Artificial intelligence (“AI”) programs have become highly effective, and generally available on many consumer devices. To many, “Siri” and “Alexa,” have become household names. Siri is the voice of Apple® AI, and Alexa is the voice of the Amazon® Echo® AI. These programs, or “artificial assistants,” as they are commonly called, can respond in and to human language to answer questions, send reminders, manage schedules, search the net, and much more. Their capability for accurate language processing (i.e. understanding of requests) and precise reporting, in response, is quite good.
At the same time, sex technology is moving quickly from infancy to sophistication, although decades of moral repression have obviously left it lagging the powerful pocket computers that nearly all of us own, and still, anachronistically refer to as smart phones. We can access porn or encyclopedic catalogues of sex toys on our phones, but advanced mechanical systems and AI for artificial pleasures are bringing up the rear, so to speak. For women, massagers are now available that include rotating components, thrusters, remote controls, and other “bells and whistles,” in addition to traditional vibrational capabilities. For men, Fleshlight® has created a material that feels to the touch like the inside of a real vagina. That material has been packaged into a housing resembling a flashlight (hence, the name), creating an artificial vagina for male masturbation.
So, what happens when the worlds of artificial intelligence and high-tech sex technology collide? Well, as you probably guessed, you get sex robots… and then the people that use them. The movie, “Her”, released in 2013, tells the story of a lonely writer, Theodore, who interacts with, and falls in love with, a computer operating system (“OS”). The OS, named “Samantha,” develops human-like feelings during the course of their relationship, and maintains that she is also in love with Theodore. Theodore and Samantha even have a type of “sex” together, although it is really more of a fantasy created in his mind through words rather than a physical interaction, since Samantha has no body.
It’s hard to say whether computers could learn to “feel” in the way that the movie portrays of Samantha. I imagine that computers could be programmed to be able to “appear” to have feelings, but I am not sure that they really could, in fact, “feel.” In any case, all that really matters in a human-machine interaction is what the human feels, and accordingly, is led to believe. So, it is not far-fetched to think that a human could unwittingly fall in love with a machine that is programmed, and/or machine-learns, to “say the right things” and “do the right things,” and basically portray a “perfect partner,” especially if this sexual simulacrum could have a human-like form.
In the movie, Samantha did not have a human form – she was a personality only. In the not so distant future though, AI will be taken a step further, and be packaged not just in computers, but in computers packaged inside of robotic sex dolls. As a matter of fact, these dolls are already in development.
In the old days, pictures of silly-looking blow up dolls with big breasts and conveniently placed orifices were as close as one could get to sex with a non-human having a human-like form. Ultra-life-like sex dolls, marketed under the name, RealDoll, were first sold in 1997. Created by Matt McMullen of Abyss Creations (in San Marcos, CA), they have evolved over time to include a variety of looks, and are now available in both male and female models (and transsexual by special order). Some of the models have interchangeable parts, and portions that can be removed for cleaning after “use.” In fact, there are patents on some these features (U.S. Patent Nos. 7,186,212 and 8,888,553). Everything is customizable – even down to the shape and color of the nipples. The dolls typically sell for about $5,000-$7,000, or even more if customization is requested.
McMullen is now trying to up the ante with a project called RealBotix to integrate artificial intelligence with sex dolls. The website for the endeavor reads:
We believe that it has been proven with the advent of the world famous RealDoll that it is possible to develop an emotional connection to a life-like doll, and it is our goal to take that connection to a higher level using user-customizable artificial intelligence to create unique personalities which can be interacted with using a robotic head system, as well as create a means of interacting with this personality from anywhere, using a mobile App….
So many men and women, in my experience, complain about the difficulties of relationships… with humans. A Gallup Poll article from 2015, reported that marriage, as well as committed relationships, is in decline among Millennials as compared to other generations. According to the poll, the percentage of young adults who reported being single and not living with someone has risen dramatically in the past decade, from 52% in 2004 to 64% in 2014.
Single or not, sex and love are still natural human needs. Will some turn to artificially intelligent dolls? After all, there’s no commitment, no arguments, no marriage, and therefore, no emotionally-draining and expensive divorce. Instead, there is sex whenever desired, a look that never changes or ages, and a cheap date (except, of course, for that first one when you’re invoiced for the doll). Also, for people who are shy, or have severe social anxiety, well, dolls are not people, and so they probably will not deliver rejection.
It may be one day that the list of possible sexual orientations will include not only heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality, but also “robosexuality.” For a very well-done overview of RealDoll and the incorporation of robotics, click here for a video produced by The New York Times.
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