Of all the innovations promised by the robot age, the idea of the mass production of ‘sexbots’ struck me as the most ludicrous, destined to remain firmly within the imaginative fantasies of Bladerunner or Westworld, of interest only to a few freaks and social inadequates.
A major reason for scepticism is the psychological phenomenon known as the “uncanny valley”. That is, people are reasonably at ease with a robot that looks like a machine, but become increasingly revolted and threatened by something as it takes on more life-like humanoid form. A functioning robotic sex doll would, in the famous motto of the Tyrell Corporation, have to be ‘more human than human’ to be marketable.
It seems I was wrong. Sexbots are ramping up to be a major AI industry. In hindsight maybe we shouldn’t be surprised: after all, it was the pornography industry that first successfully monetized the internet, and as for the “uncanny valley” effect, men have been rather good down the ages at divorcing sex from emotion or human intimacy. The upsides of a sexbot are also considerable: she – or it – will never grow old, never get accidentally pregnant, never say no, never leave or divorce you, never make false accusations of rape or assault, never be in a bad mood or make unreasonable demands, won’t transmit disease and doesn’t need to be taken out. She will also be customisable, retain her figure and if you get bored you can go for an upgrade.
Women may rightly complain that such creepy devices pander to the very basest of male instincts, but given the way that men’s most noble instincts towards women – to provide and protect – have been comprehensively trashed by feminism over the past 30 years, what on earth do they expect? In any case many men have already withdrawn from society into a world of video games and pornography addiction, so would ownership of a sexbot really be such a big step in moral or psychological terms?
“Ah,” you may say, “where would we be without a good moral panic? Even if they are used by a small fraction of losers, these things will stay on the fringes of society”. You could well be right, but then again many other things not long ago considered absolutely beyond the cultural pale are now regarded as mainstream.
There is another, even darker reason to think that we may actually reach a kind of tipping point that sees sexbots gain widespread adoption: thanks to automation, for the last thirty years men have had to live with fear of redundancy as a sex. The feminist movement, in all its viciousness and misandry, has continually twisted the knife by making the cruel belittling of men and their declining role in society routine and acceptable. The psychological pain this has caused goes much, much deeper – and is much more widespread – than men like publicly to admit. It would be perfectly natural, if unedifying, if men now sought a terrible revenge that some would say was poetic justice: women laughed in triumphalism as automation made male sexuality redundant, now the same fate awaits them.
The feminists sowed the wind. Tragically, it could be the decent majority of women who reap the whirlwind. If sexbots really do take off, women will have to contend with the indignity of competing with machines – machines, for goodness sake – that will become more life-like, more realistic – even more intelligent – with every passing year.
Rather than retreating from women in a “sexodus”, men may simply replace them.
In the words of the famous robot of them all:
“Hasta La Vista, Baby”.
(Image: Bruno Cordioli)