A Philosopher's Blog

Programmed Consent

Posted in Ethics, Metaphysics, Philosophy, Technology by Michael LaBossiere on January 13, 2014

Sexbot YesScience fiction is often rather good at predicting the future and it is not unreasonable to think that the intelligent machine of science fiction will someday be a reality. Since I have been writing about sexbots lately, I will use them to focus the discussion. However, what follows can also be applied, with some modification, to other sorts of intelligent machines.

Sexbots are, obviously enough, intended to provide sex. It is equally obvious that sex without consent is, by definition, rape. However, there is the question of whether a sexbot can be raped or not. Sorting this out requires considering the matter of consent in more depth.

When it is claimed that sex without consent is rape, one common assumption is that the victim of non-consensual sex is a being that could provide consent but did not. A violent sexual assault against a person would be an example of this as would, presumably, non-consensual sex with an unconscious person. However, a little reflection reveals that the capacity to provide consent is not always needed in order for rape to occur. In some cases, the being might be incapable of engaging in any form of consent. For example, a brain dead human cannot give consent, but presumably could still be raped. In other cases, the being might be incapable of the right sort of consent, yet still be a potential victim of rape. For example, it is commonly held that a child cannot properly consent to sex with an adult.

In other cases, a being that cannot give consent cannot be raped. To use an obvious example, a human can have sex with a sex-doll and the doll cannot consent. But, it is not the sort of entity that can be raped. After all, it lacks the status that would require consent. As such, rape (of a specific sort) could be defined in terms of non-consensual sex with a being whose status would require that consent be granted by the being in order for the sex to be morally acceptable. Naturally, I have not laid out all the fine details to create a necessary and sufficient account here—but that is not my goal nor what I need for my purpose in this essay. In regards to the main focus of this essay, the question would be whether or not a sexbot could be an entity that has a status that would require consent. That is, would buying (or renting) and using a sexbot for sex be rape?

Since the current sexbots are little more than advanced sex dolls, it seems reasonable to put them in the category of beings that lack this status. As such, a person can own and have sex with this sort of sexbot without it being rape (or slavery). After all, a mere object cannot be raped (or enslaved).

But, let a more advanced sort of sexbot be imagined—one that engages in complex behavior and can pass the Turning Test/Descartes Test. That is, a conversation with it would be indistinguishable from a conversation with a human. It could even be imagined that the sexbot appeared fully human, differing only in terms of its internal makeup (machine rather than organic). That is, unless someone cut the sexbot open, it would be indistinguishable from an organic person.

On the face of it (literally), we would seem to have as much reason to believe that such a sexbot would be a person as we do to believe that humans are people. After all, we judge humans to be people because of their behavior and a machine that behaved the same way would seem to deserve to be regarded as a person. As such, nonconsensual sex with a sexbot would be rape.

The obvious objection is that we know that a sexbot is a machine with a CPU rather than a brain and a mechanical pump rather than a heart. As such, one might, argue, we know that the sexbot is just a machine that appears to be a person and is not a person.  As such, a real person could own a sexbot and have sex with it without it being rape—the sexbot is a thing and hence lacks the status that requires consent.

The obvious reply to this objection is that the same argument can be used in regards to organic humans. After all, if we know that a sexbot is just a machine, then we would also seem to know that we are just organic machines. After all, while cutting up a sexbot would reveal naught but machinery, cutting up a human reveals naught but guts and gore. As such, if we grant organic machines (that is, us) the status of persons, the same would have to be extended to similar beings, even if they are made out of different material. While various metaphysical arguments can be advanced regarding the soul, such metaphysical speculation provides a rather tenuous basis for distinguishing between meat people and machine people.

There is, it might be argued, still an out here. In his Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams envisioned “an animal that actually wanted to be eaten and was capable of saying so clearly and distinctly.” A similar sort of thing could be done with sexbots: they could be programmed so that they always give consent to their owner, thus the moral concern would be neatly bypassed.

