As if the prospect of robots that can provide sexual gratification weren’t titillating enough, the marketers of so-called sexbots have contrived a number of dubious social benefits for their technology, a new research brief argues. It’s true that sexbots may some day enable you to bump uglies with replicas of your favorite movie star. But it’s less clear the technology will also be as woke as advertised, inspiring happier marriages and encouraging better sexual health for people with disabilities.
It’s obviously not the first time that advertisers have gotten a little ahead of themselves. But the researchers, based at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London, still argue in favor of rejecting these claims until some brave soul is able to collect and analyze some real data.
“The overwhelmingly predominant market for sexbots will be unrelated to healthcare,” the authors conclude. “Thus the health’ arguments made for their benefits, as with so many advertised products, are rather specious.”
Some of the use cases being offered by the more well-intentioned class of sex bot entrepreneur may be plausible, the authors write. It’s easy to see how the technology is a plausible treatment for problems like impotence or performance anxiety, for example.
But the problem is that the likelihood the technology backfires is similarly high. Sexbots could just as easily help marriages by taking a little bit of the pressure off of our partners, as some proponents have argued, as it could ruin them by making good ol’ fashioned intercourse seem comparably unenjoyable. There’s simply not enough research to predict how us humans will react when presented with the option of robo-sexual encounters.
But the biggest claim that the authors take issue with, however, is the idea that sexbots might provide a form of harm reduction. Picture, if you will, a future where STIs are eliminated by the rise of robo-Red Light districts where bots can, er, self-clean. These predictions, they write, are likely on the fanciful side.
All that said, before you get too disappointed, the authors also note that just because sexbot manufacturers are making some too-good-to-be-true promises does not mean that they’re going to be unsuccessful. The authors predict that reality checks such as these are “hardly likely to dampen market forces” that have helped give rise to what’s already a $30 billion market in the U.S. alone.