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In 1927, Fritz Lang, in his futuristic film Metropolis, probably for the first time in the history of cinema, gave the role of femme fatale to a robot: Maschinenmensch, a robot replica of Maria, the film’s leading lady. The human side of robot Maria is so perfect that, managing to substitute the original without any trouble, she incites a worker uprising against the bosses.
Almost a century since Metropolis, the dizzying pace of technological advances forces us to constantly rethink where the line is drawn separating fiction from reality. Today, robot Maria is ready to take the leap over into the real world. We are looking at the production of a new type of robot with a human appearance, life-sized and with a certain kind of brain.
There is no shortage of futurologists who maintain that, within a matter of decades, machines could replace humans in a still undetermined number of relationships, such as care companionship, friendship or sexual relations (which are currently confined to two or more beings from our own species).
A robot as a romantic partner?
The possibility of acquiring intelligent robots as companions is, in principle, set to become a reality this very year. Several companies from the sex technology sector, in various parts of the world, are working on the launch, which they say is ‘imminent’, of new life-like sex dolls equipped with artificial intelligence, capable of discussing literature, selecting romantic music to create the right ambiance, or even telling a joke, although, in line with demand, they primarily react to all forms of sexual urges.
The current leader in the hyper-realistic sex doll sector is the RealDoll by Abyss Creations. This US company with 20 years of experience, based in San Marcos, California, is working to equip its prototype, Harmony, with artificial intelligence. The goal of its inventor, Matt McMullen, is for his robots to interact with users as naturally as possible, learning, amongst other things, details about their lives.
But McMullen is not the only one. The robot women designed in Catalonia, Spain by Sergi Santos, a nanotechnology and computer engineering expert, can interact in family or romantic mode, although (like Harmony) they are chiefly designed to have sexual relations, and to feel an orgasm. In this case, the robots could serve as a tool for realising all types of fantasies.
The male versions of these robots, which Santos is also planning to release, are further behind in the development stage, both because the demand for them is lower and owing to the weight factor: the materials currently used to produce them are “too heavy” for a female public.
Is the development of sex robots a mere anecdote? Not for the Foundation for Responsible Robotics (FRR), based in the Netherlands. In a recent publication, it warns of the implications of the production and use of robots made to look like children. “We need clarification on policies on child sex robots at the international level sooner rather than later, about whether they should be sold legally and what sort of ownership and use should be permissible,” insist the report’s authors.
Nor is it considered a trivial matter at Goldsmiths, University of London, which is to host the Third International Congress on Love and Sex with Robots.
The academic and industrial world will come together at this event to debate the philosophical and ethical issues, the risks and opportunities, as well as the gender implications (most of the supply and demand is focussed on dolls, perpetuating male ideas about sexuality), or the affective potential of robot companions. David Levy, one of the most mediatised voices on artificial intelligence, is one of the organisers of the congress. According to this expert’s forecasts, the first marriages between humans and robots are likely to take place around 2050 in the US state of Massachusetts (the state that spearheaded the legalisation of same sex marriages in the United States).
Although this may seem deliberately provocative, let’s put things in context: Levy started out as a chess master. He went on to become involved in developing the generation of computers capable of playing chess and has been involved in the development of artificial intelligence for decades. In 1968, Levy bet that no artificial brain would be capable of beating him at chess for the next 10 years.
In 1978, he renewed his challenge for another five years, after which he withdrew his bet. He could see how the future of the machines was moving into the present. Levy is now simply warning of what he can see on the horizon. The prospect of intelligent robots forming part of our lives is becoming a present-day reality – as we speak.
The Samantha sex robot has been engineered in Spain by Sergi Santos, who is currently racing with other companies in the sector to be the first to market a sex doll equipped with artificial intelligence. The first models of this robot, with a Spanish hallmark, will reach the market in the coming months, with a price in the range of €3,000 to €4,000 (around US$3,400 to US$4,550).
