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‘Love and Sex with Robots’ Conference Shut Down After Pressure from Authorities

It’s a sad day for robots and the people who love them.

A sad little robot standing on the floor.

After the First International Congress on Love and Sex with Robots went off without a hitch in Madeira, Portugal last year, co-organizer Adrian Cheok was surprised when this year’s planned congress received such strong backlash.

Originally set to occur on November 16 in Iskander Malaysia, Cheok told Future of Sex on Friday he’d had no other choice but to cancel. This is following a statement from the Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar declaring the workshop illegal, and threatening legal action against the organizers.

“We had an amicable meeting with the local police in Johor and we came to the agreement just to close it down,” said Cheok, a professor at City University London, adding that the local police were very polite in carrying out the orders of the national police chief.

He said there were numerous laws that could have been used to shut the conference down, and he didn’t want to risk anyone getting arrested.

The beginning of the end

Trouble began for Cheok and fellow organizer David Levy, a renowned expert on sex and artificial intelligence,when a journalist spotted a Malaysian tourism logo on the Love and Sex with Robots website.

The Love and Sex with Robots Congress was to be a single workshop at the 12th Advances in Computer Entertainment (ACE) Conference, sponsored by the Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB). In their application for funding, they gave details about the overall event, but not the specifics of each session.

Cheok said that with good intentions they put logos on all the ACE websites, not realizing it would cause any problems. However, once a Malaysian newspaper reported on the event, it drew harsh reactions from both the state tourism department and the Iskandar Regional Development Authority.

After removing the tourism logos and rebranding the workshop as simply LSR on the website, Cheok thought their problems were over. That was until last Tuesday when the highest police authority in Malaysia banned the session, saying it violated the country’s conservative values.

The reason why they were holding the workshop in Malaysia was because it was supposed to be part of the ACE Conference, as it was last year. Cheok is also the director of the Imagineering Institute, a collaborative research lab between universities in Malaysia, Japan, and England.

Despite this stressful debacle, Cheok said he is grateful the main conference is still allowed to take place between November 16 and 19. While it is too late to reschedule the Love and Sex with Robots Congress, he plans to hold it in London next year.

Speaking to Cheok, it’s clear there would have been some very fascinating ideas presented by academics about human-robot relationships. Stay tuned, because Future of Sex will publish a follow-up article sharing some of the topics that would have been discussed at the workshop.

Image source: LittleGreyCoconut

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