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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: 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.

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  • (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...