Imagine this: A totally realistic robot of your own design that is capable of fully carrying out any sex act that you can dream up. It looks, smells, and sounds incredibly realistic. And your state-sponsored insurance paid for her in full. In effect, she was free—prescribed by your physician to help with your status as officially “sexually dysfunctional.” Recent federal legislation, supported overwhelmingly by a male majority in the House and Senate, has made this kind of medical prescription perfectly legal.
Robin the Robot never has a headache. It never gets a cold. It never rejects an advance. It is, perhaps strangely, beautiful in many respects. And, surprisingly, it is even seemingly intelligent and witty.
Sure, it sounds great on the surface.
And get this: According to expert clinical psychologist and sex therapist Dr. Marianne Brandon, what I’ve described above is, in fact, a likely portrait of our near future. Welcome to the new world.
Earlier this month, I was fortunate to attend a special symposium on understanding mental health from an evolutionary perspective. This event, formally sponsored by the Applied Evolutionary Psychology Society (AEPS) and affiliated with the NorthEastern Evolutionary Psychology Society (NEEPS), was eye-opening for the many scholars, practitioners, and students who were in attendance. And while all of the talks were provocative and engaging, I have to say that Dr. Brandon’s presentation was something of a show-stopper.
When you think about things from an evolutionary perspective, the history of human technology largely becomes the history of developing supernormal stimuli for profit.
In the 1950s, renowned behavioral biologist Niko Tinbergen articulated the idea of a supernormal stimulus. A supernormal stimulus is essentially an exaggerated, often human-made version of some stimulus that organisms evolved to respond to in certain ways.
For instance, humans evolved taste preferences so as to desire high-fat foods because our ancestors regularly experienced drought and famine. A Big Mac is a human-created product that includes an amplification of high-fat food that would have been beyond the fat and caloric content of nearly any food that would have existed under ancestral human conditions. The Big Mac is a classic supernormal stimulus.