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Sex robots: An answer for aging, lonely Americans in the age of AI?

By Nicole Brodeur, The Seattle Times on

Published in Science & Technology News

Fear not the march of time. For you may be accompanied by a certain sort of clank — a sex robot to get you through your twilight years.

A University of Washington professor of bioethics and humanities has just published a paper saying that "sex robots" and artificial intelligence may be the breakthrough our ever-growing aging population needs to relieve social isolation.

"Alexa ..." Oh, never mind.

In a paper published in the Journal of Medical Ethics titled "Nothing to Be Ashamed of: Sex Robots for Older Adults with Disabilities," Nancy Jecker of the UW's School of Medicine connects society's embrace of robotics, AI and senior citizens who may be living longer, thanks to medical advances, but who also suffer from physical disabilities or loneliness, especially in the time of COVID-19.

Many people in these circumstances would welcome a robot's companionship and, yes, even its ability to provide sexual fulfillment, Jecker wrote.

"We apply ageist attitudes and negative stereotypes to older adults," she said. "We assume they're too old to indulge in sex and think that older adults having interest in sex is weird or dirty.

 

"Designing and marketing sex robots for older, disabled people would represent a sea change from current practice," she continued. "The reason to do it is to support human dignity and to take seriously the claims of those whose sexuality is diminished by disability or isolation."

The use of robots solely for sex "really misses the boat," Jecker said, arguing that sex "is about something much deeper ... our identity and what we can do or be as human beings."

Disabled people can use robots not only as caregivers, but friends who don't judge, don't have a problem repeating themselves, speaking more slowly or listening.

"They are a friend available 24/7 who doesn't judge and accepts a person and interacts," Jecker said.

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