I could fuck a robot
For a long time, if you’d ask me if I’d be willing to sex with a robot, I would have said no.
To even consider the possibility, we’d have to be talking about a robot that looked and moved and sounded pretty much indistinguishable from a human. And, in my case, a woman. There’s a lot of questions about what would constitute “indistinguishable”, but the spirit of the question is that there’s nothing in the experience of having sex with it that is disappointing as compared to an experience with a human. What determines whether or not you’re into it is simply knowing that this is not a real person, but something created by other humans for a purpose.
In the past I said no, because, for me, sex isn’t just a physical experience that results as a sum of the total physical interactions you have. I also attach meanings to it, one of them being that sex is a form of validation, knowing that this other human, capable of making other choices, chose me. The idea of sex with a human who didn’t choose to be with me is utterly repellent because of as much as their choice validates me, their lack of choice would exacerbate my insecurities.
Anyway, with machines, knowing that there’s nothing there making a choice or not makes the act of sex with a robot no different than any other sexual aid, and without the presence of any sentience in the room other than mine, then it’s just masturbation. And masturbation is fine, I guess, in any ethical or psychological context, but I think that for me, having this construct there that looked exactly like the woman I’d be imagining otherwise would only highlight the fact that she wasn’t really there. The whole thing would feel like a ritualized pity session. No thanks.
That perception of sex with robots is only applicable to my personal subjective take on it though. I wouldn’t judge anyone else for it.
My own limited survey of my friends on whether or not they would have sex with a robot was overwhelmingly on the “yes” side. Which kind of surprised me, only because the issue was probably more controversial in my mind alone. Everyone had their own reasons and attitudes towards sex, but mostly it seemed that the ones up for it just didn’t see any ethical issues to hold them back. So long as it wasn’t hurting anyone, then why not? Give it a shot, at least, see what it’s like.
I have one friend for whom sex is just a purely physical act. He thinks of it is nothing more significant than a massage. In some ways, I think his attitude to sex is more healthy than mine, because it doesn’t give anyone else any power over your sense of self. My desire for the other person to be emotionally invested as I am creates a lot of risk in that their rejection is equally as impactful as their participation. My friend can take a “no” without being any more hurt than being turned down for a game of racquetball.
On the other hand, every psychology comes with it’s checks and balances. As much as my friend deals with rejection better than I do, he has a hard time convincing his wife that the times he pays for a happy ending really doesn’t have anything to do with his commitment to their marriage. We’re all dealing with some issue we’ve evoked into this universe by being ourselves.
I used to concede that I’d have sex with a robot if it had the right to vote. My reasoning was that I want to know that the robot had a consciousness that was sufficient for me to believe it was participating willingly and not merely receiving me. I figured that suffrage was a good measure, as it means society at large had come to a consensus that the artificial intelligence involved was it’s own entity.
But I’ve changed on the matter. I think I might have sex with a robot, and what changed my mind was podcasts. Not a specific podcast where any one person came up with a compelling argument about anything. Just podcasts in general.
I don’t think I’m alone in this, but I find it easy to go to sleep to the sound of people talking. I have a very specific memory from when I was young enough that all my memories of the time are an indistinct and unordered montage of events. My parents were at a party at some apartment of a friend of theirs. I needed to be put to sleep early, and they put me in their friends bedroom, on a bed that seemed huge and expansive. The room was dark except for light coming in from under the door. Also passing through the door was the indistinct chatter of a bunch of adults having a good time, talking, drinking, laughing.
The sense memory of that experience stays with me because it was one of the most comforting feelings I’ve ever had. Maybe there’s some evolutionary aspect, a sense of security in feeling like your part of a pack. Maybe it’s just the good vibes of people in a good mood. Maybe it’s something else, who knows, who cares. Whatever it is, it works for me.
I discovered a few years ago I can get a similar feeling by playing certain podcasts at a volume just low enough that I can’t really make out the things they’re talking about. Podcasts with groups of people talking and laughing generally work better than individuals talking, but, it seems to more about an overall tone and vibe than any objective qualities.
In a way, I’m simulating having people around me. Would I be happier having actual people around me? If the circumstance fell into place that I was at a party and wandered into some room away from everyone else and fell asleep, that might be nice. But it seems to ask a lot to somehow set up the conditions of having a bunch of people come and hang out in another room just to help me get to sleep.
I mean, you could imagine that somehow maybe I just had a large family or a bunch of roommates, or lived on some commune or something, and so the experience of falling asleep to the chatter of others simply ensued as a result of my lifestyle. Wouldn’t that indicate I as living the life that I really wanted to live, as it was providing a context that seems to appeal to me?
Meh, I kind of doubt it for the same reasons that living with a girlfriend is not automagically a better situation than dating them. As much as you miss someone when they’re not there, sometimes you get tired of them when they are. It’s selfish to only think of other people in terms of what you get out of them, but it’s also naive to hope that if you could set everything up just right then your relationships would be frictionless. Real long term relationships are worthwhile for a lot of reasons, but they’re a whole different thing from trying to figure out your own needs.
The practicalities of simulating groups of people reveal something about the psychology involved. I don’t really want actual people because I can’t make actual people stop and start when I need them to. One out of twenty times, I’ll put on a podcast to help me get to sleep, but it won’t work, I’ll actually find it annoying, and I can just turn it off, no problem. Shooing away a crowd of people who apparently just exist for me to kind of but not listen to comes with all sorts of hard to manage details.
The simulated experience of the podcast is better, not only for me, but also for the hypothetical people who are people with lives who shouldn’t be existing in my world just to be functional. Using a podcast for this purpose has no ethical or sociological implications whatsoever.
No part of my ego is involved in whether or not a bunch of people accept me enough to stand around and chatter. Couldn’t care less. And at the same time, it works, which means that on some fundamental level I’m willing to accept their simulated presence as real enough.
So if I can accept that aspects of my human self will have their needs met by not only separating humans from human-esque interaction, but also dividing up components of human interaction into discrete components for their own specific ends… well, that just opens up a whole bunch of questions. One of them being, if I look at sex with a robot as simply being another simulation of convenience to meet needs that are hard to balance in a world too complicated to always provide them… then… maybe?
The more important question is thinking about what it means to be human. I like to think of myself as being this entity that acts out of a volition created by a sentience that stands apart from the universe. But if my consciousness can be hacked by decoys that parts of me don’t care to distinguish from the real thing, then how much of myself is simply response guided by stimulus?
And how happy could I be if I stopped fighting that? Instead of wondering what it meant to fuck a robot, to just fuck a robot?