Sex robots and thought crimes

A recent op-ed in The New York Times discusses some ethical and moral issues with sex robots. In particular, the issues with one such robotic personality dubbed “Frigid Farrah” which the company describes in their FAQ as “reserved and shy”.

From the op-ed:

Frigid Farrah is not alone in providing her user with a replica of a human partner without the nagging complication of consent. […]

One of the authors of the Foundation for Responsible Robotics report, Noel Sharkey, a professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield, England, said there are ethical arguments within the field about sex robots with “frigid” settings.

“The idea is robots would resist your sexual advances so that you could rape them,” Professor Sharkey said. “Some people say it’s better they rape robots than rape real people. There are other people saying this would just encourage rapists more.”

Like the argument that women-only train compartments are an answer to sexual harassment and assault, the notion that sex robots could reduce rape is deeply flawed. […]

Rape is not an act of sexual passion. It is a violent crime. We should no more be encouraging rapists to find a supposedly safe outlet for it than we should facilitate murderers by giving them realistic, blood-spurting dummies to stab.

Now, I agree with the condemnation of rape. To their credit, True Companion now says in their FAQ (which may or may not have been there at the time the op-ed was published):

We absolutely agree with Laura Bates, campaigner and founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, that “rape is not an act of sexual passion…”

Roxxxy, our True Companion sex robot is simply not programmed to participate in a rape scenario and the fact that she is, is pure conjecture on the part of others. […]

Frigid Farrah can be used to help people understand how to be intimate with a partner.

Rape simply isn’t an interaction that Roxxxy supports nor is it something that our customers are requesting.

That said, I would much rather someone rape a human-like robot instead of raping a real person. I understand others may not feel the same way, but I would compare an attempt to outlaw rape victim scenario robot software because others feel it can be used to practice for the rapes of real women paramount to banning certain video games like the Grand Theft Auto series because they can be used to practice real scenarios of crime and evading arrest. If you think the latter is just plain silly, you understand how I see the former.

The logical extreme of this–and I use the word “logical” a bit loosely here–is to make it a crime to partake in a simulated rape involving a sex robot. We already have laws that have run amok outlawing the possession of simulated child porn (not involving actual children). The original purpose of child porn laws was to prevent child abuse, similar to the actual laws against child abuse itself. If there are no children involved, all you really have left is thoughtcrime (a la George Orwell’s 1984). There are people who have been arrested and convicted for possessing only simulated child porn. While I find even simulated child porn repulsive, having our laws establish crimes where there is no real victim makes me even queasier.

Not surprisingly, there have also been calls for child sex robots to be banned at least in Britain, per the op-ed. I would certainly hope the demand for the child-sized versions to be in much lower demand. I find the sexual abuse of children particularly revolting, and I would expect most of decent society to concur. Again, better a robot than the real thing. The perverts get their perverse desires satisfied, no humans are harmed, and everyone wins.

Unless, of course, the legislators run amok and outlaw them. When child-size sex robots are outlawed, only outlaws will have child-size sex robots, and yet another thoughtcrime will be on the books. Can someone please remind our legislators that George Orwell’s book 1984 is not an instruction manual?

Matt McMullen, quoted in a linked article from The Guardian in the op-ed summarizes it rather nicely:

“Is it ethically dubious to force my toaster to make my toast?”

On the future of this blog and many other blogs and websites like it

I realize this is somewhat US-centric, but since a lot of internet traffic passes through the US, it does have global implications.

For those of you who missed it, today many sites, like this one and my other blog, SKQ Record Quest are participating in a protest and awareness effort regarding net neutrality. A lot of people don’t realize what net neutrality is, so I will try to explain. To say the least, there is a reason I titled this post the way I did.

Net neutrality is the idea that all sites on the internet, all types of internet traffic, and all types of content are treated equally. If your small blog is on a 10 megabits per second connection, it gets the same treatment that a 10 megabit per second connection to NBC, CBS, The Houston Chronicle, USA Today, Netflix, Microsoft, Apple, or Google. It is not throttled just because you don’t have the deep pockets of a large corporation. It also means protocols like Freenet, BitTorrent, and XMPP are not throttled or restricted in favor of proprietary alternatives. It also means software like Tor and I2P is not arbitrarily blocked or censored, and that those unhappy with the likes of Twitter can join something like Mastodon or even start their own node. For that matter, Twitter itself may not have come into being without net neutrality.

(Outside of the US, particularly in countries like China and North Korea where the rights to free speech and expression are not recognized, the government does attempt to censor many of these protocols and networks, with varying degrees of success and failure. This only serves to underscore how important net neutrality is for the rest of us: while some creative citizens have been able to bypass the government’s censorship, they really should not have to,)

Simply put, if the FCC gets rid of the rules protecting net neutrality, there would be nothing stopping Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T, Verizon, and other ISPs from putting “the rest of the internet” in a separate “box” and either slowing them down to almost nothing, or perhaps even charging extra on top of the “normal” internet access that gives you all the sites you could want to visit that are owned by or have cut deals with your ISP’s parent company. In short, it would take away most of the good things about the internet, and drop everything bad about TV and other mass media in its place.

