In the last few months I have been reading report after report about the “dangers” of the sex robots or sexbots as many newspapers, news websites, and talk shows like to call them. I have seen them in The New York Times, The New York Post, The Guardian, Salon, and even talk shows in my native Puerto Rico. Everybody and their cousin is talking about the ethical issues of men masturbating with a robot in the shape of a woman, specially the dangers that the sexbots place in our society. Men will forget about consent, rape numbers are going to skyrocket, and our civilization is going to die because the sexbots can be hacked to become assassins. If only men were able to stop raping these mechanical women humankind will be safe!
To all this I only have two words: BULL SHIT.
Why bull shit? Because of a simple, simple reason: Sex robots do not exist yet.
When people talk about sex robots, the image showing in my mind is a female android looking like Daryl Hannah in the original Blade Runner or the robots in the popular Westworld show. These Hollywood characters present the real ethical issues of developing an artificial intelligence so advanced that it gains consciousness about their existence. Those ethical issues have been a science fiction staple since the creation of Hel / Maria (Metropolis, 1925) and continuing with the works of the great Isaac Asimov and other writers. The scenario of humans using – and abusing – their creations in different ways from forced labor to sexual slavery has been explored for more than a century in countless media.
My problem is that, as usual, the media is just talking shit about something they do not understand, nor have experienced. They saw the release of Realbotix – a robotic division of Real Dolls developing a combination of virtual reality apps designed to work with a robotic head attached to a silicone sex doll – and they took the bait. Now, even the most mundane sex doll is a “sexbot” and we are all in danger of losing our human identity if we dare to have sex with one of these machines…
The only thing is that Harmony is not a sex robot. Harmony – with or without the A.I. – is currently nothing more than an interactive animatronic head on a silicone sex doll body…
Do not get me wrong, I am not raining on Matt McMullen’s parade – his company has designed the most advanced sex doll in the United States –, but Harmony is nothing more than existing technology combined to make sex a little bit more entertaining.
The technology used in Harmony (and other “sexbots”) has been around since the 1960’s. If you had ever visited a theme park like Disney World, you have seen animatronics. The technology behind those moving and talking mannequins has advanced greatly since the 1980’s. Smaller electronics, smaller and more powerful motors, interactive programs, and even visual recognition make the movements leaner and more natural. New skin materials allow for more natural looks. Lighter skeleton materials allow for lighter frames and mannequins that are easier and cheaper to manufacture. In the 1980’s you required a room full of expensive and complicated computer equipment to operate the animatronics in Chuck ‘N’ Cheese. Now you can do the same thing from your smart phone – while downloading your favorite movie. Harmony is nothing more than an updated animatronic you can fuck without the risk of electrocuting.
So, the fears of feminists and “robot ethicists” are kind of unfounded. Harmony is still a prototype that is too expensive for the average American. With an expected price tag in the $10,000, I do not see long lines forming to get them. We will have fully interactive doll heads in five to ten years – we already have all the technology we need in our smart phones. We have interactive ladies with Siri, Alexa, and Cortana and we can add visual recognition with the current technology – just look at the new IPhone. In fact, it was already implemented in 2015 to a very famous doll.
We will not have commercially sexbots a-la Westworld for at least 50 years. There are too many engineering challenges in terms of weight, mobility, maintenance, and performance that manufacturers need to solve before we have a model we can manufacture. Then we have to deal with materials, quality control issues and of course, price issues.
Honestly, I will keep my dumb sex dolls until I see a sexbot with a proven quality track. After all, if I want to electrocute my penis, I can do that with my TENS unit…