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posted by martyb on Wednesday June 06 2018, @04:07PM   Printer-friendly
from the positronic-incel dept.

Health researchers have published an editorial examining research related to the use of sex robots:

Science fiction aside, advanced sex robots are currently heating up the market, with several companies now offering more and more life-like artificial partners, mostly ones mimicking women. Skeptics fear the desirable droids could escalate misogyny and violence against women, ignite deviant urges in pedophiles, or further isolate the sexually frustrated. Sexbot makers, on the other hand, have been pumping their health claims into advertisements, including that the amorous androids could reduce the spread of sexually transmitted disease, aid in sex therapies, and curb deviant desires in pedophiles and other sex offenders.

So far, those claims are "rather specious," according to health researchers Chantal Cox-George of St George's University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in London and Susan Bewley of King's College London. In an editorial [DOI: 10.11336/bmjsrh-2017-200012] [DX] published Monday in BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health, the pair highlight that there are virtually no studies that help bang out the validity of the many health arguments surging around sexbots—arguments both for and against them.

That data dry-spell doesn't let doctors off the hook, though, Cox-George and Bewley write. They call for researchers to get busy setting up studies that will nail the answers. In the meantime, "an absence of evidence does not excuse the medical profession from discussing and debating the issues, as there will inevitably be consequences for physical, mental and social well-being."

Sex technology is already an estimated $30 billion industry, they note. At least four companies are now making adult female sexbots, costing $5,000 to $50,000, and at least one is making "pedobots." The mannequins come with variable ages, features, and even programmable personalities, along with customizable oral, vaginal, and anal openings. Male sexbots are said to be in the works.

An Australian forensic criminologist goes further, speculating that "pedobots" may be illegal down under (archive):

Sexbots, and that includes pedobots, have been developed to allow users to play out sexual fantasies. In the child sexual abuse cases I have worked on, you see an escalation in activity in some cases—from an offender sourcing online child sexual abuse material, to actively seeking a physical interaction with a child when the online material does not bring the same sexual gratification. Pedobots could easily fit into this continuum of escalation.

It's also worth highlighting that Australia's legal definition of child pornography (material that describes or depicts a person under 16 years of age, or who appears to be less than 16, in a manner that would offend a reasonable adult) does not capture all images or representations that someone with an interest in children may find sexually arousing. With no evidence to the contrary, my experience tells me that the sexualization of children—be that in cartoons, songs, robots, or whatever form—will increase the desires of some who find children attractive, and put more children at risk, not less.

[...] It remains debatable whether pedobots would fall under the category of child pornography. As the law stands, child pornography can be created without directly involving a real person—child sexual abuse material can include images, text, and three-dimensional objects. This would appear to include pedobots. However, the notion of a life-like child robot produced for the sexual gratification of adults, I would argue, would offend most reasonable adults.

Should a harmless activity (fooling around with a sex robot) be banned for its potential to cause "escalation"? Should "pedobot" buyers get added to a watchlist?


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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07 2018, @06:33AM (12 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07 2018, @06:33AM (#689742)

    In other words, the sex bots are a trap: people will reach a comfortable local behavioral minimum with them and simply stop trying to relate to real flesh and blood humans.

    Personally, it's the other real flesh and blood humans who have decided not to relate with me. Data collected to date strongly suggest that attempts to change physical and/or psychological/emotional aspects of myself to entice such relations will continue to meet with rejection.

    That's fine. I fully support the right of all real flesh and blood humans to choose to not be around me.

    However. If sexbots ever do get to the point where their physical components are sufficiently (to me) human like to be attractive, and AI aspects are sufficiently advanced (to me) to have something close to a personality, then I will have one. Although frankly, I doubt that such advances will happen within my lifetime, particularly since what is currently available seems closer to blow-up dolls than portrayals of androids in science fiction media.

