With the Chinese using robots to build robots and a recent BBC radio show asking whether robots will soon rival humans as love and sex partners, the unthinkable seems to be a coming reality. The Engineering Director of Google is even predicting that, within 15 years, humans will be robotic hybrids, with electronic chips planted in our brains to make us god-like- comparing the evolution of our brains to a smartphone.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were marveling at the robotics employed by car manufacturers. It was miraculous, but not threatening. They were still machines. Marvelous machines, but machines, nevertheless. And those little boxes that rolled around vacuuming the lounge or cleaning the pool were, just that, little boxes. Most of us didn’t have one of them, or even, particularly, want one- though the swimming pool would be nice for the odd hot summer! Now, however, the humanoid form has come fully into play and a new reality is seeing the light of day. Even in obsolescence, emotions are being stirred. When Sony stopped repairing their robotic dog in 2014, many Japanese ‘owners’ wanted their broken ‘pets’ buried with full grave-side honours. The machine is already usurping its place.
Incredibly, there is even a campaign against the production of sex robots, while feminists are raising concerns about the ‘gender roles’ assigned to some machines- yes, some robots really do have breasts! Dr Kathleen Richardson, of Leicester’s De Montford University, believes that the sexualisation of the robot could see gender stereotypes reinforced and that the robotics industry does not need to employ such methods to progress. However, given the role of porn in the development of the internet, many think that the good doctor’s concerns are likely to fall upon very deaf ears.
Meanwhile, back in Japan, SoftBank, the makers of the country’s best-known robot, Pepper, requires all purchasers of the product (I nearly wrote ‘her’!) to sign an agreement stating: ‘’The policy owner must not perform any sexual act’’ or engage in any indecent behavior on, or with, Pepper. So, the makers of a machine are trying to guarantee that it is not sexually molested by its new human owner. How long before some enterprising young lawyer, uses that very contract to identify the robot as a ‘being’ and sues some poor prat for nutting its bolt?
Apparently, it’s not just in the bedroom that robots are replacing humans; hotel receptionists, retail sellers and, even, customer service executives in banks- though, some might wonder, how they could tell the difference. In whatever form, robots are certainly here to stay and many things are going to change beyond recognition. It is too early for the labor market to feel the effect, but it won’t be long. Who knows, maybe in the robotics revolution, it will be us doing the revolting? However it turns out, for now, we seem to be embracing the new robotic technology and all it entails- within very strict limits, of course.