Is it cheating to have sex with a robot?
Technology. Is there anything it can't do? Apparently not. Porn and prostitution objectifies people, say critics - but what if the prostitutes were objects already? A new paper, published by academics in New Zealand, predict just this scenario in 2050. Instead of paying human beings for a bit of the other, it suggests that clients might well pay for a bit of robotic nookie instead.
In their paper, Robots, Men and Sex Tourism, Ian Yeoman and Michelle Mars of New Zealand's Victoria Management School suggest that having sex with robots "is the future of sex tourism in Amsterdam". It paints a futuristic picture of a fictional sex club in Amsterdam, called the Yub-Yum, which offers "a range of sexual gods and goddesses of different ethnicities, body shapes, ages, languages and sexual features."
The idea is that by then, robots will be so evolved and realistic that the experience will be not only believable, but preferred.
Preferred? Well, the paper argues that robots get rid of many of the dangers associated with seeing real, live people for casual, paid sex. Robots could put an end to the human trafficking that supports areas of the sex industry, says the report. And the risk of STDs falls when a person is having it away with a robot, it adds.
"All androids are made of bacteria resistant fibre and are flushed for human fluids, therefore guaranteeing no Sexual Transmitted Disease's are transferred between consumers," says the fictional account of the Yub-Yum. Ew.
It also argues that beauty and physical perfection are key drivers in today's culture. The implication here is that a robot could be created with perfect features - and could be configured to suit the customer's preferences. Such is the attraction, it says, that the real-life sex workers competing with the Yub-Yum shut up shop altogether.
At first glance, this report seems far-fetched. After all, robots lack the love and deep emotional connection that are the hallmarks of a fulfilling relationship - but then, we're talking about an industry that thrives on short encounters between people that might never see each other again.
What also makes it seem less ridiculous is that people are already kind of doing it. The report highlights a growing industry for ultra-realistic sex dolls in Japan and Korea. These aren't responsive androids - they're just inanimate pieces of plastic. But if people are willing to use those, wouldn't they be likely to use a robot that moves, talks, and responds in other ways?
What about you? Would you have it off with a robot? Oh, and bonus question: how real would it have to be before it could be considered cheating?
Danny Bradbury, MSN Tech & Gadgets