Jun 25, 2013

Sexbots, Ethics, and Transhumans

Posted by in categories: ethics, evolution, futurism, media & arts, robotics/AI


“I zoomed in as she approached the steps of the bridge, taking voyeuristic pleasure in seeing her pixelated cleavage fill the screen.

What was it about those electronic dots that had the power to turn people on? There was nothing real in them, but that never stopped millions of people every day, male and female, from deriving sexual gratification by interacting with those points of light.

It must all be down to our perception of reality”. –Memories with Maya

We are transitional humans; Transhumans:

Transhumanism is about using technology to improve the human condition. Perhaps a nascent stigma attached to the transhumanist movement in some circles comes from the ethical implications and usage of high technology — bio-tech and nano-tech to name a few, on people. Yet, being transhuman does not necessarily have to be associated with bio-hacking the human body, or entail the donning of cyborg-like prosthetics. Although it is hard not to plainly see and recognize the benefits such human augmentation technology has, for persons in need.

Orgasms and Longevity:

Today, how many normal people, even staunch theists, can claim not to use sexual aids and visual stimulation in the form of video or interaction via video, to achieve sexual satisfaction? It’s hard to deny the therapeutic effect an orgasm has in improving the human condition. In brief, some benefits to health and longevity associated with regular sex and orgasms:

  • When we orgasm we release hormones, including oxytocin and vasopressin. Oxytocin equals relaxation, and when released it can help us calm down and feel euphoric.
  • People having more sex add years to their lifespan. Dr. Oz touts a 200 orgasms a year guideline. [1]

Recommended reading: The Science of Orgasm [2]

While orgasms usually occur as a result of physical sexual activity, there is no conclusive study that proves beneficial orgasms are only produced when sexual activity involves two humans. Erotica in the form of literature and later, moving images, have been used to stimulate the mind into inducing an orgasm for a good many centuries in the absence of a human partner. As technology is the key enabler in stimulating the mind, what might the sexual choices (preferences?) of the human race — the Transhuman be, going forward?

Enter the Sexbot…

(Gray Scott speaking on Sexbots at 1:19 minutes into the video)

SexBots and Digital Surrogates [Dirrogates]

Sexbots, or sex robots can come in two forms. Fully digital incarnations with AI, viewed through Augmented Reality visors, or as physical robots — advanced enough to pass off as human surrogates. The porn industry has always been at the fore-front of video and interactive innovation, experimenting with means of immersing the audience into the “action”. Gonzo Porn [3] is one such technique that started off as a passive linear viewing experience, then progressed to multi-angle DVD interactivity and now to Virtual Reality first person point-of-view interactivity.

Augmented Reality and Digital Surrogates of porn stars performing with AI built in, will be the next logical step. How could this be accomplished?

Somewhere on hard-drives in Hollywood studios, there are full body digital models and “performance capture” files of actors and actresses. When these perf-cap files are assigned to any suitable 3D CGI model, an animator can bring to life the Digital Surrogate [Dirrogate] of the original actor. Coupled with realistic skin rendering using Separable Subsurface Scattering (SSSS) rendering techniques [4] for instance, and with AI “behaviour” libraries, these Dirrogates can populate the real world, enter living-rooms and change or uplift the mood of person — for the better.

(The above video is for illustration purposes of 3D model data-sets and perf-capture)

With 3D printing of human body parts now possible and blue prints coming online [5] with full mechanical assembly instructions, the other kind of sexbot is possible. It won’t be long before the 3D laser-scanned blueprint of a porn star sexbot will be available for licensing and home printing, at which point, the average person will willingly transition to transhuman status once the ‘buy now’ button has been clicked.

Programmable matter — Claytronics [6] will take this technology to even more sophisticated levels.

Sexbots and Ethics:


If we look at Digital Surrogate Sexbot technology, which is a progression of interactive porn, we can see the technology to create such Dirrogate sexbots exists today, and better iterations will come about in the next couple of years. Augmented Reality hardware when married to wearable technology such as ‘fundawear’ [7] and a photo-realistic Dirrogate driven by perf-captured libraries of porn stars under software (AI) control, can bring endless sessions of sexual pleasure to males and females.

Things get complicated as technology evolves, and to borrow a term from Kurzweil, exponentially. Recently the Kinect 2 was announced. This off the shelf hardware ‘game controller’ in the hands of capable hackers has shown what is possible. It can be used as a full body performance capture solution, a 3D laser scanner that can build a replica of a room in realtime and more…

Which means, during a dirrogate sexbot session where a human wears an Augmented Reality visor such as Meta-glass [8], it would be possible to connect via the internet to your partner, wife or husband and have their live perf-capture session captured by a Kinect 2 controller and drive the photo-realistic Dirrogate of your favorite pornstar.

