They are here or they're here already, and they are becoming more sophisticated and more lifelike. According to two experts in law, this means that laws and regulations will be needed for their use.
There isn't much research on whether sex robots are a good idea or not for people or society. This raises many questions about sex and relationships as well as how to treat artificial intelligence created by us.
These questions were explored in films like Ex Machina and Her, but science fiction is fast becoming science fact. We'll soon have to decide what the boundaries should look like.
Madi McCarthy, a law student at Flinders University, Australia, says that "legislators will need to balance competing and complicated individual and public interests, which pose new ethical and regulatory challenges due to advancements in technology."
Some believe that sexbots can be beneficial for those who are unable to live a normal sexual life because of their age, disability, mental illness, or other circumstances. They can provide a safe place for people who are uncertain about sex and their orientation and help to reduce the pressure on prostitution or sex trafficking.
Sexbots, on the other hand, can be seen as objectifying women and encouraging sex without emotion, which could lead to increased violence and abuse. Robots can be programmed to imitate the act of refusing consent. This is a worrying step towards illegal acts.
Similar debates have been ongoing for some time about the use of sex toys. It's also worth noting that sex dolls made to look like children in certain parts of the world (including Australia) are prohibited.
"While there is no Australian law that currently prohibits or regulates the sexual intercourse of robots with humans, there are laws on child-like sex dolls that have been addressed by South Australia, Queensland, and the Commonwealth. McCarthy says that while these statutory provisions could guide future laws regarding adult sex robots, there are still new factors to consider.
It is clear that there is more research needed to determine the effects of sex robots on people using them. This is difficult given the technological advancements.
One study looked at the attitudes of doctors and therapists towards sexbots. The top three recommendations for using the bots were for people with social anxiety, for those without partners who don't want one-night stands, or prostitution, as well as for people who have had problems with premature ejaculation.
Although these and other therapeutic uses may be plausible, there is the possibility that these sexbots could cause serious damage to relationships and attitudes. Researchers and legislators need to quickly reach a scientific consensus.
McCarthy and Flinders University Dean Tania Leiman conclude that "sex robots challenge existing notions of how humans interact and emerging technologies are in an intimate way" in their latest article.
"While regulatory responses will have to balance many interests, ethical questions and legal challenges," said the author. "The very real potential of this technology to objectify or promote sexual violence against females suggests that action is needed sooner than later."
The entire article can be found in the Law Society of SA Journal.