Futurologist Ray Kurzweil and others talk about a future scenario where humans can download their consciousness into machines. This is not some future scenario but already happens. Humans have always ‘downloaded’ their consciousness into artefacts. Electrical machines are another addition to this activity. This is what humanmade artefacts are – the products of consciousness expressed through modes of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Take violence in video games. Violence in video games exists because we live in a violent society. The violence is downloaded into the video game. But once there it starts to reflect back to us that violence, and the technology adds a new layer of elaboration and distortion to the violence.
What is downloaded into sex robots are relations found in prostitution and all the arguments found to support sex robots are also echoed by pro sex trade advocates.
At the core of the sex trade is a dangerous idea that the sellers of sex don’t have subjectivity. Their subjectivity (thoughts, feelings, preferences, desires and sensory body) are diminished in agency. Only the buyers of sex are attributed agency in the exchange. This is a dangerous state of affairs to endorse as ALL humans have subjectivity. It’s no surprise then that symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (anxiety, repetitive stressing imagery, insomnia) is more common among women in prostitution than battlefield soldiers. This is because subjectivity cannot be “turned off”. It’s non negotiable part of what it means to be human. The structure of the sex trade/sex robots encourages empathy to be “turned off”.
The Campaign Against Sex Robots has not called for a ban on sex robots (as many media outlets reported – please read our information about our aims and goals), but we do want to join campaigns to abolish prostitution. We feel that a campaign to abolish worldwide prostitution is as important as campaigns to abolish slavery were in the 1800s.
Abolish the core idea of the asymmetrical relationship in prostitution, and the desire to build sex robots will radically transform, or fall away.
Categories: Ethics of Robotics
The Campaign Against Sex Robots is a non-profit campaign that aims to challenge the reproduction of inequalities in new technologies.