Sex robot forum venue 'encrypted in a poem'

All Greek Orthodox church halls to me

Bizarre happenings are heaping extra controversy on a conference that will discuss the pros, cons and ethical conundrums of sex with robots.

One could be forgiven for thinking the topic of the third annual Love and Sex with Robots event alone would be enough to get tongues wagging, but it seems the organisation of the forum – held in London, England – is cause for greater intrigue.

First up, before anyone can register for the conference – which costs up to £500 – they are told, by way of an “important notice”, that they must “download and read this document (PDF) in full”.

So what is the mysterious document? Something to do with the ethics of robot sex? Guidance on how to avoid sensationalising the topic?

Nope. It’s Transport for London’s Poems on the Underground. El Reg has scoured it for hidden meaning, but has come up with nothing. Do let us know if you find anything.

Attendees who read the doc and register successfully will obviously want to know where to go. But not so fast! Don’t think they’ll do something as simple as telling you.

Instead, on clicking the Venue page, users are told that “due to police advice, and because of security concerns, the venue will be emailed close to the date of the event”.

OK, fine – it is a controversial subject. But wait...

“We will send a poem with the location encrypted in it. Please read the poem carefully to decode the location,” the notice says.

Reg readers won’t need us to tell them that, er, that’s not how encryption works.

Sadly, we haven’t seen the poem that attendees get (despite repeat attempts to bag a press pass) but we do know where the conference is being held: the hall of the Greek Orthodox Church in Golders Green.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Back in October, Kate Devlin, a Goldsmiths academic who co-organised the conference last year, said on Twitter that she had been unceremoniously booted off this year’s panel.

In response, conference organiser and Malaysian academic Adrian Cheok claimed the venue had to be switched from Goldsmiths because of “very credible threats against participants and chairs and Goldsmiths by Muslim extremists”.

But The Reg understands the university itself was never alerted to any specific security issues. It also hosted its annual Sex Tech Hack at the end of last month, which went off without a hitch.

A spokesperson for Goldsmiths, University of London said: “While we are disappointed that, due to circumstances outside our control, this conference is not being held at Goldsmiths this year we fully support this important area of research and continue to host events on this topic.”

Devlin, meanwhile, confirmed she was no longer involved in the conference this year.

She added that, although the subject “is very much prone to sensationalism, there are legitimate topics to be debated in an area that is already prototyping the development of intimate technologies”.

None of the organisers have responded to our messages on email, LinkedIn or Twitter. ®

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