Tag Archives: virtual reality

The (Distant) Future Of Marvel, Disney, And Entertainment

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I like to talk about the future. I don’t claim to have any special insight, but I suspect I give it more thought than most. I also believe I tend to think farther into the future than most. Whether it’s contemplating the future of how we’ll organize our society or how our sex lives will evolve, I try to contemplate possibilities beyond the next iPhone upgrade.

One aspect of the distant future that concerns me has to do with boredom, namely how it may become a much larger problem and how we’ll go about alleviating it. I’ve done plenty to argue that boredom can be a dangerous force, from creating immortal super-villains to subverting the very concept of Hell. If our future is to be stable, prosperous, and fun, we’ll need some form of entertainment.

With that critical goal in mind, I’d like to speculate on a potential brand of future entertainment that ties directly with the industry that we know today. Specifically, I’d like to imagine how big entertainment companies like Disney will continue to function in world where advanced artificial intelligence, brain implants, and near-universal access to the internet is a thing.

I feel the time is right to think about such things because just last week, Disney radically altered the entertainment industry by purchasing Fox. Beyond just getting the X-men and Fantastic Four rights back for Marvel, Disney bought a massive library of intellectual property that is potentially worth billions. Being a successful business with shareholders, and all, they’re going to want to make billions more.

How exactly are they going to go about that, though? That’s a question worth asking because the answer for the near future is probably not going to work for the distant future. Sure, Disney will probably rake in plenty of profits at the box office, just as they’ve done with Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars. However, the movie and toy industry can only go so far.

While box office revenue is up, actual ticket sales are way down. More people are opting to stream their content directly, bypassing pay TV and theaters entirely. The same is true for print media, including comic books. Even toy sales are in decline. This is not good for a company like Disney, which has built its empire on media and merchandise.

That’s not to say things are dire. Disney has been around for almost 100 years. In that time, it has adapted through plenty of upheavals. If it’s going to survive another 100 years, though, it’ll have to adapt to a radically different landscape. Buying Fox is likely part of that process. Disney has already made clear that it plans to start a streaming service to compete with Netflix and Amazon.

That’s a good start, but a streaming service is probably not going to be enough, especially in a future where people live longer, work less, and can share more than just text messages with one another. If Disney wants to continue being at the forefront of entertainment, it’ll have to innovate in ways that leverage future technology in new ways.

After the purchase of Fox, though, Disney may actually be in the best possible position compared to every other entertainment company that exists today. That’s because, unlike its competitors, it has a wealth of intellectual property that it owns outright. From Micky Mouse to Marvel heroes, the library of Disney-owned characters is truly staggering.

In the past, this gave Disney the ability to make or license movies, toys, and games for billions. In the future, those mediums won’t be nearly as profitable, but not because those things will fall out of style. I believe that for Disney to make more billions, it’ll utilize its intellectual property in a very different way, one that will likely require an entirely new approach to entertainment.

Think, for a moment, about the current experience you get from a movie theater, a TV show, or even a life show. You sit in a seat and you just watch. You take in the sights and sounds. If done right, it creates a spectacle that you enjoy. However, the fact that the spectacle only utilizes major senses is somewhat limiting.

What if, instead, you weren’t just an audience member sitting in a seat? What if it actually felt like you were there? What if you felt like you were standing next to Captain America as he battled the Red Skull? What if you felt like you were there when Micky Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy all broke out into a joyous musical number?

I’m not just talking about better animation or virtual reality. I’m talking about a form of entertainment that makes your brain actually feel as though you’re experiencing something. It’s not quite like the holodeck on “Star Trek.” It’s more like plugging into “The Matrix,” but for reasons other than learning Kung Fu or having existential breakdowns.

Unlike “The Matrix,” though, you wouldn’t be the catalyst for the story. That’s something Disney would take care of, providing only the world and the vast array of sensations that come with it. Instead of paying for a movie ticket, you pay for an experience that lets you interact or feel part of a story involving Iron Man, Micky, or Buzz Lightyear.

