The worldwide community was rocked when news of developments were released regarding sex robots. It would seem that solidarity and loneliness will soon become a thing of the past, everyone will eventually be able to buy a sexual companion robot. But can these robots be human enough to allow real humans to experience the emotions of a real relationship, and also, how will robots hurt these emotional connections once people become dependent on these robot counterparts?
From a psychological standpoint, this issue is inherently difficult to discuss. Reports are coming out from many places around the world about people falling in love with inanimate people or objects. In fact, a man married a virtual girlfriend from a DS game in 2009.
The idea of having machines soon replace real relationships has become a subject in Hollywood as well. The movie Her directed by Spike Jonze delves into the idea of a man falling in love with a virtual being.
In an article written by Catherine de'Lange for New Scientist called "AI Attraction: Love in the Time of Robots"( de Lange, C. (2014). Al attraction: love in the time of robots. New Scientist, 221(2956), 29.), she states that relationships can form over non-human objects. de'Lange uses the example of bomb disposal robots, and how US Military personnel for relationships and bonds with these robots, even giving them names. Once these robots are disabled or destroyed, they would hold funerals for the robots, even though they knew it was just a tool.
In the next 40 years, it may be commonplace for people to own and sleep with sex robots. In fact, the David Levy has a book titled: "Love and Sex with Robots" that looks into the subject of the future when one day robot partners will be more readily available and commonplace.
According to Levy, in the near future robots will be able to be programmed with all the right stuff and without the bad.
There are some people in which these new developments would better. For those people who find it difficult to foster or maintain a relationship, sex or companion robots may be a better way to help them find a partner. But then the question also becomes, won't this become an exploit of loneliness, will companies exploit people who have difficulty and hardships finding relationships?
The first thing we should look at is how attachments are formed. The most important and seminal experiment conducted regarding attachment was conducted by Harry Harlow. In the 1960's Harlow conducted an experiment with Rhesus monkeys. Infant monkeys were separated from their biological mothers at a very young age and placed in a cage with two monkey surrogates, one made of cloth and the other made of wire mesh. However, only one of the surrogates had a nipple in which the monkey could feed. What was discovered during the experiment was that even though a wire mesh surrogate had the nipple, the monkey would cling to the cloth surrogate more often, showing that warmth was more important that nourishment.
Not only that, but monkeys who were raised by the dummy surrogates, were observed displaying odd behaviors. From clutching themselves and rocking back and forth, as well as displaying displaced aggression and other odd behaviors:
Normal sexual behaviors were replaced my misdirected and atypical patterns: isolate females ignored approaching normal males, while isolate males made inaccurate attempts to copulate with normal females.
If these monkeys had been affected so drastically, it'll be interesting to see how humans react to sexual robots. Will sex robots replace human interaction to such a degree in which we lose touch of our humanity, or will this be another toy. And if that's the case, how will these toys affect people's emotional cores, ethics and logic? Only time will tell.
SO as it appears, all we need is maybe a few more decades of development, and everyone will be able to get their own sex bot for Christmas, whether we like it or not.