Sex Robots are (Almost) Here. How Will We Respond?

What’s the thoughtful Christian response to the rise of the sexbots?

By Jay Richards Published on July 24, 2017

This is the first in a series exploring the Christian response to “sex robots.”

If you’ve checked the Drudge Report at all in the last year, you’ve already seen the news. Sex robots are here. Or almost here, anyway.

Life size, inert sex dolls have been around for a while, but have stayed in the shadowy fringe world of sex toys and other perversions. Sex robots are a much bigger deal. Want proof? National news outlets have stories about them almost every day, and Matt Drudge links to them.

The technology could change life and marriage as much as the Pill and legal abortion did. And not for the better.

Of course, some of the hype is due to the belief that computers will soon become conscious persons, like we are. That’s science fiction.

Don’t think of sex robots as conscious androids. They make use of artificial intelligence. Picture the responsiveness of a Google search that users can adapt to their own personalities. And tweak for their own personal fantasies. Plus voice command. And lifelike “hardware” with thousands of options, which looks and feels like human skin, not like Rosie the Robot maid from the Jetsons.

No Big Deal?Robot artificial intelligence compressed 400 pix

For years, scholars have been prepping the soil for this. Way back in 2007, computer scientist David Levy wrote a whole book about it. In Love and Sex with Robots, Levy set out to convince readers that we really shouldn’t worry about it. We love our pets, right? What’s so bad about having a “relationship” with a fancy robot, especially in a world where we tolerate all manner of sexual deviancy? Who knows? Once these bots resemble real people, maybe sex and marriage with them will be better than the real thing.

That’s Levy’s argument, of course, not mine.

The technology could change life and marriage — and not for the better.

Sure, some folks in the popular press have started to worry. There’s even a group called the Foundation for Responsible Robotics. Ethicists are exploring all the big questions: What about robot rights? Shouldn’t we come up with rules and laws for how they ought to be treated? What about break time? 

Seriously. 

Aside from these fantasy complaints, though, the general “expert” response is much like Levy’s. Paul Abramson is a professor of psychology at UCLA. In an interview about his new book on the topic, he told the Daily Caller News Foundation: “The legal implications of robots are similar, in many respects, to all of the previous masturbatory enhancements. The question is largely about differentiating tangible harms from moral pontifications in the guise of societal rules.”

In other words, if nobody gets hurt, what’s the big deal? Don’t be a prude or, worse, a fundamentalist.

Hey, What About the Upsides?

Besides, some experts say, there will be huge upsides. Think of the millions of Chinese men who might never marry because of the lack of women (relative to men) brought about by decades of China’s one-child policy. Do you really want them to be lonely, or decide to fill the ranks of the Chinese military?

Closer to home, Abrahamson and others argue that pedophiles are “hardwired” to be attracted to children. We can lock them up if they get caught, but we can’t change them.

Instead, what if we could match them with a sex robot that’s tailor-made to fit their “fetish”? Then we might reduce the abuse of children and the costly jail time for pedophiles. Win-Win!

In the same way, we could take a real bite out of sex trafficking, and maybe even rape, by meeting the same market demand with robots. One company offers a model that a user can set to “frigid,” perhaps for men who like to force themselves on women. Not a happy thought, but wouldn’t a rape simulation be better than the rape of real women?

Wait, What?!

I don’t buy any of these arguments. I agree with Laura Bates, who wrote in the New York Times a few days ago that such uses could reinforce the vices and crimes they’re supposed to prevent. “To make such a solution available,” she argues, “is to risk normalizing rape by giving it a publicly acceptable face.” That sounds right to me. This tech is not just about private sin — though it is that. It could devastate swaths of civilization.

We adult Christians need to start thinking about this, and fast.

Still, it’s hard to get your mind around. Last week I talked to Michael Medved about this. He asked me: Which is worse, sex with a prostitute or with a robot? I had a brain freeze and needed to reboot. I wanted to say “both,” but that didn’t make sense.

In any case, we Christian (adults) need to know how to respond to this new tech, pronto. One American company will release a high end sexbot this fall. The “good” news is that it costs fifty grand for the complete model. That should limit sales to only the saddest and loneliest rich guys. But the steep costs won’t last forever. This is information technology. IT has a way of getting way better and way cheaper, really fast.

How will we defend marriage, chastity, and the meaning of sex in the age of the sexbots? What will we say to our Christian friends who shrug their shoulders? And how will we respond to our secular and libertarian friends who welcome the new technology?

I’ll explore the moral, spiritual, and social dangers of all this in follow-up pieces. But for now, think about how you’d answer.

 

Jay Richards is the Executive Editor of The Stream. Follow him on Twitter.

