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Rob Brooks receives funding from the Australian Research Council. This article concerns a book he has written, for which he receives royalty payments.
Twenty-first century technologies such as robots, virtual reality VR and artificial intelligence AI are creeping into every corner of our social and emotional lives — hacking how we form friendships, build intimacy, fall in love and get off. On one hand, these tools can help deliver much-needed support. On the other, they risk increasing sexual inequality, and replacing precious in-person interaction with less-than-ideal substitutes. But despite the many important questions sex robots raise, they mostly distract from the main game. : In defence of sex machines: why trying to ban sex robots is wrong.
Virtual friends apply several kinds of AI, including machine learningby which computers learn new ways to identify patterns in data. Primates, from monkeys to great apes, groom one another to build important alliances. Humans mostly do this through gossipthe old-school news radio which informs us about the people and events around us. Gossip is an algorithmic process by which we come to know our social worlds. Social platforms such as Facebook tap into our friend-grooming impulses. They aggregate our friends, past and present, and make it easy to share gossip. Their algorithmic matchmaking excels at identifying other users we may know.
Thus, they spend a lot of time and money trying to find ways to distinguish our close friends from the somebodies that we used to know. When social media and other virtual friends hack into our friend-grooming algorithms, they displace our offline friendships. After all, time spent online is time not spent in person with friends or family. The effects of this on mental health may be profound, especially for teens and young adults.
And social media will only continue to evolve, as machine-learning algorithms find ever more compelling ways to engage us. Eventually, they may transition from digital matchmakers into virtual friends that type, post and speak to us like human friends. : Loneliness is a social cancer, every bit as alarming as cancer itself.
Intimacy involves incorporating our sense of another person into our sense of self. Psychologists Arthur and Elaine Aron showed intimacy can be rapidly cultivated through a process of escalating self-disclosure. They tasked randomly ased pairs of people with asking and answering a series virtual reality dolls 36 questions. The questions began innocuously Who is your ideal dinner guest? The pairs ased to disclose more personal information grew much closer than those given only small-talk questions, and remained so for many weeks.
One couple famously married and invited the Arons to their wedding. But what about human-machine intimacy? People disclose all sorts of details to computers. Research shows the more they disclose, the more they trust the information returned by the computer. With machine-learning capabilities, they would only need to comb through online conversations to find the best questions to ask. Instead, they present photographs and minimalist profiles, inviting users to swipe left or right. Their algorithms allow people of more-or-less comparable attractiveness to match and strike up a conversation.
virtual reality dolls Love in the time of algorithms: would you let artificial intelligence choose your partner? One problem with this model is attractive people have no shortage of matchesbut this is at the expense of ordinary-lookers. This type of attraction-based inequality feeds serious problems — from heightened self-sexualisation among women, to a surplus of young, unpartnered men prone to violence.
Then again, artificial intimacy also offers solutions. Virtual friends provide connection for the lonely; digital lovers are damming the raging torrent of sexual frustration. A gradual union of the two could eventually provide targeted intimacy and sexual stimulation for people of all genders and sexualities.
People already talk to Siri and Alexa to feel less lonely. Meanwhile, in a climate of unmet demand for mental health support, therapy bots are listening to patients, advising them and even walking them through psychological treatments such as cognitive behaviour therapy. But for those of us who find the real thing elusive or insufficient, it could prove far better than nothing.
: My robot Valentine: could you fall in love with a robot? Plymouth Contemporary — Plymouth, Devon. Edition: Available editions United Kingdom.Virtual reality dolls
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Welcome to the world of virtual reality sex dolls that look scarily like real women