Will the latest advances in artificial intelligence and robotic technology save humanity’s sex lives? “Sex and relationship expert” Laura Berman sure thinks so, singing the praises of post-human coitus in the Wall Street Journal article, “The Future Of Sex: It Gets Better.”
Berman suggests that sex robots and neuro-stimulation might solve many of the sexual problems plaguing our modern society—such as apparently meeting and interacting with other human beings, physically touching people, and dealing with less-than-physically-perfect potential partners:
You will be able to design your perfect mate, complete with the right voice and the artificial intelligence to whisper those sweet nothings at exactly the right time. Virtual romantic partners like Samantha in the movie “Her” will be a reality. In fact, a new app called Invisible Boyfriend is already out, sending you loving texts like a real boyfriend might.
I have no doubt that we are quickly heading in the direction of “pleasurebots” and ways to directly sexually stimulate the human brain down to specific neurons; in fact, I think the latter option will be much more prevalent. It will be far cheaper to use an electrode or two to “beam” sexy-time to the cerebral cortex than to buy (or even rent) a full-service android. If anything, the neuro-stimulators may make the sex robots seem like just so much obsolete electronic ballast, akin to comparing a digital download to an 8-track.
But I don’t buy the super-optimistic tone of this article, especially from someone who claims to be a sex and relationship therapist. The fact that a woman feels the need to send a text to herself from an imaginary boyfriend—or that a guy would prefer a robot to a human female—seems to be the problem, not the solution.
Don’t get me wrong: I believe there will certainly be people with specific mental and physical issues who will able to benefit from “virtual sex.” However, once things like neuro-stims and sexbot rentals become mainstream, we both know this will more and more become the “default” sexual and even relationship option; basically, porn addiction on steroids.
Berman admits to the possible downside to all this towards the very end of the piece:
The bad news is that we will likely see an uptick in sexual addiction and a decrease in emotional connection with partners. People struggle with the existential depression and loneliness that comes from a lack of rich, authentic connections.
She quickly qualifies this warning, however, by casting those choosing to opt-out of this techno-sexual revolution as being “Luddites” who are, ultimately, against “freedom.”
I think that in terms of having a sexual/emotional relationship with artificial intelligence, it might be possible to achieve some sort of self-actualization and personal growth…if it’s consciously engaged in with those specific therapeutic goals in mind. But to repeatedly turn away from human interaction and instead choose to repeatedly receive an erotic neuro-blast from the “streaming channel” of your choice (perhaps pre-programmed into your Apple TV or Roku) seems to be a zero-sum game, onanism taken to the nth degree.
But is this all a very likely scenario for a good portion of humanity, in 10-25 years? I think we are absolutely heading in that direction. There seems to be more miscommunication and estrangement between the sexes than ever before, with whole online communities devoted to those who have decided to “drop out” from even trying anymore. On top of that, we are already, en masse, getting more and more used to a world that operates via virtual (online) communication rather than in-person contact. In fact, I think if I go into my bank one more time to personally deposit a check with a human teller, they are going to physically throw me out.
Any solution to the current situation—any way to push us as a species out from the apparent trajectory we are on—would have to be pervasive, holistic, and accepted on a large scale. Call me Debbie Downer, but I just don’t think it’s going to be “fixed” in time for the oncoming sexbot/neuro-stimulator future reality.
So plug in and welcome the new flesh.