Why we need more women in STEM.
If the scary-eyed female doll in the featured photo on this post doesn’t terrify you, then the fact there are now more robotic, self-lubricating vaginas in the world than there are cures for cancer should at least frighten you a little. With only 16% of all Computer Science graduates being female (source: StemWomen, 2018), it might be unsurprising to hear that the male-dominated STEM industry has turned its eyes towards the sex industry.
With AI Tech having just released their new, Asian-inspired AI sex robot (a new version of their original smart robot Emma), the ethics behind bringing AI into the sex industry is becoming more prominent than ever. The question was first raised last year when Realbotix released their robot Harmony, who provides buyers with any type of sex they like and is capable of customising responses when spoken to. What’s more, any part of Harmony that gets particularly messy can be removed and put in the dishwasher to be cleaned.
For some people, the purchase of ordinary sex dolls can be totally justified. There’s an argument that what goes on behind closed doors should stay there, and that for people who live alone or those with certain disabilities, there’s no reason to believe why having a sex doll would provide anything except company and comfort.
But when what goes on behind these closed doors starts slipping into society and becoming obvious in people’s behaviours, then it’s our job to care. Especially when we bring AI into the mix.
What will this technology will teach future generations about sex?
Well, it’s a broad question. But it can be narrowed down to two main points:
- The use of touch-sensors, AI generated speech patterns and synthetic skin makes the robots more human-like than ever before — or, more specifically, female like. The normalisation of sex robots would teach our sons that they can get any type of sexual gratification they want from women, whenever they want it. There would be no resistance from the other party, just glorified moaning.
- It would tell our daughters they have to look and behave in a certain way in order to be perceived as sexual. But moreover, AI robots will normalise sexual practices that many women aren’t comfortable trying.
As my partner rightly pointed out, there are also male sex robots on the market — dolls with disproportionately large parts compared to what we find in real life, and facial features that aren’t achievable without spending thousands on plastic surgery. Not only that, he argued, but it’s possible that instances of rape and sexual abuse will go down as the production of sex robots increases: rape is about control, after all, and who’s easier to control than a robot designed to be the epitome of your fantasy?
But I disagree. Similarly to how easily accessible pornography has encouraged people to live out their once undiscovered fantasies, sex robots will do the same. It will allow people to experience the type of sexual control they otherwise might never have indulged in, and this will only make them crave more. Soon enough, sex robots won’t be adequate to quench their sexual thirst.
All this poses a question. What can we do to refocus our AI efforts on technology that would do more than just give mind-blowing orgasms?
What change must we make?
The answer is actually fairly simple. We must educate and employ more women in STEM subjects.
As a female software engineer, I know first hand what it is to be the only woman in a room full of a dozen or so men. And whilst men are usually a pleasure to work with, it doesn’t stop the industry leaning towards solving male-specific problems and fulfilling their requirements. If Computer Science was a female dominated sphere, would intelligent sex robots even have been invented? Would there instead be intelligent vibrators that change their speed by detecting how close to climax a woman is? Or would the focus not be sexual at all, and we’d have machines that detect very early-stage breast cancer and AI that can aide labour pains?
Unfortunately, none of this stuff is currently out there, and that’s because there aren’t enough women in the industry. This is partly because there are fewer female graduates who major in STEM, but even those who do graduate often don’t go into roles where they innovate: instead, they choose roles in education or healthcare (source: U.S. Department of Commerce). Without women innovating within the industry, how far can we really expect AI to go? What have we already missed out on due to the gender divide?
Let’s be frank, nobody needs a sex robot to keep in the back room, not when AI is capable of so much more than that. Women are the key to tapping into the dormant, undiscovered uses of AI; inventions that could change the world and the way the STEM industry works. We just need to give them the chance to do so. So educate your daughters, educate yourself, and educate the women around you; sign petitions to get girls coding in school. It won’t just benefit them, it will benefit everyone.
“Science is not a boy’s game, it’s not a girl’s game. It’s everyone’s game.” — Nichelle Nicols