According to a story in the SyFy Channel's DVICE page, a recent study suggests that by the year 2050, the world's oldest profession will fall prey to automation. Robots will take over prostitution from live, working girls.
The idea of robotic sex companions indistinguishable from humans is not a new concept. A few years ago, David Levy, an expert in artificial intelligence, wrote a ground breaking study of sex between humans and robots called Love and Sex with Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships, in which he examines the new frontier in erotic relationships. Decades ago, the science fiction writer Lester Del Rey wrote a story entitled Helen O'Loy about a man who falls in love and then marries a humanoid robot.
The idea of robots with all the equipment and the programming necessary for human companionship has been examined in science fiction and debated in scholarly works for years. In the realm of the world's oldest profession, robot sex workers may solve quite a few problems, including coercion, abuse, sex trafficking, the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, and child prostitution.
On the other hand, a number of questions arise.
Will there be a social stigma about having sex with a machine? What if the science of artificial intelligence allows us to create robots that seem to have human consciousness? Do they remain entities with as many rights as a toaster, to use a term from the TV show "Battlestar Galactica?" Robot prostitutes, designed and programmed solely to give humans gratification, would tend to fall into that category. They can be designed to have that one purpose alone.
But humanoid robots could become a new race of beings, physically and psychologically better than humans in many ways, demanding full civil rights? Both Levy's book and DeRey's story explores the possibility of not only sex between robot and human, but love in every sense of the word. That can only happen between beings with a consciousness and, for those of a theological bent, a soul. The ethical implications are still being mulled over. Is it just a matter of passing the Turing test, as suggested in an article in The Age? Or does something more have to take place?
These questions are being debated while the sciences of robotics and artificial intelligence proceeds apace.