When you consider artificial intelligence playing a role in our most intimate moments, it can put your mind into a bit of a tailspin. From smart sex toys to bots that offer companionship and sex, artificial intelligence is changing the future of intimacy. This reality is boosting business for companies rushing to develop products. At the same time, the very idea makes some people excited about the possibilities and leaves others consumed with concern.
Smart Sex Toys
Sex toys connected to apps with Internet of Things (IoT) technology and sensors allow people to control them remotely and are now available for both men and women. There are products for couples, some that can be controlled by smartphones or are intended to be used with a tablet, and others meant just for individuals. There's even one that can be activated using Alexa no matter where you're at in the world which could put an interesting twist to a long-distance relationship.
While some might not protest smart sex toys and what adults choose to do behind closed doors, there's a bit more controversy and consideration when contemplating if humanoid anatomically correct sexbots are good or bad for society. That doesn't stop nearly half of Americans from believing that having sex with robots will be a common practice within 50 years. Bots such as Realbotix's Harmony and Synthea Amatus's Samantha are quite realistic and are adaptable because one robot can assume several different characters and personalities. They can talk, show expression and respond to touch and pleasure in a similar way humans do. Since they are learning machines, sexbots are also very attentive to their partner as they listen to learn and become better in conversation.
Proponents of the sexbots believe they are a solution to help ease loneliness and give companionship to individuals who may not have strong connections to other people as well as the elderly or bereaved. Also, sexbots can fulfill sexual desires for individuals and couples in a safe way without the risk of sexually transmitted diseases or unwanted pregnancies.
On the other hand, there is concern that sexbots could be damaging to society. Sexual relations with robots are actually expected to increase social isolation in humans. There's concern from marriage psychologists that sexbots that are designed to emulate humans and are entirely customizable could significantly change marriage and become "objects of obsession" since bots don't bring the usual challenges humans bring to a relationship. In Japan, where the country's birth rate is declining, there are concerns that sex robots will ex acerbate the problem. There's a Campaign Against Sex Robots that's concerned about the capitalism of sexbots and human sexual exploitation.
Pornography in Virtual Reality
It is expected that by 2025, pornography will be the third-largest virtual reality sector behind video games and the NFL, according to Piper Jaffray. Since the viewer gets a 180- or 240-degree view it feels like they are immersed in the porn scene or an actual participant in the room. Many entrepreneurs and companies such as Oculus that has VR porn in its latest version are developing other uses of AI for intimacy. Sex sells, and these businesses want to capitalize on the opportunity; some estimates have the sex tech industry worth $30 billion and growing.
Legal and Policy Questions
While progress is swift in using artificial intelligence in the sex industry to create new products, governments aren't prepared to regulate it yet. There are many questions to answer from how to deal with privacy considerations to how do we ensure sexbots are safely made. The United States House passed the Curbing Realistic Exploitative Electronic Pedophilic Robots Act (CREEPER) in 2018 to preemptively ban childlike sex robots. Regulating artificial intelligence in the sex industry is a new frontier. There are already challenges in regulating the porn industry, and there are additional considerations when dealing in virtual reality. Some of the existing laws governing sex are antiquated, but the future is here, and lawmakers are going to have to deal with the legal and policy questions created by artificial intelligence.
As the wave of artificial intelligence sweeps over another area of our lives, it leaves disruption in its wake. This time it is changing the way we intimately interact with technology and our fellow humans. As the momentum continues, it's clear the technology and even artistry that makes sex bots possible is impressive, but it remains to be seen if this addition to our intimate relations will be good or bad for society.
Bernard Marr is an internationally bestselling author, futurist, keynote speaker, and strategic advisor to companies and governments. He advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations on strategy, digital transformation and business performance. LinkedIn has recently ranked Bernard as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK. He has authored 16 best-selling books, is a frequent contributor to the World Economic Forum and writes a regular column for Forbes. Every day Bernard actively engages his almost 2 million social media followers and shares content that reaches millions of readers.