The Future of Sex — with Robots?

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The increase in technology has changed not only the way we view life, but who we are as people. The use of smart phones, computers, smart watches and other hand held devices has already turned us all into partial-hybrid-humans. As cyborgs sporting robotic extensions of our own bodies, high tech non-permanent partial attachments to our limbs, we are obligated to check in, to post, to swipe, to update, and to check out, almost all the time. We barely put down or turn off our tech, even when we sleep.

The technology that has changed us from simple breathing sacks of flesh into high tech digital humans may be the same type of obsessive tech attention that will soon turn our sexuality and our erotic selves toward even more digitized pursuits, including more high tech teledildonics and even robot sex partners.

Mixing Sex & Tech Has Changed the Definition of Cheating

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This new form of interaction between a real person and a computer has created a gray area for monogamy, which used to be quite black and white. The rules were clear: don’t touch, or you’re cheating. What does cheating mean now?

Porn and webcam sex has, for many, become a way to maintain monogamy, allowing for variety and excitement with a non-touch partner; a computerized, digital affair. Pornography is so accessible and virtually realistic now that we can cheat on our partners lying in bed next to them.

What will happen when these current technologies that influence our relationships — with our partners and ourselves — move from a hand held device to a full body robot?

Virtual Reality Makes Porn More Interactive and Tempting

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Virtual Reality Porn is already happening. In August 2014, the adult movie streaming service provider SugarDVD owned by Oddesse announced that they began partnering with Oculus to make adult movies in 3D and with the added benefit of being extra interactive.

The adult entertainment industry began creating new life-size sex toys to go with the 3D porn, called Virtual Dolls. VDolls are sex toys, primarily marketed to men (and promoted at places like SXSW) as interactive, technical, and robotic sex partners.

And now the patents on teledildonics has expired, paving the way for more inventors to create more lifelike sex toys that can connect to pornographic content or to your partner who has a controller. All of these are controlled through your Internet connection.

New Tech Can Give Users a Fuller Sexual Experience

Bryony Cole, the founder of The Future of Sex, found that these human interactions with tech on screen and on the web, as well as interactive content and hardware using teledildonics and streaming sex adult services, can give users the experience of a full sexual encounter.

The experience of online sex is moving to a whole new level and will never be the same. VR and AI models are available to the public and the prices are coming down to a reasonable every day scale.

For instance, Naughty America, a porn site, and Fleshlight, a sex toy company, have combined forces to integrate porn movies with sex toys so that the experience of Virtual Reality porn meshes your visual experience with the physical one. Kiiro, a sex toy manufacturer, is working with video companies to integrate 4D films with a VR headset, for a full 360 degree immersive (and with a toy, interactive) visual experience.

What Does This All Mean for the Future of Sexual Relationships?

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The future of sex and tech will influence a whole generation of couples and how they relate to one another. Instead of fighting the tide of technology, can we embrace the way we integrate these changing applications?

Will VR and robots and AI dolls add to a culture of aloneness, creating more isolation and decreasing connection? Are robots a result of a burdeoning loneliness and isolation or are they a solution? What happens to real intimacy when there is not eye contact, nothing to see into or empathize with but a circuitry board?

Or will the sex tech industry create more connection, with ways to practice real intimacy? Can they provide sex ed for both men and women, gay and straight, trans and unisex, who want to learn how to orgasm, how to self cure from sexual dysfunction, how to act out fantasies, or generally improve their erotic lives?

The fear is that sex tech will lead to such isolation, and reduce our need for real human connection, so much so that we become insulated by our virtual interactions and we begin to live in cocoons, never needing to create real live relationships.

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We influence others, neutralizing and increasing stimulation by what we do, say, and feel. Being in a warm body allows us to interact physically, affecting change in a partner. Neuroscience confirms that the way we think changes our brain and our partner’s brain. Materialist technology will create new neural pathways in our brain and influence our brain function, perhaps changing it permanently as a result. Will relationships with sex tech dehumanize us?

In the late 1800’s when the telephone was first invented and it became a constant companion in the home, people were afraid it took away eye contact. When texting became prevalent in the late 1900s and early 2000s, everyone feared it would take away our voice. Now, in late 2018 and in the future, will sex with robots take away our humanity?

Sex Tech: Good or Bad?

One only has to turn to television and the media to see how our fears have influenced culture. The show, Westworld (a remake, by the way), deals with exactly these fears. Robots, created to act out man’s most corrupted desires to rape and kill, come alive and take revenge, taking over the world.

This is our greatest fear: That robots will one day take over, take over our relationships. That they will replace our lovers, they will replace our families. That they will replace us. We can never measure up to a perfect robot. We cannot help but project human emotions onto lifeless machines. We are afraid of a world where robots look like people but cannot think or feel. They lack the basic moral fiber of humanity.

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We have more questions than answers right now about sex and tech. But it’s important to keep asking the question, to stay open and curious, to evaluate the ethics of what we’re doing and where the field of sex tech is going. It’s important, also, to entertain the possibility that what we fear could ultimately be good for us.

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Would you have sex with a robot? Have you ever used teledildonics? What do you think are the dangers of mixing tech with sex? What benefits could there be? Let me know in the comments below!

Check out thefutureofsex.org for more information on sex and tech. Find out about sex toys at unbound.com. And check out my website for more on Getting the Sex You Want at www.drtammynelson.com.

Originally published at drtammynelson.com on September 11, 2018.

Tammy Nelson PhD is a Certified Sex and Couples Therapist, a TEDx speaker and host of The Trouble with Sex podcast. She is the author of The New Monogamy.

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