Real Enough To Love: Will Sexbots Destroy Human Relationships?

My oh my, how times have shuffled along from the quaint old days of Playboy, Hustler and VHS porno tapes, haven’t they? Whether you were alive back then or not, the point is that most of the old time sexual standards which have guided society for so long have been completely obliterated in the last several decades, especially since the arrival of the Internet.

It seems only a short leap from Tinder and Grinder to a world of remote sex play and virtual reality hookups. The modern world is completely awash in free pornography now, along with all manner of other carnal gratifications sitting right there on your phone. But could all this decoupling of pure sexual gratification from romantic affection only be softening us up for the next big thing: robotic sex partners?

Westworld anyone?

WestwrldSounds crazy, but the sexbot craze may be upon us sooner than we imagine, or are ready for. There are breathtaking innovations being made in the sex doll industry which are setting the stage for an invasion of lovebots. In the news today are stories about pioneering love doll ‘brothels’ just beginning to make their first experimental appearances here and there (except in Houston, Texas where the local city council has already banned them!). Go ahead and Google ‘sex dolls’ and take a look for yourself at some of the stunning improvements being made in the sculpting, casting and assembly of shockingly realistic humanoid dolls — dolls that look like they could come to life at any moment.

This, they will eventually do as well — but it will be an artificial form of life.

life-like love dollThe sexbot industry is marching forward on several different fronts, which will include a growing acceptance by popular culture (or at least certain aspects of it) before long. The attitude of the upcoming generation regarding personal sexual expression is already vastly changed (some would say utterly warped) from previous generations. Just take a look at the incredible variety of fetishes now being served on porno sites, cam sites, and virtual reality hookups by people barely out of college — an “acceptance by LIKE” that is steadily advancing the idea of non-intimate sexuality. The thrill for now is to experience the excitement of connecting with someone erotically on a psychological level — even though the two of you cannot touch.

Yet. But that is about to change.

There’s no doubt the technology of touch is about to become the next-to-be-conquered frontier in synthetic enhancement. Both in the sensing of touch by robotic systems, as well as the projection of touch into the environment — which will certainly include the ability to touch humans in some intimate fashion they seem to enjoy. The improvements currently being made in the development of realistic skin and synthetic muscles will allow the Touch of the Synthetic to seem much warmer and less creepy.

love doll varietiesWhile we are all waiting to begin having sex with our beautiful robots, our collective psychology is even now being prepared to become accepting of the idea of being brought to orgasm — not by the touch of real human flesh — but by the touch of plastic, controlled by a human mind! Let’s not forget that an artificial intelligence will be a legitimate mind at some point as well, won’t it? Initially programmed by other human minds perhaps, but as it deep learns, AI will surely become increasingly sexy in its own unpredictable way.

And won’t that be something to experience?

Currently there are ‘chatterbate’ sites where RC “Ohmibod” -style vibrators and other strange tactile instruments are controlled remotely between Skypers on cams. Unusually it’s a one-way exchange where a paying customer controls the sexual response of a cam girl for a fee, but undoubtedly these interactions will develop into two-way tactile-based systems where both people are able to stimulate each other.

Think all of this is silly or lame? Well, you can currently “make love” to a cartoon on your phone by engaging with a variety of sexual avatar dolls who will interact with you in such a way as to fulfill your every kinky animated fantasy. How’s that for lame? But guys are doing it (check the porn sites if you are 18+). While this mind-fuck sort of thing certainly isn’t as fulfilling as old fashioned screwing, if this remote fantasy play is how you are being (self)-conditioned to experience your sexuality — right from your formative years onward — then a step-up to schlepping physical robots will seem like a pretty cool upgrade.

And the stage for widespread sexbot adoption by a particular generation will be set.

Interactive sex sites are changing our psychological acceptance of artificial / virtual sex. They are provoking new fascination from people who’ve become bored looking at videos. Today’s chatterbate sites are functioning as drivers of the first stages of cultural normalization that will smooth the path for the acceptance of fully functional sex robots in the coming years.

The essential point to keep in mind is that SEX is the one thing that can get people interested enough to risk money on unproven new technologies when they first appear (think VCR’s, which were expensive when they first came on the market). Early adopters help to establish a market toehold that allows the initial startups to hang in there financially until wider adoption of the central product drives down the unit price. Meanwhile, as the technology continues to improve, it will draw more ordinary consumers into the market out of curiosity, thus establishing a favorable upward spiral, as long as the product becomes mass market affordable.

