Sex in the Digital Age: Just One Human Required
Posted on: 2011-06-09 16:59:06

Who needs a real-life relationship partner when you can flip on a switch? ~ Ed.

Jeremy Hsu, InnovationNewsDaily Senior Writer

Sexuality in the Digital Age can mean sexting on smartphones, hookups through Craigslist and Facebook, and transmitting lewd photos like Anthony Weiner or Brett Favre. But while humans continue to define the do's and don'ts of online lust, a new generation of computer programs may have already figured it out. Thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, a scandal like Anthony Weiner's doesn't even necessarily need two humans anymore.

Online chat bots already send come-hither messages to users of social media or dating websites. Video games and online programs also offer virtual girlfriend (or boyfriend) experiences on smartphones and handheld video game consoles. The crude connections may signal a "robotic moment" for society where humans begin turning to artificial intelligence to fulfill emotional needs, said Sherry Turkle, director of MIT's Initiative on Society and Self.

"I did find people who were interested in artificial boyfriends and girlfriends, in artificial spouses," Turkle told InnovationNewsDaily.

"They were not being ironic. They felt that people had failed them. And
that a robot would be a safe choice."

Virtual lovers

Such "seduction by social robots" forms a key theme in Turkle's latest
book, "Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from
Each Other" (Basic Books, 2011). She found that some people can desire
what robots offer either in virtual form or as crude sex bots even
if it marks a step below emotional fulfillment with other human beings.
[Read More: Top 7 Useful Robots You Can Buy Right Now]

Virtual girlfriends and boyfriends already abound in Japan, where dating
simulator games have enjoyed popularity among females as well as males.
One young Japanese man even held a real-world, live-casted commitment
ceremony with his virtual girlfriend from a dating sim called "Love
Plus," which has sold hundreds of thousands of copies on the Nintendo DS
handheld game console since 2009.

"In Japan, men do have virtual girlfriends it is a phenomenon
indeed, there are even resorts that are dedicated to be places where one
can go on 'vacation' with these fantasy women," Turkle said.

A virtual companion may seem like a boon for the lonely, whether
controlled by humans or AI. But their total availability represents a
futuristic, mine-filled Candy Land for people in real relationships, and
especially for people such as Weiner who may thrill in the virtual hunt
rather than actual sexual acts, said Robert Weiss, founding director of
The Sexual Recovery Institute in Los Angeles.

"The biggest issue technology has created for people with compulsive sex
issues is easy access," Weiss said in a phone interview. "It's like
having cocaine in the medicine cabinet."
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