Robotics has always had a very real dichotomy, a chasm separating the vision and the reality. Where imagination has given us human-like robots like Parody, the Terminator, Data and Gigolo Joe… reality has given us auto factory welding machines.
Yet, as technology surges inexorably forward, and companies have taken to animatronicizing mannequins for tech and auto shows, the supposed likelihood of achieving robots that can substitute for humans remains just around that imaginary corner.
If we do turn that corner… will we find a red light district there?
My upcoming novel Sarcology features a robot that is capable of having sex with humans. Sex with robots is not common in the book’s setting of 2040, due to the relatively early state of the robotics industry, but it isn’t unheard of, and it’s not as unacceptable as it would be considered today. It represents a social meme that bears close study.
Let’s face it: It’s so much fun to consider a world where humans can have sex with robots. After all, we can imagine a world where the availability of robots completely removes the human trafficking problem, saving hundreds of thousands of people (including a frighteningly large proportion of minors) from bondage and sex servitude. Who could argue with that?
And giving robots sex duty would cut down on unwanted pregnancies, and hopefully, finally begin the much-needed process of bringing the human population count down to more manageable levels (without applying bombs and plagues, that is). That prospect alone might be a good enough reason for some countries to pass mandatory laws requiring citizens to get their rocks off with robots and take the pressure off their families and the state.
Robots for sex also seems to solve one of the great problems of modern American society (so they tell me, anyway): The objectification of the opposite sex. U.S. law maintains a moronic series of “I know it when I see it” sex harassment standards that will never go away as long as Americans refuse to be ADULTS about sex. And since they won’t, we’re probably better off transferring all that sexual tension and angst to robots, and wearing shapeless baggy grey unitards to protect ourselves from our own worse thoughts…
But anyway. Robots.
Futurists have theorized a world where sex robots will be available by appointment. These sex robots would have genitalia specially designed to be quickly cleaned and sterilized after each use (detachable for cleaning? Could be fun to watch, anyway), allowing them to service multiple clients without the risk of transferring STDs from user to user. And these robots would be sufficiently lifelike to satisfy users as much as a human partner, if not more.
So how likely is this? Well, given that we haven’t managed yet to create a mechanical (or computer-generated) creature that could fool a human for long, chances are there’s something about the living mechanism that may never be perfectly mimicked by a machine. Chances are, no matter how good it is, there will always be some tell that will reveal it to be mechanical.
Knowing this, we should also acknowledge that the best of the best robots… the ones more human than the rest, and can fool us for the longest… will likely be so sophisticated as to be too expensive for the average person to gain access to (and you thought $5000 Vegas hookers were crazy). If anyone makes sex robots that are that real, the only place you’ll find them will be in Trump’s bed. (And that’s probably the only thing you’ll find there… HAHAHAHA! uh… ahem.)
For the rest of us, I’d bet a sex robot will look like… a plastic mannequin, or maybe a character straight from a Disney theme park ride, dumb, jerky, clumsy and cheap. Velcro holding the wig on. Doll eyes that close when you lay them down. Tape-recorded responses playing on a loop as you work out. Slightly more realistic than a blow-up doll.
But… does that matter? Not really: Humans have an amazing capacity for transference… assigning human (or at least living) qualities to non-humans and inanimate objects. They can lust after complete strangers in 2-D photos and movies; they can get off with sex toys that only vaguely approximate actual human bodies or body parts; they can do phone sex. Given that reality, it probably doesn’t matter how realistic a sex robot would be… for the right price, people would use ’em, then sit ’em in the closet when they were done. And hopefully take ’em out and clean ’em every so often.
Sex robots could become common sources of entertainment; and may by virtue of their inhuman nature spur new ways of having and enjoying sex, in singles, couples or groups, employing new and different fantasies, or maybe recording and playing back sessions to share with others (or re-enjoy yourself). Users can enjoy exactly the type of sex they like, as straight or kinky, fast or slow, without having to worry about upsetting, disappointing or going to jail over their partner.
Presently, The U.S. has an under-the-cover (so to speak) love affair with sex toys. All you have to do is check the sales figures to confirm that we’re buying and using them. A lot. But we generally don’t discuss them, except with our closest friends… people don’t recommend their favorite dildo on Facebook.
But sex robots are much larger (so to speak) than the average plain-brown-wrapper-delivered toy… they’d be pretty damned hard to hide. If we did start using sex robots, chances are, it would be almost impossible to conceal them from others. So, either we wouldn’t use them at all… or we’d use them, flaunt them, put them in plain site, and compare our models to the ones the Joneses just bought. No household would be complete without its sex robot… unless you had a membership at the local sex robot spa, which you’d probably transfer to other spas as you got tired of the same old Francis models that they never upgrade, and don’t they have the new Gladys bots at the Rodeo Spa? My friend has a Gladys, he let me try it once, and man, you should see how that thing jumps…
uh… ahem. (Told you this is fun!)
So: Are we likely to someday see a sex robot trade? Probably. Will the sex bots we use seem like real people? Well, for most of us, probably closer to one of the wenches from the Pirates of the Caribbean Ride.
Will we care?
Hey, we’re talking about sex, aren’t we? Pass the lube.
Sarcology will be released in Spring 2013.