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Why Superhero Secret Identities Are More Relevant Than Ever

Superman

You don’t have to be a lifelong fan of superheroes to know the role that secret identities play in their over-arching narrative. It’s one of those story elements that often goes hand-in-hand with a hero’s journey. Part of becoming a hero involves forging an identity and, more often than not, this identity can’t function alongside the one they start with.

It’s a story that has roots in the early days of modern superhero comics. It wasn’t just a common plot point. It was practically a given. It was as necessary as capes, colorful costumes, and punishing masked criminals.

From a practical standpoint, having a secret identity has some legitimate merit. There are things Bruce Wayne can do as Batman that he cannot do and vice versa. The same goes for Superman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, and many other iconic heroes. In “Batman Begins,” Bruce Wayne set the stage for his secret identity by crafting Batman as a symbol, one that conveyed an idea that went beyond the person in the costume.

In recalling that scene, I think that idea was more prophetic than Christopher Nolan initially intended. When I look at how secret identities have come to define many characters, I believe they’re more important today than they have been in any other era.

I don’t just say that as a long-time fan of superhero comics who has used his knowledge of the genre to explore serious issues. I believe that we, as a society, are entering uncharted territory when it comes to how we manage our identities. The influence of the internet, social media, and an increasingly connected world is more powerful than any fictional hero. It’s already finding its way into superhero media.

This topic became especially relevant for Superman fans because back in late 2019, the release of “Superman #18” officially revealed Superman’s identity as Clark Kent. Now, it wasn’t not the first time Superman’s identity has been exposed, but this time it wasn’t a gimmick. Now, Superman had to learn how to be Superman without a secret identity.

Over the past decade, the value and vulnerabilities of secret identities have been under fire. One of the most jarring moments of the original “Iron Man” movie was the very end when Tony Stark didn’t attempt to hide the fact he was Iron Man. For those not familiar with the comics, it might not have seemed like a big issue. Trust me, it was a major shift.

While Tony Stark debuted as Iron Man in 1963, his identity didn’t become public until the early 2000s. That’s nearly four decades of him operating with a secret identity. In the context of his journey, this was not a trivial decision.

What happened to Spider-Man at the end of “Spider-Man: Far From Home” was even more jarring. While his secret identity has been revealed many times in the comics, it’s almost always retconned. Like Batman and Superman, he has to have a secret identity. He has to have a civilian life that’s separate from his superhero life.

There’s even a notable episode of “Superman: The Animated Series” in which Superman flat out admits that he’d go crazy if he couldn’t be Clark Kent. Think about that for a second. Superman, one of the most powerful and iconic superheroes of all time, admits that can’t handle a life without a secret identity. This is someone who can handle Lex Luthor, Darksied, and Brainiac. If he can’t handle it, then what hope do we have?

That question might not have been too relevant 20 years ago. Before the age of smartphones, broadband internet, and social media, a superhero might have been able to get away with having their identity exposed. You could say the same for anyone who happened to have a dirty secret or a double life. Whether it was an affair or a secret hobby, you didn’t have to work that hard to keep it secret.

Back then, not everyone had a fully-functional camera in their pocket or a means of sharing their media on a mass scale. Even if someone did manage to take a compromising picture or video, it wouldn’t be a huge revelation unless it was published by a major news source and even then there was no guarantee it would have staying power, especially if other major stories broke at the same time.

Now, anyone with a smartphone and an internet connection can capture compromising footage of anyone and share it with the world in seconds. In the world of superheroes, it makes keeping an identity harder than ever. Spider-Man found that out the hard way at the end of “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” Ordinary people and major celebrities are finding that out as well in the real world.

The internet and social media has created an unusual, yet potent system that skews the dynamics of having an identity, secret or otherwise. On one hand, it’s easier than ever to create an anonymous persona on the internet. With that persona, people are unbound by the propriety of real-world interaction.

It’s part of why the comments section of any website or social media feed is full of deplorable rhetoric that highlights the worst in people. Ordinary people can use the anonymity of the internet to say thing they would never say to another human being face-to-face. At the same time, celebrities and people of influence have the opposite problem.

