The Human Choice and Computers conference is taking place in Manchester, UK and exploring themes related to technology and human intimacy. Experts from the fields of psychology, human behavior and technology are gathering to discuss the impact of tech innovations on wider society.
When it comes to the emergence of AI (artificial intelligence) and "robot dolls" in particular, it is said that "robot love" could become addictive enough for it to even be able to overtake human-on-human intimacy.
The fear of "The Robots Taking Over" has been well documented, and even world renowned scientist Stephen Hawking once said that "the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race," and with any diminishing impact on real human contact, this could literally be the case.
In a world where robot technology is able to achieve the same or even better results than a human can, then in the case of robot sex dolls, it could eventually lead to many also deeming amorous encounters with a robot as being better than that with another human being.
Robot encounters will certainly require little to no emotional attachments, and no requirement to be rated in terms of ability. No requirement to buy expensive gifts, or to go out on dates, and it certainly could appeal for those individuals who may find it difficult to form or maintain satisfying human relationships of any kind.
Dr David Kreps, a senior lecturer on Information Systems and Society at Salford University, wrote in his 2013 paper 'Performing the Discourse of Sexuality Online' that new advances have increased the level of intimacy in which humans engage with technology.
"Increasingly, we can wear technology to monitor our health or enhance access to information, we engage with social media in a highly personal nature and can even implant technology devices in our bodies to track movement or communicate. Sex robots are simply another way in which technology is being developed to enhance pleasure," he explained.
But as terrifying as a future of robot relationships sounds, there are a number of areas where "sexbots" are said to actually make a positive impact in wider society.
The sex worker trade worldwide, for example, could be impacted by providing artificial encounters and eliminating the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, as well as also working to eliminate the countless number of society issues affecting those involved in the trade.
Sputnik spoke to Kate Moyle, a London-based psychosexual therapist based, who suggests that the idea of sex with robots could well appeal to someone for a number of reasons.
"Much of what we can say about a future of sexbots is very much based on speculation, but it could appeal to those who may have a fear of intimacy or rejection or who struggle with the vulnerability involved when it comes to human relationships," Kate Moyle told Sputnik.
Ms. Moyle is also part of the team who has launched the iPhone app Pillow Play which is designed to enable couples to enhance their intimacy with the use of interactive tech as opposed to becoming an obstacle in the relationship.
She feels that a future of increased "Robot Sex" encounters, as much as it being something she would not like to place any judgement on at all, she considers the negative effect it could have on an individual's capacity to connect with other people.
"If people consider sex with an inanimate machine or replica robot device on a long term basis, what it could cause is a level of tunnel vision where intimacy with a real human being could become difficult because it is different to what they have become accustomed to," she said.
Dr. Kreps at Salford University, in his 2013 research study, wrote about the level of intimacy that is even possible to achieve with a robot. "You have to ask the question — how genuinely human can any robot ever be?" he said.
"Love takes two people — it's about human beings. A very large part of the physical and chemical connection between humans relies on eye contact and you're never going to experience that with a machine, no matter how much AI there is," Dr. Kreps wrote.
But could a future of robot lovers even go as far as to providing benefit for deflated long-term relationships, where one member of the couple is no longer interested in sexual intimacy with their partner or unable to for any reason. The idea of allowing a robot into the bedroom for zero emotional attachment encounters and with the consent of both partners could potentially bring value for couples in some way, especially if it's something that becomes socially accepted in wider society eventually.
Whatever side you take in the argument for or against intimacy with Terminator-style love robots, it looks like this is already set to be a growth industry worldwide, with factories already prominently based in China and Japan who are meeting a rise in the early global demand.
The robots may already be here in their early forms and so it may be worth us making every efforts to try and connect better with each other now before it gets too late. And we really hope that physicist Stephen Hawking is wrong in his future Apocalypse predictions for humanity versus AI machines.