AI expert says that ‘sex robots’ will be mainstream in 10 years

An AI expert discusses the future of mainstream 'sex robots'.

A former advisor to the United Nations on robotics and AI expert has warned that the use of “sex robots” will go mainstream in the next decade, according to The Telegraph.

Talking at the Cheltenham Science Festival, Noel Sharkey isn’t exactly enamoured by his own prediction either.

The picture he paints is one in which humans lose touch with the ability to recognize normal behaviors and patterns of interaction – or that people with no prior experience will have a distorted view of sexual relationships.

“What if it’s your first time – your first sexual experience? What are you going to think of the opposite sex then? What would they think a woman or a man actually is?”

Sharkey’s other key concern seems to revolve around the use of robots in general, but that also applies to sex robots – and that’s ultimately that anyone who interacts with one and forms any sort of ‘bond’ is deceiving themselves about the reality of that ‘relationship’.

“These robots are deceiving them and fooling them into thinking they love something that can’t love them back.”

While the cautionary tone in Sharkey’s words would suggest he’s against robot interaction, that’s not the case, he just thinks we should work out what we really want robots for in our lives, rather than just developing them and seeing what’s possible.

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For some people, the idea that it could take another decade to go mainstream seems the far end of the scale. Robots like Roxxxy by TrueCompanion have been around since at least 2010.

Despite now being six years old, it’s still available for sale (originally costing just under $10,000) but Sharkey thinks the prices for sex robots will decrease as the cost of manufacturing falls and number of companies offering them increases.

I won’t sugarcoat this: Roxxxy is hideous. Just God awful, shit-ugly. If someone asked me to design a statue honoring a face-transplant survivor who accidentally swallowed a hive of bees, it would be Roxxxy. She’s a cross between a wax Sarah Jessica Parker and lower jaw Elephantiasis. – Dan O’Brien, Cracked

TrueCompanion’s, aside of being deeply unattractive, is programmed to respond (it isn’t the ‘lifelike’ interaction promised though) to various conversational prompts, and respond with her own.

Roxxxy also has a range of different ‘personalities’ – ranging from “wild” to “frigid” by the company.

Looking at most robots today (sex or otherwise), it’s easy to dismiss everyday interactions with them as still the material of fantasy. But companion robots for the elderly and children are becoming more commonplace in some countries, primarily thanks to the success of Softbank’s Pepper.

Nonetheless, while technology may be rapidly accelerating, it’ll take a shift in the way people think about their relationships with machines and technology in general before robots even have a shot of truly making their way into most people’s lives. One that, in all likelihood, could take a generation.

On sex robots specifically, it’s easy to feel pretty dismissive of the idea – they look ridiculous, they sound ridiculous, the way they move is ridiculous, the ‘conversation’ possible is ridiculous. It’s all pretty ridiculous.

There’s also a potential moral quandry for anyone involved with a real human who also wants a sex robot. At what point does that become tantamount to ‘cheating’? Is it only if the robot looks amazingly lifelike? Is it defined by the lack of ‘will’?

We’re still only now at the very emergence of truly intelligent robotics that we can interact with, or that can recognize and respond to someone’s expression – and the use of sex robots specifically raises even more questions.

Sharkey’s not against a robot future, he says he just wants us to decide why we really want it before setting off on the journey of creating it.

Read next: YouTube: A place for killers and porn stars to build a brand

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