Robophilia Speculations Arise

With the prominence of online dating apps and sites, some say that today’s technology has radically rerouted the currents of sexuality and relationships. But individuals who make use of these platforms probably do so with a fundamental human purpose: connecting with other living, breathing individuals. What happens, though, if robots are factored into the equation?

In case you haven’t heard, the concept of robophilia does exist, defining a sexual attraction to robots. Some even speculate a future society in which having sex with robots will become commonplace.

One of the said speculators is futurologist Ian Pearson. In a recent report, “The Future of Sex: Rise of the Robosexuals,” he wrote about how some form of robot sex should start appearing in high-income households “as soon as 2025.” He predicted that robot-human intercourse would then begin to overtake the old human-human kind by 2050.

Pearson acknowledged that denizens of the present day feel squeamish towards the idea of having relations with a robot. He proposed that as AI technology further develops, robots’ mechanical behavior and feel should also improve, therefore, as humans begin to befriend and form strong emotional bonds with these machines, sex with them would become increasingly customary.

AI expert, author of Love and Sex with Robots, and chess master David Levy forecasted a future where robots would have the ability to fall in love with humans and marry them. In addition, sex psychologist Dr. Helen Driscoll claimed that people’s physical relationships would seem “primitive” compared to robotic ones by 2070. According to Vanity Fair, a Pew Research Center expert predicted that sex with robots should become popular by 2025, with critics scoffing at the practice the same way people “bemoan selfies as an indicator of all that’s wrong with the world” today.

It’s hard to say for certain what year the robophilia could, should, or would eventually settle into society’s status quo–or by what terms tomorrow’s haters will bash it. Nevertheless, some parties vehemently discourage the making of machines intended for sexual purposes.

The Campaign Against Sex Robots opposes the advance of sex robots that academia and industry encourage. Launched by robot ethicist Dr. Kathleen Richardson, its members argue that the acceptance of this technology will in turn sexually objectify women and children. As the campaigners see it, the culture of sex with robots has potential to promote a prostitution dynamic, reduce human empathy, as well as accelerate “power relationships of inequality and violence.”

The Second International Congress on Love and Sex with Robots was supposed to take place in Malaysia this month, but the conference has been postponed until next year due to circumstances beyond their control. When the Campaign Against Sex Robots reported on this news, they pointed out that Malaysia is a country where richer Westerners travel and exploit locals in the sex trade, which includes hundreds of thousands of local women and children.

Next year’s International Congress on Love and Sex with Robots will “certainly not” take place in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur police chief Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar called the conference “ridiculous” and remarked that it’s not part of their culture.

The Southeast Asian nation may have nixed that event, but sex robot engineering is still underway in the US. New Jersey company True Companion is currently marketing the sale of the Roxxxy True Companion, the “World’s First Sex Robot.” Their website claims that after several years of developing her (it?), Roxxxy is programmed so that she can know her partners’ names, what they like and dislike. Plus, she can talk, listen, and feel–and even have an orgasm. A male “Rocky True Companion” is soon to come.

California company RealDoll, which sells life-sized silicon sex dolls, also has a robotic head in the works. Doll designer Matt McCullen seems to be coming across some challenges in installing the head’s character.

“The hope is to create something that will actually arouse someone on an emotional, intellectual level beyond the physical,” he said in a New York Times video interview.

Adding the AI will bring about the “customizable programming of personality,” a feat that is far more difficult than plugging the “simple math” of physical sex calculations, which McCullen equates to playing Rock Band: “pushing the buttons at the right time to get through the levels.” Delving into the details, he admitted that creating the illusion that “she actually likes it” will be much more impressive than seeing her gyrate her hips by herself.

The AI head is supposed to be available in two years, which customers can situate onto RealDoll bodies.

If such models gain traction with consumer satisfaction, should we be worried that our lovers will ditch us for sexy machines that succumb to their needs? Would authorities thereby begin banning the manufacturing and engagement with sex robots on an international level? Are sexual relationships with robots bound to burgeon as part of mainstream culture, or will they only make up a marginal niche fetish community?

For all of the strong reactions and purported prophecy that sex with robots has amounted insofar, it seems at this point, it’s too early to tell if a revolution for robophila is truly feasible for the future.

Feature photo courtesy of tiffany terry.