In this hyper-connected world, every word and every action is permanently archived and subject to greater scrutiny. Every mistake or misstep is amplified and blown out of proportion. Every bit of subtext and nuance is completely lost in the various biases and agendas of the public. In essence, public figures have little to no control of their identity. They are very much at the mercy of how others perceive them.

That kind of scrutiny can have benefits and drawbacks. You could argue that the added scrutiny of social media has held celebrities and people of influence to a higher standard. They can no longer operate in the shadows with impunity. Dirty secrets will come out. Bad behavior will be documented. The O.J. Simpsons and Bill Cosbys of yesteryear could not get away with their deplorable behavior in today’s environment.

That may be a good thing on some levels, but it comes at a cost and not just for those who have had their lives ruined by the internet. In a world where anonymous identities are easily created and valued identities are easily ruined, how can anyone hope to maintain a balanced perspective? Whether you’re an accomplished celebrity or just some random blogger, don’t you still need a persona that feels true?

For people who are stuck in difficult situations, such as those belonging to racial, religious, or LGBTQ minorities, having that secret identity might be the only one that feels true or genuine. If that gets exposed, then those individuals could be in legitimate danger. There are parts of the world who will punish these individuals in ways far more serious than online trolling.

In the past, these kinds of people didn’t have an outlet or a means of connecting with others who share their struggles. They either had to organize in secret or set up their own communities, which often meant making themselves real-life targets. The ability to create an identity, secret or otherwise, can be a powerful mechanism for helping people forge an identity that feels true to who they are.

To some extent, superheroes embody the importance of these identities. They can’t do what they do without them. They can’t remain connected to the people and the world they’re trying to protect if they’re always in costume, trying to maintain this persona they’ve created. Without it, they become disconnected and overwhelmed. As a result, they can’t be the heroes they need to be.

For people in the real world, having these identities is more important than ever. You don’t have to be a superhero to appreciate their value, but as our world becomes more connected, it’s become a lot easier to understand why Spider-Man and Batman work so hard to preserve their secret identities.

The fact they still struggle, despite having super-powers and billions of dollars, is a testament to just how difficult it can be. As the world becomes increasingly connected and increasingly tribal, it’s only going to get harder.

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Filed under Current Events, Marvel, media issues, outrage culture, political correctness, politics, psychology, Spider-Man, superhero comics, superhero movies

Ode To Zoom And How It Helped Me Get Through The Pandemic

Zoom for beginners: how to best use the app for your video calls - The Verge

A year and a half ago, not many people knew what Zoom was. In fact, if you asked someone if you wanted to set up a Zoom call, they would probably just stare at you blankly and wonder if you had been watching too many cartoons. They were more likely to respond to Skype calls or FaceTime. That seemed to do the trick for most video conferencing needs.

Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Need I say more?

Suddenly, we couldn’t just wake up, meet up with friends or family, and interact like we’ve always done. We had to rely more and more on technology, especially video conferencing, to fill that gap. In doing so, we realized that Skype and FaceTime just weren’t enough.

That’s where Zoom came in. We all learned quickly that this software wasn’t just much more useful. It was a vital link between friends, family, teachers, students, and so much more. We all came to rely so heavily on Zoom that it has basically supplanted all other forms of video conferencing in the span of a year. That’s a hell of a accomplishment.

Most people don’t fully appreciate the story behind Zoom. It’s actually really sweet in that it has a romantic sub-plot. Being a lover of romance, I certainly appreciate that. The basics are that the company’s founder, Eric Yuan, was struggling to maintain a long-distance relationship with his then-girlfriend, now-wife. He was familiar with video conferencing technology, but quickly realized its limitations.

Rather than lament on the frustrations of long-distance relationships, he decided to actually do something about it. That’s what led him to create Zoom. It really is a beautiful story and I just gave the bare basics of it. If you want a more complete story, check out this video by the YouTube channel, Company Man. Seriously, you’ll appreciate Mr. Yuan and Zoom even more.

Beyond the story behind this software, I can attest to how vital it has been to keep me connected with friends and family. When the pandemic hit, we had no idea how long it was going to last. I had still made plans to visit friends and family over the course of the year. As those plans were crushed by the pandemic, just maintaining contact became a challenge.

At first, we tried to use FaceTime, but that proved unreliable. It was also a pain in the ass to get multiple people on the same call. Once we discovered Zoom, an entire world opened up. It started simply with my mother organizing this big group Zoom call between the family and a relative who was getting married. It proved so successful that many of us started finding other uses for Zoom.