The customers can personalise the type of robot they buy, selecting details such as its height, chest measurements, hair type and colour or skin colour. There are also different types of faces. Ava is one of Santos’s most advanced models and its name is taken from the 2015 science fiction film Ex Machina, in which an attractive prototype robot-woman plays the role of femme fatale who seduces and kills her examiner.
The sex dolls Santos works with are made from a material, thermoplastic elastomer, that tries to emulate, as much as possible, the feel of human skin. Futurist fiction has fantasised about relationships between humans and machines for decades, and some of these futuristic scripts could become reality in the coming decades.
The dolls designed by Santos have sensors integrated throughout the body to make them sense and react to touch. The designer maintains that, in the same way that the dolls’ physical features can be adapted to meet specific requests, the intelligence and capabilities of each doll can also be varied and adapted for each robot. Standard market demand, however, is focused on the sexual capabilities of the mannequins. Sex robots can produce different sounds and reactions depending on the external stimulus they receive. The robots created by Santos can be pre-programmed according to three levels of difficulty, to make it easier or more difficult to excite the robot. According to Santos, these robots are capable of exhibiting feelings and can even feel an orgasm.
Although customer demand is chiefly focused on the sex toy function, these robots can also hold a conversation, talk philosophy, or play roles more in keeping with a romantic partner.
The dolls used by Santos’s company are made in China. Their designer creates mannequins. After being transported to Barcelona, they are adapted through the integration of computer chips that make them react to external stimul
You probably have to look at imagery of death and dying regularly to stay focused on what really counts in life: great sex before you are gone anyway.
Describing himself as a ‘pick-up artist’, Roosh, real name Daryush Valizadeh, shot to infamy earlier this year when he was forced to cancel events in the UK.
The guy has some pretty horrendous views about women, so you won’t be surprised to hear that he’s a fan of Donald Trump.
The future president’s campaign was, of course, marred by scandal when an old tape emerged of him claiming he could ‘grab women by the pussy’.
While millions of people were disgusted, Roosh was delighted because, as he wrote in a blog, ‘if the president can say it then you can say it’.
‘When you talk like Trump, the first thought your listener will have is, ‘he sounds like the president of the United States’.’
‘I’m in a state of exuberance that we now have a president who rates women on a 1-10 scale in the same way that we do and evaluates women by their appearance and feminine attitude.’
‘Simply look at his wife and the beautiful women he has surrounded himself with to remind yourself of what men everywhere prefer, and not the ‘beauty at every size’ sewage that has been pushed down our throats by gender studies professors and corporations trying to market their product to feminist fatsoes.’
‘The president of the United States does not see the value in fat women who don’t take care of themselves, and neither should you.’
‘His presence automatically legitimises masculine behaviours that were previously labelled sexist and misogynist.’
Isis is likely to carry out new terror attacks across Europe in the “near future” as jihadis consider car bombings, chemical weapons and other methods to maximise casualties, security services have warned.
A new report by Europol, the EU-wide law enforcement agency, found that the terrorist group was changing its modus operandi as militants are driven out of key strongholds in Syria and Iraq.
Britain is among the top targets for atrocities, with at least 12 attempted attacks foiled in the past three years, and the threat level could now be increasing with the return of defeated foreign fighters with weapons training and links to Isis commanders.
Gilles de Kerchove, the EU’s counter-terror coordinator, said the danger will last for years as battles against Isis continue in the Middle East and North Africa.
“These people are trained to use explosives and firearms and they have been indoctrinated by the jihadist ideology,” he added.
“An effective response requires a comprehensive approach and long term commitment.”
Intelligence services estimate that several dozen jihadis under Isis’ direction are already present in Europe with the capability to commit terrorist attacks, but Europol warns of the additional risk of “lone wolf” terrorists who have no direct contact with the group.
While the deadliest attacks so far, in Paris on 13 November 2015, were directed by Isis and carried out by militants deployed from its Syrian territories, the Nice attack and a succession of terrorist murders in France, Belgium and Germany were committed by extremists with no external aid or training.