Would this be the makings of Transhumanist adultry? Some other ethical issues to ponder:

  • Thou shalt not covet their neighbors wife — But there is no commandant about pirating her perf-capture file.
  • Will humans, both male or female, prefer sexbots versus human partners for sexual fulfillment? — Will oxytocin release make humans “feel” for their sexbots?
  • As AI algorithms get better…bordering on artificial sentience, will sexbots start asking for “Dirrogate Rights”?

These are only some of the points worth considering… and if these seem like plausible concerns, imagine what happens in the case of humanoid like physical Sex-bots. As Gray Scott mentions in his video above.

As we evolve into Transhumans, we will find ourselves asking that all important question “What is Real?”

“It will all be down to our perception of reality”. – Memories with Maya

Table of References:

[i] Human Augmentation: Be bionic arm -


[2] The Science of Orgasm-…atfound-20

[3] Gonzo Pornography -

[4] Separable subsurface scattering rendering -

[5] 3D Printing of Body parts -

[6] Programmable Matter; Claytronics -

[7] Fundawear: Wearable sex underwear -

[8] Meta-view: Digital see through Augmented Reality visor -


Comments — comments are now closed.

  1. Joe Nickence says:

    I’m reminded of the Futurama episode “I Dated a Robot”:

    Imagine going back through every CD ever offered, and converting the digitized motions of famous movie stars from as far back at the silent movie era? A woman’s dirrogate partner could be Rudolph Valentino, with some John Barrymore or Errol Flynn thrown in for good measure.

    The possibilities of mixing and matching are mind boggling!

  2. No doubt there is already tech that does mo-cap from 2D video. This can onlt get better and with multiple angles of an actor from old films, (or even home videos) a photosynth like biped could be done.

    The good advantage we have today is that a simple $150 Kinect controller can capture a proper ‘gait file” to go with a mindfile and immortalize a persons characteristics, once step closer to simulating said person, either digitally, or offering a run file to assist the motor cortex of a 3D printed Surrogate.

  3. Tim Pendry says:

    A sensible preliminary assessment. It sounds potentially liberating, especially for people who are sexually disadvantaged and lonely. The issues are the obvious ones:

    - a) ensuring consensuality at the point at which a sexualised artefact becomes sentient,

    - b) the likelihood of many people (especially males) withdrawing from the mating game as excessively complicated, time-consuming, possibly expensive (if sexual tools become cheap enough) and emotionally exhausting (leading to continued collapse in the birth rate amongst the advanced nations and, presumably, amongst the more intelligent members of it with higher access to resources);

    - c) the political problem of handling the large numbers of intellectually limited and philosophically unsophisticated essentialists who will find some ‘moral wrong’ (i.e. an invention to ensure social cohesion or alleviate anxiety and fear) both to argue against and to legislate against free choice in the matter.

    I do not include spurious claims about ‘addiction’ because I am going to assume that human beings are autonomous individuals able to make their own decisions about sexuality although one would assume age-related restrictions on reasonable precautionary grounds.

    None of these issues should be a barrier to effective and libertarian management.

    a) is resolved by having open and precautionary legislative support for consent where object relations (which require no consent despite the inadequate post-Marxist theory of ‘objectification’ as a wrong) are intermediated by a phase of no consent being possible (because, like animals and children the bot cannot be informed yet has some sufficient sentience) before permitting full informed consent — this, of course, requires generous tests of sentience;

    b) is a public policy issue where private choices have to be respected and can, perhaps, only be dealt with by economic incentives and changes in the behaviour of men and women towards each other in order to ensure ‘attraction’ for mating and family creation (which may be no bad thing given the idiotic inherited stereotyping of both sexes about each other)

    c) is the most serious problem because social conservatives of limited intellect who suffer either from ‘spirituality’ (simply a sort of brain difference from others) or from a ‘politics of disgust’, may command democratic majorities and crush the life out of libertarians, causing untold misery to the individuals who crave the experience of love but are not going to get it in a traditionalist market.

    All very interesting … it will be most interesting of all when real life couples decide to bring bots into their lives to deal with the boredom factor that disrupts so many middle aged marriages …

  4. Tim, I have to say, your insights and take-away on the essay is what made writing it worth the effort.
    Thank you for some great points to reflect on.

    I was hoping to learn more from the seed idea I had on this topic, and i’m not disappointed, thanks to your input.
    I was rather disappointed that the essay was dismissed by some as “porn” fodder simply because of the title image, and not the context of why that image was used — to show how the human mind might just overcome the so-called uncanny valley of the real v/s the unreal…
    Some comments were of the “objectifying women” category, and I had to make it a point to clarify that the essay should be read in it’s entirety.

