Sex isn’t something you would traditionally associate with Artificial Intelligence, yet the time has come where we must discuss the two in relation to each other. The development of sex robots has been occurring within this century, with recent innovations becoming increasingly realistic . Only last month, Arran Squire, Welsh co-founder of Synthea Amatus, appeared on ITV’s This Morning with ‘Samantha’ the sex robot.
During the appearance, it was revealed that ‘Samantha’ was able to respond to a range of scenarios, with AI being designed to give users a unique experience. A robot able to talk, interact and even tell people she loves them; a statement delivered with a voice similar to the GPS in your car. Her skin has been designed to feel more human-like in texture, as opposed to the older and more simplified latex sex dolls that pre-dated her. Yet, her 12V battery is not enough to warm her skin, rendering her cold and empty, arguably corpse-like in feel. The most shocking part of Squire’s creation is that she has a ‘family mode’: after ‘Samantha’ has fulfilled her role in the bedroom, Squire’s three and five year old children will sit downstairs, whilst his sex robot says jokes (she has 1,000 pre-programmed) or discusses animals, philosophy and science with these young and impressionable minds.
With the sex-aid industry being worth an estimated £250 million pounds a year in the UK alone, business is booming, and the sex robot industry has many companies racing to create the best and most human-like of dolls.
The fundamental issues surrounding these robots are strongly contended by robot ethicist Dr Kathleen Richardson from De Montfort University, who argues that ownership of a sex robot is equal to slave ownership. In the purchasing of such a robot, the individual (research suggests mostly men) buys the right to only care for their own needs, as human empathy becomes diminished, and the female body becomes commodified and objectified. The idea negatively promotes the female form as something purchasable, and erodes the idea that sex is part of the human experience. It’s evident that sex with a robot can never be mutual, and their submissive design, as well as ‘Frigid Farrah’ settings, become an advocate for rape culture.
Whilst some advocates for the advancement of AI sex robots claim these purchasable bodies could reduce sexual exploitation and violence against sex workers, as well as the number of rape cases, this argument dismisses the role that internet pornography plays in reinforcing the sex trade. Furthermore, McMullen, founder of Abyss Creations (a competitor to Synthea Amatus) says that his robots will help members of society who feel isolated. What McMullen fails to recognize is that when a man can own an AI companion who exists only for his pleasure, doesn’t sing in the shower or get home late from work, and has no ambitions or needs of its own, then the socially isolated may turn further away from human relationships.
Just because we are able to create something, it doesn’t mean we should. The creation of sex robots fall into a bigger cultural questioning of male desire and the objectification of women. We aren’t purchasable and we aren’t programmable, that’s the trouble with real women.