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UK Conference on Robotics and Sexual Intimacy Starting Soon

Upcoming event promises to explore impact of technology on human eroticism.

A robot holds flowers to give to another robot.

Are you’re in the United Kingdom from September 7 to 9? Are you interested in the future of sexuality, especially when it pertains to the how technology is changing the human erotic landscape? Then you might want to attend the 12th IFIP TC9 Human Choice and Computers Conference.

With the theme of “Technology and Intimacy: Choice or Coercion?” the conference, which will be held at MediaCityUK in Salford, Greater Manchester, has been billed as the “World’s First Conference Explores the Impact of Technology on Sexuality.”

The event is organized by the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP), which describes itself as “The leading multinational, apolitical organization in Information & Communications Technologies and Sciences.” The conference is hosted by IFIP’s TC9 working group, which focuses on the impact of technology on society—and how to develop ethical and responsible practices around it.

“What’s love got to do with it?”

The conference focuses on how technology may influence how humans show and develop intimacy. Professor Charles Ess of the University of Oslo is set to deliver the keynote called “What’s love got to do with it? Robots, sexuality, and the art of being human”.

Dr. David Kreps of Salford University, the HCC12 Program Committee Chair, said in a press release that the event will examine how people communicate with Artificial Intelligences (AIs) and robots—especially when it involves sexuality and intimacy.

Featured speakers

In addition to Dr. Ess, the conference will feature panels such as “‘To Listen, Share, And To Be Relevant’ – Learning Netiquette To Fit Organizational Life” with Halvdan Haugsbakken, and “‘Break the ice’: technology to initiate communication in public spaces” with Matjaž Kljun and Klen Čopič Pucihar.

Ghislaine Boddington, of body>data>space, the will also deliver another keynote: “The Internet of Bodies – digital intimacies for the future.”

A conference addressing the issues

In a press release, the IFIP mentions the current debates and concerns about human sexuality and current technological innovations, particularly in robotics.

Noting the book, Love And Sex With Robots by David Levy, the group points out that Levy, predict a time when people will not just have sexual fun with artificial beings but will marry them.

On the other side of the debate, is the often-referenced position of Kathleen Richardson who is a vocal opponent of humans becoming sexually, and emotionally, active with robots. She has even created the site Campaign Against Sex Robots.

Kreps himself admits we are in uncharted waters. He points out that Richardson’s position, as well as Levy’s, might be swinging too far in either direction.

In his 2013 paper “Performing the Discourse of Sexuality Online,” he writes:

“There are genuine and real concerns about the oppression of women in the porn industry and some suggest that the use of human looking robots as sexual tools might encourage men to treat women in a similar way. I think this stems from a misconception of what these robots are since they can’t replicate the level of eye contact or intimacy that is possible with a human. However, it’s important to explore and debate these issues.

“A key consideration with all these more intimate applications of technology is that humans understand the implications of their involvement, such as who might access or use the data being collected about them from wearable devices, and have given their consent for that.”

Membership rates for the event are listed here, ranging from £300 for students and £425 for full delegates.

Image source: Kevin Mann

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