Sex Robots: The Future of Sex Machines?

Posted by Andrew Schroeder on

In the past half-century, technology has evolved at a faster pace than at any previous time in human history. And sure, a strong statement like that immediately makes you think about the rise of the internet, smartphones, and driverless cars. But human technology has actually progressed equally in other, less obvious facets.

Let’s face it — the sex toy industry has come a long way since the invention of the first blow-up doll. From the first simple mechanical dildo to full-blown (pun intended) fucking machines, this market has become populated with increasingly complex products in the past couple of decades. With this in mind, many have predicted the coming invention of a completely realistic sex robot. But is this future a reality? We’ll explore the kinky side of the Singularity right here!

How Good Are Sex Machines Now?

sex machines, in the broadest possible sense of the word, have been around for longer than you might think. The industry of sex toys has existed, in a rudimentary form, since the Victorian era. Back then, the first vibrator appeared, though not for sexual pleasure. Actually, physicians used it to treat hysteria in women by inducing medical orgasms via clitoral massages.

These early sex machines were far larger and more powerful than the handy and compact dildos and vibrators of today. Consequently, they were also more dangerous, leading to quite a few injuries back in the day. However, such devices have improved immensely in the past two centuries. They’ve gained a lot of popularity in American and European bathhouses in the early 20th century when their widespread use for sexual pleasure began.

Quickly, the manufacturing and design of sex machines improved, making the basic devices safer and more compact while simultaneously coming up with sprawling and complex sex machinery for more advanced users. And while the term “sex machine” brings pictures of fucksaws and drilldos to mind, such penetrative devices aren’t the only kinds of sex technology available today.

For example, the advent of virtual reality tech has allowed people to experience pornography that’s more visceral than ever before. And those that strive for an even more palpable sex simulation can turn to an increasingly realistic array of sex dolls. These days, these mannequins are moving further and further away from the uncanny valley, becoming more and more lifelike with each iteration like Samantha the sex robot. Considering that, many have predicted the appearance of actual sex robots — but is that wet dream a reality?

Will There Really Be Sex Robots?

As we’ve mentioned just now, sex dolls have become increasingly lifelike in recent times. And with robotics advancing slowly but surely, is the appearance of robot sex machines a certainty? And to what degree? Let’s take a look at the progress of modern sex robot technology.

For this, we’ll have to take a short trip to the recent past — more specifically, the late 1990s. Around this time, complementary industries that assisted Hollywood experienced growth like never before, especially firms working with special effects, with productions like Jurassic Park and Star Wars: The Phantom Menace pushing the boundaries of computer graphics. But while CGI would become the hot new thing in movie effects for the next decade, the world of movie animatronics and realistic dolls would still advance.

And many of the effects experts in this field would soon find a new avenue for their talent — the production of more realistic sex dolls with basic motor functions and sounds. The plastic blow-up doll of the 20th century was beginning to bore even the biggest enthusiasts. People started jokingly referring to these new dolls as “sex robots.” Even a male sex robot has appeared recently. But while we’ve used the expression ironically for a long while, these days, it’s looking more and more realistic.

The progress of AI development and robotics is unlikely to slow down in the decades to come. This makes their intersection with the sex machine industry pretty much inevitable. At some point in the not-so-distant future, we’ll probably have a sex robot. But what will such a future hold?

Ethical Problems With Sex Robots

As we’ve concluded, our technological capabilities will undoubtedly reach a level needed to produce sex robots sometime in the future. But this isn’t a purely technical conundrum to solve; it’s also an ethical one. Remember — a sex robot is just a robot with a very specific function. So its existence draws all of the same questions that general robotics has been struggling with in recent years.

The Problem of Consent

Firstly, what is a sex robot to begin with? Where do we draw the line regarding its realism? Are we striving towards designing an artificially intelligent sex robot? If bioengineering allows us to make this robot from synthetic organic tissue, and it can think and act on its own accord, is this a robot at all or an actual being?

And in that case — how ethical is fucking a sex robot? If its awareness is on such a high level, doesn’t consent become an issue? The recent Me Too movement has highlighted the importance of consent in contemporary sexual relations. Logic dictates that any sentient being should be entitled to the rules of consent, including AI sex robots. But that would require defining self-awareness and sentience in the first place — something quite tricky, to say the least.

Obviously, these robots would have to be programmed to perform specific sexual functions. And if they are programmed, would any consent truly be genuine and ethical? Plus, let’s not forget that consent is not only a moral but also a legal issue. It’s just one piece in the larger puzzle of human rights in general. So would sex robots be entitled to these?

Other Issues

It stands to reason that the design and manufacturing of such high-tech sex robots would have to be tightly regulated. Otherwise, someone could simply make a child sex robot, technically catering to pedophiliacs.

And it’s not all about the robots’ rights (or lack thereof); it’s also about the rights of their owners. A big part of worldwide internet laws that have emerged since the 1990s has been about the privacy rights of internet users. And if an ethernet cable potentially allows strangers to catch a glimpse of your personal lives, imagine what kind of personal data sex robots could harness — not only discreet information about our sex lives but also crucial information about our home surroundings and our daily lives. All of that bears much thought before sex robots are designed are widely circulated.

Are BDSM Sex Robots Possible?

We’ve spent a lot of time discussing the broader implications of sex robotics. However, we haven’t talked much about the interesting implications for people’s sex lives themselves. And with fully functional AI sex robots, this becomes an exciting topic, delving, perhaps unexpectedly, into the realm of Sci-Fi.

Some 80 years ago, Isaac Asimov — one of the most widely lauded science fiction writers in history — coined three fundamental laws of robotics. For our purposes, the first one is the one that is the most intriguing. Namely, it states that a robot may not harm a human being or let a human being be harmed through inaction.

With that in mind, in the hypothetical sex robot brothel of the future — would BDSM sex robots be a reality? For the kinkier among us, BDSM is basically a given in the bedroom. And yet, if a sex robot cannot harm a human in any way, it seems that this would be impossible to achieve with it. Would BDSM remain the sole facet in which human-to-human sex interaction was exclusive? Undoubtedly, this would make such sexual encounters even more intense — to everyone’s delight!

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