Could Robots Revolutionize the Sex Industry and Replace Intimacy?

With ‘perfect’ sex robots on the horizon, experts warn of potential ‘ethical and emotional de-skilling.’

The fourth industrial revolution promises to unleash various dark visions upon society: mass unemployment and social unrest from automation, the Internet of Things spying on everything we do, and babies gently rocked to sleep by machines.

Sex robots are also on the horizon. As technology surpasses human capabilities, these lifelike androids, designed for machine-precise sexual proficiency, promise to make even our unproductive hours enjoyable. Innovations like teledildonics allow long-distance partners to pleasure each other from across the world, and virtual reality interactions make fantasies accessible despite low self-confidence, physical impairment, or even the laws of physics.

However, the rise of sex robots raises significant concerns. Sex workers could lose their jobs, people might abandon human relationships, and companies are already gathering data from internet-connected sex toys. An app has even been released encouraging people to perform cunnilingus on their phones.

Barcelona, home to a love-doll brothel and the controversial release of an android that can be seduced via a gamified system, is at the forefront of the sexbot revolution. This has drawn criticism for sending the wrong messages about consent.

Oliver Bendel, a professor of information systems and ethics at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland, expects “perfect” sex robots capable of reading “every wish from our eyes” within 20 years. These robots could come in various shapes and sizes, not just human forms but also “abstract” constructions focused purely on function.

Kathleen Richardson, an ethics of robotics fellow at De Montfort University and founder of the Campaign Against Sex Robots, warns that by 2050, masturbation could become the dominant form of sexual experience due to consumer capitalism and “techno-utopians who commercialize our relationships.”

Norway’s Charles Melvin Ess, special scientific adviser at Digmex (Digital Media and Existential Issues), is less worried, citing our innate desire to be loved. He believes sex robots won’t genuinely threaten human-to-human relationships as people will likely always recognize that these devices are “just machines.”

Ess does acknowledge that widespread use of sex robots could lead to “ethical and emotional de-skilling,” as they don’t require the patience, perseverance, empathy, and forgiveness necessary in real relationships.

While convincingly humanesque sex robots are still decades away, immersive experiences with internet-connected devices are advancing quickly. One example is the Kissinger, a mobile phone attachment that transmits accurate replications of kisses online. It can help connect long-distance partners or allow a remote parent to kiss their child.

Cristina Portalés from the Institute of Robotics and Information and Communication Technologies at the University of Valencia has developed an immersive cinema that could incorporate devices like the Kissinger, potentially allowing users to kiss AI simulations of their favorite movie stars.

Futurologist Trudy Barber suggests that our sex drive will continue to drive technological innovation. She believes virtual reality, connected with advanced devices, will enable people to explore their identities and fantasies under the cover of virtual avatars.

However, Barber also warns of potential issues, such as virtual reality experiences involving sexual harassment and questions about the impact on real-time sexual identity and fidelity.

While virtual reality pornography and IoT-connected sex toys are already widespread, sex workers see potential benefits. Sharon Jennings, manager of the Sex Industry Network in South Australia, believes that improved technology could help sex workers navigate restrictive laws and access clients in remote areas while maintaining anonymity.

Jennings dismisses the idea that sex robots could eliminate jobs in her industry, emphasizing that clients seek more than just penetrative sex—they want to be held and touched. “If sex toys could replace human intimacy, I’d have traded my husband in years ago for a Sybian,” she says. “It would be expensive, sure—but not as expensive as a husband.”

Arar Romorosa
I’m ARAR ROMOROSA, a Filipino, living in Uruguay, a passionate web developer, SEO Specialist, a traveler, researcher, and writer. I want to take risks, meet interesting people, go hard, challenge myself, and explore the world.

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