One of the most important to me, personally, came from my dad. While he’s usually reluctant to adopt new technology, he came to enjoy scheduling video chats with me and my brother every Saturday morning. We would just sit in our kitchens, open up a chat, and sip coffee while talking about this or that. It felt very much like a normal meet-up. Even after we’ve all been vaccinated, we still do it. It’s a much better way to keep up than a typical phone all.

On top of that, Zoom has helped me strengthen ties with siblings who don’t live nearby anymore. One of my favorite daily rituals during the week is to join my oldest sister in a Zoom call while she and her friends watch Jeopardy. It has been a great way to both meet new people and grow closer to her, even though she doesn’t live nearby anymore.

Without Zoom, none of this would’ve happened. It wouldn’t have even been possible, given how cumbersome FaceTime and Skype has been. For that, I’m grateful. I’m sure I’m not the only one. I imagine Zoom has helped plenty of people stay connected with friends and family in ways they wouldn’t have been able to do with simple phone calls. It has also helped people who usually resist new technology to embrace it. I consider that a good thing.

Even after the pandemic is over, I still plan on using Zoom to keep up with friends and family, especially during times of the year when it’s harder to travel. I hope others do the same. Connecting with loved ones is critical during a crisis. Staying connected when times are good is every bit as important.

To Mr. Yuan, on behalf of everyone who has benefited so much from Zoom, I sincerely thank you.

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Filed under Current Events, human nature, Jack Fisher's Insights, technology, YouTube

What Keeps Bitcoin From Being A (Bigger) Part Of Our Future

I consider myself an enthusiast of technology. On many occasions, I’ve wildly speculated about emerging technology and expressed unapologetic excitement about certain trends. In general, I have the utmost respect and support for those who share this passion. I don’t always agree with their outlook or speculation, but I get where they’re coming from.

Then, there are Bitcoin enthusiasts. I’ll just come out and say I have mixed feelings about them.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to diminish what a remarkable technology Bitcoin is. It is a complicated and, at times, confusing technology. Even the Wikipedia page only does so much to explain what it is, where it came from, and why it matters. That’s not surprising. There was plenty of confusion about the internet too when it first emerged.

While I don’t consider myself an enthusiast, Bitcoin has sparked my curiosity. I do sometimes look into major news stories and developments surrounding the technology. The fact that it has lasted over a decade and made some people legitimate millionaires is proof enough that Bitcoin has real, tangible value. Those who keep saying that Bitcoin is just a fad or will crash are becoming increasingly scarce.

I’m convinced that Bitcoin, and other cryptocurrencies like it, are here to stay. They’ve proven that they have value in an increasingly digital landscape. As the internet becomes more prevalent and accessible, their role will only grow. That being said, I’m not yet convinced Bitcoin’s role will go beyond a certain point.

Those who say Bitcoin is the future of money are likely talking in hyperbole.

Those who say Bitcoin and the blockchain are the most revolutionary technologies since email are also likely exaggerating.

I don’t doubt for a second that these people believe in what they’re saying. I just haven’t seen enough to warrant that kind of enthusiasm. The issue isn’t as much about the merits of the technology as it is about how it’s being used. I’m not just referring to its role in the illegal drug trade, either.

At the moment, Bitcoin is fairly accessible. If you have a smartphone and an internet connection, you can download a simple wallet for free. If you do a quick search for a Bitcoin ATM, you can purchase Bitcoins with the same ease you would when purchasing a gift card. It’s what you do after that where the issues arise.

What exactly can you buy with Bitcoin that you can’t buy more easily through other means? That’s not me being facetious. This is where I tend to diverge with Bitcoin enthusiasts. I understand that some major ecommerce sites accept Bitcoin, namely Overstock. I’m also aware that more and more retailers are accepting Bitcoin.

However, the only ones taking advantage of that option are those who go out of their way to use Bitcoin. For most people, especially those who aren’t as tech savvy, there just aren’t enough benefits to warrant the extra effort. On top of that, Bitcoin does have some lingering flaws that are hard to work around. Then again, you can say the same thing about traditional money.

None of that even begins to highlight the growing issues associated with mining Bitcoins.

