A pair of researchers are forecasting that as early as 2050 robotic prostitution will be commonplace, and that it will be a good thing. Human trafficking, incurable sexual diseases and mental health could all be improved, but there's still one question none of us can really answer: what would be the emotional impact of sex with machines?
Ian Yeoman and Michelle Mars of New Zealand's University of Wellington are putting forth a paper titled "Robots, men and sex tourism," which focuses mostly on how robo-prostitution would transform an area such as Amsterdam's de Wallen, the city's famous and even respected red light district. Despite that respect, de Wallen has been the focus of social scrutiny and reform over the past few years as it's increasingly seen as a haven for organized human trafficking. It's a big issue — too big to explore here in detail — and has forced the closure of some of the area's best known sex clubs. (If you're curious, this is a good place to start.)
That, and de Wallen is the sunny side of the sex trade. Elsewhere there's coercion, abductions and, worst of all, the rampant child prostitution in places such as Thailand. Even in the U.S., social decorum forces the sex trade to operate underground, and it's often mixed up with drugs and crime when it doesn't have to be.
According to Mars and Yeoman, there's a better way: "Robot sex is safer sex, free from the constraints, precautions and uncertainties of the real deal," the pair writes, adding that it'd be "guilt-free."
Would human-machine sex be guilt free? Would you have sex with a robot? If one could get over the stigma that would inevitably arise, androids lovers are "the gateway to the kind of mind blowing sex few people currently experience, [and] it is likely that our attitudes to robot sex will change." In other words, if you're looking for an outlet, you may as well proposition a 'bot.
With robots on the scene, you'd see a decline in dubious behavior across the board, the study posits. Android lovers could offer a sterile experience that wouldn't prolifierate sexual diseases such as HIV, and "high-quality alternatives where the robots are indistinguishable from humans will cut down the profitability of human exploitation," Mars said, speaking with MSNBC. In other words, if we can build robots so real there's no appreciable difference, android intercourse (among other things) may become the preference.
That makes you wonder, though: what about the robots? Would we look down on people who partook? Would we feel guilty, even, feeling a moral obligation to the 'bots?
We'll end with a blurb from Mars and Yeoman, detailing what they see as the future of the sex trade:
The Yub-Yum is Amsterdam's top sex club for business travelers located beside a 17th century canal house on the Singel. It is modern and gleaming with about 100 scantily clad blondes and brunettes parading around in exotic G-strings and lingerie. Entry costs $10,000 for an all inclusive service. The club offers a full range of sexual services from massages, lap dancing and intercourse in plush surroundings. The Yub-Yum is a unique bordello licensed by the city council, staffed not by humans but by androids. This situation came about due to an increase in human trafficking in the sex industry in the 2040s which was becoming unsustainable, combined with an increase in incurable STI's in the city especially HIV which over the last decade has mutated and is resistant to many vaccines and preventive medicines. Amsterdam's tourist industry is built on an image of sex and drugs. The council was worried that if the red light district were to close, it would have a detrimental effect on the city's brand and tourism industry, as it seemed unimaginable for the city not to have a sex industry. Sex tourism is a key driver for stag parties and the convention industry.
The Yub-Yum offers a range of sexual gods and goddesses of different ethnicities, body shapes, ages, languages and sexual features. The club is often rated highly by punters on www.punternet.com and for the fifth year in a row, in 2049 was voted the world's best massage parlor by the UN World Tourism Organization. The club has won numerous technology and innovation awards including the prestigious ISO iRobotSEX award. The most popular model is Irina, a tall, blonde, Russian exotic species who is popular with Middle Eastern businessmen. The tourists who use the services of Yub-Yum are guaranteed a wonderful and thrilling experience, as all the androids are programmed to perform every service and satisfy every desire.
All androids are made of bacteria resistant fiber and are flushed for human fluids, therefore guaranteeing no Sexual Transmitted Disease's are transferred between consumers. The impact of Yub-Yum club and similar establishments in Amsterdam has transformed the sex industry alleviating all health and human trafficking problems. The only social issues surrounding the club is the resistance from human sex workers who say they can't compete on price and quality, therefore forcing many of them to close their shop windows. All in all, the regeneration of Amsterdam's sex industry has been about the success of the new breed of sex worker. Even clients feel guilt free as they actually haven't had sex with a real person and therefore don't have to lie to their partner.
The full text of "Robots, men and sex tourism" was published in the current issue of Futures and can be purchased online here. The fictional Yub-Yum, if you're curious, is inspired by the real Yab Yum, a brothel which the city of Amsterdam forced to close a few years ago.