Will sex workers be able to compete with robots that don’t feel degradation, tiredness, fear or sadness?

Once experiments into AI began it was obviously not going to be long before humans started trying to have sex with robots, but what does that mean for current sex workers? We explore the likelihood of robots taking over the sex industry

The year is 2067. You’re walking on the pavement of a busy road. On one side of you automated cars are whizzing past, while on the other you pass robot chop shops and stores with androids serving customers. You’re struck by the sameness of it all, like whoever designed it was heavily influenced by Scooby-doo backdrops. But one store stands out. It’s hard to miss the neon-pink sign flashing the word sex at you that stands above its entrance. Intrigued you go inside. What you find are scantily clad robots, some of them are perfect replicas of human women, while others appear half-finished, part-robot and part-human. The robot brothel is open for business.

Like every industry, sex work is susceptible to the threat of robots taking over, but unlike other industries the automation of sex work could move it from a being a morally ambiguous profession to something that is conducted openly.

At the minute our sex robots are really just motorised dolls, but once they’re equipped with artificial intelligence they, and the service they provide, could become indiscernible from the real thing. That raises a whole new set of moral questions. For example, would it be morally right to treat something that is effectively conscious as a sex slave; how far will we let customers go with the robots and will the open objectification of predominantly female sex robots have a negative impact on the treatment of human women?

All of these questions will need an answer because sex robots are coming. Most of you will have heard the story of one pimp/entrepreneur who wanted to open a string of fellatio cafes. When he ran into trouble opening his first cafe in Geneva (not due to demand, but because of hygiene concerns) he changed his business model to include the installation of “high-end sex robots”, according to The Local. The robot sex brothel may be open for business sooner than you thought.

Will sex work be a robot only profession?

If robots are set to enter the professions then there is no reason why sex work would be excluded from that. But how would we go from what we have now, which in the UK is a situation where sex work is legal, but a number of related activities, including soliciting in a public place, kerb crawling, owning or managing a brothel, pimping and pandering are illegal, to a situation where robot brothels are openly available?

Image courtesy of Paul Vera-Broadbent. Featured image courtesy of Michael Coghlan

Eleanor Hancock, who authored the paper ‘Ethics and Robotics: The ethical and social implications of personal and sexual relationships with robots and AI’, believes that the process of robots taking over the sex industry will see robot and human sex workers working together, at least initially.

“In all settings where robots take over human beings it’s a long process and a lot of that process is humans and robots working together at their tasks. I can’t see the sex industry being any different,” says Hancock. “I think that they’re definitely going to have to take heed from sex workers in creating the dolls as well, especially the AI because you’ve got to prepare your AI to go to a brothel.”

The future of sex work could see robots and humans working together, but how long will this situation last? In other industries, when technology becomes cheaper and more efficient that’s when we see robots taking over, but could automation in the sex industry be uniquely able to withstand pressure from automation because people will still have  preference for human sex?  And if people prefer to go to human sex workers, could we see two industries running simultaneously?

John Danaher, lecturer in the School of Law at NUI Galway and author of the paper ‘Sex Work, Technological Unemployment and the Basic Income Guarantee’ believes this could be the case.  “In other industries where automation is the norm, majority human-operated businesses often compete concurrently with majority automated businesses, until some point in time is reached when the automated labour is considerably cheaper and more efficient than the human labour,” he explains.

“Will that happen with sex work? Possibly not because there may always be a preference for a human service provider, which (if true) means you can expect a longer period of concurrent operation.”

Can humans compete with robots?

The development of sex robots might lead to two separate sex industries, one populated by humans and one with robots or we could have a situation where robots and humans work to together. In that scenario, how likely is it that humans will be able to compete with their robot equivalents? As Hancock points out in her paper: “Imagine competing with a sex robot in the bedroom, a robot that does not feel degradation, tiredness, fear or sadness.  It could certainly outstrip the performance of a human prostitute in terms of stamina and emotional endurance.”

Imagine competing with a sex robot in the bedroom, a robot that does not feel degradation, tiredness, fear or sadness

If given the choice between a robot and a human sex worker perhaps people will still opt for the human if they are only equally capable, but once robots start to outperform humans that’s when we may start to see human sex workers being replaced because, as Hancock has noticed in her current work with sex workers, the current industry is vulnerable to the same pressures that every other industry is. There’s no reason to think that sex workers aren’t worried about the prospect of automation.

“I’m doing a bit more research on sex work now and even now in this country [the UK] sex workers face the same problems that everyone else does,” says Hancock. “You know like basic economic hardships [affect them] the same way as they affect us. For example, they have to lower prices to compete with Eastern European workers who will work for a lower price.”

Faking it or simulating it

Before sex robots are upon us en masse, it’s important that we reach some kind of consensus about what we actually expect them to do. As Danaher points out, our attitudes toward human sex workers already vary quite a bit. Some customers are possessive, and have preferred service providers who they treat as a quasi-intimate partners, while others are more casual about their commitment and enjoy the idea of ‘no strings attached’ sexual encounters. We might see similar attitudes when it comes to sex robots.

Perhaps for customers who treat sex workers like stand-in partners humans will be the better option because who knows if sex robots will be able to fake intimacy. “From what I’ve gathered from interviewing a lot of sex workers of course they have to fake emotions,” says Hancock. “But I think there’s a difference. A robot wouldn’t be faking it; it would be simulating it. A robot wouldn’t know how to fake it. It’s all simulation.”