Now, that could change. It’s not a certainty, but it is a possibility. Like any new tech, the issue isn’t always about whether or not it works. Bitcoin clearly works and it’s been working for nearly a decade. It’s whether or not there’s a “killer app” to entice ordinary people to go through the effort of learning about, acquiring, and using Bitcoin.

The problem is that, thanks to incidents like the Silk Road, the primary use of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies like it have been for the purchase of drugs or other illicit services. Regardless of how you feel about the politics surrounding illegal drugs and services, that’s the reputation Bitcoin has. It’s just a way for criminals and their cohorts to operate.

That’s not a killer app. It’s also not sustainable.

In order for Bitcoin to play a bigger part in our future, it needs to have a good, meaningful use. It took cell phones decades to find that. Just being able to make phone calls, remember phone numbers, and occasionally host a game of solitaire wasn’t enough. Other apps like music, video chatting, and cameras had to get into the mix before the public and the market embraced them.

That’s what Bitcoin needs. I don’t claim to know what that entails. I think Bitcoin has to get to a point where using it is as simple as using a credit card or debit card. It also needs a particular use or product that will justify the physical and financial investment. That use also can’t be illegal. It’s no secret that the internet owes much of its early growth to the porn industry, but porn isn’t illegal.

Bitcoin, in my opinion, will need something bigger than porn. It might also need to wait until more parts of the world are connected to broadband internet. Maybe it involves voting, enforcing contracts, or the development of new peer-to-peer networks, such as Open Bazaar. I don’t know. I’m not smart enough to figure it out at the moment.

In the meantime, I’ll certainly keep an eye on Bitcoin. I don’t deny it has its uses in the current world. It’s just too limited right now. Whether it has a large or small role in the future that awaits us remains to be seen.

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Filed under Bitcoin, futurism, technology

Texting, Sharing Feelings, And How Neuralink Could Revolutionize Both

mind-melds-e1509130881625

A while back, I speculated that memory enhancement might be the first “killer app” for brain implants. At the time, I thought my logic was solid. Every emerging technology needs that one lucrative use that makes it more than just a gimmick. Killer apps are what helped make smartphones more prevalent than toilets in some parts of the world. I believe brain implants will follow a similar path through companies like Neuralink.

I still believe that memory enhancement will be one of those functions that helps turn brain implants into a multi-billion-dollar industry and Elon Musk is likely to secure a share of those billions. However, after listening to the announcement that Musk gave earlier this year about the future of Neuralink, I’d like to revise my speculation a bit.

What Musk presented was plenty intriguing. Neuralink isn’t some wide-eyed fantasy endeavor conjured by an eccentric billionaire. It’s a real company seeking to develop real products that’ll create a whole new market. Some of those early products are already taking shape.

Right now, the goal is simple. Before humans can link their brains to a simulated world on par with “The Matrix,” they first have to develop a means of interfacing with a basic computer. That kind of technology is not fanciful science fiction. We’ve already successfully inserted brain implants into monkeys, which they’ve used to interface with computers.

At this point, linking a brain to a computer isn’t that great a feat, which is why Musk noted that the first prototypes were being developed to assist quadriplegics. They have much more to gain by being able to interact with a computer. The same can’t be said for most people. Why would they undergo invasive brain surgery just so they could send text messages without typing them?

This is where I believe there’s some untapped potential that Neuralink is in a perfect position to realize. It might even be more feasible in the near-term than memory enhancement, as both a product and a killer app. It’s the kind of function that wouldn’t just convince people to let someone stick electrodes into their brains. It could revolutionize how people communicate with one another.

To understand the extent of that potential, take a moment to look at the last five text messages you sent through your smartphone. It doesn’t matter who you sent them to or why. Just take a step back and consider the strengths and weaknesses of this kind of communication.

In terms of strengths, it’s simple and consistent. It doesn’t matter if you’re a poor speaker or have anxiety issues. As long as you can type out the words and the receiver can read them, you can convey a message that instantly travels from one side of the planet to another. As a communications tool, it’s quite revolutionary, especially when you consider how difficult it was to send messages in the past.

