If people weren’t worrying about killer sex robots before, last year’s Westworld firmly put the idea in viewers’ heads. But the actual danger of real-life sex robots isn’t that they might suddenly gain sentience and look to exact vengeance against their human owners.
According to Deakin University cybersecurity researcher Nick Patterson, the true murderous peril is that companies will start making their robots wifi-enabled. While robots, sexual or otherwise, blur the line between machine and person, the danger here is a relatively conventional extension of the danger a spyware-addled computer might pose.
As Patterson explains in an interview with the UK newspaper the Daily Star, the sentient beings to worry about aren’t the robots but rather hackers, who could gain control of a future internet-enabled sex robot and use it to attack people.
“Hackers can hack into a robot or a robotic device and have full control of the connections, arms, legs and other attached tools like in some cases knives or welding devices. Often these robots can be upwards of 200 pounds, and very strong. Once a robot is hacked, the hacker has full control and can issue instructions to the robot. The last thing you want is for a hacker to have control over one of these robots! Once hacked they could absolutely be used to perform physical actions for an advantageous scenario or to cause damage.”
The threat then isn’t one rooted in artificial intelligence, but a more familiar and human form of malice. A hacked sex robot is a similar threat to that of a hacked computer or phone, except its design, size, and strength would mean it could do harm to a person outside of the electronic realm.
In that regard, perhaps the best comparison for the danger Patterson describes is that of a hacked self-driving car, which would also be able to kill those using it. The ever-growing internet of things means everyone opens themselves up to new security risks with each new tool they connect to the web. Cars and sex robots are among the first such machines sufficiently powerful enough to put humans in real physical danger if they are hacked, but it’s unlikely they will be the last.
If you liked this article, check out this video on how to erase memories like in HBO’s Westworld.