By Joy Allmond
At the end of 2017 a Barcelona, Spain, brothel made news when it opened. Customers had to pay online before being given the secret location. At this location, passersby have no idea what lies behind the walls as they walk along the street.
This brothel, claiming to be the first of its kind, doesn’t hire human workers. It employs robots.
Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore warns technology-based sexual commodities may, within the next few years, be a reality that hits closer to home.
During a recent leadership event where sexual ethics were discussed in a panel, Moore said we are, indeed, “heading into augmented reality,” and offered some insights on what makes technology in the context of sexuality damaging for society—and the church.
“I think the most dangerous thing is not sexuality added to technology,” said Moore.
“It’s an understanding of sexuality that sees sexuality as a kind of technology. Wendell Berry, several years ago, talked about the fundamental issue in culture is whether we see humans as creatures or machines.”
Referencing Berry’s comments regarding the way many refer to the inner workings of themselves and others—such as This is the way I’m wired and I want to find out what makes him tick—Moore asserted society has already begun the trend of ascribing attributes of a machine to humans.
“This language is machine metaphors in a way we don’t even realize,” he said. “That’s not accidental—it’s a symptom of a larger way we see ourselves. We also see this in a dismissal of sexual ethics issues.”
Moore also sees a correlation between transgender issues and the Imago Dei implications spurred on by the seemingly pervasive view of humans as machines.
“When someone says, ‘I am who I am secretly inside of me and I’m altering my body as just a tool to fit that,’ and you add to that what’s taking place with technological developments, we’re at a precipice,” he said.
“And right now I’m dealing with parents who are asking questions [about this topic] because the children are three steps more tech advanced than they are.”
It’s not only Christian ethicists who are concerned about the impact technology-based sex behaviors can have on human dignity issues.
In The New York Times, feminist writer Laura Bates warns sex robots can perpetuate the notion that women are objects and could therefore desensitize society to the evils of sexual violence.
“It is … illegal to have sex with an adult woman who does not consent, and consenting is not something these robots are capable of,” she wrote.
“They [manufacturers] are effectively reproducing real women, complete with everything, except autonomy.”
While America may be years away from such physical manifestations of augmented reality, Moore believes the church should be ready to respond.
“If we’re not aware of what’s going on and if we’re not watching ourselves to see our own points of weakness and vulnerability,” he said, “we’re going to be in a very difficult situation.”
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JOY ALLMOND (@JoyAllmond) is managing editor of Facts & Trends.