Will a sexbot destroy your marriage?

An AI expert just stated that it will be considered socially normal to have sex with robots by the year 2040. Sure, you may be having sex with a robot--but what will this mean for your human relationship?

Will a sexbot destroy your marriage?
Roxxy, by TrueCompanion.com

Before robots overtake humanity, will they overtake the bedroom?

According to Dr. Trudy Barber, it will be considered socially normal to have sex with robots by the year 2040. Dr. Barber made this assessment at the 2nd International Congress on Love and Sex with Robots, which was held last week at the University of London (Goldsmiths campus).

“It could be that we are so busy with our lives, we are so embedded in our technological narrative that the idea of engaging in long-distance sex and robot sex is actually a natural process in our evolutionary cycle," she proclaimed to attendees. “I think what will happen is that they will make real-time relationships more valuable and exciting."


For consumers, there are now options to find out just how valuable and exciting a sexbot will make “real-time relationships." TrueCompanion.com, which advertises the world's first sex robot, play runs with the tagline, “Always turned on and ready to play or talk." The general view of Love and Sex with Robots, gaining its name from the 2007 book by Dr. David Levy, is that relationships with robots is an expected part of evolution and will not adversely impact human-to-human relationships. Levy views not only sex, but true intimacy and relationships with robots, as an inevitable part of our future. Dr. Levy received his PhD with a thesis entitled," “Intimate Relationships with Artificial Partners."

Not everyone, however, is as optimistic about the impact of sexbots on relationships. While Love and Sex with Robots try to grapple with some of the thorny ethical issues regarding increasingly humanized sexbots, there is an underlying disagreement about whether the very premise of advancing sexbots is advantageous or disastrous for relationships.

Dr Kathleen Richardson, founder of Campaign against Sex Robots, is in the latter camp. Dr. Richardson is a robot ethicist at De Montfort University in Leicester. Speaking to the BBC last year, she stated that “Sex robots seem to be a growing focus in the robotics industry and the models that they draw on - how they will look, what roles they would play - are very disturbing indeed. We think that the creation of such robots will contribute to detrimental relationships between men and women, adults and children, men and men and women and women."


As it currently stands, sexbots like the one designed by TrueCompanion (Roxxxy) seem to aim for a hedonistic angle with their branding and design. Other sexbots have resembled famous actresses (Scarlett Johansson) or a classic pinup. They are personal pleasure machines that look human.

But are we making a mistake to view sexbots with such an individualistic lens?

Advancing AI will be utilized to give sexbots human attributes like the display of emotions. Yet at the same time the humanized sexbot is still just an object. So how will it be treated, or how should it be treated? Given the concern we have towards the objectification of humans, what will the impact be if the future includes humans having sex with humanized objects? At what point would this been viewed as infidelity, or incite jealousy? There is major disagreement as to whether this will compliment relationships, as Dr. Barber stated above, or create a major rift.

For the 2nd International Congress on Love and Sex with Robots, Dr. David Levy gave a talk entitled, “Why Not Marry a Robot?" Good question. But we are about to find out if this human-robot marriage only happens after divorce.

A landslide is imminent and so is its tsunami

An open letter predicts that a massive wall of rock is about to plunge into Barry Arm Fjord in Alaska.

Image source: Christian Zimmerman/USGS/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • A remote area visited by tourists and cruises, and home to fishing villages, is about to be visited by a devastating tsunami.
  • A wall of rock exposed by a receding glacier is about crash into the waters below.
  • Glaciers hold such areas together — and when they're gone, bad stuff can be left behind.

The Barry Glacier gives its name to Alaska's Barry Arm Fjord, and a new open letter forecasts trouble ahead.

Thanks to global warming, the glacier has been retreating, so far removing two-thirds of its support for a steep mile-long slope, or scarp, containing perhaps 500 million cubic meters of material. (Think the Hoover Dam times several hundred.) The slope has been moving slowly since 1957, but scientists say it's become an avalanche waiting to happen, maybe within the next year, and likely within 20. When it does come crashing down into the fjord, it could set in motion a frightening tsunami overwhelming the fjord's normally peaceful waters .

"It could happen anytime, but the risk just goes way up as this glacier recedes," says hydrologist Anna Liljedahl of Woods Hole, one of the signatories to the letter.

