Would you have sex with a robot?
This was one of the questions posed to 2,000 members of the British public in a study being performed by researchers at the University of Middlesex.
The aim of the study was to gain insight into the common attitudes of humans towards technology.
Participants answered questions regarding a wide range of subjects from military drones to robotic pets, but the concept of robotic sex slaves is admittedly what stood out the most.
Extraordinarily, one in every six respondents admitted they would choose to “have sex with an android” if given the opportunity. For a comparable reference, that's more than double the prevalence of homosexuality in today's society.
If that weirds you out a bit, you're not alone. Nearly 41% of respondents felt that the concept of having sex with a robot is “creepy,” and 14% felt it wasn't appropriate to make robots for this purpose at all.
Naturally, this raises questions about whether or not it's even possible for robotics to fill such a role. Sexual intercourse is one of the most (if not the single most) intimate experiences humans can have. Could technology really have that much influence over our lives?
And if so, what does this say about the role of robotics in future society?
In some sense, we've already reached this point of integration. Last year, telecommunication experts found that 15% of adults were having less sex as a result of extended Internet use.
Like it or not, we're developing a love affair with technology, and it's proving enough to subdue even the most powerful of human instincts.
This love affair extends well beyond our sexual desires, though — it's become part of our everyday lives. Robotics are especially being integrated into the grocery store, the workplace, and even our homes.
And the more we make use of these technologies, the more reliant on them we will become.
Just the other week, I was enjoying the company of friends at a barbecue when a small green robotic lawn mower glided right past my feet. Our host bragged that this was the “Rolls-Royce of robot lawn mowers,” and he wasn't kidding, either.
Dubbed the “Robomow,” this little bot was both efficient and quiet. It even knew how to navigate around us all as we moved about the lawn.
Of course, the price tag wasn't cheap — the Robomow retails at around $2,000. For some, that might seem like a lot to spend, but when you put it into perspective, it's well worth the investment.
My friend was quick to point out that he'll never have to mow his lawn again, nor will he have to pay someone to do it for him.
It's not uncommon for a household to spend upwards of $1,000 dollars a year on bare-bones landscaping, so a robotic mower could pay itself off in as little as two years.
Of course, we'll have to wait for a bush-trimming robot before our yard maintenance is completely automated — but I can assure you that, too, is on its way.
Getting Screwed... By a Robot
The breadth of robotic capability today is far greater than many people know. We've developed machines capable of playing table tennis, solving Rubik's cubes, washing floors, serving food, and even performing emergency rescue.
In a not-too-distant future, automated software and robotics will be used to accomplish nearly any task you can think of. Household chores, driving, and yes, even sex, will be performed by machines.
At this point, our reliance on automation has become nearly irreversible. Recent research coming from Oxford this month predicts that as much as 45% of American jobs will be automated within the next 20 years.
The frightening reality is that politicians can legislate recovery acts all they want, but there's no bill capable of reversing technological processes. Unemployment will rise, and the economy will suffer.
Perhaps the most legitimate concern surrounding increased automation is that wealth will become even more concentrated into the hands of a select group of individuals — specifically those who control the machines.
Economist Noah Smith recently wrote a compelling piece for Quartz magazine, arguing that robots will soon bring about “social upheaval on a scale not seen since the invention of the musket.”
Smith argues that as robots become more and more sophisticated, the average person will begin to fade into insignificance. Eventually, he sees the financial elite using automated drones to exercise complete control over the masses.
Now, I'll hold my tongue as to the likelihood of this dystopian vision ever becoming a reality, but I am willing to say that now, more than ever before, the financial stability of the American working class is at risk.
You can forget being outsourced overseas — you're about to be replaced right here at home. And while it's ultimately not my intention to scare you, it's important you know these events will sneak up on us a lot sooner than you might think.
Turning progress to profits,
Energy and Capital's tech expert, Jason Stutman has worked as an educator in mathematics, technology, and science... Before joining the Energy and Capital team, Jason served on multiple technology development committees, writing and earning grants in educational and behavioral technologies. Jason offers readers keen insights on prominent tech trends while exposing otherwise unnoticed opportunities.