A Japanese inventor has announced the world’s first brothel staffed completely by robots.
Recent press reports have made much of the possibility of robots taking over more and more jobs from human beings. Despite its inevitability, there has been little discussion of the opportunity and impact of replacing sex workers with robots.
So when I heard on the grapevine that a brothel owner in Japan had sacked his human workers and was using sexbots instead, I became intensely curious in my professional role as an observer of the human condition.
I was lucky to secure an exclusive interview with the brothel owner and budding tech entrepreneur, Yumi Fukashila.
Given that technology patents are pending, I was made to sign a non-disclosure agreement that limits my description of the robotic technology involved.
But I can report that the receptionist was very pleasant and easy to deal with. Really a glorified ticket machine with a likeable personality, she was easy enough to interact with. I could quickly navigate the options and make the appropriate payment. She (or should I say “it”) then gave me a room key card and a towel.
All I can say is that the robotic technology in each of rooms is incredibly realistic within a defined set of situations. For example the sexbots cannot get off the beds and have only basic abstract conversation, but in every other respect they would seem to satisfy most people’s expectations of the experience.
And here I invoke Bill Clinton’s excuse on marijuana: “I didn’t inhale” (or whatever the equivalent excuse is for these circumstances).
I interviewed Yumi Fukashila in his office:
Human Observatory: Your technology is unbelievably impressive, really a breakthrough in human-robot interaction.
Yumi Fukashila: Thank you. We are very excited about the future of our technology and our business.
HO: I find the ethics of your enterprise both frightening and fascinating. How do you justify this type of business?
YF: Ethically, I see this enterprise as a universal good. It removes two great sins in one go. How do you say in English: two birds with one stone?
HO: What! How so?
YF: First, this technology holds out the prospect of liberating people from the role of sex workers and all the related crime such as slavery, imprisonment, violence and drugs. I see this is the major mission of my enterprise – the liberation of sex workers.
Second, I see the technology as absorbing any excess sexual energy in the world to make it a safer, more pleasant place.
There is also the fact that my robots are so much more productive and cost-effective, both for the clients and for me as a business owner.
HO: But what about encouraging men to have affairs and the ethics of commercializing the sex act?
YF: Why do you say men? We see this technology as being equally applicable to women as customers. Did I not show you Studinator modeled on the young Arnold Schwarzenegger?
HO: Thankfully no. But aren’t you encouraging people, men or women, to have affairs?
YF: Is it really an affair when there is not another person involved? I would say no. Let’s get real here. People find release outside a relationship even if it only involves thoughts in the mind or a computer screen. Is this any worse?
HO: Do you foresee any problems?
YF: Er … none whatsoever.
HO: You hesitate there. What do you see as the issues?
YF: Actually something unusual has emerged. A couple of our clients have started having feelings for the robot; unnatural feelings.
HO: You mean natural feelings. Falling in love?
YF: Between a human and a machine, I would call it unnatural.
I have one client who just wants to be with the robot. No sex, just being together with simple conversation. Another is breaking up with his girlfriend and he has started giving his new robot-friend presents of jewelry and flowers. Both say they prefer the robots to the real women in their lives.
What happens if all men start to think in this way?
HO: Gosh, I am not sure whether this is a view of feminist heaven or feminist hell? On one hand men’s sexual attention is focused elsewhere; and on the other hand, well, men’s sexual attention is focused elsewhere.
YF: My solution is to work on the robots to perhaps make them less pleasant, even rude. I am modeling my next creation on a French waitress I met on my last trip to Paris. Sassy but so rude that it made me angry.
HO: Wow, great! I have thing for French waitresses.
YF: Oh my god!
At this point, we were interrupted by an alert from the receptionist that a group of excitable Chinese businesswomen had descended on the joint.
I reflected that Mr Fukishila’s creations had both redefined the nature of the ‘Turing test‘ and, in my mind, passed it with flying colours.
Grabbing my tape recorder I made a hasty exit in case I was mistaken for a robot.