Automatic lovers -- conference explores the sex lives of robots

Female robot

Robots and technology are invading more and more areas of our lives, but there are some places they have yet to... ahem, penetrate.

A conference in Salford, UK this week organized by the TC9 group of the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) is set to explore issues of technology and intimacy.

This is an area which divides experts. David Levy's 2008 book, 'Love and Sex with Robots' suggests that humans will fall in love with and even marry social robots in the not too distant future. However, robotics ethicist, Kathleen Richardson, is campaigning to ban sex robots because she believes they are potentially harmful and will contribute to inequalities in society.

The TC9 group is focused on ICT and society and the conference's program committee chair, Dr David Kreps of Salford University, says, "You have to ask the question -- how genuinely human can any robot ever be? Love takes two people -- it's about human beings. A very large part of the physical and chemical connection between humans relies on eye contact and you’re never going to experience that with a machine, no matter how much AI there is".

Of course, as with other wearables and IoT technologies, it's likely that the collection of information is going to be an issue. "The kind of chatter that used to be shared just with close friends or family is now being harvested online by global corporations and used to target us with advertising -- that's the level of intimacy that technology has established," says Dr Kreps. "Add to that the global availability of online porn and the use of social media and dating sites to make connections and engage in sexual discourse, and it's clear that technology is both enabling and shaping new forms of intimacy and sexual expression. And those are definitely issues worth discussing".

The conference will feature a keynote speech by Professor Charles Ess from the University of Oslo on, 'What’s love got to do with it? Robots, sexuality, and the art of being human'. It's being held at Media City, Salford from the 7th to the 9th of September, more about the conference program is available on the official website.

Image credit: katalinks/Shutterstock

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