Can Robots Give Consent?

We have a new moral dilemma to face as a generation. Can you rape a robot? Now, if you’ve seen the stories about sex robots you have probably heard of people standing up for the rights of robots. Never mind for a minute that we are giving rights to inanimate objects before we do so for human life in the whom, but I digress. The question is twofold.

  1. Is having sex with a robot rape or even simulating rape?
  2. Is this detrimental to our human experience?

For the first question, we have to decide if a robot has propriety over itself, and if so, whether or not it can consent. As to whether or not a robot has propriety over itself, that is impossible for several reasons.

First, there is no “self” of the robot. It is inanimate. Even animals are animate creatures and have personalities, but robots do not. Because it does not have a self or life, it cannot have ownership over its body, or whatever you want to call it. In fact, the person who owns the robot has ownership because they used their ability to provide value for others to accrue money (aka value) with which they purchased the robot. Because the robot is their property, they can do with it as they please.

People seem to believe that because it has programmed responses and a face it is human in some way. Let’s say you drill a hole in a headless mannequin, does that constitute rape? What about dildos or blow-up sex dolls? How about the gas tank on your car? You see, the question isn’t if something looks and feels more human because it is still not human, but machinery.

Because it does not own itself, it cannot consent. The only way consent can be given is if their is ownership that allows you to have a say in how something is used. My car does not have a say in who drives it, I do. The sex robot owner has the say in who uses it, not the robot. On the other hand, hopefully people aren’t sharing these around because that would not be very sanitary.

The second question is if it is detrimental to our society. The answer, I believe, is overall yes. But I don’t think it will encourage rape, rather it would be like violent video games and provide an outlet for people on the fringe. It could act as a substitute for sexually violent crimes.

The problem lies in the fact that people can simulate human interaction, but without the parts that are healthy. Porn is unhealthy because it allows people to overstimulate themselves without partaking in the affection and trust usually required. This causes people to stop associating the pleasures of sex with the human interaction it traditionally required, thus dissociating people and placing strain on society.

I think that the lobbying in favor of these objects having rights is dangerous because it puts them on the same playing field as people. The argument is that artificial intelligence (AI) allows these robots to think, so they can consent and feel. However, we are ions away from this being a reality. Leading scientists in this field cannot even begin to theorize how it could be done, like the Greeks arguing over what the universe is comprised of. For now we should focus on building a divide between how we treat people and inanimate objects. My fear is that we will put the “rights” of robots above those of people, thus upending our society.

The same thing has been done with animals as well. Instead of arguing these things have rights, we should argue to treat animals respectfully, responsibly, and ethically. Instead of granting animals rights, we should look to restrain ourselves and place the burden on us to treat them well because it is right to treat things a certain way. That is how the morality of robots should be approached. By placing the emphasis on people and striving to create moral codes that restrict our behavior.

If you know me, you know that I don’t want this to be regulated though. My hope is that we can enter the world of intellectual debate and win this argument and use shame to limit the use and spread of these things. Government regulation or robot taxes only allow for certain players to capitalize on these restrictions and create barriers to entry, and very often, unethical practices to maintain power. Liberty minded people should stand up against regulations here while arguing against this on practical terms. There is evidence to show that this is bad for the individual partaking and society as a whole, and we should preach individual responsibility to act in our own best interest.

This debate will continue as robots are making news in Korea to Silicon Valley. The thing to remember is that humans have the rights, and with them comes responsibility to use the rights to better ourselves and society. None of us alive today will see anything with real artificial intelligence, but we must make sure to have these debates and ensure they err in favor of humanity or else we are in danger in the future.

If would like to join me in the Conversation of Our Genereation, you can find me on YouTube Conversation of Our Generation YouTube Channel.

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