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This week we chat with the philosopher and sociologist John Danaher about the book Robot Sex: Social & Ethical Implications, a fascinating collection of academic articles on our sexbot future he just co-edited with Neil McArthur. (John also runs the blog Philosophical Disquisitions, which has been an awesome resource for deep thinking online for over a decade.)
Chances are good you’ve seen the “Don’t Date Robots!” public service announcement from the cartoon Futurama, and probably Björk’s “All Is Full of Love” music video. Maybe you’ve seen Her or Ex Machina or Spielberg’s AI. And let’s not forget the Femmebots in Austin Powers. But does any of this media, for or against, paint a realistic portrait of the impact of machines on human intimacy?
In this episode, John and I talk about:
• “The cognitive niche” and what separates human beings from other species and (maybe) AI
• How would a world of sexbots change dating and marriage?
• The de-coupling of sex for intimacy and companionship and sex for reproduction
• …and how sexbots might actually bring us BACK to a more naïve or primitive state in which we don’t regard sex and fertility as primarily associated
• What happens if we can hack the brain to make anything an erogenous zone?
• The radiating diversity of sexual strategies as we move into crazier transhuman terrain…
• The breakdown of heteronormative society and the emergence of LGBTQ sexbots
• Will sexbots make human sexwork more or less desirable?
• Can sexbots help sexual deviants channel their socially unacceptable urges into more acceptable behaviors?
• What about LOVING robots? Can we ever be convinced the love is mutual?
• Is the question of robot free will moot because we don’t even have free will??
• Is our dismissal of robot consciousness just like the earlier forms of dismissal of personhood in racism and sexism and speciesism?
• Is robot sex a red herring?
• Loving AI would not be compatible or sensible with the goals of transhumanists, who want perfect control over their environment…
• And more!
“As soon as we’ve been making things, we’ve been making things for sexual reasons. You can pretty much trace this throughout history: we get the first mechanical vibrators at pretty much the same time as the Industrial Revolution…the technology of sex has always gone hand in hand with other developments in technology.”
“All the doubts and skepticism you could have about a relationship with a sufficiently sophisticated robot…you could have all the same metaphysical doubts and worries about a human partner.”
STAY TUNED for next week's episode with media theorist Douglas Rushkoff and Michael Phillip of Third Eye Drops Podcast!