In his article, “The Ethics of Robot Prostitutes,” David Levy adapts Kant’s human-versus-animal argument to the AI sexbot debate, arguing that AI sexbots are akin to vibrators so using them as a means to achieve orgasm is likewise permissible.
And if using an AI program is the same as using a vibrator, why not use the program instead?
The much-hyped application Sex With Glass, developed by students during a Hackathon at Central Saint Martins in London, made a particular splash.
Set for launch in early February, the application allows users to record or watch either themselves or their sexual partner during the act.
Is using AI software now exploitative, on par with sexual assault and rape?
At what point should we declare AI sexbots sentient beings?
AI programs are becoming, and in some instance already have become, the “means,” not just the “ends” to be used exclusively for our pleasure.
Whether we choose to imbue them with value no longer matters—the intelligence of upcoming AI programs makes them valuable; makes them rational; makes them sentient; and makes them, quite nearly, human.
While rent-a-doll “escort” services are still surprisingly profitable in countries like Japan and South Korea (and “fembots,” or basic “female” robots made for sex, are most popular with American men), technologically savvier sexbots are catching on more widely.
In November of 2013, Hans Guyt, the team leader of Terre des Hommes Netherlands, an organization trying to stop child sex slavery and exploitation, created an advanced CGI model of a 10-year-old Filipino girl named “Sweetie.” Because it would be both illegal and obviously unethical to create a sting operation where a real child would be obligated to solicit and perform sexual favors over webcam, Sweetie allowed Guyt and his team to identify over 1,000 sexual predators without putting a real child in harm’s way.
Sweetie was not technically an AI sexbot because her actions and words were determined in real time by the programmers, but her realism was so perfect that she duped nearly every user that contacted her.
Arguably, AI programs can’t be exploited or harmed because they are not sentient; they can’t pass along disease; their increasing realism allows for a user’s maximum pleasure; and they can continue to be used as a way to catch real predators.
But sexbots aren’t quite the solve-all answer one might first think.