In his book ‘Love and Sex with Robots’ (2007), Levy noted that the intimate relationship between humans and robots is no longer a mere science fiction but has moved to the hallowed halls of thoughtful scientific research. Scientists are implementing several robot companions, including sex robots/sexbots, humanoid robots, emotional robots, and AI systems that simulate human feelings. With robot technology and AI developments, sex robots are likely to become more popular than sex dolls presently in the market, and marriage and sex with robots could soon be popular. I will agree with Levy’s claim that sex and marriage with robots may soon be popular considering the accelerated pace of robot technology and AI developments and extensive studies in robot companions. However, I will also extensively examine the good and bad of a human-robot intimate relationship.
Levy was correct in his argument that humans may soon consider robots to gratify their physical desires, including sexual urges. As artificial intelligence becomes advanced and interaction between humans and robots becomes increasingly personal, marriage and sex with robots could become possible and popular. The intimate robotics might not only consist of physical sex, which has dominated science fiction to date. Intimate robots could be designed to satisfy not only sexual desires but also other intimate needs, including psychological satisfaction (Levy, 2007). According to a study by Sullins ‘Robots, Lover, and Sex’, robot scientists are not yet closer to building an android indistinguishable from a human. However, that is not any of the requirements for humans to develop an intimate attachment with robots. The author argued that the robots are unique because the kind of intimate relationship they can form with humans is based on the sophisticated qualities they hold. Physical robots have traits that can induce a sense of attachment from the users (Sullins, 2012, p 298-299). The traits can be achieved through behavior generation and effective modeling.
Borenstein and Arkin (2019) also envisioned a possible future for robot-human intimate relationships. According to the researchers, sex robots will offer a positive opening for sexual needs and through advancement will be redesigned and perfected to the preference of individual users. Scheutz, and Arnold, in their study ‘, Are we ready for sex robots?’ also argued that because of the roboticists’ capability to develop a robotic technology that stimulates a solid emotional response from its users, it may be possible that robot-human relations can be developed, which are “as real as moving” similar to the ones humans have with insincere lovers and beloved pets. While it is still difficult to determine whether robots will reciprocate human love, the researchers argued that humans could probably fall in love with robots. Some robot users seem to have already developed a sense of love for technological artifacts (Scheutz & Arnold, 2016). On the same note, Edwards, A., Edwards, Spence, Harris, and Gambino (2016), in their study’ Robot in the classroom,’ noted that if robots will be able convincingly help humans expand their social and cognitive competencies while remaining closer to their users, then based on the self-expansion model, it feasible that humans might legitimately love robots. However, they also noted that it is still unclear whether robots will love their users. As a result, it is possible to develop a unidirectional emotional connection between humans and robots.
While studies reveal a possibility for future intimate relationships between humans and robots, many concerns have been raised in research concerning whether sex robots add any value to humans and ethical concerns about the technology. The prospect of human-like sex robots raises many worries as far as human relation is concerned. It might appear unlikely that the technology could have any value to society. However, the hypothetical application of sex robots to treat pedophilia might suggest a positive outcome linked to the development in some areas (Danaher, 2020). Jecker, (2020), noted that sex robots would enable more people, in this case, disabled persons, to have at least some form of sex. The author argued that this is not a small issue because sex is a critical element in many people’s idea of a good life. Kashdan and colleagues also argued that different forms of sex help to achieve extraordinary pleasure, exploration, vulnerability, and constructive bodily awareness. When done correctly under correct conditions, sex may have beneficial effects for mental and physical health (Kashdan et al., 2014). However, many people, including disabled persons who desire to have sex, cannot get it; hence, it appears lamentable.
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Besides, other recognized benefits of sex robots include the treatment of sexual dysfunctions in hunt of improved sexual pleasure, possibly extending beyond what is presently attainable by most people (Danaher, 2020, p 407). On the same view, some researchers argue that provided that sex robots will offer at least some benefits of sex to people who would otherwise fail to access such benefits, their developments would be a source of substantial value to society. There is at least an apparent reason to favor the use of sex robots.
Nevertheless, despite the potential value of sex robots in society, there are also ethical concerns linked to the technology. One ethical worry is that the widespread application of sex robots may cause indirect harm to society, such as undermining or destabilizing the significance of moral values that control sex between humans. Increased use of sex robots will potentially result in a scenario where users uphold social practices where robots with particular features are produced and sold in stores. When that happens, the emotional attachment that controls sex between humans will decline, and possibly generations will become extinct as people shift from human-human intimacy to human-robot intimacy (Sparrow, 2017, p 469). Such practice could change values concerning human sexual behaviors for the worse.
Overall, there is a high possibility that humans may consider robots to gratify their physical desires, including sexual urges, in the near future, according to the ongoing development in robot technology and artificial intelligence that appeals to human emotions. Such development may come with both good and bad. The good side is that they will enable people who desire sex but cannot get it, particularly disabled persons, to get the experience. The bad side is that it may erode values that guide sexual behavior between humans.
Borenstein, J., & Arkin, R. (2019). Robots, ethics, and intimacy: the need for scientific research. In On the cognitive, ethical, and scientific dimensions of artificial intelligence (pp. 299-309). Springer, Cham.
Danaher, John (2020), ‘Sexuality’, in Markus Dubber, Frank Pasquale, and Sunit Das, eds, Oxford Handbook of the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 404-417