“I’m worried about the concept of ‘moral deskilling’—that we could lose some of what it is to be human.”



Humans and robots are on the cusp of a sexual intimacy we may never reverse—Cassie Werber, Quartz

If you could construct a sexual partner that was faithful, beautiful, and responsive to your every wish, would you?

It’s a question Aimee van Wynsberghe, co-founder of the Foundation for Responsible Robotics, thinks a lot about. In July 2017, she and fellow ethicist Noel Sharkey published a report (pdf), Our Sexual Future with Robots, that delved into the state of the robot sex industry and its future.

Quartz met van Wynsberghe, a professor of robotics and ethics at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, on a trip to London in a busy café, just before she headed to the Science Museum’s Robots exhibition, to discuss how close humanity is to sex and even love with robots, and the risks involved.

Quartz: Are you excited about a future of robots?

I’m excited by certain types of robots, and certain capabilities that robots will have. I’m worried about the concept of “moral deskilling”—that we could lose some of what it is to be human. We won’t be as practiced at looking people in the eye, and trying to understand where they’re coming from.

Imagine someone going through a tough time is sitting in front of you crying. You’re late for your appointment, but you’re going to sit there and be with them. Increasingly we might not have those opportunities, and if we’re suddenly confronted with them we won’t know how to deal with it.