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Arts & Culture

Do you need some body to love?

Sculpture made from commercially-available sex toys

Dr Kate Devlin’s research explores technology and intimacy. Dubious about tabloid headlines proclaiming that sex robots were coming to replace human-human relationships, Kate spent several years exploring why and how we might want to create an artificial companion. Her book, Turned On: Science, Sex and Robots, published in 2018, took a close look at sex tech from 28,000 years ago to the present day, and an even closer look at the things that make us human, like love, care and desire, as well as related issues such as gender politics, diversity, surveillance and violence. Any study of our interactions with technology is really a study of ourselves.

Kate’s sculpture – Do you need some body to love? – is a face made from commercially-available sex toys. We find it easier to relate to objects with human-like features, but this might not always be necessary: with AI, we can emulate convincing human conversation, and right now there are thousands upon thousands of people who are finding emotional – and erotic – closeness with chatbots. Having just been through a pandemic where our relationships with humans were conducted via a screen, might our next relationships be with the screen itself?

Project status: Ongoing