    But if they are possible, and the society I am in bans them, then I will move to a society (if they will have me) that does not ban them. If all societies were to ban them, then I am afraid that I would then have to devote nearly every waking moment to the destruction of civilization. I know, that's crazy-talk. I would almost assuredly be able to accomplish next to nothing on my own. But would I be on my own? I don't think so. (think 'Atlas Shrugged' but instead of most people 'going Galt' -- that is, choosing to just no longer contribute to society -- instead quite a few people 'going Danneskjöld', and actively destroying what they can)

    Let's be blunt: the reason that sexbots might be economically viable products is only because we don't buy and sell people anymore. Sexbots are replacements for slaves. If sexbots are banned, well, why not go back to slavery? Sure, that seems incomprehensible to us today. But a (nearly) world-wide ban on slavery was just as inconceivable just to people 300 years ago. Things change, and not always for the better. Historically this 'no slavery' thing is a very new concept. Be a shame if lots of people changed their minds about it, wouldn't it?

    There are a lot worse options then letting the people who want to have sexbots have the sexbots. Leave us alone, and we'll leave you alone, which is frankly what you want, right?

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  • (Score: 3, Touché) by Azuma Hazuki on Thursday June 07 2018, @07:56AM (11 children)

    by Azuma Hazuki (5086) on Thursday June 07 2018, @07:56AM (#689762) Journal

    I'm sorry, did you just threaten to blow up and/or enslave the entire world if you can't have your animatronic fucktoy...? You know, there might, *just might,* be a *reason* other real flesh and blood humans have decided not to relate with you. This certainly won't help your case.

    On the other hand, you know what? You've actually convinced me that there's a good use case for these things: keeping people like you from pissing in the gene pool.

    --
    I am "that girl" your mother warned you about...
    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07 2018, @01:25PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07 2018, @01:25PM (#689841)

      I'm sorry, did you just threaten to blow up and/or enslave the entire world if you can't have your animatronic fucktoy...?

      Yes. Right now it's a moot point, because such things aren't really possible. Yet.

      Look, I fully support the right of all people, explicitly including women, to be in relationships, of whatever type, only with those they choose. Unlike the incel folks, I don't believe women owe a damn thing to anyone. Your body is yours, period. If 80% of women want only 20% of the men, and I'm not in that 20% that's wanted, so be it. (I'm not saying that's necessarily the case, but even if it is, that's okay.) Life ain't fair.

      But if machines do come into existence that could bring me, and men like me, a little bit of joy of a type that no human beings are willing to provide, many of us will want to have such a machine. By what right do you, or anyone else, think you can withhold THAT from us as well? I don't care how desperate you are to collectively maintain women's monopoly on the holy magical vagina, you're not going to stop us. If you try, then that will prove you have no respect for any of OUR rights, needs, or wants, and many of us will no longer have any concern for yours. Including any concern that the food delivery systems that keep food coming to your, or anyone's, area still function. Or the power. Or the water.

      If it's just me thinking like this, hey, just one crazy nut on the internet, no problem. But I'm trying to make you aware of the seething hate and rage that will come into existence if these machines are banned. Societies and civilizations are fragile things. They can survive a long time with a large part of the population not really participating in them; indifferent neglect is no threat. But if even a relatively small number of people actively attack those systems, even the ones that help keep *themselves* alive, those systems will start to fail. I'm not saying this because I want this to happen, I want to *prevent* you (and others like you) from doing a very stupid thing that might *make* it happen.

      If sexbots that lonely guys can fuck can one day be made, but they are banned, then the civilizational systems that created that ban will be destroyed. You will NOT deprive us of all hope of joy.

      You've actually convinced me that there's a good use case for these things: keeping people like you from pissing in the gene pool.

      Relax, I'm already out of the gene pool. Cancer damn near killed me, and my genetic line will not, can not, continue. Hell, I can barely walk. How do you think I'd dare make statements that could be stretched to sound like terrorist threats? The folks tracking such things can look me up immediately and know I'm not a threat. I'll be lucky to live another 10 years, and there aren't going to be any miracle AI breakthroughs in that time. I really meant it when I said previously that 'real' sexbots will not happen in my lifetime. I'll be dead before then. For me this is strictly an academic exercise.

