Anticipating Sex Robots: A Critique of the Sociotechnical Vanguard Vision of Sex Robots as ‘Good Companions’

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A number of companies have started to developed humanoid robots that (1) bear some physical resemblance to human beings, (2) have some ability to initiate movements (e.g. blinking; head-turning, gyration, etc.) and (3) possess some AI functionalities enabling quasi-intelligent environment-responsiveness and linguistic expression. The robots I am speaking of are sex robots. A promise frequently voiced by sex-robot developers (and some academics) is that sex robots will be “good companions” who can enrich and transform the romantic lives of human persons, particularly those who – for various reasons – have trouble entering into traditional love relationships with other humans. Curbing this technological enthusiasm, many philosophers have offered more critical anticipations of sex robots (sex-robot-anticipation hereafter) and the idea that they can, will, or should become good companions to human users. While these critical sex-robot-anticipations alert us to some of the potential harms that may follow from a proliferation of sex robots into society, the overarching aim of this chapter is to show that, by and large, these anticipations fall short. Specifically, they continue to frame the anticipation of sex robots around the question of their potential as good companions. In doing so, I argue that many sex-robot-anticipations at best marginalise key ethical questions pertaining to our potential future with sex robots. At their worst, these sex-robot-anticipations are inadvertently contributing to the potential realisation of a technology that they are precisely worried about. In the process of critically engaging with much of today’s philosophical sex-robot-anticipation, I will introduce two criteria I take to be of central importance for good sex-robot-anticipation; what I call ‘reflective anticipation’ and ‘technological groundedness.’
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBeing and Value in Technology
EditorsEnrico Terrone, Vera Tripodi
Number of pages29
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-88793-3
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-88792-6
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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