The Foundation for Responsible Robotics just published a consultation report, “Our Sexual Future With Robots.” They describe the “significant issues that we may have to deal with in the foreseeable future over the next 5 to 10 years” and argue that now is when the potential losses should be discussed. Once the marketplace is flooded with sex-bots might be too late for sober reflection.
With text therapy, the train has already left the station. Text therapy companies like Betterhelp and Talkspace already claim hundreds of thousands of users. Neither doubts mental health care will be disrupted by technological convenience, nor do many others in the crowded tele(mental)health field trying to become the Uber of therapy. And their marketing campaigns each prominently feature treatment as an “anywhere, anytime” service.
Convenience is their calling card. The Talkspace website observes that “emotions can’t be scheduled.” But don’t worry because their trademarked text therapy can get you treatment “exactly when you feel like it.” They even have an Instagram ad displaying the screen of someone in relationship distress texting their lover, but with no response. Frustration grows line by line. And again, don’t worry; you can just hire Talkspace because it’s “time to text someone who’ll text you back.” Similarly, but less heavy-handedly, Betterhelp claims you can “Communicate with your therapists as often as you want and whenever you feel it's needed. Help is available at your time and your place.”
Sex-bot sellers make similar promises of technological convenience. They promise to end the sexual frustrations of being human. TrueCompanion, makers of the female sex-bot Roxxxy and the male Rocky, promises a “true companion always turned on and ready to talk or play.” If you want it, here it is; you just got to come and get it. Another company, RealDoll, wants to “emphasize the term ‘LOVE doll’ because they are so much more than a sex toy … the possibilities are limitless!” Whatever you want, whenever you want it.
Promise and Problems
These are some serious promises being made. Text therapy promises you never have to be alone. As long as you have your phone with you—and a paid subscription—your therapist can live in your pocket waiting for you whenever you want. The two of you can become one.
The sex-bot makers promise you never need anybody else. Sexual intimacy will have been disrupted by making other people redundant. You and yourself and your toys are all you need to be happy and fulfilled.