    We are a constantly evolving generation — the teens of today, the young adults of today, spend more time in a pixel world, in a simulated world, than they do in the real…

    I see them using Bots (and in reading your last sentences in the comment above) as an aphrodisiac, just as alcohol is.. to enhance the mating session.

    I’m also a believer of the emotional/psychological impact a sexbot could have, once mechanics are worked and smoothed out. i.e in a “healthy” relationship between two humans that has lasted a couple of decades, what happens after the loss of one? A sexbot driven by even rudimentary AGI and performance capture files (that were recorded when the partner was alive) can bring that person’s touch back — if needed.

    As in any area that humans are involved in, there is always the issue of mis-use.
    These issues are touched on in the story of Maya.

    Thank you again for putting this essay into perspective for other Transhumans!

  5. Tim Pendry says:

    Clyde, my pleasure. You should take courage but not be surprised by such reactions. Sex-negativity and ‘fear of the orgasm’ is deeply embedded in our culture, especially those influenced by values constructed from iron age socio-economics around two thousand years ago.

    Similarly, ‘objectification theory’ (which derives from a particularly pessimistic group of late Marxist philosophers in Europe) is riddled with absurdities that can ultimately be traced back to those same contingent values.

    The core ethical or philosophical points are respect for cognitive liberty all things being equal, respect for informed consent, understanding of the difference between subject (emergent from matter as sentience) and object (the thing in itself which is not sentient) and a refusal to permit one autonomous mind’s value system to take command over another autonomous person’s mind if the second is harming no one else.

    Naturally this is not quite so simple insofar as there are social claims for order and mutual liberty and so forth and judgments have to be made on the nature of consent and so forth but it is not a bad starting point for dealing with sexuality asa private choice where health (as you so rightly point out) tends evidentially towards responsible pleasure.

    The fear of pornography (on the reasonable assumption that it is an industry no more or less exploitative than any other) is very odd and irrational. After all, milions of us sell our minds to our jobs on a daily basis and one would have thought that minds were vastly more important than bodies according to our cultural norms (though of course body and mind are integrated in fact). There is woolly thinking here …

    Personally, I am impressed by the youngsters of today — more sexually aware, more sexually responsible in general, more educated and more self-confident than my older generation. And I think that this has something to do with being able to observe sexuality as ‘normal’ and complex and then make their own judgments. The wave of sexual abuse scandals emerging across the world tell us something important about the repressed culture that saw sexuality as negative.

    Above all, please do not allow yourself to be bullied into quiescence, please, by the cod-philosophy of ‘objectification’. It is philosophically absurd. As humans, with our flawed perceptions and different processing powers, we have evolved through constant and fruitful objectification of reality and other persons are part of that reality.

    Eventually, we learn to trust people and so create empathy and sympathy (de-objectify) but we would not survive long if we did not objectify people a roles and functions (which is not the same as stupidly stereotyping people or lacking respect for them as autonomous persons).

    De-objectification is not a universal value (as the Frankfort School’s sucessors would try to enforce on us) but an earned relationship between mutually communicating parties.

    The worst objectification I have ever seen is the objectification of lap dancers and sex workers as creatures without agency who are ‘victims’ who need ‘saving’ and who cannot make informed choices. Such objectification theory can be evil in its effects on people.

    The truth is that humanity is complex — some people will have no need of bots, some will treat bots as useful for filling gaps because of inadequacies and some will use bots to enhance their existence in some way. Universalists cannot seem to forgive such choice and diversity.

    However, my caveat is to your seventh paragraph where the implication is of bot as aid to grieving process — that is dangerous human territory (dealing with the real underlying fear of the human which informs almost every aspect of trans-humanism, death). Conquer anxiety about death and you have become transhuman — the attempt to escape death in transhumanism may be a reason to doubt its transhuman quality :-)

    Still, an important debate that cannot be allowed to be pushed to one side because of the theoretical prejudices of the unimaginative.

  6. Thanks Tim.
    You’ve given me additional points to focus on, particularly on how to breach that dangerous human territory (grief, FOD (fear of death)) via technology that, if it can’t be truly sentient… how it can be made to simulate this much coveted capability of humans.

  7. Tim Pendry says:

    Look deeply and we are defined to a great extent but our evolved awareness of our own extinction. All evolved consciousnesses will have an ‘attitude’ to the possibility as much as the certainty of that termination point. Ultimately, it cannot be avoided … or simulated. It is the condition of ‘being’. It all comes down to death and sex in the end :-) Transhumanism is still child-like in its relation to these matters.