At the same time, it has some major limitations. Texting is so impersonal. Even with the benefit of emojis, it’s still just text on a screen. It can’t convey a sense of nuance or subtext. There’s no undertone to decipher or facial cues to note. While this can make the message more objective, it also makes it feel cold and unemotional. It’s part of why breaking up with someone via text is so taboo.

With those limitations in mind, imagine having the ability to convey a feeling to go along with a text message. Instead of an emoji, you included the emotional context of that message. Maybe you were angry, upset, offended, or elated. It doesn’t have to be too complex. It just has to give a dramatic weight to the emotion.

You send that message knowing the person on the other end could experience it too. They don’t have to read the words and surmise your feelings. They know because they get to experience them too. They feel what you felt when you sent that message. They feel it in a way that no amount of facial cues or subtext can adequately convey.

When you text someone you love them, they can feel your love.

When you text someone you’re angry, they can feel the extent of your anger.

When you text someone you’re seriously depressed, they know it’s not a joke.

This sort of insight is unprecedented. It’s also a function that companies like Neuralink can make a reality and market it as a revolutionary form of communication. It wouldn’t require that we completely abandon our current methods of communication. People would still need their smartphones and computers. This would just be a way of augmenting those tools.

Once a brain implant can link up to a smartphone, then there’s suddenly a new communications channel the likes of which we’ve never had. That channel need not be restricted to moving a cursor or typing out letters on a screen. These commands are simply brain signals coded by implants and transmitted to a device that can make sense of them. Our feelings are just a different kind of signal.

Modern neuroscience already has a comprehensive understanding of where emotions come from. A brain implant could simply take signals from those parts of our brain, code them in a way our smartphone can interpret, and package them in a way that can be transmitted and received by another user.

It’s not telepathy. It’s not complex thought or ideas, either. These are the kinds of feelings and emotions that almost everyone experiences in some form or another. Our natural empathy may allow us to relate to one another as a social species, but we’ve never been able to truly share our feelings in a way that others can experience.

I know the idea of sharing feelings has gained a corny connotation, but I think a part of that has to do with how inefficient our current system is. Even before smartphones and texting, our age-old traditions of talking to one another, deciphering tone, and reading body language has left us with plenty of room for improvement.

It doesn’t matter how empathetic or understanding you are. At the end of the day, when someone shares their feelings, you’re still guessing the details and trying to mirror them within your brain. While that has taken us far as a species, in terms of forming social bonds and coordinating as a group, brain implants could take it to another level.

Once we can transmit our feelings with the same ease we do with a text message, then that takes us into uncharted territory. Armed with this tool, we wouldn’t just be able to communicate over vast distances. We’d be able to convey genuine, intimate feelings. Our brains are already wired to form strong social bonds with others. This technology would effectively supercharge it.

It certainly wouldn’t stop with just two people sending a text message with a happiness emotion attached to it. Once emotions can be transmitted like a text message, then there’s no reason they can’t be shared the same way we share everything else on social media. While some may recoil at the idea of sharing something so intimate, trend is already ongoing. Sharing feelings on a mass scale would just accelerate that trend.

The impact this will have on people is difficult to determine. Like I said before, this is uncharted territory. We’ve never had the ability to both know and share the intimate feelings of other people. Would that make us more empathetic? Would that make us more loving? I’ve argued before that it likely will, but I also don’t deny that some may handle it worse than others.

Whatever form Neuralink’s products take, there’s no denying the potential of this technology. There are still technical and engineering challenges, but that has never scared off Elon Musk or ambiguous billionaires like him. Human beings already have an innate need to connect with one another. Smartphones, texting, and every other communications tool we’ve ever created reflect that desire.

The market for those tools is already strong. The market for something that can communicate on a more intimate level will likely be even stronger. Even if the ultimate goal of Neuralink is to help humanity interact with an advanced artificial Intelligence, a good first step would be to help improve our ability to interact with one another.

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Filed under Artificial Intelligence, futurism, Neuralink, psychology, technology

The Rise Of Augmented Reality (And How It Will Spice Up Our Sex Lives)

I’m sure Apple fans are still basking of the afterglow from the techno-orgasm they experienced at the big September 12th announcement about the future of Apple gadgets. I can’t sway I blame them, either.

Apple events have a storied history of capturing imaginations, loosening wallets, and soaking panties. Love them or hate them, Apple is the 800-pound, half-trillion dollar gorilla in the room. What they do shakes things up. They did it with the music industry. They did it with the smartphone industry. They’re actively trying to do it with the TV industry.

