Build Me Somebody to Love

The careful next steps in human-robot relations

Covid has done a great job of reminding us to appreciate the people in our lives, value our relationships and cherish love. But living on my own, it has also really emphasized my lack of a partner. The closest thing I have to a conversation before my first video call each day is with my Alexa.

At Forever Beta and Beta Alliance, we felt it would be an interesting time to make a documentary and start a conversation about the future of human-machine relationships.

Our film, developed for Kaspersky's media platform Tomorrow Unlocked, is called Build Me Somebody to Love and is the fifth and most ambitious documentary we've created as part of our Imagine Beyond series. It tells a compelling story about the changes and challenges of humanity's developing relationships with robotics—from the world's first sex-robot brothel, to the visionaries who want to revolutionize elderly care, exploring how human-to-human contact may soon be replaced in a variety of ways and how it could change us. "Is it OK to have sex with a robot dog?" might sound like the setup to a joke, but it's actually a real ethical question posed by one of our experts.

My highlight (close your ears, Alexa) was working with one of our contributors, Sylvia, a VR sex avatar who lives in a digital world inside a robot brothel in Prague. Sylvia is a Virt-A-Mate (an adult entertainment simulator program). To promote the film, we decided to give her a voice. We worked with her developer to get Sylvia to interview adult entertainment influencers, discussing the implications of technology developments in the adult industry. Over 34,000 people on Instagram watched Sylvia ask them if they had any advice for her as she evolved.

In a small way it felt good taking Sylvia out of her sex box and starting to help shape a potential future. But what we learned was hers comes with a lot of danger.

"Sylvia is an example of how we might communicate with highly developed A.I. in the future. If the porn industry is an indication—and it often is for tech innovation—the more realistic they get, the easier it will be for us to share more than we should. With an outstanding collection of intimate, valuable insights, Sylvia will need to be protected—and as an industry we will have to find solutions for that." —Rainer Bock, head of content of Tomorrow Unlocked, Kaspersky

As I worked with Sylvia and listened to the experts in the documentary, I started to care for her. We have just scratched the surface of what this could mean for her future, emotionally and legally. I want Sylvias to be safe and fair. Consensual.

If you're single and living in Covid times, the idea of a smart sex robot may now be an easy thing to imagine. I know it is for me. Would I have sex with a future form of Sylvia? The answer would hopefully stay between us.

See the full documentary here.

Featured Clio Award Winner

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