Analysis

Why the world might need robotic prostitutes

Sex with a machine might not be so bad, say researchers, especially as an alternative to human trafficking and the resulting spread of sexually transmitted infections

A new scientific paper suggests that by 2050, many bordellos and brothels will have replaced human prostitutes with lifelike robots. The research, published in the journal Futures, imagines a mechanized sex industry that the study's authors believe is not only possible, but preferable. Here, a look at the pros and cons of robotic prostitutes:

What are the benefits of robotic prostitutes?Beyond being tireless, "commercial sex robots would be free of disease and would reduce the trafficking of real people," write the study's authors, Michelle Mars and Ian Yeoman at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Human trafficking continues to plague every region of the globe, with conservative estimates putting the victim count at 2.5 million, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Do sex robots already exist?Yes. In 2010, a life-size rubber robot called "US Roxxxy" was unveiled at an adult entertainment expo in Las Vegas. The fem-bot can be programmed with "different personalities such as frigid Farrah and wild Wendy," says John Roach at MSNBC, and retails for $7,000 to $9,000. 

What would future sex robots be like?Mars and Yeoman envision "next-generation robots with human-like skin," offering intimate services like lap-dances and intercourse. The bots would be made with "bacteria resistant fiber that could be flushed for human fluids between uses," keeping them disease-free. 

What would happen to human prostitutes?They'll stick around, Mars tells MSNBC. "It's the oldest profession and won't be thwarted by robot alternatives." But, we hope, with enough "high-quality alternatives where robots are indistinguishable from humans," we'll "cut down the profitability of human exploitation." 

Hold on. Isn't having sex with a robot inescapably creepy?Perhaps. But the study's authors argue that robot sex "won't sound nearly as weird" in 2050 as it does today, and will likely be considered a luxury rather than a taboo. Still, a host of questions looms, says Lauren Davis at io9. Does having sex with a robot count as infidelity? Would it devalue human intimacy? And would laws be passed to ensure that sex robots aren't built to resemble children or racial stereotypes, such as submissive Asian women? 

Sources: Discovery News, Innovation News Daily, io9, Mashable, MSNBC

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