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Monday, September 7, 2020

From sex robots to love robots: is mutual love with a robot possible?

S.R. Nyholm and L.E. Frank
Philosophy & Ethics

Some critics of sex-robots worry that their use might spread objectifying attitudes about sex, and common sense places a higher value on sex within love-relationships than on casual sex. If there could be mutual love between humans and sex-robots, this could help to ease the worries about objectifying attitudes. And mutual love between humans and sex-robots, if possible, could also help to make this sex more valuable. But is mutual love between humans and robots possible, or even conceivable? We discuss three clusters of ideas and associations commonly discussed within the philosophy of love, and relate these to the topic of whether mutual love could be achieved between humans and sex-robots: (i) the idea of love as a “good match”; (ii) the idea of valuing each other in our distinctive particularity; and (iii) the idea of a steadfast commitment. We consider relations among these ideas and the sort of agency and free will that we attribute to human romantic partners. Our conclusion is that mutual love between humans and advanced sex-robots is not an altogether impossible proposition. However, it is unlikely that we will be able to create robots sophisticated enough to be able to participate in love-relationships anytime soon.

From the Conclusion:

As with the development of any new technology that has the potential to be socially disruptive, we urge caution and careful ethical examination prior to and continuing through the research-and-development process. The consequences and techno-moral change that will potentially accompany the advancement of robots that can love and be loved is very difficult to predict. But a “no” answer to the question of whether we should invest in the creation of love robots should not be based on mere conservatism with respect to love relationships, unjustified preference for the natural over the artificial,  or an unsupported fear of the potential risks. Any such answer, in our view, should rather be based on an “opportunity cost” argument: that is, if it can be shown that the time, energy, and resources could be better spent on other, more easily attain-able endeavors, then those other projects should perhaps be favored over something as relatively far-fetched as sex robots advanced enough to participate in relationships of mutual love along the lines described in the previous sections.

A pdf can be downloaded here.