Are Robots the Answer to the Long-Existing Problem of Slavery?
Approximately 40.3 million individuals are under inhumane slavery. Living behind the shadow of their captors between lawful states, victims of slavery yield annual illegal profits that reach $150 billion for their captors. What is even more distasteful is the fact that 1 in every four slavery victims are children.
Walk Free Foundation is a group that helps victims of modern-day slavery to be free. Fiona David, the executive director of the foundation’s global research said that they are aware that there are 40 million individuals who are victims of slavery. Only tens of thousands of these victims are given help and assistance through either the victim support systems or through the criminal justice systems. Walk Free Foundation knows that the gap between the number of people who suffer from slavery and the number of people being freed must be closed.
With the combined efforts of governments and non-government organizations, this gap is starting to close. There are now fewer slaves today compared to some time in the past. Chattel slavery or the slavery that lead to the Atlantic slave trade was once considered universal. But with the efforts to free slaves from the hands of their captors, Chattel slavery is now abolished and morally condemned. Moreover, numbers of child labor, forced marriage, and other forms of slavery are also declining. The United Nations is eager to completely end slavery and targets to abolish it entirely by the year 2025.
Slavery and the Hope to Eradicate It
Slavery is a form of economic crime. Perpetrators trick their victims into a promise of livelihood and then force them to do the repetitive and physically demanding jobs while cutting every way that the victim can escape.
Furthermore, there is a strong hope to end slavery using intricately-designed machines. These machines can do repetitive tasks without minding any danger or physical demands. These factors make them more suitable workers compared to humans. In economically rich countries, machines are already used in different industries that are associated with chattel slavery. These industries include farming, mining, and textiles. If these machines are efficient and cost-effective enough, they will become widespread and will, later on, eradicate the need to find cheap human labor and slavery.
In China, factories are already gradually letting go of traditional cheap labor. The said country bought 56,000 robots last 2014 in order to address the labor gap in their industries. It even plans to rapidly increase factory automation through machines.
Sex Robots: The End to Sexual Exploitation
There is also a hope to end other forms of slavery through the use of robots. Sexual exploitation, for instance, might be ended using sex robots or sexbots. In the Netherlands, approximately 4,000 individuals are forced into sex trade annually. Similarly, there are about 4.8 million individuals, mostly women and children, who are sexually exploited with no way to escape.
However, the emergence and proliferation of sex robots in different countries around the world gave light to end sexual exploitation. In Europe and Japan, sex doll brothels were established to provide companionship for men. In these brothels, men are allowed to rent a room along with a sex doll that they can use to satisfy their sexual gratification.
According to the Artificial Intelligence (AI) researcher David Levy, institutions like sex doll brothels can help reduce the rates of prostitution. Sex dolls are becoming more human-like. And as this happens, Levy sees prostitution to end and men will patronize sex dolls more.
Ian Yeoman and Michelle Mars also carry the same views on sex dolls. In their research paper entitled, “Robots, men, and tourism,” these futurists claimed that by the year 2050, the red-light district, Amsterdam’s place for prostitution and sexual exploitation will become dominated by sex robots that look like humans. These sex androids will not only decrease the growth of sex industries, but it will also stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Sex robots will also help the government to regulate human trafficking.
Is Automation to End Slavery?
As automation is introduced into various industries, slavery becomes less economically effective. However, short term slavery still prevails. Moreover, economic expedience has been the primary reason for slavery throughout history.
Verisk Maplecroft predicted in his “Human Outlook Report 2018” the future of automation and industries. In his report, Maplecroft estimated that in the next 20 years, 56 percent of ASEAN-5 workers in the manufacturing industries will be replaced by automation. With fewer skill sets compared to robots, displaced workers will become the main targets of exploitation, slavery, and human trafficking.
It is no secret that the ASEAN-5 countries are among those that rank high on the Modern Slavery Index. In Vietnam alone, more than 36,000 individuals will be looking for new jobs in the coming decades. This will create large opportunities for human traffickers to get new victims.
Displaced workers, who do not have enough skills compared to what robots can do will have no choice but to work in a low-paid and exploitative environment, according to Alexandra Channer, the human rights strategy lead of Verisk Maplecroft.
Robotic sex workers are also viewed as the same. The idea that sex robots will drive the demand for sexual exploitation to zero, let alone drive it to zero, is hardly universal. Opponents of this idea argue that sexual peddlers will always prefer humans over sex dolls or sex robots.
Furthermore, slavery is not only an economic crime, but it also has several social and political causes. In North Korea, for instance, state-sanctioned forced labor is instituted to people who do crimes against the state. People who are arrested are given no choice but to work in labor camps. They were forced to work in dangerous environments like mines, factories, and logging camps while some prisoners are even exported to Russia and China. This exportation of prisoners to the said countries is said to yield North Korean leaders profits that cost between $1.2 to $2.3 billion dollars.
Automation and robot workers may end North Korea’s exportation of prisoners. However, it is unlikely that the country will let go of its system for economic efficiency.