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Thursday, 6 July 2017

Must read - Call for a ban on child sex robots - July 6,2017

There should be a ban on the import of sex
robots designed to look like children, the author
of a new report into the phenomenon has said.
Prof Noel Sharkey said that society as a whole
needed to consider the impact of all types of
sex robots.
His Foundation for Responsible Robotics has
conducted a consultation on the issue.
Only a handful of companies were currently
making sex robots, said Prof Sharkey.
But, he added, the upcoming robot revolution
could change that.
The report, Our Sexual Future With Robots, was
written to focus attention on an issue barely
discussed at the moment, he said.
The report acknowledged that finding out how
many people actually owned such robots was
difficult because the companies that made them
did not release the numbers.
But, said Prof Sharkey, it was time society woke
up to a possible future where humans and robots
had sex.
"We do need policymakers to look at it and the
general public to decide what is acceptable and
permissible," he said.
"We need to think as a society what we want to
do about it. I don't know the answers - I am just
asking the questions."
Companies making sex robots include Android
Love Doll, Sex Bot and True Companion. Most
have previously made realistic, silicone-skinned
sex dolls and are now considering or starting to
ship dolls that can move and speak.
The most advanced of these is San Diego-based
Abyss Creations, which ships a product known
as Real Doll and is due to release a sex doll with
artificial intelligence later this year. Called
Harmony , the robot moves its head and eyes and
speaks via a tablet-enabled app.
The company has already released the app,
which allows users to program moods and voices
for an existing doll.
The report considers a few options for how such
robots could be employed as:
robot "prostitutes", working in brothels
sexual companions for the lonely or the
a new means of "sexual healing"
a sexual therapy tool for rapists or
The last of these was the most problematic, said
Prof Sharkey.
Sex dolls that resemble children do exist, and a
court in Canada is currently determining whether
owning one is illegal.
Newfoundland resident Kenneth Harrison ordered
a doll from a Japanese business called Harumi
The company is on a Canadian watch-list, and
the doll was intercepted at the airport. Mr
Harrison was charged with possessing child
pornography but has pleaded not guilty.
In Asia, there are already brothels that use adult
sex dolls. And there are reports that a doll-maker
operated one in Barcelona, although this has not
been verified.
Dr Kathleen Richardson, a robot ethicist at De
Montfort University, agreed with the report
authors that child sex robots should be banned
but stopped short of calling for a ban on all such
sex dolls.
"The real problem here is not the dolls but the
commercial sex trade. Sex robots are just
another type of pornography," she said.
She believes such robots would inevitably
"increase social isolation".
She also criticises the report for what she said
is a failure to address the issue of gender.
"Why does the report have a picture of a male
robot on the cover when we know that the doll
market - which is driving this - is mainly female
"It is perpetrating the idea that this is gender-
neutral, but the truth is that there are not many
women buying such dolls, it is largely driven by
men and male ideas of sexuality."
Prof Sharkey said that there was currently a
mismatch between what those selling such dolls
wanted their customers to believe about the
dolls and the reality of what they offered.
"The manufacturers of sex robots want to create
an experience as close to a human sexual
encounter as possible," he said.
"But robots cannot feel love, tenderness or form
emotional bonds. The best that robots can do is to fake it."
Sex robots are a relatively new phenomenon and
an obvious next stage for sex dolls, which have
become increasingly sophisticated in recent
years. Most have silicone skin, articulated metal
skeletons and realistic features such as hair and
In the main, these dolls are designed in female
form, although Sinthetics has had some
commercial success with its male sex dolls.
But Prof Sharkey has doubts about how human-
like such dolls will become.
"I can't see them as being like humans in the
next 50 years. They will always be slightly
spooky, and their conversation skills now are
awful," he said.
Dr Richardson also questioned whether such
robots would become mainstream or even be
possible technologically.
"The report assumes that you can create a
functioning robot that can respond to humans,
but in fact it is incredibly complex," she said.

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