What makes us human – robots and sex

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Scientists have designed artificial hearts, spleens, lungs, arteries, and more. They can now rebuild over 50 percent of the human body, according to a fascinating article in the Smithsonian Magazine, “The Insane and Exciting Future of the Bionic Body”. One thing not covered – genitalia. Though there’s obviously a strong need for it, as evidenced by the thousands of wounded young U.S. soldiers who have lost part or all of their genitalia in Improvised Device Explosions (IEDs). There is already a wide variety of artificial penises though they’re admittedly aimed at pleasing the partner and not necessarily the owner of the artificial penis (Would still have liked to see THAT on the bionic man though).

But this brings up an interesting philosophical question. One could argue that the point of all life forms is to live long enough to pass their genes on to the next generation. Sex is therefore a part of what makes us human. This isn’t an argument against genitalia reconstructive surgery, but rather a question of where we draw the line between human and machine.

Scientists recognize the link between physiological and mental responses.  An interesting new book by Naomi Wolf (interesting research summarized in this article) explores the connection between women’s mental states, their vaginas, and their ability to orgasm. It’s common knowledge that women need more to orgasm than men, but research shows that the link between vagina and mind is critical for a real orgasm – the kind where a woman feels relaxed and bonded to her sexual partner afterward. So, my point becomes – what if she has an artificial vagina? Or the man has an artificial penis? Or what if we reach a point where we can pretty much have our brain inside an entirely artificial body? One would assume those physiological and mental states would not exist, or at least not be as easily affected in a machine versus body. So…would we still be human?

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4 thoughts on “What makes us human – robots and sex

  1. I wrote a paper for my MA religious studies over 30 years ago about the moral and ethical challenges with mechanical and biological upgrades extending life in the future within a Christian framework of living. The professor gave me a D claiming my ideas were preposterous and that this was an ethics class not sci-fi. As your post indicates were are already there. Shoulda got an A, eh?

    • Oh my gosh, that’s hilarious! I guess you were dragging him out of his cozy, academic comfort zone. Have you read “The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks”? Talks about these fascinating issues at the cellular level.

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