A sex scene between a man and a robot in Channel 4 thriller Humans may have shocked audiences, but sex between humans and machines may soon become the norm.
As humans spend more time in virtual realities – including online gaming and social media – intimate relationships with androids might even improve our mental health, according to academic Dr Helen Driscoll, a sex psychologist.
Dr Driscoll points to people who have lost their partner or who live alone as people who might benefit psychologically from a virtual sexual relationship.
‘After all a virtual partner is surely better than no partner at all.’
Virtual affairs could also present a problem in the future, with some partners seeing sex with a machine as similar to sex with another person, according to Dr Driscoll.
The amount of time we spend online – communicating via emails and social media – is already a problem for some people, but our relationships with other humans could soon be conducted entirely online.
As we spend more time in virtual reality and living alone, this will lead to increased mental health problems, according to Dr Driscoll.
The lack of human contact is currently harmful, as humans are social animals and isolation is linked with mental health problems, she said.
And earlier in August, a Chinese ‘girlfriend app’ called Xiaoice was reported to be keeping thousands of heartbroken people company.
People can add her as a friend on several major Chinese social networking services including Weibo, a Twitter like microblogging service used by 700 million people, and Touchpal.
This trend may seem like a problematic trend now, but as the technology improves the isolation issues will disappear as it becomes harder to tell the difference between artificial intelligence and machines, according to Dr Driscoll.
‘When eventually there are intelligent robots indistinguishable from humans – apart from their lack of bad habits, imperfections and need for investment – not only are we likely to choose them over ‘real’ humans but psychologically we will not suffer if we are not able to tell the difference.’