Future Tense

“Love and Sex With Robots” Conference Faces Legal Threats From Malaysian Authorities

SoftBank rep Masayoshi Son and emotional robot Pepper in Tokyo, July 30, 2015.

Photo by Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images

The second Love and Sex with Robots meeting was set for Nov. 16 during the Advances in Computer Entertainment conference in Iskandar, Malaysia. LSR seeks to explore “the more personal aspects of human relationships with … artificial partners.” It’s a salient topic right now given that there is both academic and mainstream interest (e.g. Ex Machina). But the conference is facing objections. Intense objections.

“There’s nothing scientific about sex and robots!” said Malaysian inspector-general of police Khalid Abu Bakar at a press conference, according to Free Malaysia Today. “I’m warning the organizers, don’t hold such conferences in Malaysia. … There are many laws that we can use.” He added, “It is an offence to have anal sex in Malaysia, what more with robots.” Duly noted.


The comments are causing problems for LSR, which was held in Madeira, Portugal, last year. Co-chairman Adrian Cheok told Mashable, “this latest development was a little surprising for us. We’re not sure if we can proceed with the congress. … We didn’t have a backup.” Cheok said there were rumors about opposition to the conference a few weeks ago, but nothing concrete happened until Tuesday’s press conference.

Debates about the potential role of emotional robots in society and the ethics of sex robots have been intensifying this year, but pressure to cancel an academic conference is on a whole other level.