Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

Romancing the Bot, Part 3


A 2009 survey asked, if you had a personal robot that could do only one thing, what would it be? Sex came in second, narrowly losing to housecleaning. Add cooking, errands, and a few miscellaneous chores, and you’ve got the complete caregiver.

A caregiver robot is the title character in Robot & Frank (2012). Vaguely humanoid, it is realistic and believable. The human/ non-human relationship works, and stays, at that level. Not a faux human, the robot is always addressed as “Robot.”

What about sex? you ask. I suggest you look up the Stephen Sondheim song, “Everybody Ought To Have A Maid.” What could be more caring to give than sex? And yet the robotics industry is split, building devices for either sex or caregiving.

Robotic housekeeping may be boring, but more uses (for young and old) are in the pipeline. TV and film sex robots are just teasers. Real bots are coming faster than the Internet can count.

Instead, let’s look at history. Prostitution has always been about virtual sex. It reduces a normal human sexual relationship to two things: sex and money. (Sometimes three, if you count the law.)

So why not virtual sex with virtual, i.e., robotic, prostitutes? Ironic that the world’s oldest profession is now at the forefront of the world’s newest industry? Here’s a glimpse of that future.

Speaking of robotic futures, caregivers like Robot from Robot & Frank are essentially here. Sex robots aside, there is a massive push to replace all minimum wage jobs with robots.

In addition, the robotic car has been legal in Nevada since 2012. The way is clear for commercial robotic vehicles: trucks, buses, limos, and taxis. If Amazon can deliver by drones (or ADPVs suggested here on 16 Dec 2013), what about the Post Office?

If the person behind the wheel is replaced by robotic technology, what’s next? If that’s a robot barista behind the Starbuck’s counter, can RoboCop be far behind? Whose job is next?

These robotic devices take jobs from people. Factory jobs came first, but service jobs are now squarely in the sights of the robot makers. I don’t know what’s next, but I do know people without jobs won’t be buying any sex robots. Or much else.

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