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What Sex is Your Robot? 263

Ant writes "Technology Review has an article about how the more robots interact with humans, the more important their apparent gender becomes."
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What Sex is Your Robot?

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  • It's a Unic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doesn't_Comment_Code ( 692510 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @09:50AM (#9072761)
    My robot is an arm and hand only. And since it doesn't have fingernails, there is no way to tell if its a girl or boy.

    Honestly, as robot builder I find this a little boring. It has little to do with robotics. You can take the same robot and give it a different costume and maybe a new voice to change it's sex... big deal.
  • Sex shops (Score:5, Interesting)

    by moxruby ( 152805 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @09:52AM (#9072787)
    Considering that a certain portion of the population is willing to have "sex" with a blow-up doll, it's just a matter of time before robots are marketed for the same purpose.

    I'm not joking when I say that the "roboporn" industry is likely to be a significant driving force when it comes to creating cheap, lifelike robots.
  • by JSkills ( 69686 ) <jskills&goofball,com> on Thursday May 06, 2004 @10:00AM (#9072873) Homepage Journal
    Frank Zappa - Joe's Garage Pt II - Cyborg

    A song about a broken hearted guy who ends up having sex with a robot that is part vacuum cleaner part robotic pig. He ends up short circuiting it (getting it wet somehow) and going to jail for murder (illegal to harm cyborgs in the futuristic society).

    BTW - I'm pretty sure the robot was a male. Anyone remember this?

  • Female. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Azureflare ( 645778 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @10:04AM (#9072907)
    God, can you imagine a bunch of robots running with Testosterone emulation? They'll be trying to hump everything in sight!

    Much better to have female robots. They're much more reasonable and reserved, not going berserk like the males.

    Wait, what parallel universe am I talking about?? They're both crazy!! </joke>

    I say, leave gender out of the equation. It's kind of creepy if you have robots lamely emulating human characteristics. Also, it's not a good idea to include gender, because it introduces complexity which we don't really need at this point. Perhaps it would be useful for recreational robots, but for robots that actually serve a purpose... No thanks.

    The author of the article says that taking on genders will allow them to better interact with humans. I think it would make things more difficult, because gender is such a human construct. We have so many complex psychological issues with our fellow beings. I think it would make things much simpler if we just made perceptions of robots as they are, without intentionally engineering them to appear as a certain gender. Robots should behave like Robots. We don't really know what that is yet, but I think "behavior" of robots is a long way down the road. We're not there yet.

    BTW what's the point of having a gender associated with a robot? I don't think Robots have need of those characteristics, or sex for that matter. Well, maybe Infrared port sex. Or maybe Seriel port....yeah...

    Well, now that I think of it, I can think of a purpose. Marketing. So, for an assistant robot, you make it abundantly female, and of course, all the guys will want one. Then you make the "security" droid male, (Personally I think a female security robot might be more appealing, but then you've got to play on the typical Male Protector stereotype), and this will get all the females buying one. I think it's a little cheap. But, the markedroids have got to have something to keep them busy, I suppose.

    OK I'm thinking about this way too much. Off to finish finals...

  • Re:Of course ... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by RLW ( 662014 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @10:08AM (#9072927)
    It doesn't matter what one does; the feminists will complain. Just accept it. In fact I bet they will complain about this post.

    With this in mind robot manufacturers should just build all the robots to look like boxes with articulated rectangles for legs and arms. Then offer upgrades for all these parts in either male or female shapes. They will make a killing in after market add-ons and no one can say they are perpetuating a stereo type because they allow one to customize his own units himself.
  • Sex != gender (Score:5, Interesting)

    by slashd'oh ( 234025 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @10:10AM (#9072933) Homepage
    An important distinction to be made is that sex is not gender. Sex should be used only when referring to the biological nature of the object in question, whereas gender refers to a set of socially-constructed rules governing the objects behavior in society. To quote Everything2 []: "In anthropology gender is the accepted way to refer to a set of behaviors/beliefes often related to physical sex traits. You can have a gender that is different from your biological sex, if your culture premits."
  • by james_in_denver ( 757233 ) <> on Thursday May 06, 2004 @10:15AM (#9072971)
    Since selling "sex" was one of the first profitable "businesses" on the 'net, it would make perfect sense for robots to go there too.

