The nation's most prominent newspaper is asserting marriage to robots is becoming mainstream, as is what is now called "digisexuality."
In a Saturday New York Times article — titled "Do you take this robot..." with the subtitle "Today we fall in love through our phones. Maybe your phone itself could be just as satisfying?" — the newspaper noted that artificial intelligence-driven sex robots are becoming more mainstream. In an age of sexting and dating apps like Tinder, it is fair to ask whether everyone might be a "closet digisexual," the article said.
"The idea that flesh-and-blood humans may actually forge fulfilling emotional, or even sexual, relationships with digital devices is no longer confined to dystopian science fiction movies," the newspaper declared on its Twitter feed.
Interviewed in the piece was Neil McArthur, an associate professor who specializes in philosophy and sexuality at the University of Manitoba, who notes that alarmism always precedes every advance in cybersex but such things eventually become normalized.
“It happened first with porn, then with Internet dating, then with Snapchat sexting. One by one these technologies come along and there’s this wave of panic. But as people start to use these technologies, they become part of our lives,” he told the newspaper.
As the use of artificial intelligence spreads, the lines will be blurred between real sex and cybersex, particularly what constitutes sexual "consent." And those blurred lines "do not have to be a bad thing," The New York Times asserts, and might be inevitable.
Featured prominently in the article is Akihiko Kondo, a 35-year-old Japanese man who "married" a female-looking hologram in November. Kondo called his wedding "a triumph of true love after years of feeling ostracized by real-life women for being an anime otaku, or geek" and considers himself a "sexual minority" who faces discrimination.
“It’s simply not right,” Kondo said in comments to The Japan Times. “It’s as if you were trying to talk a gay man into dating a woman, or a lesbian into a relationship with a man.”
Christopher Benek, a Presbyterian pastor and CEO of a science and tech ministry called CoCreators, believes Kondo's situation illustrates why Christian leaders need to be educated about emerging technological developments.
"When dealing with the increasing pace of theological change, people fail to create a consistent and systemic ethic. This usually isn’t because of ill intent or malice by the person but it is usually more so the case because they haven’t had a proper opportunity to explore and discern why they may be experiencing what they are feeling," he explained in a Thursday interview with The Christian Post. "If we are going to presently acknowledge robots' rights as equal to humans, then companies that make sex robots should genuinely be regarded as sex traffickers."
When it comes to marriage, Christian pastors are culpable for these types of issues, like Mr. Kondo’s, taking place in culture, Benek went on to say.
"Many pastors largely minimize pre-marital counseling or forgo it altogether using their ecclesiastical status as simply an agent of the state and not as a representative of the love and care of God in Christian community. When I served as a pastor at a church located in a destination location, I knew many pastors that would simply marry tourists to make a few extra bucks."
"Personally, I feel like such behavior, done without proper care, doesn’t honor the institution of marriage or Christ."
The pastor contended that all matter in the cosmos is God’s technology and, as such, "humans are God’s AI," and that ethical considerations surrounding robotics will only grow. "Since we are made in the image of a Creator God, we too will one day be creating autonomous AI that, much like sci-fi cylons, may be virtually indistinguishable from present-day humans. I think what we are experiencing now is our initial exploration into that space. In the future, we will see more and more cyborg humans that will complicate the issue even further," Benek explained. "As such we need to be in careful prayer and discernment to know how to proceed and act ethically in relationship to God, one another and our technological creations."
The Times featured another article on robots Saturday, seeking to answer the question "Why do we hurt robots?" with the subtitle "They are like us, but unlike us, and both fearsome and easy to bully."
In 2017, Saudi Arabia, infamous for its suppression of women's rights, granted official citizenship to a robot. That same year, while not recognized by authorities, Chinese artificial intelligence engineer Zheng Jiajia made headlines when he married the robot he built in 2016, having given up on finding a human spouse. Speculations have emerged in recent months that by the year 2045, robots will be accorded civil rights protections.