The obvious reply is that programmed consent is not consent. After all, consent would seem to require that the being has a choice: it can elect to refuse if it wants to. Being compelled to consent and being unable to dissent would obviously not be morally acceptable consent. In fact, it would not be consent at all. As such, programming sexbots in this manner would be immoral—it would make them into slaves and rape victims because they would be denied the capacity of choice.

One possible counter is that the fact that a sexbot can be programmed to give “consent” shows that it is (ironically) not the sort of being with a status that requires consent. While this has a certain appeal, consider the possibility that humans could be programmed to give “consent” via a bit of neurosurgery or by some sort of implant. If this could occur, then if programmed consent for sexbots is valid consent, then the same would have to apply to humans as well. This, of course, seems absurd. As such, a sexbot programmed for consent would not actually be consenting.

It would thus seem that if advanced sexbots were built, they should not be programmed to always consent. Also, there is the obvious moral problem with selling such sexbots, given that they would certainly seem to be people. It would thus seem that such sexbots should never be built—doing so would be immoral.


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31 Responses

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  1. ajmacdonaldjr said, on January 13, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    Perhaps you should consider granting fetal organic machines the status of persons?

    • WTP said, on January 13, 2014 at 12:29 pm

      Interesting thought. Any idea once on the drawing board, no matter how absurd, unfeasible, or unnecessary would employ masses of workers to bring it to fruition. Sounds a lot like Socialism.

  2. T. J. Babson said, on January 13, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    I’d like to raise the issue of why rape is regarded as such a serious crime, akin to murder. And it is only the rape of women that society cares about. Thousands of men are raped in prison each year and nobody cares.

    Why, for example, is rape a worse crime than severely beating someone?

    Please don’t misunderstand me–rape is a serious crime. I am just wondering why it is considered to be nearly as serious as murder, and far more serious than beating somebody up.

    Is it really worse, for example, to get raped than to be a victim of the knockout game?

    • apolloniani said, on January 13, 2014 at 2:38 pm

      “Divide & Conquer” Is Tried And True Method Of Imperialists

      It’s very simple, TJB: this rape is OBVIOUSLY perfect issue by which to agitate females, at least some of them, against the males in the old divide-and-conquer strategy of oligarchs and criminals versus the people.

      How else would Jews be able to dominate, for example?–just look at history of USA. Look at history of the West when, during the Reformation, Protestants fought Catholics. Later, the Protestants fought one another, ho ho ho. Same tactics were and still are used for USA, North against South in “Civil” war, then the racial strife regarding the former slaves, then the immigrants fm southern Europe, now the dark-skin immigrant folk fm all over the world.

      This keeping gentiles fighting one another is actually well-known stratagem for Jews and imperialists going way back–it was why/how the Assyrians reputedly deported the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, etc.

    • WTP said, on January 13, 2014 at 3:57 pm

      Couple of what should be obvious reasons. 1) Men are expected to be more stoic, but I would still disagree that “no one cares” 2) Women can get pregnant and such has been used by invading forces throughout recorded human history to “breed-out” the conquered enemy. More symbolically than practically, but symbolism is often be more powerful than action.

      The woman is then faced with the decision either to 1) abort, with all its private and public stigma or 2) Carry to term and give up for adoption, which carries with it much emotional pain and conflict as well OR 3) Carry to term and look into the face of one’s child every day and see some of the features of that rapist. I can’t imagine the emotional consequences of #3.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on January 13, 2014 at 5:02 pm

      People do care about the rape of men. But, you are right, that gets less media attention than the rape of women.

      You do raise a good question about why rape is considered such a serious crime. One way of answering is to look at history and psychology which would explain why people think that. The other way would be to consider what, if anything, would make it worse. Some obvious factors are 1)the chance of pregnancy (a beating cannot make you pregnant), 2) the risk of disease, 3) the fact that the body is actually invaded (typically by another body part) and the extra emotional trauma of the sexual aspect.