Europol’s report, by the European Counter Terrorism Centre, said the vast majority of attackers in Europe have been young men with a criminal past, who feel discriminated, humiliated and marginalised in society, and may have mental health issues.
Not all are strict Muslims and may have recently converted to the religion, or solely to Isis ideology, either on their own or through terrorist recruiters.
“Religion may thus not be the initial or primary driver of the radicalisation process, but merely offering a ‘window of opportunity’ to overcome personal issues,” analysts said.
The report raised concern that Syrian refugees may be targeted by recruiters as Isis seeks to gather support for its cause by “inflaming the migration crisis to polarise the EU population and turn sections of it against those seeking asylum”.
The group uses a network of recruiters as well as a sophisticated propaganda machine churning out videos, magazines, terror manuals and websites aimed at gathering supporters and inciting attacks.
Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, the Isis propaganda chief who was killed in a drone strike in August, released a video in May calling on anyone prevented from travelling to the so-called “caliphate” to wage jihad in their home countries.
“Make examples of the crusaders, day and night, scaring them and terrorising them, until every neighbour fears his neighbour,” he urged ahead of a fresh spate of attacks in Europe.
“Know that your targeting [of] those who are called ‘civilians’ is more beloved to us and more effective, as it is more harmful, painful, and a greater deterrent to them.”
Europol warned that potential targets are difficult to predict as all countries participating in the US-led coalition’s air strikes have been singled out in propaganda videos, with a growing preference for “soft targets” like public transport that have little security and provoke “maximum fear”.
“Indiscriminate attacks have a very powerful effect on the public in general, which is one of the main goals of terrorism: to seriously intimidate a population,” the report said, adding that attacking critical infrastructure like power grids and nuclear facilities is “currently not a priority”.
Europol also says the consensus among intelligence agencies in EU member states is that “the cyber capabilities of terrorist groups are still relatively low”, but adds that “the possibility of terrorist-affiliated cyber groups engaging in cyber warfare sponsored by Nation States – those with capacities to engage in this type of attacks – should not be discounted.”
Terrorists are known to have acquired hand grenades, rocket launchers, and high-grade plastic explosives and detonators from organised crime groups in Europe, while Isis magazines contain instructions on making TATP – the homemade explosive used in the Paris and Brussels attacks, as well as the 2005 London bombings.
Europol said suicide bombings, shootings, car rammings and stabbings are likely to remain the main mean of attacks as terrorists turn to the most easily available weapons.
But its report warned that methods used in atrocities in Syria and Iraq may be exported to Europe, including car bombs, kidnappings, extortion and the possible use of chemical or biological weapons.
Moroccan authorities dismantled an Isis cell planning attacks potentially involving chemical weapons in February, discovering biological agents among a cache of weapons from Libya to foil a “catastrophic” attack.
Libya, which remains locked in a continuing civil war following the British-backed ousting of Muammar Gaddafi, threatens to become “a second springboard” for Isis attacks on Europe, Europol’s report warned.
Militants are losing ground in their stronghold of Sirte, but the country is still a major destination for foreign fighters, bolstered by a free flow of weapons and “unlimited places in which jihadists could be trained for future terrorist attacks”.
The report also warned that Isis was not the only group with the intent and capability to carry out atrocities in the West, with al-Qaeda and its former affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra continuing to inspire attacks including the Charlie Hebdo massacre.
Rob Wainwright, the director of Europol, said police and security services were intensifying cooperation to combat the threat, causing an increase in terror arrests and the foiling of several plots.
“This shows that the increased cooperation and exchange of data between all relevant services across Europe is a successful means to mitigate the threat posed by Isis,” he added.
“Nevertheless, this report shows that the threat is still high and includes diverse components which can be only tackled by even better collaboration.”
The report concluded that the scale, frequency and impact of terror attacks was rising in the EU and that new attempts are “likely to take place in the near future”, adding: “As long as Isis remains a factor in Syria and Iraq, and even if they are defeated there, they will continue with their attempts to encourage and organise terrorist attacks in the EU.”
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