Vox: The pros and cons of having sex with robots
Robot strippers pole-danced at a gentleman’s club hosting a Consumer Electronics Show party earlier this week in Las Vegas. The video, which featured the robots gyrating to Pharrell, quickly went viral.
But the robots were far from the only sex technology featured at the annual electronics trade show, which started on Tuesday and runs until the end of this week in Las Vegas. Amid the displays of self-driving cars, drones, and smart devices, technologies such as virtual reality porn and Solana, a sex robot with several interchangeable faces, showed that the intersection of eroticism and tech remains big business.
In Robot Sex, Neil McArthur, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Manitoba, brings together essays that explore the ethical, social, and philosophical implications of the robotics of intimacy. “As these technologies become more immersive and more sophisticated, there may be some people in the future who simply identify as people who prefer to have sex via technology,” he says. (The co-author of the volume is John Danaher, a lecturer in the law school at the National University of Ireland Galway.)
I discussed the benefits and downsides of robot sex, and “digisexuality” more generally, with McArthur. This conversation has been lightly edited and condensed.
Where does sex robot technology stand right now?
When people have this idea of a sex robot, they think it’s going to look like a human being, it’s gonna walk around and say seductive things and so on. I think that’s actually the slowest-developing part of this whole nexus of sexual technology. It will come — we are going to have realistic sex robots. But there are a few technical hurdles to creating humanoid robots that are proving fairly stubborn. Making them walk is one of them. And if you use Siri or any of those others, you know that AI is proving sort of stubbornly resistant to becoming realistic.
But I think that when you look more broadly at what’s happening with sexual technology, virtual reality in general has just taken off. And it’s being used in conjunction with something called teledildonics, which is kind of an odd term. But all it means is actual devices that you hook up to yourself in various ways that sync with things that you see onscreen. It’s truly amazing what’s going on.