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Study Says We Need More Research on Sexbots, Media Responds Dubiously

Latest paper on android lovers calls for a deeper probe into their impact.

Author Chuck Palahniuk once wrote “what we don’t understand we can make mean anything.” While the sentiment hints at the expansive imagination, it’s also a nod to naivety.

Subjected to such “creative interpretation” this week was the latest study on robots as sexual partners.

The research findings tell us that we don’t understand enough about sex robots to make claims regarding the impacts–positive or negative–they could have on humans or the future of health, society, or sex.

However, the general response to I, Sex Robot: the health implications of the sex robot was to erroneously conclude that any positive impacts on human health had been effectively ruled out by the study.

This is somewhat understandable, given the topic is currently surrounded by more questions than answers and arguments for or against sex robots are largely based on opinion and assumptions.

But to make educated decisions about the future of sex robots in our society, we need to gain a better understanding of their impact, a sentiment echoed by the article’s authors George and Bewley.

The sexbot debate

While debate around the pros and cons of sexbots have discussed areas that could be impacted such as health, human relationships, societal norms, and more, the impact on consent is undoubtedly getting the most screen time.

As recently demonstrated by the #MeToo movement, consent is an essential element of discussions when it comes to the future of sexual interactions.

The concern here is that, because consent isn’t currently required (or able to be given) from a robot to engage in sexual activity with it, the importance of consent could be undermined, heightening the sexual objectification of (predominantly) women and children in society.

But what is the key difference between a sex doll and a sex robot? And how could that difference be used for good?

Some have suggested utilizing the artificial intelligence of a sex robot to regulate use. For example, implementing a necessary step of seeking consent in the process of engaging a robot for sex–something not required or able to be implemented in the use of sex dolls.

Despite a societal reluctance to explore the taboo or the worrisome of sex technology, and despite the negative suggestions surrounding consent and sexbots, the future of AI and sex could (and should) be exciting–not a perceived dystopia. Technology can enhance that which is already exciting if only we are able to approach it with the necessary understanding.

Image sources: Edu Lauton

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