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Kate Devlin: The Rise of Sex Robots

Are we going to be swiping right on robots?

The porn industry is worth billions and its exponential growth – due to the proliferation of high-speed internet and a healthy dose of Viagra – shows no sign of slowing down. There is a race to develop realistic sexbots, who emerge from their packaging complete with perfectly warm silicone skin, and it’s only a matter of time before these robots are opening our doors and climbing into our beds.

How will the advent of sexbots change our relationship to sex and our relationships with each other? Will we program our robots to say no? To feel love and jealousy?

Join computer scientist and sex robot expert Kate Devlin for an intimate discussion about how technological advancements in robotics will affect gender, politics, sexuality and surveillance.

People were worried that sex robots could lead to real-world violence again women, but in my research, I’ve never found any evidence.

Kate Devlin


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This talk was chaired by Rob Brooks, Professor of Evolution at UNSW Sydney and is part of the UNSW Grand Challenge on Living with 21st Century Technology.

Kate Devlin portrait

Kate Devlin

Kate Devlin is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Digital Humanities at King's College London. Having begun her career as an archaeologist before moving into computer science, Devlin’s research is in the fields of human computer interaction (HCI) and artificial intelligence (AI). She investigates how people interact with and react to technology in order to understand how emerging and future technologies will affect us and the society in which we live. Devlin has become a driving force in the field of intimacy and technology, running the UK's first sex tech hackathon in 2016. In short, she has become the face of sex robots – quite literally in the case of one miscaptioned tabloid photograph. She was probably the first person to say "sex robots" in the House of Lords – in an official capacity, at least. Her book on the subject, Turned On, was published in 2018.

Rob Brooks

Rob Brooks

Rob Brooks is Professor of Evolution at UNSW Sydney and a popular science author. He has spent his career understanding the complexities and conflicts that sex and reproduction bring to the lives of animals, including human animals. His popular writing explores the murky confluence of culture, economics and biology, and how new technologies interact with our evolved minds and bodies. He has won the Queensland Literary Award for Science (for his first book Sex, Genes and Rock ‘n’ Roll), and the Eureka Prize for Science Communication. His articles have been published in Psyche, CNN, The Atlantic, The Sydney Morning Herald, Areo, and many other publications. His latest book Artificial Intimacy: Virtual Friends, Digital Lovers, and Algorithmic Matchmakers considers what happens when new technology collides with our ancient ways of making friends, growing intimate, and falling in love.  

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