“In about 30 years, humans and machines might merge together more seamlessly,” said Jincey Lumpkin, founder of lesbian porn site Juicy Pink Box, during a “Future of Relationships” panel this past February. “The question will be not why would you want to fuck a robot, but why would a robot want to fuck you?”

Men and women are already toying with the idea of allowing sexbots — whether on-screen digital avatars or lifesize sex dolls — into their private sex lives. In just a few short decades, these early prototypes of pleasure will undoubtedly develop to become more intelligent, more emotional, more human. How will we interact with our sexbots then?

The concept of human/machine love-making has been fodder for many sci-fi B movies, but now the idea is slowly turning into a 21st century reality. Along with that reality, comes a ton of ethical dilemmas as we ponder what it is exactly that make us distinctively human.

According to a recent study about sex tourism, robot prostitutes will overtake human sex workers by 2050. Remember Jude Law’s Gigolo Joe character in Steven Spielberg’s AI? 

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Prostitution, rape, sex slavery and other sex crimes already present enough societal and ethical issues. How will we renegotiate these ethical boundaries when getting involved with artificial intelligence? How will sexbots indicate consent? Can they be exploited? Is having sex with a man-made robot inherent rape?

The questions revolve around the concept of sentience, or the ability to feel and respond to sensory stimuli. As of now, current artificial intelligence has yet to reach being sentient which makes it simple to declare sexbots as nothing more than glorified vibrators. Will we one day be able to manufacture sentient beings?

That might bring us into even murkier human territory: falling in love. The allure of the sexbots is that they can be tailor made to fulfill all our physical desires while still forming a emotional connection, uninterrupted from the mundane imperfections of being human.

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During the “Future of Relationships” panel, Cindy Gallop, creator of Make Love Not Porn, did not love the idea of falling in love with a pre-set bot however. She said:

“In real life relationships, you’re never going to be in control of everything, and that’s the fun and joy of interacting with one another. The depth and the power and the extraordinariness comes from the unpredictability of interacting with a human being and sometimes you get it wrong and sometimes you get it right.”