When I first received the email for the 6th International Congress on Love and Sex with Robots, my curiosity peaked immediately. I’d heard so little about how a robot can fulfill a human’s wants and needs, and I had some serious questions I needed answered.
Firstly and most importantly, how exactly does a robot satisfy us in the ways we need?
When I logged into my Skype account to attend the virtual conference, all of my thoughts and questions were racing. Naturally, a pretty nosey person (hence why I went into journalism), I was ready to know it all. And boy, did I learn a lot.
Executive Director of the Kinsley Institute started us off with our relationships with humans in a presentation titled “Love, Sex, and Singlehood in the Digital Age.” The presentation allowed us, viewers, to understand how we bond with humans and noted an interesting statistic, that there are more than 100 million singles just in the United States.
It’s a statistic I’m contributing to, not going to lie, and the idea that there are so many other people struggling to find love is interesting. His study proved that most of us singles do want to be in a relationship and struggle with social commitments and loneliness more than married individuals.
So can our loneliness be changed by bringing in a robot to satisfy our needs?
A later presentation from Founder of RealDoll x RealBotix Matt McMullen explored how erobot Harmony could provide an emotional connection to her partners with features such as remembering key items and facts from conversations. The ability to remember these moments allowed her to bring them up in future conversations. The company is working on further projects that will allow these sex robots to react to sexual activity and movement, look like its breathing and interpret touch and self-lubricate. All robots can be created to the customers’ request.
“In the coming years, you will see some amazing things happening in the field of making robots more human-like when it comes to conversation,” McMullen stated in his presentation. “Coupled with a realistic embodiment, I believe that this is the future of human-machine interaction and this goes well beyond intimacy, companionship, and sexuality. I believe that these robots will become everyday things in our lives and we will interact with them all the time in multiple ways.”
Technology is allowing robots to have human capacities, a presentation by Gina Cormier titled, “Erobotics and the Quest for the Perfect Companion” suggested on day two of the conference. A research study led by Cormier hypothesized that humans are looking for the “perfect companion” in robots, with all of the positive quirks, rather than the negative. We want something we can control and feel safe with, without all of the negative human emotions involved.
The conclusion of the research found that the capacities humans think robots should have depended on their goals. If you’re looking for a romantic partner, you may want your robot to have empathy and understanding for your emotions. If you’re just looking for a sexual partner, you may just want them to be able to react during sex and nothing more.
Even further, sex robots aren’t necessarily just for singles, another presentation on day two suggested. The presentation featured Kokeshi, the world’s first sex worker doll, and Cybrothel, the world’s first immersive doll brothel, as well as the voice behind Kokeshi, Alexis Smith, and Ken Hansen from the University of Oregon. One comment from Smith was that clients are able to find a relaxed and comfortable space in the doll brothel, and since the doll promotes a judge-free zone, couples are able to look at the doll brothel as a substitute for a threesome.
“Much of how dolls can be used is up to how people imagine them as being able to fulfill emotional and sexual deficits or live out sexual fantasies in their lives,” Hansen said at one point in the interview.
But, how does this affect our appreciation of human emotion?
A day three presentation from Lily Frank, Cindy Friedman, and Sven Nyholm, titled, “Emotional embodiment of humanoid sex & love robots,” took a look at how sex robots could have an effect on human emotions, dignity, and behaviors with short “yes” and “no” explanations for each question.
With the question as to whether the value of human emotion is undermined when a human’s sex robot has human appearances, but cannot experience real emotion, the group nodded to Janina Loh’s approach which speaks of diversity and looks at the idea of emotional bonding with robots as something that should be welcomed and valued. They also took a look at Catrin Misselhorn’s idea that there may be a loss of mutual recognition, leading to the worry that we may become rather robotic in our emotions ourselves if our emotions aren’t able to be recognized by our partner robot.
As technology becomes more advanced and more and more of these robots are created with the capacity to communicate with us, many questions will continue to follow as we learn to interact with and understand them.
One main thing I learned during my viewing time is that there’s a lot of ethics, technology, and business that goes into sex robots, but it seems there’s also companionship with these dolls that are becoming more and more advanced as the years go by. Many are finding lovers and friends in these dolls who are learning to communicate with us and touch us in ways that are needed.
The conference had many speakers with brilliant presentations that helped to educate me and calm my curiosity and the ones in this article were just a few of many who led interesting conversations during it.
Although the concept is an unusual one, with technological advances taking place constantly, it’s one that we may see around us in our daily lives in the future and should be looked at with openness. We as humans, all have needs that sometimes we struggle to fulfill with another human, and robots may just be the thing that fixes it.