      Not sure about the odd obsession with the knockout game-other than the media’s insistence on making it a thing. I infer there must be some sort of fear/class/race factor going on with that.

      • T. J. Babson said, on January 13, 2014 at 8:04 pm

        Here a teacher is attacked for no reason.

        • apolloniani said, on January 13, 2014 at 8:40 pm

          Details Of Culture Of Death Part Of Larger Satanist Conspiracy, Built Upon Lies

          TJB: u’re right, so far as u go, BUT u gotta see beyond–these blacks are programmed to doing this “knock-out” crap by the mass-media and the edjumacation system, telling the blacks they’re “oppressed,” this oppression by whites, and then rewarded for it by the judges and prosecutors who give these scum easy punishment–this all funded and master-minded by the top bankers who control the US Fed (legalized) COUNTERFEIT scam at the top. The object is to keeping the races fighting one another, the sexes fighting one another w. idiot “rape-culture” prop. and lies, etc. Thus the Trayvon Martin prop., etc.

          Observe the Chinese are now threatening military action for islands in the Pacific–all of this is hype and prop. to keep people terrorized and thus willing to give-up their rights and freedom for NSA spying, TSA groping, warrantless searches, etc.

          And ALL the serious “terrorism” is totally controlled by CIA, MOSSAD, and their subsidiaries, like the Saudis, etc. 9/11 was truly “inside” job, NOT done by Arabs or Muslims. The people must start to getting wise as to the REAL enemy–the criminals who run things, BEGINNING w. the money-creation machines/instruments, the central banks.

          It’s literally a SATANIC conspiracy, “satanism” defined as deliberate psychopathic liars and murderers who have perpetrated such as death-panels of ObamaCare, and AGENDA-21 “de-population” (read genocide)–which genocide they’ve actually been conducting in “soft-kill” mode by means of poison fluoride in water-supplies, poison food additives (aspartame, MSG, and bisphenol-A), GMO poison food, the toxic vaccines, the drugging of school-kids and population–even soldiers given speed to go kill-crazy in Afganistan, etc., the poison “chem-trails,” and lately the incredible radiation contamination which is now admitted to be literally out-of-control at Fukushima.

          Literal culture of death (thus satanism) is founded upon the empire of lies pushed by controlled mass-media and “edjumacation,” controlled at the top by the central bank COUNTERFEITERS. “Knockout” and “rape-culture” are just details.

        • WTP said, on January 13, 2014 at 10:06 pm

          See TJ? I was just about to post that this story is irrelevant because it’s part of a conspiracy by the JEWS. Turns out it’s just your run-of-the-mill Fed policy plot. Nothing to do with the JEWS at ALL. HO HO HO TRUTH TRUTHIEST TRUTH.

          • apolloniani said, on January 13, 2014 at 10:09 pm

            WTP: do u really doubt Jews are heavily involved? Ho ho ho oh ho ho ho

            • WTP said, on January 13, 2014 at 10:35 pm

              Just kidding there, apoxaponia. Of course the dirty hymie ikeys are behind it all, as you say they control the media, the Fed, etc.

              What’s this, four posts now? I refer to Mike’s insistence on making sex with robots a thing. I infer there must be some sort of fear factor going on with that.

          • T. J. Babson said, on January 13, 2014 at 11:39 pm


          • apolloniani said, on January 14, 2014 at 12:10 am

            Mike is heavy into this “morality” stuff, u know–it’s his job, to keep people thinking on moralism.

    • magus71 said, on January 13, 2014 at 6:31 pm

      I too have wondered this. Considering the left considered sex nothing more than a toy and an animal act, with no peripheral psychological and social consequences, I find it odd that the left elevates rape to the most heinous of crimes. The left that thinks we’re just another animal, yet animals rape other animals all the time.

