Culture & Ethics Icon Culture & Ethics
Neuroscience & Mind Icon Neuroscience & Mind

Richards, Medved: Sex Robots and the Future “Smart Machine” Dystopia

David Klinghoffer

There are some definite “Stop the world, I want to get off” moments in the new Great Minds with Michael Medved podcast from Discovery Institute. Michael talks with economist Jay Richards about the future of “smart machines,” including sex robots. Dr. Richards, author of the new book The Human Advantage: The Future of American Work in an Age of Smart Machines, offers a balanced view of what the future holds.

On the one hand, he says, it’s a philosophical error to imagine that machines can displace human beings in the sweeping way dystopian futurists predict. Since a human isn’t a machine, we can’t simply be replaced by superior machines. That is, not in every instance. Richards does foresee massive upheaval in employment in those industries (trucking, for example) where a machine could do the job as well and more cheaply. That is going to mean great pain. 

A country like China, meanwhile, might find sex bots useful in providing “companionship” for lonely men, unable to find wives, the result of a single-child policy that encouraged sex-selective abortion, directed against girls, and a resulting imbalance of men over women. 

On the other hand, as machines replace workers in the U.S. and elsewhere, the displaced will gravitate to work where the human element is specially valued. Michael and Jay discuss how the wealthy will see it as a matter of prestige, a luxury, to have human servants (butlers, footmen) as opposed to robots, which presumably will serve the middle class. 

So there you have it: lonely Chinese (and other) men provided with ultra-lifelike machines to masturbate (let’s be frank, since Dr. Richards says this) while the wealthy scoop up unemployed teamsters to serve as their footmen. Is this the future, and if so, is it an attractive one? Jay rightly says it all depends on us, whether we meet it with virtue, or not. 

An important conversation, if not necessarily an encouraging one. The video and audio versions are up now at the Great Minds with Michael Medved website. While you’re there, be sure to donate to keep great programming like this going!

Image credit: kuloser, via Pixabay.