That will likely be the most valuable resource of future entertainment, powerful experiences that give customers the rush and fulfillment of being there. Instead of going to a theater or theme park, they would just plug something into their brains, possibly through an implant like the ones Elon Musk is developing with Neuralink. From there, the experience will be directly streamed right into their brain.

It may sound invasive, but we already share so much of ourselves online, from what we had for lunch to the most intimate aspects of our personal lives. We’re already in the early stages of merging our technology. We already see our smartphones as integral parts of our lives. Why wouldn’t we do the same for brain implants?

Unlike a smartphone, a machine/brain interface can’t be dropped into the toilet or left behind by accident. That same interface won’t just augment the ability of our brains to access the entire wealth of human knowledge. They’ll allow us to directly stimulate the areas that forge our entire perception of the world around us.

This has huge implications, some more profound than others. For companies like Disney, though, that link will be critical with respect to maintaining its place as a dominant entertainment company. People already pay for powerful experience, be they movies, video games, or a full-body massage at a spa. Disney could simply cut out the middle-men while leveraging its vast library of intellectual property.

Sure, in the future, you could probably pay for fancy experiences like those offered in “Total Recall.” However, if you want an experience that allows you to be a Jedi, an Avenger, or a singing animal, you’ll have to go through Disney and they’ll be happy to sell you that experience for a price.

Every week, you’ll be able to select from a range of intense experiences the same way you navigate your Netflix queue. For some, you don’t need to leave your bed. You just plug a device into your brain and let it go from there. For others, maybe you travel to special venues that function like the holodecks in “Star Trek.” There, you could share the experience with others, making it a communal experience.

Disney would still likely need content-creators to craft those experiences. That means people like George Lucas and Kevin Feige will still have a job in this future. The particulars of those jobs would be very different, but the goal would be the same. They would create experiences and stories that people are willing to pay for.

As unpredictable as the future is, it’s still safe to assume that people are going to want entertainment. Wherever there’s a want, there will be a business willing to provide it. There will be competition. There will be billions, if not trillions, to be made in profits. Not every company around today will survive that competition. Disney, however, is already in the best possible position to thrive.

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Filed under Artificial Intelligence, futurism, media issues, movies, Sexy Future, War on Boredom

The Appeal And (Major) Implications Of “Westworld”

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When most people think about the future, they imagine all the ways that technology and progress will solve problems and make our lives better. I’ve certainly imagined that. I’ve even written about it, with respect to how future advances will make us smarter, protect us from disease, and even help us love each other better.

As intriguing as those possibilities may be, it’s also worth taking a moment to contemplate the implications. I’m not talking about the potential existential crisis we may face with advancing technology either. I’m referring more to the practical aspects of a future where disease, suffering, and toil are largely mitigated by technology.

Beyond just living in a world with less suffering and less struggle, how exactly would we entertain ourselves? That may seem like a mundane question, given the more serious implications of advances like genetic engineering and advanced robotics, but it’s one of those issues that effects individuals on a personal level.

If we’re always health, physically strong, and have our basic needs met through some universal basic income, then what exactly are we going to do with all that free time? I’ve expressed concern that this may create an epidemic of boredom that’s every bit as serious as any major pandemic. No matter how strong, healthy, or affluent you are, boredom can have some pretty debilitating effects.

Enter the fanciful world of “Westworld” and all its implications, sexy and otherwise. For those of you who don’t get HBO, it’s a TV show inspired from an old movie produced by Michael Crichton, also known as the guy who wrote “Jurassic Park.” It’s no “Game of Thrones,” but it has a fair amount of gratuitous violence, nudity, and sex, albeit with much less incest.

Graphic content aside, it’s the underlying concept behind “Westworld” that makes it such an intriguing show. That same concept also has even greater implications for what the future may hold in terms of immersive entertainment, managing artificial intelligence, and how we treat sex robots. For once, I’m not going to focus entirely on the sex robots, since I give that subject plenty of attention.

The appeal of “Westworld,” as both a concept and a show, is built around a company called Delos Inc., which offers its high-paying customers a chance to immerse themselves in a unique experience. For a while, they get to leave civilization, modernity, and all its associated infrastructure behind and live in rugged, lawless world of the old west.