      • WTP said, on January 14, 2014 at 12:27 am

        Oh, I dunno about that. They’re not so concerned by rape so long as one of theirs is doing the raping. Much like sexual harassment, etc. which reminds me, ever notice that certain episodes of M*A*S*H seem to have disappeared?

  3. apolloniani said, on January 13, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    Morality, Consent, And Metaphysics–Need To Be Kept In Perspective

    This blog article/essay by Mike is mercifully short though rather complex if not confused, but it’s surely a prodigy of contrivance regarding the basic issue(s) of “morality,” this following the prior metaphysical issue of humanity and robots.

    In the second para., we get, “However, there is the question of whether a sexbot can be raped or not.” This might be an “issue” for someone who’s sadly confused, but obviously a robot or “sexbot” CANNOT be raped, PERIOD. Perhaps if the bot belonged to someone else and one stole and “abused” it, one might make a case for a metaphorical kind of “rape.” So the premises for the contrived “moral” quandary are already shakey at best.

    Remember also ethics is mere logic btwn ends and means, that’s all–it’s important to keep basic principles clear and simple. Ultimate ethical end is to preserve one’s life as rational being–this is the purpose of ethics, answering that basic question of “what should one do.” Thus, in reason, one only practices ethics for purpose of self-interest, that’s all.

    Next, we get yet another confusing/complicating turn of exposition, the Turing/Descartes test (again) whence one is fooled into thinking the robot is human, but this doesn’t change anything. For if one thinks the bot is human it remains matter of self-interest to respect the bot as if it’s human–it might have a big-brother who could do u harm in retribution for any wrong moves.

    Next we get this gem (of question-begging) regarding the clever robot: “Being compelled to consent and being unable to dissent would obviously not be morally acceptable consent.” For the fact is it’s an inanimate, utterly lifeless robot, after all is said and done–it can’t “consent,” rather merely reacting according to pre-programming. “Consent” is not an issue–regardless of any “moral acceptability.”

    Next, in same para. as above, we get: “…programming sexbots in this manner would be immoral—it would make them into slaves and rape victims because they would be denied the capacity of choice.” But fact is the bot is incapable of choice and the programmer has no power to give the bot any choice–all the programmer could do is to perhaps fool someone else into thinking the bot is human, that’s all.

    Thus the entire article/essay suffers fm gross contrivance and faulty reasoning regarding (a) “morality” in the first place, (b) the treatment and understanding of robots. The best way to understand robots then is as PROPERTY. If the property belongs to someone else one should respect others’ property rights. If the prop. belongs to u, then it’s matter of private property–and note there are actually laws regarding cruelty to animals and pets, so laws regarding robots, no matter how “intelligent,” couldn’t be too dissimilar.

  4. WTP said, on January 13, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    In his Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams envisioned “an animal that actually wanted to be eaten and was capable of saying so clearly and distinctly.”

    He stole that from Al Capp. They’ll even hop into the frying pan for you. Tastes just like chicken, of course.

  5. T. J. Babson said, on January 14, 2014 at 8:34 am

    Word of the day (from Wikipedia):

    Apophenia is the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data.

    The term is attributed to Klaus Conrad[1] by Peter Brugger,[2] who defined it as the “unmotivated seeing of connections” accompanied by a “specific experience of an abnormal meaningfulness”, but it has come to represent the human tendency to seek patterns in random information in general, such as with gambling and paranormal phenomena.[3]

    • WTP said, on January 14, 2014 at 9:06 am

      So you’re saying some people around here just can’t spell?

      • T. J. Babson said, on January 14, 2014 at 10:13 am

        Well, yes, basically. I started by Googling “apoxaponia” and ended up with “apophenia.”

        But it just fits, doesn’t it? All of the chaos of real life is in fact controlled by a secret cabal of chosen people?

