Robot sex, gay nanobots, and synthetic lust: gender and sexuality in a transhumanist future

I am a transhumanist: I believe that eventually our technology will advance to the point where we are able to replace the biological parts of our brains and bodies with mechanical or artificial replicas, or will be able to “upload” our minds into machine bodies. I’ve written about this topic a few times before, most recently in my article Transhumanism and the search for digital immortality.

But if humanity transitions to synthetic, non-biological bodies… what will that mean for sex and gender? What will it mean for sexual orientation? Do terms like “homosexual” and “heterosexual” even have meaning when our bodies are made of nanobots or plastic and wires? Will sexual orientation and gender become nothing more than choices–fashion statements that can be flipped on and off at will? Will gender identities just “melt away”, allowing people to be seen more uniquely as themselves? Or will it simply give rise to a whole new host of prejudices, power-struggles, and problems?

Check out my fascinating video interview with B.J. Murphy, writer for SeriousWonder.com and IEET.org, where we hash out some ideas of what the future might look like.

The main point of this interview was to talk about sexual reproduction, sexual orientation, and gender identity. But, part-way through the discussion we got side-lined by a related but separate conversation on emotions: will a robot body be able to experience lust, passion, and desire? And how can we be sure that we preserve those feelings in non-biological bodies?

Rather than just losing that conversation completely, I snipped that segment out and put it into a second “extras” video. So if you want to hear a transhumanist conversation about everything from robot arousal to cybernetic sex toys, you can see that here:

As always, please subscribe to my Youtube channel if you haven’t already! Do me a huge favor and leave your comments on Youtube, and I’ll be sure to respond. And remember you can always get to my channel easily by typing gregstevens.tv.

Extra Screenshots!

Some extra screenshots for you wonderful people who follow my blog!

Greg Stevens Cyborg Transhumanism Futurism 06BJ Murphy Cyborg Transhumanism Futurism 06Greg Stevens Cyborg Transhumanism Futurism 05BJ Murphy Cyborg Transhumanism Futurism 05Greg Stevens Cyborg Transhumanism Futurism 04BJ Murphy Cyborg Transhumanism Futurism 04Greg Stevens Cyborg Transhumanism Futurism 02BJ Murphy Cyborg Transhumanism Futurism 02



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  1. TheBigOne says:

    This is cool it means that if you really like someone as a person, you can hack your own desires maybe so that you are overwhelmingly turned on by just that one specific person you like. I sometimes wonder if that would get boring tho if everything is too easy.

    • Greg Stevens says:

      Oh, I’m not worried about us ever getting bored and having no problems. 😉 I think the human mind is infinitely adaptable to finding and creating new problems, no matter what level of progress or technology we achieve.

  2. Rachel says:

    With regards to “transhumans” I can’t see why this would be desirable in the first place. As someone who appreciates the complexity and the interconnectedness of all living things, I don’t see the advantages of custom fitting psychological components, or trying to extend the life of the parts beyond a certain point. If you have body parts that will live on, will your mind operate the same? Will you continue to be you and how will that manifest? Your brain is an organic, living thing so would that be replaced by a bot? I find it hard to believe that it would be possible to replicate a human brain given that we are just beginning to understand how it works. I’m not sure about sexual desire or gender identity in “transhumans”-couldn’t you just eliminate that quagmire altogether? I don’t find the concept blasphemous or anathema, but I fail to see the wisdom in “progress” just because we can without considering the ramifications of such an elemental change to what life even means. I generally think that AI (and really all technology) is itself benign with possibilities for abuse and possibilities for good. I have to agree with your assessment of the dubiousness of progress. I watched a Stephen Pinker TED talk about how much better things are than they used to be and this got me ruminating about it for a couple of years. I read an article recently for class that echoed that sentiment written by Carroll (I can’t find the damn thing or I’d attach it). In it he discussed how well we have evolutionarily adapted to modern life, but I’d say that the jury is still out on that one. Perhaps having a self-proclaimed nihilist for a son and having dated a doomsday communist have negatively impacted my world view, but I’d say that the ramifications of technology and the current dominant social structure have had a deleterious impact on human life. The possibility of transhumans sounds like it would continue in increasing this discord between the natural and the contrived. There is something about it that I find repugnant. Not from an ethical or a Luddite standpoint, but from one that finds virtue intrinsically in humanity-in flaws and foibles and in the agonizing brevity of life. To engineer something else is to take away the mystery that makes life meaningful.

