Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Six Billion Dollar Sex Worker and The Bionic Prostitute?

Danny is a man that is trying to work his through the ups, downs, and all arounds of what being a man is all about. Along the way talks about video games, Japanese anime, computers and lots of other things that make up the whole man that he is trying to discover. He can found at Danny's Corner, Ethecofem, and Tumblr at Danny's Phototherapy 

I came across a FOX News article on a research paper on what the sex industry would be like in 2050 (there is a link to the paper there but its behind a pay wall). This sounds like an interesting idea. Something that will do a lot of good for a lot of people. But how much good will it do, how much harm will it do, and how many issues around prostitution could get pushed to the back burner (which I guess would be a harm in the long run)?

The science fiction blog io9 covered the paper as well. Entitled, "Robots, men and sex tourism" Ian Yeoman and Michelle Mars of the University of Wellington's Victoria Management School propose robotic prostitution as a way to combat issues that currently plague the sex industry such as STDs/STIs, human trafficking, sexual abuse, and adultery.

The subject of the paper is the fictional club Yub-Yum, where people have sex with prostitutes who are not people but are androids (and from here on out I'll be using android instead of robot, as an android is a specific type of robot that is designed to resemble a human). Clients are able to choose from a wide variety of prostitutes built in the likenesses of any gender, ethnicity, age or body type imaginable and programmed to perform any act the client desires.

I'm of the mind that the idea of android prostitution would have some good sides.

For one there is risk of infection. With there being no human to human contact in human/android sex (the androids would be made from bacteria resistant materials and cleaned between clients to prevent transfer of disease and infection) the chances of infection would be extremely low.

The idea of android prostitutes could be a great idea for people who for whatever reason are just not very good with people. I suspect the shyness and fear that some people have around other people would not come into play here. This may give them a chance to still experience sex without that fear and shyness creeping up on them.

At the same time though I do wonder about possible negative side effects of prostitution.

As I said above about people who are overcome with shyness and fear of being around other it would be good for them since they would not have to worry about said shyness and fear coming. However there is a chance that instead of facing those problems they may use android prostitution as a shield to protect them from ever having to confront the problem.

If that happens they would not only not overcome their problem but it would actually get worse. Perhaps the human likeness of the androids could used in a therapeutic manner (like getting comfortable with androids as a stepping stone to getting comfortable with humans)?

While I think a lot of people would warm up to the idea of having sex with a prostitute I don't think everyone would. I get the feeling that there will be some holdouts who will still prefer to have sex with flesh and blood people. Now most of those people will keep on having sex with consensual partners.

Unfortunately there are sick freaks out there that actually get off on violating other people against their will. These people would keep the market of human trafficking alive but to make it worse they would probably represent only a tiny portion of prostitution sexual slavery clients meaning that such a market would likely be deep underground. The farther underground the harder to catch. This could leave some innocent people in a lot of real danger.

Then you have some possibilities that may not be obviously positive or negative.

Would choosing an android prostitute by the person its built to resemble be fetishism? White American blonde with big tits. African Man with a huge dick. Tiny submissive Asian woman. Tanned Latino man with flowing black hair.

For a person that has never been very successful in the realm of sex with other people (not to be confused with those who are shy and fearful of others like I mentioned above) would this be an issue? Would they see this as a way to get past having to put up with constantly striking out with human? Could these designs further entrench sexual stereotypes?

Would a married person that hired an android prostitute be committing adultery? Is the "but they aren't human" argument hold true?

What about people who have sex with androids and humans? Would issues arise from the fact that they are used to having their way with androids and thus get a warped sense of what they can do with another person? Is there going to be a problem of a person that hires androids for sex eventually "losing touch" with human sex partners? Even if you take out the possible adultery angle this could still cause problems in a relationship. (This is an issue with porn already in fact.)

Could a person that has sex with androids do it frequently enough that they would come to hold future human partners to expectations that they simply cannot fulfill? (For example a person having sex with an android in a position that is would be painful for a human partner or an android being able to have constant for periods of time that most humans would not be able to match.)

Finally you have the androids themselves. They are built in the likeness of humans and are being used to perform an human act (sex). Is that blurring the line between human and android to the point that said androids should perhaps be treated like a human would? If that's the case then would it feasible to say that instead of getting rid human trafficking we would only be replacing it with android trafficking? At this point we may be touching on ethical and moral issues that were once limited to the realm of fictions like Blade Runner, I Robot, and Ghost in the Shell.

That's not even considering artificial intelligence. Chances are such androids would have some sort of programming in order to do the things that their clients want but what if they were capable of learning? What if over time they came to recognize a client they have had before and knew what they were into? What if they were to start recommending things to clients? What if they knew their client is about to have sex for the first time and were capable of being gentle with them and not going too fast, like a human could? Would these things ignite a new fight for sex workers rights?

The introduction of android prostitutes is a big deal, or at least I think it is. If the things told in that research paper do come to pass and android prostitutes are a real thing in 2050 that means we've got a lot to figure out and work on in the next 38 years.

What are your thoughts on the idea of android prostitution?

Here's some other links I came across while looking for info on this:

Seminar on Law and Robots (Artificial Intelligence) at the University of Miami (Originally in Spanish so you may need to translate it.)