I almost always finish my bioethics courses by having a final-class party and showing much of the 90’s film GATTACA–a movie which predicts a dystopian future in which procreation and sex are completely disconnected from each other.

The film has already been prophetic in many ways, and the fact that sex robots now appear to be here to stay signals that we remain on the GATTACA trajectory. I wrote about this development (particularly in light of this week’s international conference on sex and robots) in today’s New York Daily News:

“Does love have to be reciprocated in order to be valid?” asks Dr. Kate Devlin, event host for the London conference. Much to her delight, she knows that our culture has already answered her question.

The vision of sex celebrated by our movies and music — and facilitated by hook-up applications like Tinder — is premised on lack of feelings and commitment. The whole point is to use each other as mere objects. The rise of digital pornography (and, soon, mainstream virtual reality porn) is also premised on sexual gratification apart from there being any reciprocation.

Sex with computers is just the latest example of this trajectory.

But barring any changes in our sexual culture, the game-changing nature of robotics and artificial intelligence gives many people good reason to believe that it will eventually replace having sex with humans.


[A counter-cultural sexual ethic] must begin by calling out how a capitalist market drives out cultural values and moral principles in the name of securing profits for shareholders of the companies which bring us virtual-reality porn, sex robots and quality-controlled laboratory embryos.

In resisting such forces, we must stand up for new cultural norms which insist that sex and openness to the gift of procreation (not the market-laden term “reproduction”) must be connected.