RE: Sexbots

Billy Brown (
Thu, 11 Mar 1999 10:05:29 -0600

a recent post predicted:
> Engineers, programmers and futurists believe that programmable robots that
> provide sexual companionship are likely to be commonplace in the 21st
> century, at more or less the same time as computers become able to process
> information as quickly as the human brain. The implications of tactile
> sexbots, likely to contain vibrators, sound systems and other
> equipment, are as significant as they are unexamined.

This seems to imply actual mechanical robots. Considering the complexity of producing even an approximate simulation of the human body, producing such a device is a pretty tall order. It might well be possible in the 2020-2030 time frame, but it is likely to be very expensive and failure prone.

OTOH, recent progress in tissue and organ culturing suggests that actual organic bodies may be much easier to create than is generally supposed. The simplest possible approach to creating a sexbot (or any really human-like robot) might be a hybrid approach using a cloned human body controlled by an electronic computer. Of course, the cultural and moral issues involved in such a project would be rather serious.

Of course, devices like this would be used for a lot more than just sex. Anders suggested they might have a role as domestic servants. I'd also expect to see them as secretaries, receptionists, airline hostesses, and many similar positions. The skills required to do these sorts of jobs are probably no harder to automate than lovemaking, after all.

There are a few items from the post that I would like to comment on:

> Marriages might be damaged or destroyed if spouses choose sex
> with sexbots over making love with their mates.

Perhaps. But the people that would buy such a thing in the first place are more likely to use it the same way they would a more conventional sex toy - as a means of enhancing their relationship when together, and as a substitute when they are apart.

> On the other hand, Snell pointed out, people seeking clarity about
> their sexual identities would have a safe, reliable way to experiment.

An unmentioned corollary is the potential for sex education that actually teaches how to please one's partner. The opportunity to practice technique without fear of embarrassment would be a godsend to many people.

> Snell speculates, a new category of sexuality might emerge
> among humans - the technovirgin, people who find it simpler, perhaps even
> preferable, to have sex exclusively with sexbots.

This seems very plausible, especially since body modification technologies are likely to be introduced for sexbots well before they are offered for humans (no need for FDA testing, after all). People who have trouble finding compatible partners (fetishists, for instance, or the terminally shy) seem especially likely to fall into this pattern. I would also expect to see a fair amount of power-trip behavior (harem collecting, custom robots that look like celebrities), and an increase in what is currently considered deviant sex (fetishists again, but also S&M and nonhuman sexbots).

> This would avoid all the emotional and physical complications of having
> with people.

Well, almost all. Considering how attached people can become to their pets, I don't think its much of a stretch to expect that most people will be quite fond of their sexbots. After all, they look human, they talk, and you have all sorts of fun together. A whole industry is likely to spring up to provide personality customization, smarter AI software, and so forth.

Of course, this raises an important moral issue. Any reasonably functional sexbot is already going to be at least as smart as your cat. Once you start adding speech comprehension, personality software, domestic skills, and other cognitive functions you're getting uncomfortably close to having a real person - and different people will draw that line in different places.

Billy Brown, MCSE+I