Sex Robots Will Help Human Sexuality Evolve
Mind-blowing forecasts on future sex, including skingasms and haptic online orgies.
Sex robots will inspire future developments in human sexuality, according to experts at a London-based Virtual Futures event held in November.
A 90-minute panel sponsored by Bondara.co.uk [NSFW] and hosted at art gallery Lights Of Soho—a venue that was formerly a strip club—covered artificial intelligence, cybersex, and virtual reality. Four panelists and moderator Luke Robert Mason explored how emerging technologies and meaningful relationships with robots could impact humanity.
You can watch the entire discussion here or check out some shorter video highlights below. (The videos are safe for work, but some contain coarse language.)
Sex robots to improve human sexuality
On the panel, futurologist Dr. Ian Pearson said sex robots would analyze human sexuality and attempt to improve it.
“They’ll very quickly analyze what they can find on the web…and build on that,” he said.
“What can we design that’s far more fun?”
He added that robots with artificial intelligence would “demand their own sex lives.”
Dr. Kate Devlin from the University of London seconded this thought. She said humans would create robots with their own internal desires, developing a new perspective on sex.
“Who says they’re going to want to have sex with us?” she asked.
Devlin also criticized the Campaign Against Sex Robots, a recent movement to ban the production of robotic lovers, saying the campaign perpetuated a “hetero-normative male view” that sex robots would be designed purely for male pleasure. It also focused solely on the “sex work economy” rather than other aspects of sex robots.
“I think this campaign is incredibly shortsighted,” she said. “We should never, ever try to shut down technology that’s in its infancy.”
Mason added that Virtual Futures wanted its panel to look beyond the implications for prostitution, or the “Uber-ization of sex.”
Sex technology to drive innovation
Panelist Dr. Trudy Barber from the University of Portsmouth agreed that robots would contribute to the evolution of human sexuality.
She said after 25 years researching the future of sex, including studies on groups of techno-fetishists, she could happily describe herself as a “cyber sexpert.”
“I’ve seen various elements of sex and virtual reality,” she said. “I’ve seen remote-controlled vibrators and dildos. I’ve seen the sex drive become part of the drive for innovation.”
Haptic online orgies and zombie robots
New technologies are also changing the physical aspect of sex with other humans.
Barber said the emergence of IVF technology had completed the disconnection of sex and reproduction.
“We’ve totally divorced the sex act from procreation,” she said.
Without an end goal of procreation, sex for pleasure no longer requires partners to be physically close.
Barber also described “haptic online orgies” where people could use sensory technology to participate in remote sex with multiple others, similar to massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORGs) like The Elder Scrolls Online.
She also anticipates that robots with artificial intelligence could replace a person’s dead partner—perhaps adjusted for health or age—emotionally, physically, and sexually.
Sex robots in fiction
Reflecting on science fiction, the panelists also explored how the genre has contributed to futuristic visions of sexuality.
Dr. Dan O’Hara from the New College of the Humanities said works of fiction have long speculated about the future of sex and artificial humans.
“We have seen these narratives before,” he said. “Think back to Mary Shelley and Frankenstein’s monster.”
He also drew the topic back to works from seminal science-fiction author Isaac Asimov, and the book Crash by JG Ballard, published in 1973 and adapted to film in 1996.
However, O’Hara pointed out that sex robots wouldn’t necessarily use artificial intelligence. Instead, they could simply be advanced, humanlike sex toys.
“We’ve got AI but it’s pretty stupid,” he said.
He said people might end up having sex with a robot no more intelligent than a standard Global Positioning System (GPS).
Orgasms on demand
Pearson used his time on the panel to discuss potential types of sex machines, and the influence of corporate interests on their evolution.
He said the process could be “as machine-like as you like,” maybe simply “typing control-shift-O for an orgasm.”
Alternatively, sex robots could present a humanlike capacity for emotion, support, intimacy, and even flirtation.
However, Pearson said development could be stifled if corporations with the capacity to develop sex robots refused to engage with the ideas.
Microsoft is “terrified” of nudity, but has games such as Skyrim filled with gratuitous violence, including decapitation, but no mature sexual content, he added.
“Will the Googles and the Microsofts of the world decide it’s not in their brands’ interests?” he said.
On the other hand, fellow panelist Devlin said it was “unpalatable” for companies to admit they were developing innovative sex technology.
Virtual reality and smart skins
Panelists also shared insights well beyond current VR technologies.
According to Pearson, virtual reality headset Oculus Rift was only a small improvement on early experiments from the 1990s.
He described the potential for virtual reality contact lenses that wouldn’t physically interfere with lovemaking, but would allow users to visualize sex with one person while physically having intercourse with somebody different—or even to select a new person every five minutes.
Pearson also talked up “smart skins”—vibrating membranes under the skin surface, linked to nerves to create an “Internet of genitalia.” This technology could allow users to replay specific orgasms.
“It won’t be very long before you can actually be in the other person’s nervous system, feeling how much pleasure you’re giving them,” he said.