Could a child sex robot treat paedophilia?

A child-sized robot in a Japanese laboratory. Robots are becoming increasingly lifelike

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During a robotics conference last week, ethicists discussed the moral implications of using childlike-robots to help treat paedophiles.

The theory is that these machines would help provide a non-harmful outlet for an individual's sexual inclinations as part of a treatment programme. It's like providing methadone to heroin addicts, the reasoning goes.

Ronald Arkin, the mobile robot lab director at the Georgia Institute of Technology, was one of the participants at the conference who is in favour of pursing the idea. He told Forbes magazine's Kashmir Hill:

"There are no presumptions that this will assuredly yield positive results - I only believe it is worth investigating in a controlled way to possibly provide better protection to society from recidivism in sex offenders. If we can save some children, I think it's a worthwhile project."

Vice's Arielle Pardes says the logic of such arguments is straightforward:

"We realise that paedophilia isn't going anywhere, so we ought to find a way to deal with the lust for children in a way that keeps actual kids out of the equation. Hence, robots. It's child molestation, without the children."

But just because the idea may be good in theory, she writes, doesn't mean it could ever be implemented. First of all, current technology just isn't sophisticated enough to create a robot that "would be a passable substitute for real children".

Next is the concern that a child sex robot could encourage paedophiles to act on their impulses instead of serving as a safe outlet for them.

"If science fiction has taught us anything, it's that robots can be evil, but they don't have to be," she concludes. "People with deviant sexual desires are the same way. But we're not going to get anywhere with rehabilitating paedophiles if we treat them like monsters by encouraging them to go at it with weird, childlike sex bots."

Other commentators are less philosophical about the idea.

"As a mom and a woman I find nothing more vile than child predators and rapists, and even the idea of using metal and silicone computer humans to reform paedophiles upsets me," writes Eve Vawter for the Mommyish blog. "I'm not sure anything can be used to reform these people, and I have been known to say we should send them all to rat island where they can victimize each other and eat rats."

North Korea

Death of a general, birth of new nuclear era? - The death last week of Gen Jon Pyong-ho, North Korea's nuclear mastermind, prompted many to question the isolated nation's atomic future. Will the changing of the nuclear guards lead to a more energetic program?

According to Rod Lyon of the National Interest, we should expect to see more of the same - "a North Korean nuclear programme that limps rather than runs," he writes.

North Korea not only faces fissile material shortages, Lyon says, its nuclear facility is also too small to permit greater production. But in the long run, that won't block their atomic goals.

"It isn't about to turn over a new leaf," he writes. "But its nuclear programme still lives on Struggle Street - and will for some years yet. That certainly doesn't make it irrelevant; further testing, for example, could help North Korea miniaturise its weapons."

Afghanistan

Kerry's diplomatic victory in Afghanistan - Just as the world was expecting Afghanistan's election stalemate to turn into a coup, US Secretary of State John Kerry used his diplomatic skills to achieve success by forging a fragile, yet notable, peace.

"His deal-making salvaged the possibility that, almost 13 years after the United States and its allies installed Hamid Karzai in power, there would be a manageable political transition in Kabul," writes Steve Coll for the New Yorker.

Despite this recent diplomatic victory, the deal remains tenuous and the spectre of conflict lingers on the horizon. "If Kerry's deal collapses, Afghanistan faces the prospect of a sudden and violent civil war, one that would destabilise Pakistan and other neighbours, and renew the country's attractiveness as a haven for international militants," says Coll.

If Kerry's deal works, however, Coll believes that Mr Karzai "may yet live and die there peacefully, acknowledged as a constructive if idiosyncratic architect of national recovery."

Nigeria

Malala visit is a reminder of what has not been done - Although Malala Yousafzai's visit to Nigeria this past week was intended to draw attention to the kidnapped schoolgirls, the trip also shed light on President Goodluck Jonathan's failures, writes Wale Ajetunmobi for the Nation.

"The unintended message is its exposure of the hypocrisy of President Goodluck Jonathan and his coven of political jobbers camouflaging as ministers and also the overzealousness of the security agencies," he says.

With the schoolgirls now missing for over two months, many Nigerians are beginning to question Mr Jonathan's priorities.

"We know the president is only concerned about his re-election in 2015 and nothing more," writes Ajetunmobi. "This is what he lives for, not minding whether people were abducted or killed by terrorists on daily basis."

Iran

Rethinking Iran as a potential ally - The US and Iran may seem to share a common interest in stopping the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant (Isis), but all is not what it seems. "What is missed is that Tehran and Washington have incompatible strategic objectives," write former CIA Director Michael Hayden and former US Senator Evan Bayh for the Wall Street Journal.

"The US needs a stable and inclusive Iraq, while Iran's ambitions lie in preserving a Shiite-dominated state that relies on Tehran for its survival," they say. "If we are not careful, the clerical regime will seek to leverage the chaos in Mesopotamia to extract nuclear concessions from us."

Even with the opposing goals, there is still hope that the US and Iran may forge a common approach for Iraq and Syria.

"But abandoning the chimera of Iranian cooperation is a precondition," they conclude. "To paraphrase the tribal proverb, while the enemy of my enemy may appear to be America's friend, with the Iranian regime, that is an illusion. Their enmity trumps all."

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

Ukrainian and Russian media react to the crash of a Malaysia Airlines jet over eastern Ukraine.

"From now on this is an international conflict and whatever Russia says now, its propaganda will no longer work." - Article in Ukraine's Segodnya.

"[The downing] can become a turning point in the situation in Ukraine and even in world history" - Article in Ukraine's Vesti.

"Representatives of Novorossiya ["New Russia" claimed by separatists in Ukraine] say the destruction of the airliner was a planned act of provocation by Kiev aimed at portraying the militia as terrorists who kill civilians and pose a threat to the whole global community." - Article in Russia's Izvestiya.

"It is known that Ukrainian military officers have previously redeployed a battalion of the Buk self-propelled anti-aircraft systems in Donetsk Region, where the accident happened... Militiamen do not have such arms in possession." - Article in Russia's Tvoy Den.‎

Have you found an interesting opinion piece about global issues that we missed? Share it with us via email at echochambers (at) bbc.co.uk.

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