It’s not some movie where they just get to see images of scenery. It’s not some virtual reality that just makes them feel like they’re there, either. It’s a fully realized artificial world, complete with intelligent androids that have the look, feel, and presence of real people. Sure, some still act as sex robots, but that appeal goes far beyond that.

This is a world where you can live a different life, experience in a different time, and explore a world that no longer exists. You don’t watch it. You don’t listen to it. You don’t follow along through the eyes of a protagonist. You are the protagonist. You actually get to live out a real fantasy where the participants aren’t just role playing. They’re sophisticated androids that really believe they are what they are.

Now, the operation and function of those androids has been a major source of conflict within the show. As the show has progressed, controlling these androids and seeing them develop a sense of self has made for great drama. I would argue it’s one of the most engaging aspects of the show. It creates powerful moments that reflect real existential issues with respect to artificial intelligence, some of which I’ve contemplated.

While those issues are profound, in and of themselves, I find myself more interested in how “Westworld” may reflect the evolution of entertainment itself. Look past the issue with managing intelligent androids for a moment and think about the business Delos Inc. is employing here.

On paper, it’s not just brilliant in terms of potential profitability. It may very well embody the future of entertainment. Take a moment to contemplate how the entertainment industry has evolved over the past 30 years. We’ve gone from analog to digital, standard definition to high definition, and now high definition to 4k.

I’m still old enough to remember the lousy picture quality of TV shows, the pre-IMAX movie theater experience, and theme parks with less-than-polished exhibits. I still vividly remember going to see “Men in Black” in a theater that was crowded, dirty, and cramped. It was fun, but not that immersive.

Over time, the general trend of entertainment, both with movies and with TV shows, has been to make it more interactive. Movies have done that with the rise of 3D movies. TV shows have done that through things like live-tweeting. Video games, especially, have become much more immersive, both through virtual reality and through online interaction.

This trend reflects the understanding from producers and consumers alike that the most powerful form of entertainment is the kind that offers the most immersion. A game on your smartphone is fun and all, but it’s just data on a screen. It’s not going to engage too many senses.

The same goes for virtual reality, which is basically just putting that same screen over your eyes and bombarding you with sound to make you feel like you’re somewhere you’re not. It also doesn’t change the fact that you don’t have to move your body, exert yourself, or engage in the kind of activity that would lead you to believe that the experience is real. Granted, the brain can be fooled, but only to a point.

What “Westworld” does is logical in terms of crafting an experience that makes people feel like it’s truly real. The customers of Delos Inc. aren’t just observing or following along. They’re actually engaging with this fantasy world. It’s not on a screen. It’s not being projected into their brains. It’s real and they get to be part of it.

That world can literally be anything they Delos Inc. wants it to be. With their resources and their army of life-like androids, they can create all kinds of worlds for customers to explore. These worlds don’t have to be confined by the laws of modern civilization, current social norms, or even notions of reality.

Perhaps they can create an apocalyptic world where participants can kill zombies and live the lives of rag-tag survivors, like those of “The Walking Dead.”

Perhaps they can create a medieval world in the mold of “Game of Thrones” where participants can live the lives of brave knights, lecherous kings, or privileged queens.

Perhaps, if the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to grow, there can be a world where people either get to interact with the Avengers or even get to be the Avengers. As a comic fan, I would definitely pay for that experience. I would be shocked if Disney isn’t working on something like this now, as we speak.

It doesn’t even have to involve an elaborate fantasy world either. Perhaps there’s a world where participants can live the lives of rock stars in 70s and 80s, complete with cocaine, groupies, and massive concerts where they’re the stars.

In theory, there’s no limit to the kinds of worlds a company like Delos Inc. can create. The old wast in “Westworld” is just one of them. The key is making the world perfectly immersive, but still safe to the point where the costumers aren’t ever hurt and face no repercussions for what happens during the experience.

However, it’s in that key safeguard in which the implications of “Westworld” get more distressing. It even plays out a few times in the show. In this immersive world of the old west, participants can carry out acts that would be wrong, immoral, or downright abhorrent in the real world.

