In the past year or so there has been a lot written about the future of sex dolls, and the likelihood that sophisticated robots will ultimately have a place in sexual, or even romantic culture. The consensus seems to be that as artificial intelligence and robotic performance improves, it's inevitable that human beings will in one way or another be having more sex with robots, probably within the next five or 10 years. But what exactly does that mean for society? More specifically, will it help or hurt human relationships?
It should first be noted that the future of sex dolls—we'll probably just be calling them sex-bots soon enough—is already looking extraordinarily sophisticated. Alternet posted an interview with sculptor-turned-sex doll designer Matt McMullen last year, and it was revealed that even today these dolls are made with extraordinary degrees of detail and customization. McMullen's dolls sell for anywhere between $6,500 to $51,000 and offer a seemingly endless array of options to consumers. According to the interview, there are 20 different textures of nipple to choose from. You can also "add freckles for $150," and things of that nature. Basically, a consumer can craft the perfect sex doll for his or her preferences (and yes, there are male options available); and that's before technology and intelligence even get into the mix.
Once the detail and customization we see in modern sex dolls meets the inevitable advances in technological sophistication, we're liable to see a major shift in how these things are used and how they affect the ways in which people fulfill sexual needs. According to a significant Pew Research study summarized by Extreme Tech, "sexbots will be commonplace" by 2025, if not sooner. The study, as a whole, was about the place of AI and robotics in culture and in the workplace, but its brief coverage of AI as it relates to sex produced some interesting ideas. Namely, these included the sheer prevalence of sexbots 10 years from now, as well as the potential for this shift to severely alter (or eliminate, depending on how you look at it) the prostitution industry.
As for how all this will affect actual humans and male and female sexuality, there's really no telling. In particular, it's a tough issue to discuss from a neutral perspective because it's still a concept that's related primarily to men, and male needs. In fact, even the modern "sex doll" is thought of as a male tool. In breaking down the concept of sex dolls Adam and Eve
writes that they're "intended purpose is for male masturbatory pleasure," though they do indicate that they can be used to "fulfill a ménage-a-trios fantasy." The closest female alternative appears to be a vibrator or dildo, which are closer in concept to male masturbators than full-on humanoid sex dolls. In keeping with this disparity, the dolls crafted by the aforementioned sculptor Matt McMullen do come in male and female models, though the females apparently sell much better.
That said, it would seem only reasonable that as sophisticated sexbots gradually take over for sex dolls, more options engineered for women will also exist. And regardless, there are some interesting arguments out there suggesting that the rise of such robots could actually be helpful, rather than hurtful, for relationships.