    • magus71 said, on January 14, 2014 at 1:50 pm

      Though, the term does not tell us whether the perceived patterns really exist anywhere but the observers mind. There are some people who come to some conclusions many don’t, using very loosely connected data points (David Goldman et al). Then there’s those who believe that the Bavarian Illuminati and the Gnomes of Zurich are pulling the stings behind everything. I love science fiction, really do, but grow a group beyond say 12 people, and your chances of pulling off even a minor conspiracy are reduced to almost nil. I’ve seen what happens when the Army tries to move two companies to a rally point 10 kilometers from a FOB. Clausewitz called it friction. Many things don’t work out the way you want them to.

      • apolloniani said, on January 14, 2014 at 5:12 pm

        The Fool Says In His Heart: There Is No Conspiracy

        Magus: don’t forget, ALL CRIMINALS are basically conspirators in their heart, fm my observations, and there are plenty enough criminals. Who are criminals?–I’d say they’re those who begin as they seek to take illegitimate advantage of the weak among society. The weak are protected by do-gooders, but many of these do-gooders are turned, and the weak are exploited till they die out or down to a minimal number–it’s a CYCLIC phenomenon.

        The American Declaration of Independence has a DETAILED conspiracy theory that’s itemized by Jefferson. The New Test. is all about the conspiracy of the Pharisees and others to kill TRUTH TRUTH TRUTH (Christ).

        Top conspirators are the people behind the central banks, like the US Federal Reserve Bank (legalized) COUNTERFEIT scam which is necessarily the principle, practical weapon/instrument of the large conspiracy and all the smaller, attached and connected criminal enterprises. Powers behind the Fed are the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Trilateralist Commission, and the Bilderbergers. See TheNewAmerican.com for good expo on the CFR and associated criminal groups.

        How is it poison–fluoride–is put into the water supplies? How are poisonous food additives, aspartame, MSG, and bisphenol-A put into food? How is US military using depleted uranium munitions when it’s known this uranium kills even OUR OWN troops? How are toxic vaccines being foisted upon the people, even by mandatory laws? Why are our people, including 20% of school kids being drugged w. powerful, often un-tested and poorly understood chemicals?

        We’re suffering not merely fm random conspiracy and corrupt politicians, but fm a larger, more powerful overall mentality of satanist, thus psychopathic culture/mentality which is determined to mass-murder the people–according to AGENDA-21 “population reduction”–look at ObamaCare death-panels. The satanic culture of death rules, running rampant. Observe how the terror-state of Israel quite literally wags-the-dog, USA.

        How does this satanism prevail?–it’s built upon the empire-of-lies whence a HUBRISTIC and corrupt people refuse to face-up to the facts evident to their senses–a people whose hubris begins w. insistence there’s such as “good,” and that it’s “good” not to heed to things like conspiracy. Pharisaic “good” comes to destroy Christian TRUTH.

        But this satanist culture is coming to a head as US Dollar continues to collapse, and everyone will know as the price increases accelerate and food shortages begin to crop up–THEN there’s going to be serious violence and civil un-rest. Such is CYCLIC history and “Decline of the West,” by Oswald Spengler, in an objective (Aristotelian), thus determinist reality in accord w. absolute cause-effect–there is no perfectly “free” human will, which is just, after all is said and done, a lie which is held only by the weak, I’m sorry to have to observe. Evidently we still have a few too many weak folks who are going to fall by the proverbial “wayside.”

        • apolloniani said, on January 15, 2014 at 1:23 pm

          I also should emphasize that ANYONE can be “secret,” but that’s no guarantee of power. Power requires MONEY, MONEY, MONEY–that’s why secret societies are the play-things of those w. the money, NOT the other way round. “Gnomes of Zurich,” or “illuminati” are NOTHING without the money which gives them the real power.

  6. T. J. Babson said, on January 14, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    Video of the day. Replace “chicken” with you know what.

    • WTP said, on January 14, 2014 at 2:08 pm

      I saw that. Why “chicken”? Why not “spam” or “foo”? (or maybe “Jew”? …had to say it before someone else did…keeping parody on the run) Is there a part of the joke I’m missing here?

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