John Sullins, ethics professor at Sonoma State University, will deliver a lecture called, “Robots & Sex: Should We Build a Love Machine?” on March 4.
Sullins received his Ph.D in philosophy, computers and cognitive science at Binghamton University in New York in 2002.
The lecture is part of the Technology, Policy & Ethics lecture series put on by the Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group at Cal Poly.
Patrick Lin, the director of the Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group, said this lecture is a way to raise awareness of issues that stem from technology.
“Robotics are an increasing part of our lives … they are everywhere,” Lin said. “(Robotics) can impact society in many ways.”
As the possibility of robotics seeping in to everyday life increases, the debate on the ethical boundaries of human and robot interactions arises.
“There are people using robots as nannies in Korea and some people see this as a cop-out by pawning off our duties on to machines,” Lin said. “But there are also debates on how these interactions affect people psychologically.”
Sullins said the world of robotics is about to take off and these machines will be everywhere eventually.
“This lecture is an amazing opportunity to see where this cutting edge technology is going and the ethics behind it,” Sullins said.
Adriel Fuad, a computer science junior, said the topic is an interesting and controversial one.
“Although personally, with my Christian background, I don’t know how I feel about robots and sex, this is an issue that is interesting to discuss because robotics will continue to surround us,” Fuad said.
Sullins said the purpose of his lecture is to allow people to see where the world of robotics is and where it is going.
“There have been some rather strange proposals like sexual surrogates and robotic companions, and I’m going to talk about the ethics behind those companions,” Sullins said.
Lin said robotics is bringing something different to the table.
“Sex robots are basically advanced sex toys, but are they healthy?” Lin said. “That’s what this lecture is all about. There are already things out there like Roxxxy, a sex robot, which was introduced a year ago.”
Although the talk is about robotics, Sullins said the lecture will be general and is meant for students and listeners who do not necessarily have a background in robotics.
“We have a rather generous amount of time allotted for Q and A so that is where things might get more technical,” Sullins said.
People of all majors and opinions should attend the lecture, Lin said. There will be issues discussed that are relevant to everyone.
“There will be a little something for everybody,” Lin said.
Fuad said topics like this could be uncomfortable but could be a good experience for Cal Poly students to attend.
“Any time an issue gets you to think critically outside of your homework, it is worthwhile,” Fuad said.
Sullins plans to discuss human tendencies to anthropomorphize objects as well as the moral implications of developing sex robots.
“I’m going to be offering both sides of the debate, and I will make sure to keep it PG-13,” Sullins said. “This topic sure could go off the deep end, but I’m going to keep it fun and interesting.”
The lecture is scheduled from 2 to 3:30 p.m. in the Fisher Science Building, room 286.