The androids in “Westworld” may be more intelligent than the average exhibit at Disney World, but they’re still just robots playing a role. If a participant kills, rapes, or tortures one of them, there’s no repercussion. The android can just be cleaned up, fixed, and reloaded with a new program like it never happened.

It’s that kind of moral void, so to speak, that may make this brand of entertainment questionable. Say there’s someone willing to pay a lot of money to a company like Delos Inc. to create a world where they could go on a killing spree, murdering and raping as much as they want. This person is a law-biding citizen who has never acted on any violent impulses. Would the company be unethical in accommodating that fantasy?

There may be plenty of other distressing requests. Maybe someone wants a world where they can live the life of an 19th century slave-owner because they want to abuse slaves. Maybe someone wants a world where they’re the Nazis and they get to commit any number of unspeakable atrocities.

Remember, what they do in this world isn’t done to real people. They’re just paying for an experience. It’s not like the kind they would get in “Total Recall” where they only get memories of an experience. In a world like that of “Westworld,” they actually interact with that world. They make choices and do things, but no matter what they do, there’s no consequence or repercussion.

It raises many disturbing questions that are impossible to answer now. “Westworld” attempts to answer some of them, but there are plenty more that are simply beyond the scope of the show. It may do a commendable job focusing on what happens when intelligent robots start to get a will of their own, but it doesn’t do much to explore the implications that this form of entertainment inspires.

It’s going to be quite a while before we have the technology that we see in “Westworld,” but even if the human race progresses to a point where people and society are free from most conflict, there will be a need for entertainment. The form that entertainment takes may just reveal more about us than we care to know.

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Filed under Artificial Intelligence, futurism, human nature, sex in society, Sexy Future, Thought Experiment, War on Boredom

Artificial Intelligence, Deep Fakes, And The (Uncertain) Future Of Reality

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Picture the following scenario that may or may not end up being a common occurrence in the near future. It’s not a thought experiment. It’s not a prediction either. It’s just a possible manifestation of what our future might hold.

It’s late at night and you decide to check out some porn. You struggle to decide which one you want to watch. You’re in the mood for something new so you search a little more. You find some elaborate scene where Amy Shumer is a transvestite and she’s doing it with Justin Bieber.

Eventually, you settle on the hottest new scene that just came out the other day. It has Kevin Hart, Steph Curry, and Michael B. Jordan all taking turns with Scarlett Johansson in a sauna in Paris. The scene plays out. You love ever minute of it and decide to save it.

I admit that scenario was pretty lurid. I apologize if it got a little too detailed for some people, but I needed to emphasize just how far this may go. It’s an issue that has made the news lately, but one that may end up becoming a far greater concern as technological trends in computing power and artificial intelligence mature.

The specific news I’m referring to involves something called “deep fakes.” What they are doesn’t just have huge implications for the porn industry. They may also have major implications for media, national security, and our very understanding of reality.

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In essence, a deep fake is a more elaborate version of Photoshopping someone’s face into a scene. That has been around for quite some time, though. People pasting the faces of celebrities and friends into pictures from porn is fairly common. It’s also fairly easy to identify as fake. The technology is good, but not indistinguishable from reality.

That may be changing, though, and it may change in a way that goes beyond making lurid photos. Computer technology and graphics technology are getting to a point where the realism is so good that it’s difficult to discern what’s fake. Given the rapid pace of computer technology, it’s only going to get more realistic as time goes on.

That’s where deep fakes clash with the porn industry. It’s probably not the biggest implication of this technology, but it might be the most relevant in our celebrity-loving culture. In a sense, it already has become an issue and it will likely become a bigger issue in the coming years.

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It started when PornHub, also known as the most popular porn site on the planet, took a major stand at removing deep fakes from their website. Specifically, there was a video of Gal Gadot, also known as Wonder Woman and a person I’ve praised many times on this blog, being digitally added in a porn scene.

Now, it’s not quite as impressive as it sounds. This wasn’t a fully digital rendering of an entire scene. It was just a computer imposing Gal Gadot’s face onto that of a porn actress for a scene. In terms of pushing the limits of computer technology, this didn’t go that far. It was just a slightly more advanced kind of Photoshopping.

