Would You Sleep with a Sex Robot?

A robot was hitherto regarded as a cold body with a cool mind, to be used at assembly lines, warehouses, mines, and even at homes to perform simple tasks like vacuum-cleaning and laundry.
A robot developed by a local company in Anhui province demonstrates calligraphy at an international competition for robots in Hefei, capital of Anhui province. (Photo/China Daily)

Such machines have now evolved into “intellectual robots”. They find application in various sectors, including security, medical services and aerospace.

That’s not all. They can replace human beings as teachers, coaches and therapists. And, even as sex partners.

But what really impresses me the most is the robot journalist. Since last July, newswire Associated Press, in association with startup Automated Insights, has been “employing” a robot to produce corporate earnings stories.

The US media used to write around 300 such stories each quarter. Now, it can automate about 3,000, each typically containing 150 to 300 words. AP also uses robotic technology to provide sports news.

Following the success of media giants such as AP and The New York Times in developed markets, home-grown Tencent Holdings has developed Dreamwriter last month, which can produce a piece of hard business news within minutes.

Dreamwriter appears to be bad news to my fellow journalists and me. I wonder if our future job prospects are at risk.

But the development of intellectual robots brings good news to some men. Roxxxy-no typo in that suggestive six-letter name-is 1.70-meter-tall shapely robot weighing 54 kilograms, complete with a full C cup. “She” can talk to you about your interests as long as you want, if you remember to charge “her”. A full charge takes around three hours.

Roxxxy cannot vacuum-clean your flat and do laundry. But she will not also complain, gossip and prattle endlessly. What’s more, you can order a Roxxxy with a distinct personality and size … customize your “girl” in line with your preferences for around $9,000.

The business of technology is not gender-biased in this segment, so there’s some good news for women as well. They can buy a “male” robot soon. Rocky the male robot is in development as I write.

All these developments raise some key questions. How can we human beings compete with robotic journalists that produce business news reports at an unparalleled speed using big data and cloud computing? How can real human lovers compete with Roxxxy or Rocky?

They can work or accompany you 24×7. They never fall sick, make mistakes, go on strike or get bored with you. They will keep working or pleasing you days and nights on end.

According to a forecast of the International Federation of Robots, by 2020, human beings will employ over 15 million robots and the industry’s sales will hit $1.5 trillion. The Boston Consulting Group predicts a quarter of global workplace positions will be taken over by robots or artificial intelligence by 2025.

Some experts have warned unemployment rate will increase and wages will decrease due to the advent of robots.

As early as 1984, Hollywood film Terminator highlighted potential dangers of automation and robotic technologies. Even the recent hit Ex Machina, about a young programmer taking part in a Turing experiment conducted by intelligent robots and who is finally locked and terminated by the latter, made us ponder if artificial intelligence will improve or imperil our lives. Similarly, in 2011, My Sex Robot, a film about three guys’ addiction to love with robots, stirred up heated debates.

I am not sure if robots could really replace human beings. Robotic journalists, for example, are not yet able to outsmart human journalists in terms of investigative reports, in-depth analyses and one-to-one interviews.

A few of my male friends, both foreigners and Chinese, said they may not be averse to trying out sex robots, just for curiosity. But the majority of them said they would not like something to please them mechanically, without any natural responses. All of my female friends said “No” to the idea of pairing up with a sex robot.

Some scholars have issued calls to ban sex robots, which they said defy ethics and ruin natural relations between men and women. But not everyone agrees. If some people in modern, busy, lonely societies prefer robots, why not, others say.