I’ve come across yet another sign that life is good, that problems are disappearing faster than new ones are popping up. Here it is: people are starting to worry about how we’ll treat the robots we don’t have yet.
Right now, people in Europe and the U.S. are working on the knotty ethical challenges that will come when the world is crawling with robots. “Security, safety and sex are the big concerns,” says Henrik Christensen, a member of the Euron ethics group, in a London Times story. “People are going to be having sex with robots within five years.”
Best I can tell, the security and safety concerns involve things like robots collecting sensitive data about humans, or a robot law enforcer with a loose wire shooting up a whole town when his mission was just to get a kitty out of a tree. There are other dilemmas, though. For instance, if a building is on fire and there are people inside, do we keep sending in a rescue robot until he’s burned up? If somebody is drowning, do we send a rescue robot, even if he’ll get water-logged and stop working?
But enough about robot ethics, security and safety. Let’s get right to the robot sex. Right now, there are boy and girl robots that roll around minding their own business, then suddenly break into song, go into heat, have robot sex and go to sleep. According to their designer, they can perform for five hours, which makes them about two-thirds as durable as former Nashville Mayor Bill Boner. You can watch the little robots here: www.zprod.org/zLab/sBotsMovie.htm
In case you’re wondering, the robots in the movie aren’t humanoid. They’re just metal, rubber and wires. They look like toy trucks. They don’t exchange any genetic material. They have dry robot sex and they don’t make any baby robots. Even so, when I watched the movie, I thought the robots seemed to enjoy themselves.
Now when it comes to people having sex with robots, Christensen’s a little, uh, behind the times. Anybody with $209 can get a motorized, vibrating and gyrating replica of porn star Jenna Jameson’s girlparts, made out of lifelike UR3 plastic. The Jenna comes with a handheld controller and a little squeeze bottle of powdered lubricant. Batteries are not included.
For frugal robot lovers, there’s an $89 Jesse Jane model—a motorized down-there device much like the Jenna, but rendered in Futurotic Plus material (whatever that is), and powered by one less battery.
Granted, these girlparts-only replicas aren’t whole robots—they have no arms to hold you, no legs to walk out on you and no head to give you any backtalk (or anything else). Even so, they’re the business ends of any sex robots-to-be, if you know what I mean and I think you do. The bare necessities of robot sex are already here. So I guess Christensen and his ethics group need to come up with some guidelines for fair treatment of disembodied robot sex parts, sooner rather than later.
Once the robot ethicists get all that done, imagine how complicated their jobs will be when they have to deal with whole, thinking, humanoid machines—androids or cyborgs that will learn from their experiences and adapt accordingly. I’m guessing that thinking, learning sex robots will have their little kinks—stuff they like, stuff they don’t like and some itches they just have to scratch. I would not want to be the first human to end up with a frisky robot who’s got mischief on its mind. Yell “Hey, cut that out” to a kinky robot and it might just do some kind of crazy surgery on you.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that, when I first heard about robot sex ethics, I flashed straight back to my preteen years and the naughty thoughts I had about Supergirl. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the DC Comics Universe, Supergirl was—and still is—Superman’s hot, blonde, buffed-out teenage cousin and the last person to escape the doomed planet Krypton.
If you’re a boy hitting puberty, there’s no end to the fantasies you can conjure up about a beautiful 6-foot-tall alien girl who flies around in a skin-tight top, a miniskirt with cheerleader-style spanky pants underneath and some tall red dominatrix boots that I’ll bet she never takes off. Better yet, Supergirl can move all of her body parts faster than the speed of light, and she’s blessed with super breath that could put out a thousand-acre forest fire in either inhale or exhale mode.
And, don’t you know, Supergirl had Supergirl robots. She used them as stand-ins when the world needed saving and Supergirl herself was busy in a distant galaxy. The robots looked just like Supergirl and could do anything Supergirl could do. When I was 12, there was many a night when I dreamed about having my very own Supergirl robot to take care of my urgent needs.
Who knows, in five or 10 or 20 years, there might be Supergirl robots aplenty. Just start with the Jenna, add some humanoid parts above and below, replace the vibrator batteries with a tiny little nuclear plant, dress her up and let her learn.