee Rudolph, 23/12/07, 03:30:

    At the 2006 meeting of “Robotics: Science and Systems” in Philadelphia, I heard Hiroshi Isaguro of Osaka University deliver a plenary talk on Android Science. (Actually, he’d already gone on from designing androids to designing “geminoids”–robot duplicates of particular individuals. As of 2006 he’d made geminoids of his young daughter, of a female new anchor that I gathered is the Japanese equivalent of Katie Couric, and of himself; he showed a video of his geminoid having an office-hour across town from his office, from which he was remotely controlling some–but not all–of its activities. I’ve had office hours that felt like that, myself.) In that talk, he mentioned something I have only recently begun to see in the public prints here in the USA: Japan–which, of course, is “graying” at a tremendous rate, and which has been seeing an increasing breakdown of the traditional family ties that once would have forced children to care personally for their aging parents–has set a national goal, subscribed by the government and most of the major technology companies in Japan, of providing something like 80% of all “senior care” robotically by 2016.

    He did not say whether “senior care” included sexual services. If so, however, I would assume that the commonest situation would be monogamous robotic concubinage, one human “senior” paired with one robot. (Presumably any client-side desire for partner variety could be satisfied by providing the robots with a capacity for self-reconfiguration; self-reconfigurable robots are, in fact, a hot research topic, though not yet–as far as I know–in the context of androids, much less geminoids. Presently proposed applications are more of the moon-rover type.) That should be fairly safe sex, assuming modest self-cleansing capacities for the robot (which is going to have to be good at cleaning up, anyway, after all).

  3. Comment by elizabeth, 24/12/07, 05:52:

    Sell your Viagra shares now!

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