Episode #52 – Devlin on Sex Robots and Moral Panics

Kate Devlin.001.jpeg

In this episode I talk to Kate Devlin. Kate is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London. Kate’s research is in the fields of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), investigating how people interact with and react to technology in order to understand how emerging and future technologies will affect us and the society in which we live. Kate has become a driving force in the field of intimacy and technology, running the UK’s first sex tech hackathon in 2016. She has also become the face of sex robots – quite literally in the case of one mis-captioned tabloid photograph. We talk about her recent, excellent book Turned On: Science, Sex and Robots, which covers the past, present and future of sex technology.

You download the episode here or listen below. You can also subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher (the RSS feed is here).

Show Notes

  • 0:00 – Introduction
  • 2:08 – Why did Kate talk about sex robots in the House of Lords?
  • 3:01 – How did Kate become the face of sex robots?
  • 5:34 – Are sex robots really a thing? Should academics be researching them?
  • 11:10 – The important link between archaeology and sex technology
  • 15:00 – The myth of hysteria and the origin of the vibrator
  • 17:36 – What was the most interesting thing Kate learned while researching this book? (Ans: owners of sex dolls are not creepy isolationists)
  • 23:03 – Is there are moral panic about sex robots? And are we talking about robots or dolls?
  • 30:41 – What are the arguments made by defenders of the ‘moral panic’ view?
  • 38:05 – What could be the social benefits of sex robots? Do men and women want different things from sex tech?
  • 47:57 – Why is Kate so interested in ‘non-anthropomorphic’ sex robots?
  • 55:15 – Is the media fascination with this topic destructive or helpful?
  • 57:32 – What question does Kate get asked most often and what does she say in response?


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