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Channel 4 documentary to feature DMU professor's call for ban on sex robots


A leading De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) academic who researches the ethics of robotics is lending her expertise to a Channel 4 documentary tonight (THURS) which forms part of a series on robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Professor Kathleen Richardson, Professor of Ethics and Culture of Robots and AI, has had her arguments publicised by media around the globe for the past two years since her Campaign Against Sex Robots came to prominence.

She is also writing a report for the British Government, the European Parliament and other political bodies to warn that sex robots will harm rather than help humans.

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Channel 4’s programme The Sex Bots are Coming, which will be screened on Thursday night at 10pm, will look at how some sectors of the hi-tech industry are racing to combine robotics and AI to build a robot capable of intimacy.

Professor Richardson has been called on to explain why their development is so detrimental to society while the documentary also speaks to Matt McMullen, whose five years of research into robotics has led to the development in the United States of a submissive prototype sexbot called Harmony.

Speaking in this week’s Radio Times magazine to promote the film, Professor Richardson said: “It dehumanises women and will influence the way a new generation of men treat and respond to women, just as pornography has been shown to give boys unrealistic expectations of what sex is.


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“It’s damaging our society to promote sex robots as alternatives to having a meaningful experience with a human being. Robots to do our work, yes - but not to be our partners.”

Professor Richardson also warns the development of these robots will not help the lonely and bereaved.

She added: “I absolutely guarantee this will create human isolation. Those who buy sex robots will relate to the object and detach themselves from humans. If they’re on the cusp of society or have problems, they need therapy rather than a robot.

“Human empathy will be eroded and female bodies will be objectified and commodified even more than they already are.”

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Internationally famous choreographer and dancer - and DMU alumni - Akram Khan is also contributing to the Channel 4 Rise of the Robots series with a piece called Can We Live With Robots which will be screened at 7pm on Saturday.

Professor Richardson’s role as director of the Campaign Against Sex Robots has led to her appearance on TV in the UK, Germany and France and in countless newspapers and magazines across Europe and the US.

Professor Richardson is a Professor of Ethics and Culture of Robots and AI and part of the Europe-wide DREAM project (Development of Robot-Enhance Therapy for Children with AutisM). 

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Professor Richardson completed her PhD at the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge. Her fieldwork was an investigation of the making of robots in labs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

After her PhD, she was a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow (BAPDF), a position she held at University College London. Professor Richardson's postdoctoral work was an investigation into the therapeutic uses of robots for children with autism spectrum conditions.

Posted on Thursday 30th November 2017

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