The mannequins and dolls, robots that satisfy your every desire as well as virtual wives in domestic bliss with their owners may one day cause the LGBT community to add another letter to their name.

From the 2013 sci-fi movie Her where the main character falls in love with an AI (played by Scarlett Johansson) to the HBO series Westworld, where robots provide pleasure to the super rich, this fixture of popular culture and fiction has now crept into the real world.

The 21st century’s detachment and dissatisfaction with regular human contact as well as the need for more “customized” stimulation seems to have been taken to its logical conclusion.

With technology growing at breakneck speed and providing humanity with degrees of separation never known before, its probably inevitable that the landscape of love and relationships would alter as well.

To some of us, switching to relationships with man-made objects might make sense. Instead of a nagging spouse, why not a lover that doesn’t speak (or only says what it has been programmed to)?

Those that have shifted into futurelove mode may speak about it as being a higher connection on another level (something us boring hetero people just might not get).

I remember attending a world communication conference where a certain government minister spoke about getting too attached to technology and quipped that we might as well marry our smartphones if we are already looking at them before we sleep and first thing upon waking up.

Japan takes the lead

Ancient Shinto tradition views all inanimate objects as having a ‘life force’ and Japan’s traditional relationship and gender norms are changing dramatically while the Japanese population is in decline.

A Japanese company had 18 shipments of child-like sex dolls for pedophiles seized by officials when they tried to export them and Kanojotoys or Orient Industries based in Tokyo are among the world’s most advanced sex doll firms. One of many Japanese men in futurelove mode, Senji Nakajima is in love with a rubber doll named ‘Saori’ and often takes her out shopping while Physiotherapist Masayuki Ozaki claims to have become turned off by human relationships and lives with his silicone/rubber lovers under the same roof as his wife and daughter who have learnt to accept it. There are also ‘Dutch wives’, which can cost up to £6,000, beautiful dolls with movable joints and a wide range of hair colors and head types.

Aside from physical dolls, advances in AI and VR also provide many options for those interested to explore abit of futurelove. In a particularly depressing development, Gatebox (sold by Japanese company Vinclu) targets young, lonely salarymen. It is an AI home automation system that allows characters like Azuma Hikari (voiced by Japanese actress Yuka Hiyamizu) to interact with the home owner like a domestic partner ,

Then there’s the dating simulation game Golden Marriage Jewel Days which lets players fall in love and tie the knot with virtual honeys. A promotional campaign for the game gave fans life-sized cardboard standees of their favorite characters as prizes.

On 30 June 2017, the creators of Niitzuma LovelyxCation, a romance video game from developer Hibiki Works is scheduled to hold a marriage ceremony (in a chapel) where players can put on a VR headset and exchange vows with their lady of choice.

Regulation and robot babies

Catalan nanotechnology engineer Sergi Santos is even gearing up to have a baby with his AI sex doll Samantha. Today, several brothels (featuring dolls or robots), such as this one in Spain and this one in Germany, prove that the era of futurelove has arrived and is gaining ground .

NUI Galway Law professor John Danaher In his report, ‘Sex work, Technological unemployment and the Basic income guarantee’ claims that sex robot brothels are a safer alternative to an industry rife with issues of disease as well as sex slavery and thinks that robots could be better at developing emotional bonds with their clients. Experts claim that sex robot brothels will become common in Britain and research suggests the invention may lower divorce rates.

While you could chalk this shift up to just being another phenomenon of the 21st century, much like the advent of online marriage counseling, there are however, those that would argue against it. Policymakers have to face the issues brought about by this new development such as whether such devices should be used by sex offenders or whether they may in fact reduce sexual crime. There is also the issue of real sex workers who may have their livelihoods stolen from them by the robot prostitutes. Dr Kathleen Richardson a fierce opponent of this development and a senior research fellow in Robotics at De Montfort University, Leicester, would like to see sex robots banned, saying that they reinforce the position of people as objects.

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