    Are we going to have people cross-dressing robots to camouflage their sexual preferences?

    Would having sex with an anotomically correct robot be cheating on your spouse? (or is that just masturbation?)

    Gives new meaning to "Brave New World"!
  • Re:Umm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pubjames ( 468013 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @10:38AM (#9073207)
    It's not so much that they are illogical, but we jump to conclusions about what they are trying to communicate and conclude that they're being illogical.

    You should read "men are from Mars,...". It helped me understand women better, and now I have fewer arguments with my wife.
  • Conclusion (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Pan T. Hose ( 707794 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @10:43AM (#9073271) Homepage Journal
    After reading all of the above comments with sincere interestedness, I inevitably came to the following conclusion: we need to get laid. All of us. Otherwise the entire robotics industry might soon become nothing more but a robofetishistic sex shop for sick perverted deviants. Seriously.
  • Re:Sex shops (Score:3, Interesting)

    by T-Ranger ( 10520 ) <> on Thursday May 06, 2004 @10:50AM (#9073351) Homepage
    The other couple of replies touch on the subject, as if it is a joke.

    But porn has pushed more then one technology.

    Internet wise, early streaming video technology (VIVOs) were used almost exclusivly with porn sites.

    (Multi-)Tiered marketing, while not unique to the internet by any streach, was perfected by porn sites. Brick and mortor sales contracts would be pagest thick and require lengthy sessions with lawyers.... Online it is just a few clicks away. "Clearing houses" of marketing programs are almost definitly unique to the Internet, and they started out with porn.

    In the Real World, porn drove polaroids and VCRs.

  • by dpilot ( 134227 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @11:25AM (#9073754) Homepage Journal
    A while back on *bottomquark, there was an article about a guy who built a belly-dancing robot. Robotics work happened to be his day job, and he was fascinated by the motions. Turns out that belly-dancing, and spine movements in general turn out to be variations of the movements of swimming fish. Not surprising when you think about it, because both are spinal undulations. A little odder to think of erect spinal posture a a variation of spinal undulation, but still reasonable, when you add feedback.

    Anyhow, nature has shown remarkable versatility in reusing simple fundamentals to do complex things.

    Your robot may not be as difficult as you think.
  • Icelandic (Score:3, Interesting)

    by oneiros27 ( 46144 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @11:33AM (#9073880) Homepage
    If my memory of my class in Medieval Literature is correct, the Icelandic people had two terms that had a similar connotation to gender that were used to refer to people, but were closer to 'strong' and 'weak'.

    So an an improper translation, a female leader might be refered to as 'he', while an elderly male might be refered to as 'she'.

    But in today's context, I think my brother's gone out with women who were more masculine than he was.
  • by Khelder ( 34398 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @12:06PM (#9074324)
    Many of you may have read this already, but if you haven't, I highly recommend The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin. I found its take on gender and how it impacts all aspects of our relationships to be really interesting. And it's a good story, too.
  • C3PO (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kin_korn_karn ( 466864 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @02:29PM (#9075837) Homepage

    C3PO's gender [] never was in doubt, according to Topps.
  • by margycdb ( 533330 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @03:00PM (#9076173)
    But the gender of those nouns in native languages have been shown to have an effect on the way we think about things. I forget the specifics but there was a study done with the words 'key' in 'bridge' where one was maculine in one language and feminine in another and the other was the opposite. Only a picture was shown and the subjects were asked to describe it. Basicaly, they were seen in gendered ways. For example, in the language where key was feminine, it was 'delicate', 'small' and 'shiny' and in the one where it was masculine it was 'hard', 'sharp' and 'metal'.
  • Gender and Sex (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CustomDesigned ( 250089 ) <> on Thursday May 06, 2004 @10:27PM (#9079905) Homepage Journal
    In "Perelandra", C.S. Lewis makes the suggestion that gender is a fundamental reality, of which biological sex is an imperfect reflection. For instance, even the Eldila - alien beings who do not reproduce - have gender. If that is true, then assigning gender to a robot makes perfect sense.

The one day you'd sell your soul for something, souls are a glut.