Child-like sex robots could be used to help paedophiles in the same way that methadone is used to help cure drug addicts, a report has claimed.
This disturbing prediction comes from Ron Arkin, director for Georgia Tech’s Mobile Robot Lab who believes that the development of child robots will almost inevitably lead to them being used to further research in the area of paedophilia.
The idea comes as the UK National Crime Agency struggles to cope with the sheer number of suspected users of images of child abuse discovered over its recent six-month crackdown.
The Times reported on Thursday that as many as 10,000 suspects have been identified and there could be up to 50,000 accessing the images in total. Police admit they don't have the capacity to arrest them all.
The concept of a 'child sex bot' as treatment is likely to reignite the furious debate on how to 'treat' paedophiles -- in particular those (mostly men) who have not committed offences against children, but fear they might.
Speaking to Forbes, Arkin makes it very clear that while he's against the idea of child sex robots being used recreationally, they can potentially offer a way of helping paedophiles.
“Child-like robots could be used for pedophiles the way methadone is used to treat drug addicts, there are no presumptions that this will assuredly yield positive results – I only believe it is worth investigating in a controlled way to possibly provide better protection to society from recidivism in sex offenders, if we can save some children, I think it’s a worthwhile project.”
However there are those that feel the advent of child robots could lead to more harm before it eventually starts protecting children.
One such person is Ben Way, a robotics expert who wrote the book 'Jobocalypse: The End of Human Jobs and How Robots will Replace Them'.
Speaking to the MailOnline, Way explains that whilst inevitable, the creation of these machines should be approached with caution.
"Will child sex bots lead to some people acting out their dark and disgusting desires on real children? Yes, but I suspect having child sex bots will significantly reduce the number of people overall who abuse children."
Way admits that socially there will be a huge amount of resistance to the creation of sex robots, whether they're children or animals, but in the long run, they could end up benefitting those who are most vulnerable.
"As repugnant as it may seem society should support this technology and do proper research into its effects before making a snap decision based on social norms, the most important thing we can do as a society is reduce harm to children whatever way we can do it."
Phil Gormley, who is deputy director of the UK National Crime Agency, told The Times in relation to the recent investigation into images of child abuse that he was "appalled at what this says about human nature".
"We think to think very carefully about what this means. There are questions here for society, for policymakers; this operation shows the propensity of a very large number of people to view this material".
"We cannot afford not to look under the stone. But are we going to be able to arrest our way our of this problem? I doubt it."
While the idea of a "sex bot" itself might seem outlandish, a recent study showed that many more of us would be willing to consider the idea if the technology was good enough.
A poll of 2,000 people by Middlesex University recently found that 17% of people would consider having sex with an android. But almost one-half (46%) said that technology was moving too fast and uprooting traditional values.
Martin Smith, who led the study (which did not address child sex robots specifically) told The Guardian at the time:
"While many of us worry about the role of technology and machines in modern society, robots are increasingly being developed for important roles that will help protect and improve our lives."
"It is true that robots are being increasingly used for tasks that put human lives at risk – a computer-controlled machine can be programmed to approach a terrorist in a suicide vest or clear a building overtaken by gunmen."