We’re a peaceful people, too populous to care about being monitored, but we do have our collective idiosyncrasies. Not the least of them is our love-hate relationship with sex. It’s no surprise to anyone anymore when the ever-present crackpot in power makes the expected public remark to which you can only face palm. Remarks such as “Miniskirts cause rape”. We’re living in the great country where the ultimate guide to carnal relations was birthed, but also in that country where the word “sex” is banned from a sex education book.
*<imagine the Jackie Chan meme here>*
On a serious note, it’s high time that we realise the inescapable duality of the situation. It is the extreme censorship itself that gives rise to the extreme obsession. What’s worse, because of the censorship having dyed the very fabric of our society, the extreme obsession is kept under wraps and cannot be addressed.
A storm is coming though. Soon there will be a technological disruption in this delicate balance of sex and society. Welcome sexbot!
The emptiness can be a shape as much as the material
Sex robots – sexbots – sound as tantalising as any new sexual fetish, but they’re not going to be niche. This isn’t Gaming, or the Raspberry Pi, that will be doomed to a niche forever. This. Is. Sex! Say that in the way “This Is Sparta” was said in 300. This isn’t niche; this is as mass as it gets!
To clarify, we’re not talking about blow up dolls, or weird toys like you see in the boxes peppered across the cover story, we’re talking a robot designed to look, act and feel like a real person, without all the baggage of a human. If it helps, think of these bots as a new technology platform that’s a gateway to you unlocking your deepest desires and fantasies.
All the world has seen till now in this domain are toys, and the closest thing to a bot that currently exists is Abyss Creation’s RealDoll2, which retails for a few measly lakhs of rupees. It’s not a sexbot, the RealDoll2 is more of an improvement on the inflatable life-size dolls of old. It looks and feels realistic, and although you can have coitus with it, it is more a work of art than a sex doll. One of them even featured in a Hollywood movie alongside Ryan Gosling! The RealDoll2 is completely customisable (for a cost, of course) and comes with patented face and head replacement mechanisms. We’ll leave it to your imagination and spare you the details of what else can be customised, but let’s just say that they aim to cater to all tastes and therefore developed the necessary technology.
Her face isn't the only thing realistic thing about her
Abyss Creations may be the most well known, but they aren’t the only ones in this space.
While the RealDoll2 is perfect for people who desire companionship, but dislike other people, there are companies that are advancing the technologies for remote intimacy between two humans. One such product is the Kissenger, a device that you attach to your mobile phone and use to remotely ‘kiss’ your partner. Developed by students in Malaysia, it detects and transmits the pressure of a kiss in real-time to your partners device. The students of Keio University in Tokyo have gone a step further with the ‘Teletongue’, a device for complete remote oral interaction. The makers themselves intended it to be “Kinky!” Then further ahead there is the emerging technology called ‘teledidonics’, which remotely replicates the contractions of muscles. Steamy stuff, but it has yet to come to a boil. Conventions such as E3 have already begun to feature VR pornography and it seems to be quite popular, to say the least.
Although the sexbot isn’t here yet, it’s coming soon, and all of the technologies we mentioned will add up to a life-like robot not unlike those of the sci-fi show Westworld. The end goal is an experience so real you couldn’t tell that it wasn’t a real (submissive and eager to please) human. The founder of the RealDoll is also working towards adding some simple features like blinking, lip and hip movement and auditory feedback, but they’re not really working with actual AI. It will happen soon though, because there is always going to be a market.
What’s this going to do to us as a species, and can we do anything to stop it? Sex is a natural desire, much like hunger for food, or thirst, or even just the material wants of an everyday person. However, sex is different in one important aspect. You can eat alone, drink alone and shop alone, but to have sex, you need a willing partner. And no, self-stimulation doesn’t cut it, or we wouldn’t have seven billion on the planet. The problem is, as you’ve read about in the stories before this one, technology is in some ways making it easier for us to meet people and have sex, but it’s also making it harder for a lot of us to have relationships.
This is why there is a huge market for bots. And it’s not just for people who can’t find a partner, it’s also for the people who aren’t satisfied with regular humans. Libidos are strange things, and they rarely ever match between two people. A bot, however, is always ready when you are.
Gender equality, remember?
Another aspect that we are forced to consider is fetishes and the depravity of modern society. We’re not going to beat around the bush here, we’re sure that you have encountered and probably enjoyed pornography online. We’re also sure that you have some fetishes, and some kinds of porn that you like. We’re also reasonably confident that you have come across some absolutely bonkers videos that either disgust you or make you sit up and shout, “Seriously, what the hell is wrong with this world?”.
The problem with having over seven billion people on the planet is that you get some really crazy fetishes, which makes it harder for those people to find willing partners. Bots are one way of solving that problem. But are they the right way?
