The Future of Porn

One of the last things I would ever think of blogging about is porn. However, I happened to stumble upon a blog post from www.davidyerle.com discussing about the future of porn. To me, this was the perfect example of technology being a bad thing. It opened my eyes to the immoral possibilities of technology. Here’s the post below:

Today I’d like to put together several threads into what I think is one of the most overlooked aspects of the Internet by the futurism world: porn. In particular, I want to look at upcoming breakthroughs in virtual reality, 3D modeling, artificial intelligence and IBM’s claim to be able to transmit smell, taste and touch over the Internet within five years.

Everybody with an Internet connection knows porn has become ubiquitous: in fact, 12% of all websites are pornographic. Recent statistics show that 20% of males view porn at work. So porn seems to be here to stay. However, I believe the whole concept of porn will change so much within the next 5 years that it will turn into something completely different. I am not talking about an evolution of porn, but about a revolution in porn.

Right now, porn is about watching. There is no interactivity. There is no touching or smelling or feeling. It is an entirely passive endeavor. However, there are several ways this could change, soon.

The first, most obvious development would be to add touch, smell and taste. According to IBM, this could happen in as little as five years and would turn porn consumption into a much more physical activity. However, I think the revolution will come from a different angle.

I think the real game changer will be 3D modeling. Recent games look almost like reality and this trend is bound to continue. In five years, it will be possible to routinely and cheaply create 3D characters that look and move exactly like real people. The porn industry won’t need actors anymore: it will be able to produce its content with a bunch of programmers and designers.

Of course, that will allow them to enter an arena they have barely touched yet: interactivity. Just like in any computer game, one will be able to control an avatar and interact with other virtual presences. This is what, in my opinion, will completely change the porn industry from one of passive consumption, like in the film industry, to one of interaction, like in the videogame industry. Porn won’t be about watching other people having sex: it will be about having sex, albeit by means of a computer-simulated environment. This will come either as “single-player” porn, where people will experience pre-defined situations, or as some kind of erotic second-life, where people will enjoy the virtual flesh of other people without worrying about their real appearance.

In comes the next piece of the puzzle. If you’re paying attention to the technology world you have probably heard about the Oculus rift. It is a prototype for a virtual reality device that lets you immerse in a three-dimensional experience when playing a game. The applications for the pornographic industry are obvious, especially if you take into account the previous paragraph: totally immersive “games” with virtual, real-looking characters with whom you can interact in almost any imaginable way.

All this developments come with a very tangible risk. Right now it is already possible, with games such as Dragon Age: Origins or Skyrim, to choose the appearance of your avatar. Similarly, the same will be possible with the interactive software developed by the porn industry. And this will include a pretty disturbing possibility: customizing the appearance of the virtual presences in your porn interactive software. This will include not only choosing what their hair color is, but deciding the shape of their face, nose and ears. There is yet another, more problematic possibility: using another person’s picture to create a virtual body with their appearance.

This is not only technically feasible but something the porn industry will definitely be interested in developing. How many people would pay to be able to – virtually – sleep with their favorite actress or actor? How about that workmate they’ve always fantasized about? One picture would be all that’s needed: in the Facebook era, that is easy to obtain.

So we have a pretty disturbing scenario: a future where anyone can use your picture to create a virtual avatar of you and sleep with it. How to protect yourself from such a use of your image? I cannot think of any way, except for eliminating all of your photographs online. Other methods, such as enabling legislation to prevent this, seem untenable: in this case what would be illegal would be the use of the software, not the software itself. One would have to prosecute individual users, which, like in the case of music downloads, has proven extremely ineffective.

Will this come to pass? I am almost certain it will. The technology is almost there. And there are powerful economic reasons for it to be developed. If this is the case, we will have to get used to living in a world where our image will become an asset, to be protected as fiercely as our other personal data.

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