Regulating Child Sex Robots: Restriction or Experimentation?

Medical Law Review (forthcoming)
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In July 2014, the roboticist Ronald Arkin suggested that child sex robots could be used to treat those with paedophilic predilections in the same way that methadone is used to treat heroin addicts. Taking this onboard, it would seem that there is reason to experiment with the regulation of this technology. But most people seem to disagree with this idea, with legal authorities in both the UK and US taking steps to outlaw such devices. In this paper, I subject these different regulatory attitudes to critical scrutiny. In doing so, I make three main contributions to the debate. First, I present a framework for thinking about the regulatory options that we confront when dealing with child sex robots. Second, I argue that there is a prima facie case for restrictive regulation, but that this is contingent on whether Arkin’s hypothesis has a reasonable prospect of being successfully tested. Third, I argue that Arkin’s hypothesis probably does not have a reasonable prospect of being successfully tested. Consequently, we should proceed with utmost caution when it comes to this technology.
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