Turned On Kate Devlin

Don’t forget to pack your sex robot

Even sex robots have holidays, author Kate Devlin told Buxton International Festival in her British Academy Perspectives talk.

And people who buy the machines aren’t the loners of popular imagination but members of groups who take their mechanical companions away with them on trips.

Kate, whose book Turned On: Science, Sex and Robots explores the growing impact of companion robots and the way computer technology is affecting how we interact with our fellow humans and the internet, interviewed sex robot enthusiasts—and came away pleasantly surprised.

“It completely smashed my misconceptions. Far from being isolated individuals, this is a community,” said Kate.“They are all friends online, and sometimes all go on holiday together.”

Describing herself as a techno-optimist, she said sex robots were an example of how technology can help human relationships, through companion robots for the elderly and lonely or by providing everyone with someone to talk to in the same way as they relate to pets.

“Technology can help us to find our tribe,” she said.

Fears that human beings would cease to understand the difference between relationships with humans and relationships devices driven by Artificial Intelligence such as Amazon’s Alexa were not borne out by experience.

“Even children are really good at sorting out what real and what’s not,” said Kate. “They do it all the time with toys.”

And the idea of artificially created human beings as companions for pleasure and sex goes right back to the Ancient Greeks.

The statue of a perfect woman was brought to life in the story of Pygmalion, and the widow of the Greek warrior Protesilaus, the first man killed in the Trojan War, had a statue of her husband made—which was destroyed by her father when he caught her in bed with it.