Humans and robots falling in love and having intimate relationships may become the norm in the future, an academic from the University of Sunderland's Psychology Department said. Helen Driscoll terms this "sex tech" and stated that it is already advancing in the 21st century.
The expert cited that a life-like robot partner may already be ordered online, while some technologies to improve sexual relationships and performance have already been developed. In a few years, the robotics industry may specifically zero in on the sex industry.
"It could really start to enable mannequin partners to 'come to life'," Driscoll wrote in the Huffington Post UK. The professor also noted that with the advancements, social norms about sex may change, too.
"We tend to think about issues such as virtual reality and robotic sex within the context of current norms. But if we think back to the social norms about sex that existed just 100 years ago, it is obvious that they have changed rapidly and radically," she wrote further. "Robophilia may be alien now, but it could be normal in the near future as attitudes evolve with technology."
Those who live alone or who have lost partners may find fulfilment in having sex with robots as "a virtual partner is surely better than no partner at all." But the professor also warns of the possible problems psychologically, "Some people [may] start to prefer technologically enhanced virtual sex to sex with humans," she said.
Another therapist, however, has a different idea for sex tech.
"Sex surrogacy, is effectively illegal,' said Ian Kerner, in a Hopes and Fears roundtable. "As a therapist, I can't really legally recommend a sex surrogate, but there is a place with surrogacy and I wonder if AI could occupy that place."
"Surrogacy is something that's important for people who are disabled and dealing with sexual issues, people who have chronic sex problems, sometimes people suffer from intense sexual trauma. That's surrogacy in a nutshell," he further clarified his idea. "It's legally confused with prostitution so there's no legal way for a licensed clinician to recommend surrogacy. Sex is in the margins. It's a gray zone. But I could see AI-maybe a limited use but a very important use to occupy that space."