There Are a Lot of Problems with Sex Robots – Info Gadgets
Dr. Kate Devlin has as good an idea of what draws men to sexbots as anyone. Devlin, the author of the upcoming book Turned On: Science, Sex and Robots, says, “There’s the group that want that ‘Pygmalion Experience’ where they wish it was a real woman. Then there’s the people who have the robo fetish.” These two groups find common ground in sexbots’ hyper-perfected realness, and this design alone presents myriad problems.
The logistical complications of creating a human-like, talking, humping sexbot are huge. There is the weight, for one thing, because a metal skeleton is hefty. There is the energy source, for another, because batteries are hot, heavy and short-lived. Honda’s Asimo, recently retired, weighed 115 pounds, and ran for an hour on his lithium ion battery. Boston Dynamics Atlas, the backflip robot, weighs 330 pounds, and runs for less than an hour. Neither this weight nor this energy level makes for a full night of passion, and Atlas is currently the best robotics can do.
“Right now, a humanoid robot is basically impossible to make true-to-human,” says Xavier, who asked not to be identified by his real name in this story. A graduate of the MIT Media Lab who specializes in robotics, he says, “We’re just now maybe able to build humanoid robots that are realistic. But in terms of sex robots, they’re sort of like stuffed animals with motors in them — I’d consider them movie props.”
The hard fact is that much as some people want a functioning gynoid sexbot, these machines don’t exist, and they probably won’t in our lifetime.
But technological stumbling blocks are only one part of why today’s sexbots are bad and wrong. There’s also an essential moral queasiness about the endeavor to build one. The concept that there could be ethical issues swirling around sexbots is nothing new — in fact, concern about sexbot ethics is behind The Campaign Against Sex Robots, a three-year-old organizations that has looked to legally ban sex robots even before they hit the market.
Experts caution that beating, raping, or harming a gynoid robot could encourage that same behavior toward women.
Robot ethics is easy to comprehend when you recognize that the concept has less to do with what humans do to the bots, and more about how the ways human act towards bots could affect human interactions.
Dr. Kate Darling, robot ethicist and researcher at the MIT Media Lab, observes, “Ethical issues arise from concern that we might behave certain ways towards very realistic sex robots that look like a real woman,” because “that behavior might translate to our interactions with real women.” In other words, some experts caution, beating, raping, or harming a gynoid robot could encourage that same behavior to women.
This concern isn’t as mind-bendingly weird as it immediately seems. Sexbot designers are already imbuing their bots a kind of “consent.” Realbotix builds its Harmony sexbot (currently, a disembodied head sold separately from — but able to work with — existing RealDoll bodies) to recognize when she’s being ignored or disrespected, both in her daily mode and in her “X-Mode” or sexual simulation. Likewise, Santos is programming his Samantha sexbot to be able to say no, although what this means in real-life terms is unclear. Men who don’t want to take Samantha’s no for an answer may not.
These programming choices look a lot like conciliatory gestures to people who value women’s humanity — especially when you look at the totality of these bots’ A.I. Realbotix’s Harmony is physically a head, but her “soul” resides in an app. Users can tweak Harmony’s personality to suit their tastes (there’s even a capability for second personality, which the company has named Solana) by adjusting the app’s 10 “person points” and 18 “personality traits.” You can make your Harmony affectionate, happy, kind, and sexual — but you can also make her insecure, quiet, jealous and intense.
Harmony’s preset personality modes mean that Realbotix created a talking bot who can shut up, a beautiful bot who can express self-doubt, a sexual bot who can convey jealousy, and a bot whose intellectualism, imagination, and unpredictability can be turned down — or off — and this is telling. Realbotix designed Harmony to appeal to men who want to control their sex partner’s emotional, intellectual, and psychological states. And, because we live in a world where men aim to control real women, this is disturbing.
Harmony is a capitalist product, but Harmony is also a bot that invites you to see her as a human woman, and that makes absolute control an unsettling selling point. Realbotix is poised to release Harmony’s brother bot, Henry, next year, and while we don’t yet know what Henry’s preset personalities will include, it’s fair to assume that “annoying,” “insecure,” or “innocent” won’t be among his preset attributes. “Confident” and “assertive” likely will be, however.
Henry, its makers seem to think, is the ideal solution to all the ethical, gendered, and sexist dilemmas because, hey, it’s for women. Like Harmony, Henry will be a head equipped with an app you can personalize that will tell you jokes, give you compliments and recite poetry — because of course, all women want are bots to tell them they’re beautiful. Speaking on Sveriges Radio P4, Dr. David Levy, author of Love and Sex with Robots, said, “Imagine if women could have a bot that tells them, ‘Darling, you are so beautiful’ in addition to having a nice vibrating penis. Who wouldn’t like that?”
Me, for one. I wouldn’t like that. The idea that women need their sex toys to tell them they’re beautiful is misbegotten logic modeled on men’s needs. Women have been doing just fine with inarticulate dildos for millennia, and we’re not looking to our vibrators for conversation. Henry may be a nice conversation piece. He may act like Siri on steroids. He may provide companionship to people who feel lonely. But he is not a solution to the technologically fraught, ethically wrong, and easily fixed problems of today’s sexbots.
So what is?
Article Prepared by Ollala Corp