While sex robots may have some positive uses, they may also reinforce far darker behaviors, according to a new report by robotics experts.
The report Our Sexual Future With Robots by Responsible Robotics, a non-profit, delves into the effect sexual robots may have on our society in the near future. According to a section of the report, there has been some controversial assertion that sex robots could be used to prevent sexual assault and pedophilia.
The report notes that sex dolls, which are close-to-anatomically correct, have in many ways paved the road for sex robots with some companies adding artificial intelligence capabilities to their dolls. The sex robots, which range from $5,000 to upwards of $15,000, are made from silicon rubber, and some can simulate sexual activity and speak, according to the report.
"We found that there were a bunch of companies making these and beginning to ship orders and we thought that we should really look at it," co-author Noel Sharkey, a professor of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics at the University of Sheffield, told reporters, Business Insiderreported.
The report suggests the future of sex robots is somewhat controversial, with some proposing that sex robots could be used to prevent sex crimes.
The report points to a Japanese company called Trottla, which currently manufactures and markets child sex dolls. The company founder, Shin Takagi, told The Atlantic in 2016 that his company allows people to "express their desires, legally and ethically."
"We should accept that there is no way to chance someone's fetishes," Takagi said.
The authors write that some experts note that child sex dolls or eventually robots used to act out violent rape fantasies would likely reinforce those behaviors rather than focus them solely on the robot.
"When we look at the question of whether or not sex robots could help to prevent sex crimes, there is major disagreement," the authors note. "On one side there are those who believe that expressing disordered or criminal sexual desires with a sex robot would satiate them to the point where they would not have the desire to harm fellow humans. On the other side, many others believe that this would be an indulgence that could encourage and reinforce illicit sexual practices."
The report also highlighted the potential effect sex robots could have on prostitution, but found while they may be used more commonly in the future, they won't replace people.
"Many clients still want the pretense of a relationship," the authors write.
The authors also note that some have suggested sex robots could be helpful in the future for those who are dealing with social anxiety about having sex or have been through some sort of trauma.
"They may help alleviate loneliness and help those who have emotional or social blockages," the authors write.
While there may be some positives, sex robots could also increase social isolation. Sharkey said having a relationship with a robot may never be fully satisfying because of the one-sided nature of the relationship, Business Insider reported.
"Robots don't have any kind of emotion themselves," Sharkey said. "People bond with robots, but it's very one way. You're loving an artifact that can't love you back, and that's what's sad about it."