The last thing I want is for the next generation of bloggers to hear “don’t bother starting a new blog on your own, the only way to get an audience is to land a spot at <insert names of mass media companies here>.” Or for someone trying to read my blog and having to wait forever for it to load, because they are connected to the internet through Time Warner, and Time Warner would rather have my readers reading CNN’s bloggers or even just watching CNN.

If you are in the US, you can (and should) take a minute to make a public comment to the FCC through The comment period is open for a couple of days, and the more public outrage the FCC gets over this issue, the better.

Exploiting a tragedy for all the wrong reasons

Not too long after the fire in Grenfell Tower in London, some sensationalist news articles appeared according to this TorrentFreak story. According to that story, The Sun declared some Kodi boxes to be a fire hazard, implying that a huge number of them failed electrical standards testing. Or, so they would have you believe…

From the article:

On Thursday, however, The Sun took a short break to put out yet another sensationalized story about Kodi. Given the week’s events, it was bound to raise eyebrows.

“HOT GOODS: Kodi boxes are a fire hazard because thousands of IPTV devices nabbed by customs ‘failed UK electrical standards’,” the headline reads.

The story goes on to mention that FACT (the UK’s Federation Against Copyright Theft–note the use of a clearly loaded word in the name of the organization) had somehow found two parcels of 2,000 boxes–a total of 4,000 units–which they would find “failed electrical safety standards.” FACT is not a government organization and does not have the power to seize property the way that, say, the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (again, note the loaded words) would be able to.

It should be transparent what FACT is trying to do here. They want people to give into the copyright cartels using any means they have available. That may be getting in the middle of sales of Kodi boxes or similar devices, or trying to convince their users that using questionable means of watching TV shows could cause a fire. Right after a major fire makes the news, of course.

Sure, that’s just a bizarre coincidence, isn’t it? I would think if the Grenfell Tower fire didn’t happen, we’d have never heard about this. All of a sudden, with a major fire making the news, FACT is trying to convince people that a bunch of electronics are a fire hazard. I think if this was a legitimate story, we’d have an actual UK government agency making the report and highlighting the consumer safety angle. This is what we in the computing industry call FUD–Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt–and it’s absolutely shameful for the copyright cartel to exploit a tragedy the way FACT has. To say the least, it really burns me up (forgive me for the unfortunate pun).

As TorrentFreak points out:

However, it’s difficult to offer congratulations on the PSA when the story as it appears in The Sun does nothing – absolutely nothing – to help people stay safe.

I couldn’t agree more. Conveniently, not too long after publication, The Sun edited their article according to TorrentFreak. Still, the fact staff at The Sun were all too willing to be FACT’s unpaid PR team speaks volumes, as does FACT’s attempt to “pull one over” on the public. The irony of an organization called FACT stretching the truth is not lost on me.

We can’t just leave drug addicts to die, even after previous overdoses

CW39 NewsFix recently featured a story from Ohio about a quite controversial way to deal with the opioid addiction crisis currently affecting that state. From the article:

Middletown City Council member Dan Picard is proposing to give drug users two chances. Paramedics would respond to an overdose twice, and each time the addict would receive a summons and be required to do community service after being treated.

But if they don’t show up in court, don’t complete the service and then overdose a third time? That’s it. No one will come to help them.

Now, the first part is bad enough. Drug addiction needs to be treated as a medical problem, not a legal problem. This is exactly what is wrong with using criminal laws to combat the drug problem. They are simply the wrong tool for the job.

But the idea of paramedics being told, by law, to refuse to save someone’s life is outrageous. And I mean that literally: the idea should be enough to trigger outrage in the community in question, and beyond. It’s enough to outrage me all the way over here in Houston, Texas. It’s unconscionable, unscrupulous, illogical, and reckless. All in the name of saving the city a few bucks, which makes it that much more infuriating to me.

And it turns out I’m not the only one to feel this way:

Truth Pharm, a national advocacy group focusing on substance addiction and drug policy, wrote an open letter to Picard on the organization’s website criticizing his approach.

“To suggest that you withhold emergency medical response to overdose patients is manslaughter at best and premeditated murder at worse,” the letter read.

I’m with Truth Pharm on this. As of the last time I checked, state law takes precedence over city and other local laws. I would find it hard to imagine a state with any degree of law and order where it does not.

There are logical, humane, and compassionate ways to solve the problem of repeated drug overdoses. This definitely isn’t one of them. I wish Ohioans the best in getting through this, but please remember those suffering from drug addiction are people too.