The Barry Arm Fjord

Camping on the fjord's Black Sand Beach

Image source: Matt Zimmerman

The Barry Arm Fjord is a stretch of water between the Harriman Fjord and the Port Wills Fjord, located at the northwest corner of the well-known Prince William Sound. It's a beautiful area, home to a few hundred people supporting the local fishing industry, and it's also a popular destination for tourists — its Black Sand Beach is one of Alaska's most scenic — and cruise ships.

Not Alaska’s first watery rodeo, but likely the biggest

Image source: whrc.org

There have been at least two similar events in the state's recent history, though not on such a massive scale. On July 9, 1958, an earthquake nearby caused 40 million cubic yards of rock to suddenly slide 2,000 feet down into Lituya Bay, producing a tsunami whose peak waves reportedly reached 1,720 feet in height. By the time the wall of water reached the mouth of the bay, it was still 75 feet high. At Taan Fjord in 2015, a landslide caused a tsunami that crested at 600 feet. Both of these events thankfully occurred in sparsely populated areas, so few fatalities occurred.

The Barry Arm event will be larger than either of these by far.

"This is an enormous slope — the mass that could fail weighs over a billion tonnes," said geologist Dave Petley, speaking to Earther. "The internal structure of that rock mass, which will determine whether it collapses, is very complex. At the moment we don't know enough about it to be able to forecast its future behavior."

Outside of Alaska, on the west coast of Greenland, a landslide-produced tsunami towered 300 feet high, obliterating a fishing village in its path.

What the letter predicts for Barry Arm Fjord

Moving slowly at first...

Image source: whrc.org

"The effects would be especially severe near where the landslide enters the water at the head of Barry Arm. Additionally, areas of shallow water, or low-lying land near the shore, would be in danger even further from the source. A minor failure may not produce significant impacts beyond the inner parts of the fiord, while a complete failure could be destructive throughout Barry Arm, Harriman Fiord, and parts of Port Wells. Our initial results show complex impacts further from the landslide than Barry Arm, with over 30 foot waves in some distant bays, including Whittier."

The discovery of the impeding landslide began with an observation by the sister of geologist Hig Higman of Ground Truth, an organization in Seldovia, Alaska. Artist Valisa Higman was vacationing in the area and sent her brother some photos of worrying fractures she noticed in the slope, taken while she was on a boat cruising the fjord.

Higman confirmed his sister's hunch via available satellite imagery and, digging deeper, found that between 2009 and 2015 the slope had moved 600 feet downhill, leaving a prominent scar.

Ohio State's Chunli Dai unearthed a connection between the movement and the receding of the Barry Glacier. Comparison of the Barry Arm slope with other similar areas, combined with computer modeling of the possible resulting tsunamis, led to the publication of the group's letter.

While the full group of signatories from 14 organizations and institutions has only been working on the situation for a month, the implications were immediately clear. The signers include experts from Ohio State University, the University of Southern California, and the Anchorage and Fairbanks campuses of the University of Alaska.

Once informed of the open letter's contents, the Alaska's Department of Natural Resources immediately released a warning that "an increasingly likely landslide could generate a wave with devastating effects on fishermen and recreationalists."

How do you prepare for something like this?

Image source: whrc.org

The obvious question is what can be done to prepare for the landslide and tsunami? For one thing, there's more to understand about the upcoming event, and the researchers lay out their plan in the letter:

"To inform and refine hazard mitigation efforts, we would like to pursue several lines of investigation: Detect changes in the slope that might forewarn of a landslide, better understand what could trigger a landslide, and refine tsunami model projections. By mapping the landslide and nearby terrain, both above and below sea level, we can more accurately determine the basic physical dimensions of the landslide. This can be paired with GPS and seismic measurements made over time to see how the slope responds to changes in the glacier and to events like rainstorms and earthquakes. Field and satellite data can support near-real time hazard monitoring, while computer models of landslide and tsunami scenarios can help identify specific places that are most at risk."

In the letter, the authors reached out to those living in and visiting the area, asking, "What specific questions are most important to you?" and "What could be done to reduce the danger to people who want to visit or work in Barry Arm?" They also invited locals to let them know about any changes, including even small rock-falls and landslides.

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