What if your deepest sexual desires were leaked online? It may sound similar to the Ashley Madison hacks, or some of the scarier repercussions of the UK’s spying bill, but the emergence of sex robots could lead to something far worse. These machines will learn, remember and adapt to the user’s innermost desires, a treasure trove of sensitive information ripe for hacking.
“Right now my big concern is about data,” Dr Kate Devlin, a computer science professor at Goldsmiths, University of London, said at the Love and Sex With Robots conference this week. “Do we want people to know when we have sex and how we have sex?”
Although sex robots are currently available, they pale in comparison to the A.I.-enabled machines that may arrive later. One futurologist predicts that advanced sex robots will become commonplace by the year 2050. Robotics expert David Levy predicts bots that adapt to their owner’s tastes will go on sale as soon as next year for $15,000.
Abyss Creations, which makes the RealDoll, plans to start selling warm synthetic genitalia for robots next year, part of a multi-year plan to achieve intelligent sex robot designs. The company wants to use an app to learn about a user’s desires and control the machine. But like other robots, the data the RealDolls collect through their upcoming app could potentially lead to hacks.
It’s a chilling scenario, and a risk that could grow as brothels choose to buy robots to supplement sex workers. Eleanor Hancock has conducted research into sex workers operating in the north-west of England, and believes that robots will operate alongside employees as the machines learn from their human counterparts. “Why would a sex worker not jump on this technology?,” she said.
Beyond the data risks, sex robots are a controversial area of discussion. Anti-robot campaigners argue that these machines could blur the lines between fantasy and reality, while proponents believe they represent a chance to explore human sexuality to new levels and grant people new experiences. Whether they will impact society positively or not, hopefully they come with adequate firewall protection.