Researchers Say AI Sex Robots Pose Danger to Society

Companies want sex robots to replace your girlfriend. Experts say that's a very bad idea.

Sex robots
Researchers are worried about the potential psychological impact of sex robots.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
By Kayla Kibbe / February 18, 2020 11:20 am

In a now-iconic episode of Sex and the City, Charlotte worries her new sex toy may be in danger of replacing her human sex partners. Spoiler: It doesn’t. Following an intervention from her friends, Charlotte breaks her vibrator addiction and regains her capacity to “go out and deal with men.”

But that was back in the ’90s, when even the most sophisticated sex toy wasn’t intended to actually replace real human contact. But sex tech has since come a long way, and today sex toys in the form of AI sex robots are becoming increasingly convincing stand-ins for living, breathing sex partners, and experts are beginning to worry about the psychological impact these sex robots may have on society and human sexuality.

According to Dazed, researchers are concerned that the rapidly expanding technology has largely dodged much-needed regulation from agencies because those agencies are “too embarrassed” to investigate, leaving a variety of morally questionable practices and developments to flourish within the industry.

“Some robots are programmed to protest, to create a rape scenario. Some are designed to look like children,” Dr. Christine Hendren of Duke University said while speaking at the  American Association for the Advancement of Science. “One developer of these in Japan is a self-confessed pedophile, who says that this device is a prophylactic against him ever hurting a real child.”

Other experts worry that the marketing behind many of these products encourages the idea that these devices can replace human relationships and sexual contact altogether. Sergei Santos, the creator of the famous AI sex robot Samantha, once told Dazed he believed he would “have enough with the sex doll” if his wife were to leave.

“A relationship with a girlfriend is based on intimacy, attachment, and reciprocity. These are things that can’t be replicated by machines,” argued Kathleen Richardson, a professor of the ethics and culture of robots and AI at De Montfort University in Leicester. “Are we going to move into a future where we keep normalising the idea of women as sex objects?”

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