      I, personally, will not do a damn thing. But I'm not the only one thinking these thoughts, at least I don't think so. But hey, maybe the treatments scrambled my brain and I'm just a nut. I have to admit it's a distinct possibility. But I truly do think that if these machines become possible, and you try to keep them from all the men that have been rejected all their lives, those men will kill you. Not 'you' personally, but the whole fucking civilization. After all, why shouldn't they? At that point, you'll have proven that you're not interested in freedom for yourself, what you really want is control over them. They. Will. Rebel.

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by r_a_trip on Thursday June 07 2018, @02:18PM (8 children)

      by r_a_trip (5276) on Thursday June 07 2018, @02:18PM (#689864)

      What do you want girl? Do you want to force people, who the world at large deems unattractive to associate with, to interact with that world at all costs? I'm doing fairly well for a nerdy, gay introvert, but I know how hard it is to relate to those who are categorised as "normal people". From a large non-overlap in interests, to a mismatch in the way connection transpires. For better or worse, we are social animals. Even if the social part for some is far less easy or innate than others. We more or less all crave connection.

      I can very well imagine some people having such bad luck in connecting that having a human-like doll as a (sexual) companion seems very attractive. Of course succesful social animals will rush to proclaim that all can be solved by just trying harder, but life is unfair and for some trying harder just means more effort and pain for surreptitiously failing. When was the last time you were a good Samaritan and adopted a socially less desirable person, be it looks or a personality that doesn't do anything for your own amusement?

      • (Score: 2) by Azuma Hazuki on Thursday June 07 2018, @07:22PM (7 children)

        by Azuma Hazuki (5086) on Thursday June 07 2018, @07:22PM (#690030) Journal

        "Nerdy, gay introvert" is a fair description of me. I just lucked out and met another nerdy gay introvert (and she's even nerdier than me, like "builds Gundam models for fun" nerdy). You're still missing the point here: no human owes another human access to his or her body or heart.

        --
        I am "that girl" your mother warned you about...
        • (Score: 2, Insightful) by r_a_trip on Thursday June 07 2018, @08:37PM (6 children)

          by r_a_trip (5276) on Thursday June 07 2018, @08:37PM (#690060)

          Never claimed that. Don't believe that to be true ever. I do believe you are severely overstepping with your ick reaction to robotic companions. Some people need physicality and can't get it from beings with a pulse. Why take away a surrogate? It seems unusually cruel. Sometimes the world doesn't revolve around you and your firmly held beliefs that people won't respect you if they don't need another human being for intimacy. If anything, someone finding some simile of intimacy with a machine might even make them more inclined to treat others kinder, because they don't feel the pain of rejection all the time.

          • (Score: 2) by Azuma Hazuki on Thursday June 07 2018, @09:45PM (5 children)

            by Azuma Hazuki (5086) on Thursday June 07 2018, @09:45PM (#690080) Journal

            So long as the things never get AI, I'd be okay with this. It's when they become intelligent that we have a real problem. I'm wondering if there should be some kind of registry for purchasers of these things, or at least the, ugh, "pedobot" models, though. But it's still not the same thing as real interaction with a real human being. At best it's going to be a poor substitute, as porn is to sex. These things need to be accompanied by therapy, and perhaps only rented rather than owned.

            --
            I am "that girl" your mother warned you about...
            • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 08 2018, @02:19AM

              by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 08 2018, @02:19AM (#690163)

              I'm wondering if there should be some kind of registry for purchasers of these things, or at least the, ugh, "pedobot" models, though.

              What's the justification for that? Maybe there should be a registry for people who play violent video games, or listen to that evil rock & roll. Plenty of similar arguments have been made about other things in the past, but for some reason they're only valid when you find something icky. A registry like that necessarily violates people's rights, and it also presumes guilt.

              At best it's going to be a poor substitute, as porn is to sex.

              To you. Some people want a relationship but can't get it. Those people exist, sure. Others don't want a relationship or real sex at all, for any number of reasons (asexual, aromantic, not worth the effort, etc.). I'm tired of people just assuming that relationships are inherently desirable to everyone.

