Sex robots will bring about a revolution in the sex-tech market in the next 10 years say experts, but their rapid growth sheds light on some awkward conversations we need to have before then.
But with the increasing integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI), experts warn that in the next couple of years the public and policymakers need to start thinking about the darker side of the industry too.
This is the message from Professor Noel Sharkey, a computer science expert from the University of Sheffield, who said: “Will these robotic dolls be niche? Or will they change societal norms and become widespread?
According to a report from the Foundation for Responsible Robotics released yesterday, they would be widespread as two thirds of males surveyed, aged 20-61, said they would have sex with a robot.
Sharkey said: “Would people actually have sex with robots? That’s what I want to know. Well if they do it is going to be very sad because it’s going to be a one way relationship. Robots don’t have any kind of emotion. The best robots could do is fake.”
In the past he has also warned about the danger of people losing their virginity to robots, in 2016 he said: “Robots will get in the way of real life, stopping people forming relationships with normal people.”
Not only are there some concerns around how they will impact human relationships, but difficult questions needs to be asked about what these androids mean.
Supporters say the devices would be good for people who are lonely, can’t form relationships, are disabled or sex offenders but Sharkey says we need to consider the consequences for rapists and paedophiles.
Sharkey said: “The idea would be that robots would resist your sexual advances so that you could rape them. And some people say: ‘Well that’s better that they rape robots than rape real people’. You can have enjoyable with your wife and all stuff but when it comes to rape, if you have a rape fantasy, you use a robot.”
He continued: “Now the worst one in here that we can’t talk about is sex dolls of children for paedophiles. Now these are already being made and shipped from Japan by a self confessed paedophile who says he’s never had sex with a child because he made this robot for that reason.”
Sharkey says policymakers need to consider these real-world impacts.