23 April 2021
The problem with pleasurebots
“Necessity may be the mother of invention, but play is certainly the father.”
Thus quipped American businessman Roger von Oech all the way back in 1948.
Such prescience is to be wondered at, especially as von Oech would have had little inkling of where the marvels of silicon and its namesake Californian valley would lead us to.
Take, for example, the development of the sex robot.
Putting to one side the “ick” factor surrounding the congress of humans with these non-sentient beings, who could have foreseen the ethical dilemmas such technological progress would engender?
Not for the first time, artificial intelligence ethicists are warning of the exploitative dangers these technologies may pose.
How so? Well, as the AI companions become ever more lifelike, actual humans may develop increasingly strong emotional connections that unscrupulous business folks may use to their commercial advantage.
“I worry that companies may try to take advantage of people who are using this very emotionally persuasive technology,” MIT Media Lab researcher Kate Darling told The Guardian newspaper.
“For example, a sex robot exploiting you in the heat of the moment with a compelling in-app purchase. Similar to how we’ve banned subliminal advertising in some places, we may want to consider the emotional manipulation that will be possible with social robots.”
So we guess that’s the conjugal robot’s equivalent of “would you like fries with that?”
Darling’s biggest beef, however, is that the companies developing these technologies are shying away from taking responsibility for any wrongdoing that may result from misuse or exploitation of their AI-enabled devices.
“My concern is that companies are being let off the hook,” Darling said. “In the case of the cyclist killed by a self-driving Uber car in 2018, the back-up driver was held responsible instead of the manufacturer.”
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