              These things need to be accompanied by therapy, and perhaps only rented rather than owned.

              So they need therapy even if they never plan to harm anyone? That makes about as much sense as saying that gay people need therapy. It's pure bigotry.

              If the argument is that they pose a potential threat, then that applies to everyone in existence and could be (and has been) abused in countless ways, so that line of reasoning is fallacious as well.

            • (Score: 2, Insightful) by r_a_trip on Friday June 08 2018, @10:07AM (3 children)

              by r_a_trip (5276) on Friday June 08 2018, @10:07AM (#690258)

              *** But it's still not the same thing as real interaction with a real human being. At best it's going to be a poor substitute, as porn is to sex. These things need to be accompanied by therapy, and perhaps only rented rather than owned. ***

              You still think there is someone for all individuals. What if there isn't? Therapy, while very beneficial, isn't a cure all. As an introvert, you must know that interacting with others can be a challenge.

              There are people who are not only introverted, but also suffer from severe social anxiety. Add in bad luck in the genetic lottery and you end up with an individual with perfectly human needs, but not the looks nor the skills. Instead of treating these individuals as potential criminals, maybe show some compassion. Also count your own blessings that you are not desperate enough to consider a human shaped hunk of plastic.

              ***So long as the things never get AI, I'd be okay with this. It's when they become intelligent that we have a real problem.***

              If AI ever reaches the level of resembling sentience (I'm not holding my breath), we are still the masters and can program it to not suffer. If it doesn't have negative feelings, like pain, resentment, anger, fear, feeling trapped, where is the suffering? No need to campaign for the poor oppressed sexbots.

              • (Score: 2) by Azuma Hazuki on Friday June 08 2018, @07:05PM (2 children)

                by Azuma Hazuki (5086) on Friday June 08 2018, @07:05PM (#690451) Journal

                Uh, yeah, introverted? Check. Severe social anxiety? Until rather recently, check, and it hasn't been cured so much as forcefully battered down in the interest of survival. Genetic lottery? Eh, could be worse. I can't see or hear for shit and can't afford hearing aids, but at least have the usual assortment of limbs and organs and no seriously damaging inborn errors of metabolism. The ones that are there are manageable through careful diet and supplementation.

                Look, I *get* it. I've been trying to put myself in the shoes of, for example, a paraplegic with a serious case of ugly through no fault of her own (accident or genetics). Just, still not sure this is the right way to go about it. It needs proper regulation for certain, whatever ends up happening.

                --
                I am "that girl" your mother warned you about...
                • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 09 2018, @03:19AM (1 child)

                  by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 09 2018, @03:19AM (#690658)

                  What regulation might that be? Putting people who buy sex robots on lists? Forcing people who buy sex robots to go to therapy? Because that's what I keep seeing mentioned, and neither are acceptable approaches because they violate basic liberties. However, I could get behind regulations which mandate that the sex robots not be made of materials that give people cancer, and other things of that sort.

                  The outrage about sex robots is nothing more than puritanical sex negative nonsense.

                  • (Score: 2) by Azuma Hazuki on Saturday June 09 2018, @04:11AM

                    by Azuma Hazuki (5086) on Saturday June 09 2018, @04:11AM (#690674) Journal

                    Here's the big one, to me: never ever ever make them sentient. They should never be smarter than the Eliza chat program. This is as much for humans' protection as for the robots'.

                    --
                    I am "that girl" your mother warned you about...
    • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 08 2018, @02:12AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 08 2018, @02:12AM (#690160)

      Violating people's rights on a massive scale should result in severe repercussions for the oppressors. For example, conducting mass surveillance on the populace - as the NSA does - should result in severe consequences for the NSA and those in power who support its activities. If it can't be fixed through ordinary political means, then the problem has to be fixed somehow. Destroying their facilities and surveillance infrastructure, blowing the whistle on their activities, etc.

      The fact is, while you trivialize the issue, banning sex robots would be an act of oppression since you're creating a crime that has no actual victims.