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  • Dean Bruckner

    The sexual anarchists will demand that we exalt and approve of this, on pain of fines and imprisonment. Their violated consciences propel them to drag everyone else down into their perversity.

    If the Trinity has no room for a sex robot, then neither do we. It’s as simple as that. Baal and Ashtoreth and Molech are OK with it, judging from their worshippers, but we know that’s all a Big Lie and they are pointed straight to hell.

    Come on, folks! Who knows what’s best for us, the God who made us, or we–the people who killed a billion preborn babies around the world since the 1970s?

    I can’t believe we’re even having this discussion! Repent already and stop being such fools!

  • Nobody Specific

    “Which is worse, sex with a prostitute or with a robot?” I think the answer is obvious. Sex with the prostitute would be worse. You are debasing yourself and the prostitute. You leading/enabling/encouraging another person to sin as well; yet another sin in it self. In the case of the robot you are only harming yourself. So if we have to rank them, I think the prostitute is clearly ‘worse.’

    That said what value is there in ranking sin? If you willfully sin you are not repentant. We all make mistakes, we all sin, we all give in to weakness at times. The question is are we faithfully asking Christ to help us with that, are we intending to go forth and sin no more (weather we will succeed or not) in sincerity or are we making excuses about how our sin isn’t really so bad?

    • tap

      The Bible makes it clear that a sin is a sin. There is no lesser sin.

      • Jones Howell

        Not true.

        • tap

          Yes, it is true.

          • Royce E. Van Blaricome

            So you step into the shoes of a false prophet and speak falsely for God and Jones comes along and give you an opportunity to confess and repent but instead you choose to double down and outright lie about what God has said. NOT a smart move and leads one to wonder what God and Bible you refer to.

            Here are just three verses to prove that God says not all sin is equal: Mark 3:29, John 19:11 (note “greater”) & 1st John 5:16.

            Moreover, it’s just downright silly to say that,. One only has to look at the OT and punishments that God laid down for violations of different laws.

            Or you can go to the NT and look at the words of Jesus. Jesus said if you have looked at a woman with lust you’ve committed Adultery. He then goes on to say that except for Adultery, divorce was not to be permitted. Do you REALLY think Jesus was giving carte blanche permission for all women to divorce their husbands? Furthermore, the penalty for Adultery was Death? Do you REALLY think Jesus was advocating for every man that lusted after another woman to be put to death?????

            Jesus also said if you’ve hated anyone you’ve committed murder in your heart. Do you REALLY think that Jesus was calling for the literal Death Penalty for all who’ve ever hated anyone?

            Additionally, while Fornication is a sin and those who practice it will NOT inherit the Kingdom of Heaven it is “normal” in the sense that it is within the God-given design for how He created us and the “normal” desires between a Man & Woman. ALL Same-Sex desires and behaviors are abnormal. And that is why it is not the same. Robert Gagnon has written extensively and very well on why Homosexuality and other deviant sexual immorality is a greater sin than even Fornication or Adultery because it goes against the very God-given nature, creation, and order that He has given. You can Google for more.

            Lastly, Paul makes it abundantly clear that sexual sin is different.

            “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” (1Co 6:18)

            So when you combine the gravity of not only sinning against one’s own body but doing so in an abnormal and abominable way, one can begin to get a glimpse into just how serious a sin Homosexuality (and other perversions) are.

            I suggest you find a good Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church where you can submit to godly men as your leaders, (as commanded to do so) and be properly discipled.

            While you’re at it I suggest you also do a little study on what God has to say about those who speak falsely for Him and use His Word to falsely teach others and lead them into disobedience. Here’s a hint: The penalty for a false prophet was death and they only got to be wrong one time! Satan quoted Scripture to Jesus and for his own purposes. You aren’t doing the will of God when you’re lying about what He said but rather the will of Satan.

            “But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.” (Deut. 18:20)

            God gives grace to the ignorant and uninformed but to those who know better there will be accountability. And to those who continue to practice their sin they would do well to read Matt. 7:21-23. You have been given the Truth and warned. Continue to tell your lies and you’ll be in the last group mentioned in Rev. 21:8.

  • Brien Downie

    What about the coming rise of always-on augmented reality, where everyone wears glasses that can change everything we see all the time? Think: Dude wants his wife to look like Natalie Portman, so he downloads the “Portman App” where his wife now looks like Natalie Portman, or the “Nude App” where it superimposes naked bodies on everyone you see. It’s not cool, though how do we make the case ethically, legally, and spiritually that it shouldn’t be done?

  • Paul

    Won’t be long until the taxpayers are funding this as some twisted form of prescribed therapy.

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