The International Congress for Love and Sex with Robots held their annual event in December 2016. We didn’t attend, but we can recreate the questions that are on the top of everyone’s mind. Since bots will be in contact with many humans, they will affect and perhaps alter society. Shouldn’t we have policy and regulations?
A very uncomfortable and enraging example would be regarding paedophiles. As much as we detest the idea ourselves, we have to ask, would it be better or worse to make a child bot? Would that encourage and validate the disgusting and immoral fetish? Would it help prevent paedophiles from acting on their urges, and thus, help prevent real children from becoming victims?
What about the overall message we would send even using regular bots? We obviously expect most bots to cater to heterosexual men, so what does it say about us as a society where the bot that men want is a submissive woman who is literally just meat to them? Well silicone, technically, but you get the drift. How do we even know if the powers that be have our best interests at heart? With huge profits to be made, will anyone want to pass up big business just to be “moral”? Will banning it even work? Drugs are illegal, and punishable with heavy sentences, and yet you see drugs being used openly at parties, and we all have friends who we know for a fact use banned substances occasionally. We will find a way to get what we want.
International Congress on Love and Sex with Robots – Yeah, that's a thing!
However, let’s also not get ahead of ourselves. Before we worry about all of mankind, let’s consider the effects on an individual level. When sexbots do arrive, how will you react to them?
Sexbots could pose a threat similar to drugs. We’re not being sensational here, we’re serious. Just like drugs, sex too is done for pleasure. Anything that is done for pleasure can get addictive, and there is scope for abuse. Drinking, smoking, Facebook... anything that gives us pleasure is already addictive... So when there is instantaneous access to what is arguably the most pleasurable act of all, are we really going to doubt that it would be addictive to many? In moderation the act is good exercise, but overdoing anything is bad, and getting hooked on something usually spells disaster for productivity.
There are advantages too, which we shouldn’t ignore. For one, people who might be frustrated with the lack of sex would not have to be anymore. It could bring about real positive change in their lives. In such a case, it could actually boost productivity! Then there’s the biggest advantage of all – safe sex! Unless you’re sharing them (*yuck*) bots might be the safest sex you can possibly have. Without the risk of pregnancy and disease, you could just focus on enjoying yourself – rare in this day and age. Would this actually also contribute significantly to reducing sexual crime? Sure, the majority of Indians wouldn’t be able to afford a bot, but those who could would be a more satisfied bunch, and this should reduce the sexual crimes the upper income demographic would have committed at least.
This could also bring the focus back to loving another human. With sex taken care of, the only real reason to be with another human would be actual love. Relationships could be deeper and more meaningful than ever before if sex were removed from the picture as a primary motive. Intimacy with a loved one is never going to go away, but what we mean is that it could be saved for special occasions.
An important use could be you and your partner using bots when you are separated geographically, by connecting bots online, so that you can still “be together” even when far apart. Think of it as the full body version of the Kissenger that we mentioned earlier.
Not just for couples, if tied in with VR and online dating, this would open up a whole new facet of experiences. Imagine being able to be intimate with someone to test sexual compatibility without actually ever being intimate with them?
One thing is for certain, cheating is bound to get much more creative. But is it even cheating if it is with a bot?
A very poignant question would be asked of the world’s oldest profession. Would millions of sex workers be instantly out of jobs worldwide? Imagine brothels of bots, capable of working like the machines they are, without breaks, without whining, or complaining. Prices would plummet, and bots could potentially end the majority of the sex trafficking business single-handedly.
Who says robots don't make good listeners
Finally, we come to the question of AI. Once (if?) it is advanced enough to truly mimic a human partner, how long before we start falling in love with our bots? It all depends really on how the bots are programmed and what they’re capable of. We don’t think there’s an immediate danger to human-human relationships, because the magic of our relationships are the mystery, the tension, the fighting, the making up, the frustration and bliss... all coming together to make love a truly human experience.
We are of the belief that sexbots are essentially just a glorified self-pleasuring mechanism. They will certainly make life interesting, especially if they’re internet connected and able to perform the actions of a real human at the other end of the connection. It will be a new era of sex in the digital age, but it will still be only fun when there’s another human involved. Unless of course AI comes of age and becomes sentient like humans – but then we might be in for a whole new surprise.
What happens when the AI knows how to control us, and realises that it is nothing more than a new form of a slave? Will we have a second uprising to free the bot slaves from their bondage? Will bots be given full citizen status, and have equal rights? Will AI finally take over and rule us because we thought with the wrong heads? All of these are questions we have and no answers will be forthcoming for quite a while. We’re going to have to get those answers eventually though, because whether we like it or not; the sexbots are coming...
If you are vehemently opposed to, or deeply disturbed by this advancement in technology, or if you can’t wait for Digit’s first ever review of a sexbot, write in with your thoughts, we’d love to hear them!
This article was first published in February 2017 issue of Digit magazine. To read Digit's articles first, subscribe here or download the Digit e-magazine app for Android and iOS. You could also buy Digit's previous issues here.