Anyone who has seen pictures of Gal Gadot or just watched “Wonder Woman” a hundred times, like me, could easily tell that the woman in that scene isn’t Ms. Gadot. Her face literally does not match her physique. For those not that familiar with her, though, it might be hard to tell.

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That’s exactly why PornHub removed it. Their position is that such deep fakes are done without the explicit permission of the person being depicted and constitute an act of revenge porn, which has become a major legal issue in recent years. These are PornHub’s exact words.

Non-consensual content directly violates our TOS [terms of service] and consists of content such as revenge porn, deepfakes or anything published without a person’s consent or permission.

While I applaud PornHub for making an effort to fight content that puts beloved celebrities or private citizens in compromising positions, I fear that those efforts are going to be insufficient. PornHub might be a fairly responsible adult entertainment company, but who can say the same about the billions of other sites on the internet?

If that weren’t challenging enough, the emergence of artificial intelligence will further complicate the issue of deep fakes. That’s because before AI gets smart enough to ask us whether or not it has a soul, it’ll be targeted to performing certain tasks at a level beyond any programmer. Some call this weak AI, but it still has the power to disrupt more than our porn collection.

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In an article with Motherboard, an artificial intelligence researcher made clear that it’s no longer exceedingly hard for someone who is reckless, tech-savvy, and horny enough to create the kind of deep fakes that put celebrities in compromising positions. In fact, our tendency to take a million selfies a day may make that process even easier. Here’s what Motherboard said on just how much we’re facilitating deep fakes.

The ease with which someone could do this is frightening. Aside from the technical challenge, all someone would need is enough images of your face, and many of us are already creating sprawling databases of our own faces: People around the world uploaded 24 billion selfies to Google Photos in 2015-2016. It isn’t difficult to imagine an amateur programmer running their own algorithm to create a sex tape of someone they want to harass.

In a sense, we’ve already provided the raw materials for these deep fakes. Some celebrities have provided far more than others and that may make them easy targets. However, even celebrities that emphasize privacy may not be safe as AI technology improves.

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In the past, the challenge for any programmer was ensuring every frame of a deep fake was smooth and believable. Doing that kilobyte by kilobyte is grossly inefficient, which put a natural limit on deep fakes. Now, artificial intelligence has advanced to the point where it can make its own art. If it can do that, then it can certainly help render images of photogenic celebrities in any number of ways.

If that weren’t ominous enough, there’s also similar technology emerging that allows near-perfect mimicry of someone’s voice. Just last year, a company called Lyrebird created a program that mimicked former President Obama’s voice. It was somewhat choppy and most people would recognize it as fake. However, with future improvements, it may be next to impossible to tell real from fake.

That means in future deep fakes, the people involved, be they celebrities or total strangers, will look and sound exactly like the real thing. What you see will look indistinguishable from a professionally shot scene. From your brain’s perspective, it’s completely real.

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One of these is real and the other is fake. Seriously.

That blurring of virtual reality and actual reality has huge implications that go beyond the porn industry. Last year, I pointed out how “Star Wars: Rogue One” was able to bring a long-dead actor back to life in a scene. I highlighted that as a technology that could change the way Hollywood makes movies and deals with actors. Deep fakes, however, are the dark side of that technology.

I believe celebrities and private citizens who have a lot of videos or photos of themselves online are right to worry. Between graphics technology, targeted artificial intelligence, and voice mimicry, they’ll basically lose control of their own reality.

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That’s a pretty scary future. Deep fakes could make it so there’s video and photographic evidence of people saying and doing the most lurid, decadent, offensive things that it’s possible for anyone to do. You could have beloved celebrities go on racist rants. You could have celebrities everyone hates die gruesome deaths in scenes that make “Game of Thrones” look like an old Disney movie.

The future of deep fakes make our very understanding of reality murky. We already live in a world where people eagerly accept as truth what is known to be false, especially with celebrities. Deep fakes could make an already frustrating situation much worse, especially as the technology improves.

