HealthIamA cyborg presenter of 'Can Robots Love Us?' on BBC Three YouTube & iPlayer. Would you have sex with a robot?, AMA!

Sep 4th 2017 by jamesahyoung • 9 Questions • 92 Points

My short bio: Last year I had a bionic arm made funded by video game company Konami. This year I present a show exploring the more emotional side to our relationship with technology. Could you ever love an advanced robot?



I comment how gaming helped my mental recovery, and explore virtual reality therapy for fears and phobias.

I interview creators of a sexbot, Samantha, who aim to create a companion for human beings, raising interesting questions about our societies' future.

I also speak with researchers helping robots care for our ageing population, and creating psychological AI chatbots to help lessen the huge demand on mental health services.

Watch the show and I can answer your questions here! I have a feeling a lot of them might be to do with the sexbot...

I invite u/rochellebalboa to answer questions about undergoing VR therapy in the show!

Edit: Tues 5th - we are still answering questions

Edited to add blog post about the programme:

My Proof:


Hi James, firstly I just wanted to ask if you managed to raise enough funds for the titanium implants you wanted? Also, more on topic, what other roles do you see for AI within our society? Thanks for doing this AMA!


Hello. Nope, I'm still continuing fundraising for titanium bone implants, though I have undergone surgery in 2016 to help create an internalised neural interface. This will compliment a bone implant in controlling a complete bionic arm in the future. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to link to fundraising, my website has more information on bone titanium implants.

A lot of what is called AI now is of course not true AI. These applications however will likely continue to take up tasks that require human hours/processing, using the brute force power of machine learning to output something that seems intelligent.

I think those kinds of systems will be implemented to further streamline existing processes, like resource management, shipping, tidying up our potentially wasteful or not super effective human input or basic algorithms. I don't know the details of the system, but one example that comes to mind is traffic management. I cannot wait for the day when insane bog-downs can be alleviated by careful city-wide flow control.

I think at the moment organisations are collecting so much data from us but we aren't seeing very effective programming taking advantage of it, though we are trying. I'm hoping that in the near future that similar tech to Google's Knowledge Graph will be matured enough to be able to provide us with natural language human-machine interactions. I want devices around us to be able to grab context to understand what we are talking about, being able to problem solve to understand what we mean. That would change relationship with machines quite a bit.


How do you feel morally about the potential of robots who are sentient, but really love being subservient? What would you be comfortable doing to such a robot?

EDIT: Had to re-ask my question since Reddit didn't think it was a question at first...


If it was truly sentient, I think I would be about as comfortable doing stuff to it as I would to a human who loves being subservient.

Lol, so... I guess it depends on how well I know said robot... and my mood. wipes brow


Love? I don't think so. Have sex with? Sure.


That awkward moment when a man tells you your girlfriend is really hot, but actually you've just pulled over at a gas station to wait for the film crew, whilst transporting a sex robot in your passenger seat.

People definitely want to put it in her... :|


what's the typical budget on a show like this, and what is the weirdest thing you've had to expense (and also what is the weirdest argument you've had with the money people over whether something is a valid expense)?


Uhh, it's not great, haha.

Usually a small team work beyond their pay to make stuff happen. I'm only aware of my own costs as I'm the presenter, not producer.

Finding, accessing and scheduling the contributors is the hardest part. Renting camera equipment by the day is maybe the most expensive part. If something goes wrong one day, you have to get the camera again to get what you missed, doubling the cost for just that segment.

They did ask me to get extra particular t-shirts (up to a tiny cost limit per tee, no designer stuff here) to fit over my bionic arm and said it could be paid for by them, but I never sent in the order receipt...


strange -- why wouldn't they want t-shirts cutoff to show off the arm? have you gotten any requests or offers to create costumes to highlight or make use of the arm?


Fit over as in fit Over and not on/cover, my bad.

I've not made costumes with the arm because I helped design it to be an embodiment of my personality/likes, and so it kind of doesn't fit that it would help me be someone else. For example it looks nothing like the Winter Soldier arm, it's my arm, so I can't really feel like I can cosplay that. I would love to have a crap load of lore/fiction arms for these purposes though! :D


Very superficial question, but who is the bot in the thumbnail for the show? It doesn't look like Samantha 🙄

Edit: are there more than one of her, or does she accessorise well?

Edit 2: I tried to think of something more profound to ask but came up short! Really enjoyed the show!


Lol, that's Samantha still, but she changes sometimes. You can change her hair... her eyes... her head.

You get to move her around (~45kg or 99lbs), do her makeup and put on her clothes. For now she is dead weight. If only I could show you how the crew had to carry her around, but it would be of course disrespectful to her.


How did you lose your arm? I heard the prosthetic also has a drone built in. Do you actually use it?


The arm was crushed flat by the train I fell under. On trying to remove dirt and oil (debridement) they realised it was basically a tube of dirty human paste. On admission, a full body CT scan confirmed this... I was not awake at the time.

Yes, but the drone for the arm burned out a motor (upon a crash with signal loss) and I dismantled it to make other faster drones.


James, I've been looking for details on your story and recovery. Is there anything online that details it? I would want you to regurgitate it here if not necessary.


Sure thing, try this Popular Science article:

This search pulls up articles with (varying, lol) stories in:


This may be an odd question, but how far away from having robots that are animated (e.g. move naturally) do you think we are?

Edit: I kinda assumed you know about that at first, but if you don't, that's fine. Just curious.


There are ways, and honestly the tech is there to be able to create better movement, but it's either not entirely compact, reliable or portable or it's just not strong enough to interact with. You can see this in animatronics in the movie industry, where complexity is high but seemingly delicate & might need a team of repairers. When thinking of hands with 'natural' motion, for example Shadow Hand, it kind of has a fairly heavy base unit. The good thing is that things are progressing well and there is a great interest in creating naturally robots. In the film you can kind of see that Pepper robot has a fairly gentle motion, but the truth is she can't even pick anything up or hold anything really...

Of course arms like those by KUKA robotics have crazy degrees of freedom and just move with crazy accuracy, the problem is with fixed systems they don't often have to physically respond to humans or soft things in their environments, and so we need better sensor suites to kind of enable dynamic & responsive motion in an environment. Check out Baxter who is designed to not decapitate us when we are nearby: