Pris is a pleasure bot replicant from the original Blade Runner film

Deadly Dolls: Will Hackers Really Turn Sex Robots into Lethal Weapons?

Cybersecurity expert warns robo-lovers could literally be the death of us. 

Pris is a pleasure bot replicant from the original Blade Runner film

It sounds like the opening of an 80’s sci-fi flick. Two detectives (let’s say Tom Selleck and Rutger Hauer) enter a posh apartment, step under neon yellow police tape, then walk into a posh apartment—which is also a grisly murder scene.

Another cop says the victim had secured the apartment from the inside and that there was no way in or out. One of our heroes looks around and sees, sitting in a chair by the bed, a standard issue pleasure android. Jokingly, he asks the robot if it knows what happened.

It’s then the other detective notices blood on the gynoid’s plastic fingers. “I don’t think she’s a witness,” he says in a chilly voice. “More like our suspect.”

Murder by gynoid

What’s really shocking about the idea of a malevolent hacker turning a sex robot into a murder weapon is less that it could happen and more so that this concern has popped up in the mainstream media only recently.

To be fair, we are quite a few years from having sex robots capable of doing anything close to harming their owners. Even the most advanced animatronic love dolls around today can barely manage lifelike facial movements. The necessary robotics and dexterity to grasp something, let alone strangle someone, has not even begun to be integrated into sex dolls.

That doesn’t mean the ability to kill can’t happen in the future, however. In fact, if we’re not careful it might even be inevitable.

Malevolent hackers

Dr. Nick Patterson, an Australian cybersecurity expert, told the Daily Star this month that an Internet-connected home robot could easily become a murder weapon:

“Hackers can hack into a robot or a robotic device and have full control of the connections, arms, legs and other attached tools like in some cases knives or welding devices.”

Fortunately, the most popular home robots at present are generally cute little cleaning units and voice assistants. While some can afford humanoid robots from the likes of SoftBank, which cost thousands of dollars, it’s not likely that we’ll be seeing a homicidal appliance rampage anytime soon.

Don’t worry about your sex doll?

Others, though, have expressed skepticism. Both about Roomba rampages as well as death-by-gynoid scenarios.

Speaking to Cosmopolitan, Jason McNew, who was previously with the White House Communications Agency, said he isn’t concerned about sexbots becoming lethal.

However, the thing about McNew’s reassurances is that they really aren’t that reassuring. Based on his discussion with Cosmopolitan, he appears to think that sex robots won’t be much of a threat because they will be built mostly for men and in the female form. “A 115 lb. robot that is covered with silicone won’t be able to do much physically,” he said.

If not now, then soon

For the most part, McNew is right—just as Dr. Patterson is also right. As we just said, current animatronic sex dolls can’t do much, just as home robots only have the potential to be dangerous.

But in a few years that’s going to change. We’ve already heard from gynoid manufacturers, like DS Doll in China, that it wants to create robots that aren’t just sexual playthings but can do everything from cooking a meal to waltzing with their owners.

Besides, it’s rather sexist to think that female-modeled sex robots won’t be capable of doing anything but moan and say, “That was fantastic!”

Not to sound morbid, but any piece of technology that can prepare a meal or make a bed is more than capable of becoming a murder weapon—especially when reprogrammed by someone with nefarious ends in mind.

Robot lover and spy?

Besides, even if our Roombas and our sexbots can’t go on killing sprees—yet—there‘s also the nightmare that they might be spying on us.

We’ve already heard from many security experts that webcams aren’t secure, so what happens when home assistants like Amazon’s Alexa can be co-opted to eavesdrop on our private conversations? While murderous gynoids might be a few years away, right around the corner is the real possibility that someone, somewhere, might be listening in on you.

Security first and foremost

Then there’s the real question: are eavesdropping devices and murderous sexbots likely outcomes or just fear-mongering? The problem is we don’t know. Plenty of experts have weighed in. But until we actually have robots that can do more than clean the floors, we won’t know if we’re being alarmist or not alarmed enough.

One thing we do know is that, as with fully autonomous vehicles and multifunction home robots, it’s something that needs to be seriously addressed.

We have already seen some of the havoc that can occur when Internet-of-Things devices are less than secure. As more and more of our lives are connected to the net, as well as practically every device in our home, we need to keep security constantly in mind. Consumers need to be vocal with manufacturers and programmers that lapses in security aren’t just annoying, but could possibly even become life-threatening.

If we don’t, if we allow our personal—and very personal—home devices to progress in capabilities and not in security, then the possibility of being murdered by your favorite sexbot could very well go from a sci-fi trope to blood-stained reality.

Image sources: BFI