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Today I discovered the following amazing research project on wordpress: The Campaign Against Sex Robots

Here is the comment I left on their blog:

To whom it may concern,

I want to thank you profoundly for initiating your project. I consider it a necessary intervention in an artificial intelligence and computer science milieu where people who purport to be serious scholars are either ignoring the research demonstrating negative mental effects or they are, at worst, cracking jokes on the topic of robots and sexual abuse. I offer for your and your readers’  consideration the following example:

This is a video of Wikileaks’ volunteer and The Tor Project’s developer Jacob Appelbaum, an individual who has apparenty made a name for themselves in the cryptopgraphic field, pitching an idea for a robot as an art project “under a grant from the Austrian government” in Vienna. Appelbaum was the photographer at an art event, a festival about cocktail robots, and – this is Jacob Appelbaum’s definition of ‘funny’ – in the above video clip he jokes:

“Let’s replace bar-tenders and bar-sluts with robots.”

“How about a robot that mixes drinks, slips GHB [aka the rape drug] into them, and then, if you can communicate somehow to them that you love it, it will open a hole, and you can have sex with it, and it will slide out a phallus, and then you can have sex with it. It’s wonderful, because when it’s all done, it can light your sigaret. Socialism works kids!”

Jacob Appelbaum apparently thought that cracking rape-jokes about a bar-tender/bar-slut robot secretly slipping GHB into people’s drinks so they can have sex was acceptable “humour”. This is a prime example of the normalization of abuse using robots as an excuse to do so.

This man now holds an academic position at a supposedly respectable Dutch university in the city of Eindhoven, an institution which apparently has no problem with lending credence and respectability to someone with such deplorable views on the topic of the ethics of robotics. Strangely, Jacob Appelbaum has spoken out against the misuse of drone robots in bombing missions. People must understand that perpetrating sexual abuse through the use of robots is just another kind of harm. It is no different from pedophiles infiltrating websites like Second Life and programming 3D avatars of children to sexually abuse.

This is why your research and website are needed: to counter exactly such views as the ones detailed above. The computer science and artificial intelligence fields must understand that such sexualized views and uses of robots are unacceptable and unethical. Thank you once again for everything you do and I wish you all the best with your project.

drs. Efthimia Dilpizoglou
(MA Media Studies, University of Amsterdam, class of 2001)

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