The Ethics of the Artificial Lover

Devlin, Kate. 2020. The Ethics of the Artificial Lover. In: S. Matthew Liao, ed. Ethics of Artificial Intelligence. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 271-292. ISBN 9780190905033 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

A popular application of artificial intelligence is the companion robot - a cognitive system with anthropomorphic traits that can be of use to humans. These exist in basic form, and research continues into the goal of a sentient system - one possessing perception, cognition, emotion and action. However, something is missing from current research: sexual behavior is largely ignored despite its central role in biological and social behaviour. Despite a long history of imagined artificial lovers, until now they have been merely a narrative of science-fiction. Existing research into sex and robots centers on a superficial exploration of human attachment: a male-dominated approach of machine-as-sex-machine. Sex robots currently take the form of variations on mechanised sex dolls but manufacturers are increasingly moving towards the use of AI to create a machine that can learn and alter its behaviour. This prompts significant ethical, legal and social questions, both short-term and in the future. This prompts significant ethical, legal and social questions, both short-term and in the future, around privacy, security, law and ownership, and the potential for harm. Already there have been calls to limit production of sex robots, and fears that they will lead to increased sexual violence. Such discussions are necessary in answering the overall debate as to whether or not such technology will ultimately augment or destroy human relationships.

Item Type:

Book Section


computing, artificial intelligence, ethics, philosophy, robotics, sex robots

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6 October 2020Published

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Date Deposited:

19 Mar 2018 12:42

Last Modified:

30 Jul 2021 16:03


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