Whatever Apple does, it tends to disrupt established industries, even destroying some. Just ask the makers of Blackberry and Tower Records. It does this while making a boatload of money in the process. Even those who despise Apple have to admit they know how to line their pockets with obscene amounts of cash.

Well, much like irresponsible celebrities that can’t resist spending obscene money on cars they never drive, Apple is never satisfied. It has to keep creating new torrents of cash and with the new iPhone X and iPhone 8, Apple is poised to tap another emerging market that’s ripe for expansion.

It’s part of Apple’s nature. It didn’t invent the mouse, the personal computer, the music player, or the smartphone. It just took those products, innovated like hell, and repackaged them in a way that blew out the competition and spit on their charred remains. Again, ask the spit-stained corpses of Blackberry and Tower Records.

In this case, the product is called Augmented Reality. Like music players and smartphones, it has been around for a while. Last year, it became a pretty big deal with the success of Pokémon Go. Now, Apple is ready to turn peoples’ collective awe at seeing a digital Pikachu on their lawn into the kind of feature that will blow the minds of users, as well as the money out of their wallets.

As part of the latest announcement, Apple has made clear that they’re going long and hard on AR with their new breed of iPhones. Yes, I know that sounds way raunchier than it should. Then again, this is a blog that talks about sexy novels and pro-nudity superheroes so that should surprise no one.

I chose those terms for a reason too because whenever Apple gets involved in an industry, that industry tends to go through rapid expansion. Along the way, that expansion will affect our sex lives and our love lives. If you don’t believe that, then you’re grossly underestimating how many people use Tinder or how many people watch porn on their phones.

The precedent is already there. Back in 2013, Google tried to give AR a boost with their goofy-looking Google Glass. Naturally, the first instinct for some users was to make porn with it. One major porn studio went so far as to cast real porn stars for a true, AR porn experience. It wasn’t quite as sexy as it sounds, but it got the ball rolling.

While Google Glass failed, Apple will likely succeed. Four years of refinement, coupled with the success of Pokemon Go, means AR will find all sorts of new uses and some of those uses will be pornographic. Even tough Apple has a long-standing policy against porn, that has not and will not stop people from using its products to make sexy content.

It’s hard to say what form that content will make, but with VR porn already a thing, it’s going to find some way to enter the market. AR is special in that it blurs the line between the real world and the digital world without having to wear those goofy-looking Google Glasses. Porn, being a fantasy, thrives on blurring those lines.

Think of your favorite porn star and celebrity. Don’t deny it. You probably have one. You’ve probably even watch ed them do all sorts of sexy stuff on your computer screen. That sexy stuff has probably gotten you horny and given you an orgasm. Now, imagine that sexy stuff taking place on more than just a computer screen.

With AR, you’ll be able to create the kinds of experiences that make it seem as though your favorite porn star or celebrity is right in your bedroom, office, or car, if you’re feeling kinky. Just hold your phone up and suddenly, they’re there, wearing the sexiest underwear you’ve ever seen and saying the kind of dirty stuff that would get them fined by the FCC.

That’s the potential AR can have. It can create more than just sexy imagery. It can make us feel like we’re part of the action. Suddenly, we’re not just peering through a digital window. We get to be part of the process. If you don’t think that appeals to some people, then you’re underestimating how kinky our minds can be.

Beyond the porn industry, and it’s sometimes hard to get beyond a multi-billion dollar industry, AR can do many other wonders for your sex life. To explain how, I’ll need to recount some of the more awkward moments from our collective sex lives. I apologize for this, but I’m afraid it’s necessary.

Think back to the first time you had sex. If that’s too hard or distressing, think back to the least satisfying sexual experience you’ve had. For some people, this will be painfully easy. What was it about your partner that made it so unsatisfying? What did you do that just didn’t seem to work? Did it feel like you and your lover’s body just weren’t on the same page or even the same zip code?

Well, AR could’ve prevented this because, like I said, AR blurs the line between the digital world and the real world. With AR, you don’t have to learn about the intricacies of the male or female body through a poorly-worded, poorly-drawn textbook that was given to you by a pastor, mullah, rabbi, or celibate monk. Even if you live in Texas, you have access to a more comprehensive understanding of the human body.

