Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sex with robots will kill us all.

What's this? An update? How weird.

Someone linked me to this piece which tells us how society is in a crash course with total moral destruction because of pornography and the potential for sex robots. It's... weird.

Now, I'm not saying that sex robots are impossible. In fact, I'm pretty sure they will be invented. But most of the scenario described I find either unrealistic or not that bad. First, the notion that sexbots will replace normal human relationships but remain little slaves. Maybe the author finds a relationship with someone that is incapable of refusing a command or even disagreeing appealing, but I don't. I find that most people share my sentiments on the matter. For a robot to replace a human being as a partner, it needs some measure of possibility of disagreeing with the owner. Call it "free will", as much as the concept of free will can have any meaning. Slaves don't make good friends. At least, not to those of us that find the notion of domestic abuse horrifying.

Then, the concept that men will become so obsessed with gynoids that women will be unable to find partners and they'll all become lesbians or turn to androids. (Incidentally, gynoid is the proper term for a robot that looks like a woman. Android is exclusively male.) I simply cannot believe that the majority of people will genuinely prefer a vague imitation to the real thing, when it is readily available. Sure, blow up dolls and such are used, but not when there's an abundance of willing women around. At least, not by a significant number of people. If women are desperate for human male partners, then I can assure you male partners will appear. It might require a shift in social dynamics, but it will happen.

Right in the next sentence, the author suggests that the church's opposition will be inconsistent because there isn't a specific commandment against sexbots. If by "inconsistent" he means "the wide majority will be against them, with a few exceptions", then I agree. However, by any reasonable understanding of the term, he's dead wrong. The church widely opposes anything remotely sexual that doesn't result in children, and seldom gives a fuck what Scripture says about it, or any other subject. Or, to be more precise, bends and reinterprets Scripture to pretends it forbids what they want it to. Examples: The Bible does not forbid masturbation, but the story of Onan, who spilled his seed on the ground, is often used to pretend it does, while Onan's sin was actually disobeying God's command. Hell, onanism is used as a synonym for masturbation. More? The Bible doesn't say a word on female homosexuality (and very little on the male variety), but that doesn't stop fundies for pretending it does. You could argue it's wrong because it's sex outside marriage, but the Bible doesn't say a word about letting women marry, either. Abortion? A verse that says that God knew some prophets since they were in the womb. That's it. When you take into account the detailed rules God lays out for, say incest (a very thorough list of people you can't have sex with), it's quite weird that stuff that's only mentioned in passing if you squint your eyes and look at it from an angle is so important. OK, obligatory attack at Bible-based morality over.

Then there's the prediction that men will not only refuse to have sex but also refuse to donate sperm. For some mysterious reason that's never explained. I mean, why? What kind of sense does that make? It's like he needed to make sure his scenario was catastrophic enough so he thought, "I know! Birth rates will drop enormously! Wait, but what about sperm donation? Eh, I'll just say it stopped happening, nobody will ask for an explanation." The author also ignores adoption, by the way. People who can't afford a sexbot will still have ye olde reproductive sex. And there are decent numbers of them, unless he thinks we will have solved poverty in a couple of decades. Which is a nice thought, but terribly unlikely.

And then there's an attempt to give robots rights, but it fails. Again, because of a mysterious reason. Apparently the lawyer was very good or something. And sexbots count as free speech. Because obviously, if porn has been protected by free speech before, then everything related to sex will. Somehow. After this, people start building paedobots. Though frankly I'm not sure if I'm in favour of sexbots targeted at paedophiles, it's better than them having sex with actual children, y'know? Not like anyone chooses to be a paedophile. So yeah, I'm not sure it's such a bad thing.

Apparently, that scenario should bother me whether I'm a Christian or an atheist. Which I gather are the only two kinds of people in the world. I'll be sure to inform the Muslims, neopagans, Hindus, Jews, Scientologists... Anyway. Not, it doesn't bother my agnostic atheist (occasionally pantheist) self. And his claim that there are no legal barriers is a) False because the legislation in the US does not determine the legislation in the rest of the world, which is kinda necessary for the total moral degradation scenario he shows b) False (again) because there's no reason to consider a machine free speech (or porn, for that matter. It's much closer to a sex toy) and c) Irrelevant, because the argument against it relies not on the law but on human nature. The law can be changed much easily, you see.

Then there's a lot of blah about how porn is silently destroying society. Sex with robots has fuck-all to do with porn besides both being related to sex, so basically this whole thing was just an excuse to use the title "Why Sex With Robots is Always Wrong". Which is an amazing title, but is wasted on this anti-porn piece of crap.

3 of the 4 studies he cites are by the same people (Zillman, D. & Bryant, J.), were done in the 80's, and one was published in the Journal of Family Issues. So that doesn't inspire a lot of trust. But, I bothered to see what I could find on them. (The one study that wasn't by them was a poll about the attitudes of psychiatric nurses regarding porn)

One showed that exposure to porn "prompted, among other things, greater acceptance of pre- and extramarital sex and greater tolerance of nonexclusive sexual access to intimate partners. It enhanced the belief that male and female promiscuity are natural and that the repression of sexual inclinations poses a health risk. Exposure lowered the evaluation of marriage, making this institution appear less significant and less viable in the future. Exposure also reduced the desire to have children and promoted the acceptance of male dominance and female servitude." None of which, minus the one about male dominance, I found intrinsically wrong. It did not measure long term effects, only effect after a week. Also, I could only read the abstract, not the full text, so I can't examine their methods. The other two I could not find either abstract or text online.

And, in case you think I'm just trying to defend my porn consumption: First, it's not that much, anyway. Second, I have the power of google to show that he's full of shit:

  • Abstract. No negative side-effects of non-violent porn, which contradicts the article I mentioned above.
  • Abstract. Increased availability of porn does not make rape more common compared to other crimes. Directly contradicts one of the author's claims.
  • Abstract. Studies that find adverse effects of pornography tend to be inconsistent. Cites significant literature contradicting them.
You get the idea. The studies on the negative effects of porn yield mixed results. There's nothing conclusive, and it's intellectually dishonest to pretend there is. And sexbots have shit to do with this.

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