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The Ultimate Impact of Sex Robots

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By Peter Clarke, JD on August 23, 2016 6:58 AM

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.

Technology continues to advance to help humans in so many countless ways. And now we are getting to the point that we are not simply dealing with cold machines, but we are dealing with features and contraptions that are becoming quite human.

For example, we can talk to Siri on our Apple devices, and a human voice, programed to our liking by gender and accent, will talk back to us. And when we call all sorts of businesses, we are guided through various prompts by a human voice that is powered by voice activation software. Who knows, is it possible that some people can become smitten by these voices, like the protagonist in the movie "Her"?

Of course, we are not just dealing with voices coming in from out in the ether. Robot technology is developing at an exponential rate. And these robots do not have to be confined to unappealing, metallic creatures. Instead, they can be rather life-like. Indeed, will some of us start falling in love with robots that resemble human beings and that respond perfectly to commands without any hesitation? The protagonist in the move "Ex Machina" fell in love with an attractive, female robot; but unfortunately for him, she refined herself so that she ended up furthering her own self-interests to his detriment.

Getting away from the movies, people already in real life can order customized, full-sized sex dolls with complete simulated anatomy. There are arguments on both sides as to whether this is appropriate. Advocates in favor of the dolls say that these dolls ease the loneliness of single people in a way in which they do not take their urges out into the public in a way that in certain circumstances might be less than savory. Detractors argue that these dolls, that have no free will of their own, potentially encourage their users to objectify real people and to believe that they can do whatever they want with real people after their use of dolls.

So, what are we to do? Well, researchers and experts in technology and sexuality are going to discuss related issues at a conference scheduled to take place in Manchester, England in early September. The conference will focus on the most up-to-date theories and research on how humans engage with robots, artificial intelligence and other technology in exploring their sexuality, according to Observer.com. Topics to be included are: whether there can be true love and intimacy between a human and a robot; and, if sex robots encourage the objectification and oppression of women sexually.

It is unlikely that the conference will be the final word in addressing and trying to solve these issues. Indeed, it really marks the beginning of the conversation.

Eric Sinrod (@EricSinrod on Twitter) is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please email him at ejsinrod@duanemorris.com with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.

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