Simulating real emotions is probably the final frontier when it comes to sex robots, but will the ready availability of predominantly female sex slaves that can fuck anyone, without feeling exhaustion, but while stimulating intimacy ever be a good thing for women? In her paper, Hancock points out “Practicing extreme, violent or aggressive behaviours on an objectification of the female form could suggest wider implications for society a whole. It could normalise the behaviour, making it more prevalently used on real women in society.”

There is a general consensus that eventually we will have sex robots, but their level of sophistication is debatable, as is the way we will access them. Robot brothels are just one way; another could be through rentals or even ownership.

On one hand their presence could bring an industry that is surrounded by criminality out into the open, but on the other they could leave us in more of a moral quagmire. There are already people who have confusing relationships with sex dolls (Davecat, who is an advocate of synthetic love, is probably the most famous example of this) imagine what will happen when we add AI to the mix. One thing is for sure though: we won’t be able to stop robot brothels from opening for business.

“I think the thing about humans is when we really want to do something normally, we do even if it ends in disaster,” says Hancock.

DJI’s First Drone Arena in Tokyo to Open This Saturday

Consumer drone giant DJI will open its first Japanese drone arena in the city of Tokyo this Saturday, providing a space for both hardened professionals and curious newcomers to hone their flying skills.

The arena, which covers an area of 535 square metres, will not only include a large flying area complete with obstacles, but also offer a store where visitors can purchase the latest DJI drones and a technical support area where drone owners can get help with quadcopter issues.

The hope is that the arena will allow those who are curious about the technology but currently lack the space to try it out to get involved.

“As interest around our aerial technology continues to grow, the DJI Arena concept is a new way for us to engage not just hobbyists but also those considering this technology for their work or just for the thrill of flying,” said Moon Tae-Hyun, DJI’s director of brand management and operations.

“Having the opportunity to get behind the remote controller and trying out the technology first hand can enrich the customer experience. When people understand how it works or how easy it is to fly, they will discover what this technology can do for them and see a whole new world of possibilities.”

Images courtesy of DJI

In addition to its general sessions, which will allow members of the public to drop by and try their hand at flying drones, the arena will also offer private hire, including corporate events. For some companies, then, drone flying could become the new golf.

There will also be regular events, allowing pros to compete against one another, and drone training, in the form of DJI’s New Pilot Experience Program, for newcomers.

The arena has been launched in partnership with Japan Circuit, a developer of connected technologies, including drones.

“We are extremely excited to partner with DJI to launch the first DJI Arena in Japan,” said Tetsuhiro Sakai, CEO of Japan Circuit.

“Whether you are a skilled drone pilot or someone looking for their first drone, we welcome everyone to come and learn, experience it for themselves, and have fun. The new DJI Arena will not only serve as a gathering place for drone enthusiasts but also help us reach new customers and anyone interested in learning about this incredible technology.”

The arena is the second of its kind to be launched by DJI, with the first located in Yongin, South Korea, and detailed in the video above. .

Having opened in 2016, the area has attracted visitors from around the world, demonstrating serious demand for this type of entertainment space.

If the Tokyo launch goes well, it’s likely DJI will look at rolling out its arena concept to other cities, perhaps even bringing the model to the US and Europe.

For now, however, those who are interested can book time at the Tokyo arena here.

Commercial Human Spaceflight Advances Prompt Calls for Space Safety Institute

Commercial human spaceflight has been a long-held dream, but now it is finally poised to become a reality. Companies including Virgin Galactic and SpaceX are inching ever closer to taking private citizens into space, and there are serious plans for spaceports in several parts of the world, including Hawaii, the US, and Scotland, the UK.

But while the industry is advancing, the legal side of this fledgling commercial space industry remains underdeveloped, leading to calls for the development of an organisation to establish a framework for the safe operation of spaceports for human commercial spaceflights.

Writing in the journal New Space, Mclee Kerolle, from the United States International Institute of Space Law in Paris, France, has proposed the establishment of a Space Safety Institute recognised by the US congress and the United Nations.

This institute would “develop, enforce and adopt standards of excellence”, allowing the industry to develop while protecting it from liability and insurance risks.

“Currently, no international regulatory body exists to regulate the operation of spaceports,” he wrote. “This is unfortunate because while the advent of commercial human spaceflight industry is imminent, a majority of the focus from the legal community will be on regulating spaceflights and space access vehicles.

“However, the regulation of spaceports should be viewed in the same light as the rest of the commercial human spaceflight industry.”

The article focuses particularly on the establishment of a spaceport at the Kona International Airport in Keahole, Hawaii. At present, the spaceport’s development is subject to regulation by the Federal Aviation Authority, however there are aspects to spaceport development that do not apply to conventional aviation operations.

A spacesuit design for commercial flights developed by SpaceX. Featured image: SpaceX’s proposed spaceport for its conceptual interplanetary transport system. All images courtesy of SpaceX

The institute would be designed to first and foremost ensure safety within the industry, so it would be important, according to Kerolle, to ensure it was made up of individuals with expertise in the field, rather than bureaucrats.

“To make sure that this flexibility is inherent in a Space Safety Institute, the organization should be composed of individuals within the industry as opposed to government officials who are not familiar with the commercial human spaceflight industry,” he wrote.

“As a result, this should protect the commercial human spaceflight industry to some liability exposure, as well as promote growth in the industry to ensure the industry’s survival.”