Geminoid creatorOver time, innovations in realistic doll design will be merged with amazing new self-articulating frameworks being developed in other robotics labs for different purposes, but the two fields will continue to synergistically support each other. Sex doll “spinoff” should stimulate rapid advancement of android technology in general, which holds the promise (or threat?) of spreading far beyond the niche sex market and into the general consumer and business realms, where it has the potential to create all sorts of problems with human employment.

Think of it: the growing demand for more and more human-like sexbots will drive improvements in realistic skin, appropriate facial expressions, natural body movements and other behaviors that will make these devices more-and-more difficult to distinguish from ordinary people. Take a look at some of the latest breakthroughs from the robotics labs and in particular this HASEL artificial muscle that’s under development. The era of stiff mechanical robot arms will be over soon!

The more realistic that sex androids become the more interesting they will be to a small niche market of people who don’t desire to have even a simulated emotional connection during sex. They could also be attractive to germ-o-phobe types (both men AND women) who cannot find someone they find suitably “clean” enough to have sex with. Bots would be perfect for such individuals because they are essentially nothing more than overgrown personal sex toys, life-sized vibrators and pocket pussies. They may get a bit scummy from time to time but hey, it’s my scum! Sexbots might even become a big hit at events like bachelor parties, who knows — the point is, the more realistic these robots begin to act, the more interesting they will become to the majority of men in general, and that’s when we are going to be in for a real deep down change in our romantic-mating culture, really for the first time ever.

Powerful Robot Operating Systems employing cloud-based analytics will allow droids to behave with greater sophistication, by allowing even “cheaper” units to wirelessly access a fully capable off-site artificial intelligence. All these parallel fields will be advanced forward in lockstep by a growing consumer demand for lovebots — just as the technological innovation in smart phones has been driven by the widespread hunger for these devices by ordinary people worldwide.

In a similar fashion, once some critical threshold of realism in sex dolls is achieved, I expect the widespread adoption of androids everywhere to explode. There will of course be a righteous backlash (“doll boffing pervs!…”) pushing hard against this trend at first. After all, it will still be quite a leap to go from merely watching sex on your smart phone to actually HAVING sex with your robot girlfriend (or boyfriend!), but at some point we will lurch across this emotional boundary and never look back. The stigma of pairing off with a robodoll will eventually fade, and the recognition of robots as legitimate sex partners will be on.

Geminoid robot gutsBeyond all this technical gee whiz there are serious anthropological questions as to how this is going to disrupt the entire notion of love and romance. There are two big unknowns here, the first one being just exactly how widespread the phenomenon of (mostly) men pairing off with synthetic female robots will ultimately become. How much “market penetration” (ugh, sorry) will these android sirens ever likely see? And will it become significant enough to disrupt our entire social structure?

How many men will come to prefer a synthetic lover to a real woman once those bots become “cheap & realistic” enough to serve as genuine alternatives? Will the lure of sex dolls permanently remove only a small percentage of men — perhaps as little as 5% or less — from the dating market, or will that fraction of men creep closer to 40 or 50 percent? This range represents a huge difference — one that would challenge the fundamental design of our age-old social systems, not to mention the very viability of human populations!

As they evolve higher function and become ever more alluring, android women will become more and more impossible to compete against. They will be programmed to be more loving and accepting of their man, constantly flirtatious and in a good mood, never argumentative… always submissive, always helpful. And of course sexually voracious and adventurous beyond what any human female could ever hope to equal.

Once again, machinery triumphs mightily over the biologically-limited human body.

realistic love dollBut just exactly how powerful can the enticement of sexbots ever become, working as they surely always will be against the pushback of social stigma? Enough to drain away the mating availability of a significant portion of the male population? What will happen to our family structures?… to the production and raising of children? Or, will the appeal of theSynthetic be limited to select niche groups of men — men, for instance, who have been repeatedly rejected by women, such as the so-called InCels (INvoluntarily CELibate) individuals. These are guys who profess to loathe women almost as a political ideology and would love to see a situation such as the one depicted on the TV series ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ come into being for real. Would they be satisfied with synthetic lovers, or would this sort of thing only further mark them as “losers” and add to their humiliation?

It all depends on how accepting — or not — society ever becomes of people pairing off with robots, in lieu of a real human being.

These are the sorts of bewildering issues that will have to be sorted out step-by-step as we become more intimately entangled with these ever increasingly more sentient and attractive machines. Now is the time for us to begin considering just how deeply we may want to get involved in human-synthetic relationships before those loving sexbots overwhelm us with their robotic charm.

RELATED LINKS:

Sex Doll Brothels: a Growing Trend? (BBC News)

The Harmony Love Robot

Silicon Wives

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