The Politics of Robotics

So I was standing in a robotics lab that shall be nameless standing next to El Mexicano.

"Check out this conference", he said. He had Love and Sex with Robots on screen.

Sure enough, the Second International Congress on Love and Sex with Robots had all trappings of a reputable AI & Robotics conference. Various tracks to submit papers to. Keynote speakers. Deadlines for submissions, reviews and "camera-ready" versions of papers. The proceedings would be archived by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), an outfit generally considered academically halal. The congress was to be held in Iskandar, just north of Singapore (i.e. in Malaysia). It was to be part of the 12th International Conference on Advances in Computer Entertainment (ACE 2015).

I peered over El Mexicano's shoulder. "Is good conference for you, Señor. It has roboethics track," he said.

So it did. It had a few others too.

"Is the teledildonics track what I think it is?"

"Si, is just like Predator B-1 except with Magic Wand of Hitachi not Hellfire Missile of Lockheed Martin."

I shook my head in disbelief. "A remotely piloted dildo?"

"It is just like in the film, Good Kill. You sit in a container in the desert and do dirty deeds via wi-fi."

Good Kill Telepilot played by Ethan Hawke

"These people must be stark raving bot bonkers," I said.

"Why you say this, Señor? Do you object to robots doing the ‘dull, dirty and dangerous’ work of fellatio and cunnilingus? Do you think this obscene possibility should be comprehensively and pre-emptively banned like the killer robot?"

"Nah, if want to slip your machismo into some bot, go hard, mate."

"Not for me, personally, Señor. I speak for the socially inadequate and the sexually oppressed: chess masters, computer science professors, mechatronics engineers and other nerdy sad acts who cannot pull chicas in the usual way. And besides, in my case, La Mexicana will object.

I inhaled sharply. Hell hath no fury like La Mexicana spurned, slighted or in any way displaced from from poll position in the affections of El Mexicano.

"So, if you do not object," continued El Mexicano, "why this attribution of madness to the organizers of this conference of groundbreaking work in teledildonics."

"Last time I checked, mate, Malaysia was halal. If they think they can have an expo of robo-banging there without mullahs objecting, they are plumb loco."

"I take your point, Señor."

"Further, my friend, any organizers that clueless about social norms are no doubt clueless about ethics, in particular, the more painful points about cultural relativism. This is the problem with roboethics. The roboticists don't know right from wrong and the ethicists don't know on from off."

El Mexicano laughed. "You are very funny, Señor. Come the robo-revolution, the killer robots, they shoot you last."

I shrugged. "Let me ask you a hypothetical question. Suppose I could knock up a sexbot that looked like Alicia Vikander in Ex_Machina. Would you do her?"

Alicia Vikander in Ex_Machina

"With teledildonics?"

"No, hermano. You, I know, are a real flyer. You want to be in the cockpit, with skin in the game, not some cubicle Romeo.

"This is true. We assume, of course, I am a single man?"

"Yes, of course, purely for the sake of philosophical argument. It is a hypothetical question. To be even handed. Let us also suppose I could knock up a sexbot that looked like Jude Law in Artificial Intelligence..."

"Do you think La Mexicana would do him? If she were a single woman?"

El Mexicano mulled this for a few moments. "La Mexicana is more Antonio Banderas kind of girl. She likes the smouldering Latino pasión..."

"This Jude Law is, for her, too much androgynous Anglo toy. As for me, if you could make a bot look and feel like Alicia Vikander and if I were a single man, I would give this matter my fullest and most serious consideration."

He's a cagey one, El Mexicano.

"You would bang a bot?" I asked.

He shrugged.

"You would be DTBF?"

"Que? Down to ... bestie?"

"Down to botfuck."

He raised an eyebrow.

"You would give a skanky robo-ho a hot meat injection?"

"These options are not attractively worded, Señor. Your language is not gender-inclusive. I feel I cannot dignify this bofo trash with comment," he said, wagging a reproving finger at me.

"Goddamn it, hermano, answer the BF question! You are ducking and weaving like a politico being interviewed. If I give her a cut-glass accent, the wardrobe of a Duchess, make her look and talk like Keira Knightley and make her PC, will you have sex with that robot?"

"Señor, you are projecting your own robo-fantasies upon me. In these circumstances, I always ask myself: What would Pablo Escobar do?"

"If what I have seen on Netflix is any guide, the narcopolitico would bang the hot journalista to get good media, fill the robo-duchess with cocaine and put her on a drone to Miami."

El Mexicano rubbed his chin and nodded sagely. "This may be so but I feel we are avoiding the serious issues of human dignity and the future of humanity that are raised by sexual robots. There is a Campaign to Stop Sex Robots, no?"

I rolled my eyes. "Two, count'em, two, academics with time on their hands and a bad logo looking to grab a headline by booting the battered can of robophobia further down the street."

"Ah yes, robophobia, as uttered by Samuel Jackson in Robocop. This was strong picture with strong dialogue, no? Just like Fox News."

I sighed. When I watch human-robot interaction in movies, I inevitably groan because the screenwriters are so utterly F clueless about it.

"So many new robo-words..." mused El Mexicano.

"Yes. Robofucker. Botfucker. Bofo. Rootbot. Bangbot. Shagbot. Snogbot. Suckbot. Fuckbot. Lickbot. Loveyoulongtimebot. Droiddong. Robopussy. Teledildonist. The list of robo-neologisms goes on."

My mate tapped his keyboard for a while. "These domains are all gone, Señor. Even the .xxx ones. But I do not think they will appeal to women."

"Lovebot. Romancebot. Zzzbot?"

He smiled. "Deep down, in a place you don’t want to talk about at cocktail parties frequented by feminist academics you are man’s man, like Pablo’s muchachos, hermano."

I shrugged.

"You could make this remotely piloted teledildonic sex toy fully autonomous, no?"

"Like stick an ethical governor in the sexbot? As per the Arkin drone the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots are trying to get banned? That thing the AI & Robotics open letter that Hawking, Musk and Woz signed was about?"

"Si, make lovebots not warbots. A robot of amor would be a truly moral machine, no?"

I thought some technical thoughts. "This could work. I would just need to figure out the deontic logic to drop in the governor and I would be in business."

"What logic?"

"Deontic logic. It is very obscure conference. Only 38 people attend.

"Sex sells, hermano. These people may find themselves in high demand. Perhaps you should become the 39th?"

Dollar signs flashed before my eyes. "How true! I could do a paper. The Deontic Logic of a Sexbot."

"This would be hard-core, logic-based roboethics paper, no?"

"In so many ways, hermano, in so many ways..."

The Love and Sex with Robots conference was supposed to happen last month. It was cancelled. The Malaysian coppers said it was "ridiculous" and "illegal." A police chief declared: "There is nothing scientific about sex with robots."

Unsurprisingly, the Malaysians decided that love and sex with robots was haram without academic debate that was that.

The bofos will have their conference with roboethics and teledildonics tracks eventually – just not in Malaysia...

© Prince Flood Dec 2015