It even goes beyond knowing where a clitoris is. What if, before you got frisky with your lover, you could “practice” with a digital version? Say there’s an app that can take a picture of your lover, impose it over your phone like Pokemon Go, and let you get comfortable talking dirty to them. If you think that won’t have an impact on your sex life, then I think you’re underestimating the power of dirty talk.

AR basically gives people their own private domain, of sorts, to refine their intimate skills and their knowledge of human anatomy. That means those awkward moments you have when you and your lover first get naked are a lot less awkward. That means you have a bit more comfort and confidence when the time comes to get intimate. That’s as big a net positive as you’ll find for your sex life without bionic genitals.

Even if you already have a lover, AR means you’ll be able to do more than just send dirty texts and explicit nudes. Once AR becomes more refined, nudes just won’t cut it. You’d much rather have an image of your naked lover imposed in the chair right next to you. If nothing else, that’ll make meetings at the office less boring.

These are just some of the possibilities. There are likely many more that I haven’t even thought of, but others have contemplated. I like to think my experience writing erotica/romance novels has given me a pretty keen sense on these kinds of sexy issues. Unfortunately, there are limits to that insight.

Technology has always impacted our sex lives to some extent and will likely continue to do so for years to come. A technology like AR that is just starting to grow, thanks largely to Apple, means that change will come sooner rather than later. Yes, I know that’s another poor choice of words, but I challenge anyone to think of a more fitting vision for AR’s sexy future.

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Filed under sex robots, Sexy Future

Why People Sext (According To Dilbert)

Every generation does something unusually kinky that horrifies the older, more uptight generation that has spent considerable energy hiding from their kids that they once wore bell-bottoms and danced to disco music. I don’t deny my generation did some kinky things, many of which still play out in music videos, but I try to keep things in context.

For that very reason, a context for “sexting,” also known as the sending of dick pics and tit shots, still baffles me to some degree. Maybe it’s a sign I’m getting older. I’m in my 30s now. I can’t claim to be young, dumb, and inexperienced anymore. Being on this planet for 30 years gives me too much experience to have excuses.

Regardless of whether or not I’m becoming and old fart, sexting is a thing. According to a 2012 study in “Computers and Human Behavior,” over half of a sample size of young college-age students had engaged in sexting in some forms. Over half of any population means it’s not a fringe behavior. This is happening and it’s becoming common to a degree that’s dangerously close to what bell-bottoms were in the 70s.

So why do people do it? Why is exchanging sexy pictures a thing? Granted, there have been some legal issues involving sexting, but most of those cases involve individuals who are underage. Some involve exploitation and coercion. That’s an actual crime, right up there with forcing someone to wear bunny pajamas to a Rob Zombie concert.

This isn’t like smoking crack. As far as the law is concerned, it is legal to willingly exchange naked pictures of yourself. Just make damn sure the participants have been on this planet long enough to exceed the arbitrary threshold of adulthood that society imposes.

So why do we do it? What’s the appeal? To me, a guy in his 30s with an internet connection and a love of writing erotica/romance, it just doesn’t make sense to me. The internet has an almost infinite number of boobs and dicks on it. It’s really not necessary to persuade someone else to send you pictures of their bodies. A simple Google search is really all you need.

I liken it to being at a fancy restaurant and ordering a steak. However, instead of bringing you a stake, the waiter brings you a picture of a steak. It still looks good. It still looks appetizing. It’s still a fucking picture though. It’s not going to fill the same need.

I personally have never sent someone a picture of my penis. Instead, I just show them how long my ring finger is, which is a more subtle way of letting someone know you have a generous endowment. If I find a lover who is into sexting, I’ll probably feel different. For now though, I’m still confused.

Thankfully, others have thought about this so I don’t have to. Scott Adams, the creator of the famed comic strip, Dilbert, has a knack for making sense of absurdities that have little to no rational explanation. His wry sense of humor has inspired me a great deal in recent years. It has also helped me shape the course of this blog.

The writings of Scott Adams, as well as his hilarious Dilbert cartoons, have helped inspire the phenomenon of “caveman logic” that I’m so fond of citing. Most recently, I read his book, “How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big.” It was the most fun I’ve had reading a book that didn’t involve graphic depictions of female anatomy.

