The Last Mile

Sexbots, and the future thereof are a certain thought-hobby of mine. (That is, a topic about which I enjoy thinking.) It’s not because I fetishize robots, rather I see them as a solution to a lot of social ills such as, how to teach our kids to relate like / to human beings, and what to do for those of us whose fetishes are dangerous to enact, whether for themselves or their partners.

I’ve recently discovered that I disagree with many of my colleagues about what a sexbot looks like (or rather how early sexbots will look). My friends imagine that sexbots will evolve from current android (or gynoids) technology such as EveR perhaps combined with the features of RealDoll. In contrast, I think that sexbots will stem from speech recognition and intelligent personal assistant technology such as Siri

Granted, when we think about sex (and therefore when we think about sexbots) to borrow a term from telecommunications, we like to think about the last mile. The kissy, humpy, cuddly part.

The last mile isn’t where the the need is. We’re really good at faking or improvising the last mile. We have countless tools at our disposal to facilitate physical intimacy, whether we don’t have a partner, whether we’re inhibited by distance, whether our selection of available body parts is unconventional. Despite any special or unusual circumstances, the last mile is one we’re really good at managing.

It’s the miles before the last that we don’t navigate very well. For many of us who find relationships challenging, we resort to doing without. Some of us can find partial solace in following dramatic serials in which a handful of characters interact over time and behave consistently, with recognizable mannerisms and catchphrases.

This consistency is actually an advantage that show characters have over real people, since the human animal will change and grow over time, and as a result friends and partners grow apart. The only failing with characters is that the viewer cannot actually interact with them.

This is where a Siri-style* software agent could come in. A virtual partner. An electronic someone you can engage (for the sake of engaging, rather than as the interface to an index or service). We don’t yet have a digital partner to whom we can just relate.

This is the sexbot that interests me, this is the girlfriend / boyfriend that could teach our adolescents some much-needed lessons about human interaction such as personal limits and consent.

If we design a robot with whom human beings can fall in love, the last mile will assuredly follow.

* Siri (Apple computer) is one of the most well-known personal assistants that feature voice commands, but not the only one. Others on the market include Assistant (Blackberry), Braina, Cortana (Microsoft), Echo (Amazon), Google Now, Hidi (HTC), Jasper (Open Source for Raspberry PI), M (Facebook), S Voice (Samsung), Voice Mate (LG), SILVIA, Sirius (Open Source for Android, iOS) and Watson (IBM’s computer-system-level agent project intended to serve legal or medical solutions). So far, I don’t know any that are meant to serve as a relationship partner.

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