Having solved all the other problems in the world…

The College Fix brings us a story of a law professor who may have a wee bit too much time on his hands. John Banzhaf, of George Washington University Law School (which was named after a slave owner, by the way) is into solving society’s big problems. Having previously worked on issues such as getting cigarette ads off of television and combating obesity (both noble causes), John is turning his attention to some of the evils plaguing 21st century society. Specifically, sex robots and how to prevent men from raping them.

I’ll just give you a moment to let that one sink in.

This is apparently a huge ethics issue in the abstract, but also an opportunity to prevent crime because people who rape robots are more likely to rape actual human beings. Or something. I’m not quite clear on how we make that leap but I’ll let the professor explain it himself.

Sexbots, especially those which can be programmed to act as if they are being raped, and those which act and appear to be young children, are already here and in use, Banzhaf said.

“The obvious first step would be to have hearings and do studies to determine just how serious the threat is, whether there are any real benefits to having sexbots programmed to simulate being raped, and then what if any new laws, regulations, etc. might be appropriate,” he said…

“So, as science fiction of the type depicted in HBO’s Westworld is rapidly becoming reality, these are just some of the legal concerns regarding the brave new world of robot sex, where the law may well have to play catch up, just as it did with artificial insemination, host mothers, drones, and other developments,” he wrote.

Allow me to provide a disclaimer right up front that I don’t have any direct experience in the subject matter being covered here because those sex robots must be ungodly expensive I would obviously not have any interest in such an activity. But even approaching it from a strictly hypothetical standpoint a few questions leap to mind.

First, perhaps the professor knows something the rest of us don’t, but are robots really that advanced yet? The most human looking ones that I’ve seen, almost always out of Japan and designed to act as therapists or news readers, are still simply creepy as all get out. You would never in a bazillion years mistake them for an actual person. And even if they’ve got the external features down that impressively, I rather doubt we’re at the point where the manufacturer can simulate all of the, shall we say… biological organs and functions of a human.

But let’s skip over that part for the moment. Assume there’s an almost Westworld quality sex robot out there. We’re not talking about artificial intelligence here, right? I mean, it would still be essentially an appliance. And what you do with your appliances (however alarming and gross it may seem to the rest of us) is really up to you because machines don’t have any rights. And you can’t “rape” a machine since there is no consent implied or lack thereof. The idea that sex with a machine will lead to more sexual assaults on humans seems a frivolous point because it assumes that the perpetrator is somehow not responsible for his own actions and decisions. You can attempt to get into a dating relationship with your vacuum cleaner in the privacy of your own home if you wish because it belongs to you. You can’t go out and sexually assault women because that’s illegal and we should throw you in a dungeon if you do it. It seems fairly simple to me.

The only remaining question comes when we eventually cross the boundary into true Artificial Intelligence. When that happens we’ll have to decide if the AI is actually a “person” with rights and then the sex robot may be strictly off limits. But by the same logic you won’t be able to use AI robots for any other tasks to lighten man’s working burden because who are we to force the robot to work for no pay with no ability to refuse the job if it’s actually intelligent?

Best of luck in your research, Professor Banzhaf, but I think you may be barking up the wrong tree here. I understand that the first impulse of liberals is to have the government regulate every possible human activity conducted while we are awake or asleep, but you can have my Westworld robot when you pry it from my cold, dead (probably because the robot already killed me) hands.