An expert has called for a ban on sex robots, saying that their introduction will, in some unspecified way, increase the damage to society caused by prostitution.
Chatting with The Register, Dr Kathleen Richardson PhD contended that the possible AI sex droids of the future would strongly contribute to the continuing miserable plight of prostituted women and children.
Richardson is a senior research fellow, focusing on the ethics of robotics, at De Montfort University. She is not a robot herself, despite the BBC's description of her as "a robot ethicist".
Dr Richardson's background is not in robotics or engineering but anthropology, in which subject she holds an MPhil and PhD from the University of Cambridge. She said that use of sex-bots is deeply connected to the use of prostituted women.
She explained to El Reg that it was in investigating the manufacture of sex-robots that she initially became concerned about the philosophy going into the creation of robo-whores.
"The relationship that is being imported," by the sex-bot developers is one that has come directly from that between "prostitutes and johns" according to Richardson, who finds it "very disturbing".
In a paper titled "The Asymmetrical ‘Relationship’: Parallels Between Prostitution and the Development of Sex Robots", Richardson proposes "that prostitution is no ordinary activity and relies on the ability to use a person as a thing and this is why parallels between sex robots and prostitution are so frequently found by their advocates."
Asked whether it it might be more appropriate to consider robo-whores as sex toys, which would most typically be considered a private and solitary part of human sexual activity, Richardson stressed the opposite.
"To call them toys is to understate the issue," she said. "It's not as if it's a Barbie." Dr Richardson also surprisingly offered the idea that there may be some form of exploitation involved in the manufacture of My Little Pony dolls.
A robot is a thing, but no sex robot could be built without prostitution.
"The better term is 'sex object'," said Dr Richardson, who emphasised that the objectification of prostitutes in the prostitute/john relationship is one that's mimicked in the relationship between sex-robots and their owners.
Questioned whether objectification was worthy of concern when actual objects were involved, rather than people who were treated like objects, Richardson turned away from the actual issue of banning robots - stating again that sex toys, and sex robots, exist because of prostitution.
"We must abolish prostitution," she said.
"80 per cent of women are prostitutes," she added, but confirmed that actually she had meant that the other way round. The remaining 20 per cent she suggested were made up of children and transgendered men.
Richardson, who heads the Campaign Against Sex Robots, was previously a panellist on a "Killer Robots: Ethics in the age of co-robotics" programme, broadcast on The Current Radio Show in Canada. The campaign against killer robots - as opposed to robot prostitutes - is, of course, currently led by the level-headed Noel Sharkey. ®