The Future of Coitus: Life-Long Loving with a Sexbot

By Philip Bethge

Sexbots have been around forever, but they are getting smarter all the time. David Levy, an artificial intelligence expert, sees a future when people will prefer robots to humans. They will offer, he says, better sex and better relationships.

Andy, whose measurements are 101-56-86 centimeters (40-22-34 inches), has what many men want in a woman: "unlimited patience." At least that's what the manufacturer, a company called First Androids based in Neumarkt near the southern German city of Nürnberg, promises. Andy also comes with options, including a "blowjob system, with adjustable levels," a "tangible pulse," "rotating hip motion" and a "heating system with adjustable controls" to raise the body temperature.

"Except in the feet -- they remain cold, just like in real life," says David Levy. The British scientist's interest in Andy is purely academic, he insists. For Levy, his high-tech sex doll is nothing less than a harbinger of a new world order.

Levy is an expert in artificial intelligence. He is fascinated with the idea of "love and sex with robots," and his visions of the future include "malebots" and "fembots" as lovers and life partners. A chess champion and the president of the International Computer Games Association, Levy, 62, has just published a book, "Love and Sex with Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships" -- that is provocative in the truest sense of the word. He is convinced that human beings will be having sex with robots one day. They will show us sexual practices that we hadn't even imagined existed. We will love them and respect them, and we will entrust them with our most intimate secrets. All of this, says Levy, will be a reality in hardly more than 40 years from now.

"The mere concept of an artificial partner, husband, wife, friend or lover is one that, for most people at the start of the 21st century, challenges their notion of relationships," says Levy. "But my thesis is this: Robots will be hugely attractive to humans as companions because of their many talents, senses and capabilities." Given rapid developments in technology, Levy believes that it is only a matter of time before machines will be capable of offering human-like traits. According to Levy, "love and sex with robots on a grand scale are inevitable."

The idea of love involving androids isn't exactly new. In Greek mythology, the sculptor Pygmalion makes an ivory statue of his ideal woman. He prays to the goddess of love Aphrodite to bring the statue, which he has named Galatea, to life. Aphrodite agrees to help him and when Pygmalion kisses Galatea, she returns the kiss and the two marry.

The same thing could soon be happening with robots. Levy already sees signs of budding robophilia wherever he looks. According to Levy, the appeal of Sony's Aibo robot dog and of Furby, a toy robot that looks like a ball of fur with appendages, and a built-in computer circuit board, shows the potential for technology to serve as a sounding board for human emotions. "Nowadays, it is relatively commonplace for people to develop strong emotional attachments to their virtual pets, including robot pets," says Levy. "So why should anyone be surprised if and when people form similarly strong attachments to virtual people, to robot people?"

Even simple computers exert an almost magical attraction on some people. The dedication in Levy's book reads: "To Anthony, an MIT-student who tried having girlfriends but found that he preferred relationships with computers. And to all the other 'Anthonys' past, present, and future, of both sexes." What will computer nerds say when they can play with computers that move, talk, look like people and could possibly even experience emotions?

When it comes to sex, robots could soon supplant the original flesh-and-blood human experience, says Levy. The researcher has delved deep into the history of erotic machinery to document Homo sapiens' susceptibility to mechanical sex toys. He discovered documented evidence of early vibrators powered by clockwork mechanisms and steam machines. Levy describes a pedal-driven masturbation machine for women designed in 1926 by engineers in the German city of Leipzig. In a late 17th-century pornographic anthology from Japan, the author read about a "lascivious traveling pillow." The artificial vulva, known as "azumagata" (substitute woman) in Japanese, was made of tortoiseshell and had a hole lined with satin.

Dutch seamen shared their bunks on their globe-trotting trading journeys with hand-sewn leather puppets, which explains why the Japanese still refer to sex dolls as "Dutch wives" today -- although today's version is no longer made of leather. The Japanese company Orient Industry sells female dolls that are near-perfect replicas of young Japanese women -- down to the tips of their hair and consistency of their skin. The company's success is based on an earlier model known as "Antarctica," a doll scientists used to take along to Japan's Showa research station to keep warm during the long Antarctic winter.

The US company RealDoll, the market leader in the business of life-like sex dolls, sells its "Leah" and Stephanie" models for $6,500 apiece. Customers can order the dolls with bra sizes ranging from 65A (30AA) to 75H (34F). Each doll comes with three "pleasure portals." Another model, "Charlie" even comes with a penis in various sizes, as well as an optional "anal entry."

Are these all just erotic toys designed for the occasional quickie? Not at all, says Hideo Tsuchiya, the president of Orient Industry. "A Dutch wife is not merely a doll, or an object," he insists. "She can be an irreplaceable lover, who provides a sense of emotional healing."

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