As such, when Scott Adams has something to say about sexting, I tend to listen. Last week, he did an article called, “D*ck Pics Explained.” Naturally, it got my interest and not just because it made me think about my own penis. Here’s the main crux of his interpretation:

Our sex drive is so strong that it largely eliminates the option for rational behavior. And as you know, the hornier you get, the stupider you are. Once a guy reaches a critical level of horniness, his rational brain shuts off and he becomes primal. And when he’s primal, he sometimes signals his availability for mating in the most basic way possible: He displays his junk in full preparedness.

If you think the men doing this behavior are extra-dumb, or extra-rude, that might be true. But it is just as likely that such men are extra-horny. That gets you to the same decision no matter your IQ because the rational brain is shut down during maximum arousal.

It is also true – as far as I can tell from discussions with women over the years – that sometimes a dick pic actually results in dating and sex. I realize how hard that is to believe. But sometimes (maybe one time in 500) it actually works. You would think those odds would be enough to discourage even a man with a temporarily suspended intellect, but that view ignores the basic nature of men: We’re risk takers when it comes to reproduction.

Okay, now I can understand it to some extent. I understand why sexting is still a thing. I’m a fairly healthy man and I can say without reservation or shame that I’ve been at that critical level of horniess before. It has led me to do or contemplate things that makes my brain want to kick my ass. It’s never gotten me into too much trouble, but it has led to some awkward situations that I prefer not to describe.

This interpretation is part of what Scott Adams calls the “Moist Robot Hypothesis.” It’s basically the idea that human brains are like robots, but they’re moist and fungible. Granted, they can’t be programmed as easily as a non-moist robot, but it can be hacked to some degree. In fact, the internet is full of brain hacks to exploit, which says a lot about the sub-par programming of our brains.

Flawed or not, the hypothesis is similar to caveman logic. It emphasizes the fact that we humans have two biological imperatives: survival and reproduction. Rational thought and a clear understanding of reality don’t always jive with those imperatives. That’s why critically horny men and women are prone to doing stupid things.

I’m not nearly as smart or as successful as Scott Adams, but I am working on that success. As such, I hope he’ll forgive me if I tack something onto his assessment. I agree in large part with his explanation for sexting. However, I would add another layer to it and it’s an extension of both caveman logic and the Moist Robot Hypothesis.

Due to our biological imperatives, which are at the forefront of our brain’s programming, there’s also a powerful need to adapt. Adaptation is a basic part of evolution for all creatures, be they human or pond scum. Think of it this way:

  • Does wearing tie-dye T-shirts and listening to Bob Dylan increase your chances of having sex? Then chances are, you’ll adapt accordingly.
  • Does wearing bell-bottoms and listening to disco music increase your chances of having sex? Then chances are, you’ll adapt accordingly.
  • Does sending naked pictures of yourself to a lover increase your chances of having sex? Then chances are, you’ll adapt accordingly.

See a pattern here? Notice how I didn’t mention the degree to which your chances of having sex will increase. It can be exceedingly small, but so long as it’s more than zero, that’s enough reason to adapt your behavior and conduct accordingly.

There’s another factor in play that inspires adaptation. That involves distance and technology. Thanks to the growth and prevalence of instant communication, long-distance relationships are a bit more viable.

I know this from personal experience because I met one of my ex-girlfriends online and a lot of our relationship was long-distance. Were it not for Skype and email, we never would’ve found each other and she never would’ve taken me on a memorable trip to Victoria’s Secret.

In this context, sexting can be seen as an adaptation of sorts and one that’s become more necessary to some extent. According to the Journal of Applied Communications Research, between a quarter and half of all relationships among college students are long distance. Naturally, college students are still going to get horny, regardless of distance. Their caveman brains/moist robot brains will require them to adapt.

This capacity for adaptation shows just how creative we humans can be when it comes to fulfilling our biological imperatives. In evolutionary terms, we’re no different from our caveman ancestors. We’re still wired to eat, hump, and survive. We just change our tactics in accord to our circumstances and adapt accordingly.

At the moment, some are adapting to new technology and distant connections by sending naked pictures of themselves. It’s not necessarily a logical adaptation, but since when does logic apply when you’re horny?

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