    • Greg Stevens says:

      Thanks for your great comment, Rachel! I’m going to try to tease apart a few different issues and address them separately. Last things first! I have OVERWHELMING confidence that the human psyche, whether embodied in neural cells or battery cells, will have plenty of foibles and will find plenty of things to agonize over and find mystery in, in order to create meaning! If we were able to live in plastic bodies that lasted thousands of years, surely we would have DIFFERENT anxieties and stresses to agonize over… but I don’t believe for a minute that it would “take away the mystery that makes life meaningful.” 🙂 We can always find new things to agonize over, and new mysteries to solve. Next: I agree with you one hundred percent that I’m skeptical about the transhumanists’ faith in in the “ever upward progress of humanity”. My gut tells me that the path we’re on is more like the way Neal Stephenon saw the “alternative future” in the novel Anathem: constant ebs and flows, society expanding and contracting, technology coming and going, not PRECISELY “circles” but more like spirals… where technology, religion, city size, education, and everything else go through regular intervals of growing and shrinking over periods of thousands of years. That seems more likely, on a gut level, than this “expoential increasing curve with no end” that transhumanists seem to envision. But I guess we will see, won’t we? Finally, the hesitation you expressed first is the one I want to challenge the most! “Will you continue to be you and how will that manifest? Your brain is an organic, living thing so would that be replaced by a bot? I find it hard to believe that it would be possible to replicate a human brain given that we are just beginning to understand how it works.” This is really just an argument from the perspective of “it seems really complicated now” … but we are always learning, and always improving. It might not happen by 2050, or by 2200… but the fact that “it’s complicated” isn’t a reason IN PRINCIPLE to think that we can’t get a human mind to run on a synthetic brain. Right? Even some of the properties you described — complexity, adaptiveness, interconnectedness — all of these things could be built into a synthetic device, as long as we do it carefully and correctly. In the end, plastic and organic polymers are all made of molecules. It’s all teeny tiny “machines” regardless. So, if we could replace every single neuron in your nervous system with a teeny tiny synthetic neuron that performed EXACTLY the same function as the original neuron… would you still be you? Why wouldn’t you be? 🙂

  3. W4Y-SM4RT3R-TH4N-Y0U says:

    I think the real danger is that once we have that kind of control there will be all kinds of people trying to force people to not be gay, or whatever. Once you have the choice suddenly it becomes open season on discrimination.

    • Greg Stevens says:

      Maybe…. but maybe not. I know that the gay rights movement has invested a lot into the idea that gay people should have the right to be gay because it ISN’T a choice. But to be honest, there is nothing inherent about choices that makes them OK for people to discriminate against. After all, religion is a choice, and it’s not OK to discriminate based on that.

      I think the moral arguments will have to be worked out… maybe it even could lead to an advancement of our moral thinking, when we can evolve to the point where we are saying: you shouldn’t hate people based on the gender they love, REGARDLESS of whether it’s a choice or not!

  4. Wraith says:

    That was amazing…

  5. john says:

    This is stupid you’re a bunch of pervs

  6. Wes says:

    Our sense of self is largely a function of our physiological self awareness… I’m not sure what “uploading” ourselves even means… might not even make sense

    • Greg Stevens says:

      Our sense of self is really an amalgamation of a number of things, including memories, preferences, skills and habits, and our mental model of our physical self within the universe.

      Amputees who get artificial limbs are able to incorporate the limbs into their “self-concept” and feel that those artificial limbs are a “part” of them. It follows that if you were to replace arms, legs, and eventually your entire body with an “artificial body” (i.e. robot body), your mind would be able to incorporate that robot body — it’s physical attributes, actions, and orientation — into your sense of your physical “self”.

      What is needed for this “physical sense of self” is merely a mental model of the relationship between your sensory information, your own position, and your actions and impact in the world. All of these things can be modelled for a synthetic body just as it can be modeled for a biological body.

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