For now, deep fakes are fairly easy to sniff out and the fact that companies like PornHub are willing to combat them is a positive sign. However, I believe far greater challenges lie ahead. I also believe there’s a way to overcome those challenges, but I have a feeling we’ll have a lot to adjust to in a future where videos of Tom Hanks making out with Courtney Love might be far too common.

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Filed under futurism, gender issues, sex in media, sex in society, sexuality

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

Using Sex Robots (As Therapy)

It feels like I joke about sex robots every chance I get on this blog. In my defense, this is a blog that sells sexy stories, promotes steamy romance, and dares to imagine a future with bionic genitalia. Make no mistake, though. sex robots are a serious issue.

Sure, they’re easy to make light of when they still look like over-sized blow-up dolls with tits, but they are steadily becoming more advanced. They’re already entering the sex industry, albeit in a limited capacity. There are actual companies working on them, as we speak, and for good reason. The demand for sex is like the demand for water. It’s a market that can always be counted on and one Amazon hasn’t monopolized yet.

I’ve talked a bit about how sex robots might impact us, but I always assume that impact will be far greater than anything an aspiring erotica/romance writer can imagine. Hell, I doubt even movies can imagine it, although some like “Ex Machina” make a concerted effort.

I intend to keep discussing the breadth of that impact on this blog in all sorts of ways, including those that’ll make people horny as hell and others that’ll make people more uncomfortable than a vegan at a butcher shop. In any case, it’s worth belaboring both the upheavals and the opportunities that functional sex robots will present.

Sure, there will always be truly deranged people who will become more deranged by presence and use of sex robots. Those people are always a minority, though. Like Charles Manson, they’re the disturbing exceptions that make the news, but not the norm.

Beyond the extremes, though, there’s another aspect of sex robots that I think warrants discussion and one that actually builds on other issues I’ve brought up on this blog, primarily those involving the challenges most people face in forging a healthy sex life in the modern era. If the failure of celebrity couples are any indication, then those challenges are more daunting than we think.

To illustrate the extent of those issues, take a moment to think about the number of people you know who have sought therapy or counseling in some form. Chances are you know more than one. I certainly do. Hell, I challenge anyone to find someone who doesn’t know anyone who has sought therapy.

According to the American Psychological Association, approximately half of American households had someone who’d sought therapy in some form or another. That data was gathered in 2004, though, and pointed out that some couldn’t even seek therapy, due to a lack of insurance. That’s a lot of therapy and a lot of people who need it that aren’t getting it.

Now, take a moment to consider how much of that therapy involved someone’s sex life. While I doubt it applied to every case, I imagine there’s a significant portion of psychological issues that are tied to sex. The fact that sexual dysfunction is so prevalent leads me to believe that more than a few psychological issues are at work here.

Hell, it’s practically part of our popular culture. Watch any sitcom, any movie that doesn’t involve talking animals, or any novel that involves a Biff Tannen/Regina George knock-off and you’ll see it. A man or a woman has an unsatisfying, frustrating, or non-existent sex life. It is the source of a lot of problems, plots, jokes, gags, and obstacles.

Enter the intelligent, interactive, fully-functional sex robot. What does that do to therapy and the reasons we seek it? I’m not just asking that because I want you to picture a world full of advanced sex robots that look and function like Jenna Jameson and Channing Tatum on crack. Granted, I always want people thinking those kinds of sexy thoughts on this blog, but I want people to keep their panties on and look at the bigger picture.

Think, for a moment, how much stress and frustration most people experience when dealing with their sexual desires. It doesn’t matter that it’s the 21st century, internet porn is everywhere, and women are legally allowed to have sex that doesn’t involve making babies. People who aren’t celebrities, supermodels, or as attractive as either struggle to satisfy those desires.

It can and does take a psychological and physical toll on people. If the documented health benefits of orgasms are any indication, then nature wants us to have plenty of sex. Not getting it is like denying the body and mind key nutrients. Without it, there will be issues that go beyond bad moods and morning wood.

At the moment, it’s not easy for a lot of people to explore their sexuality and actually engage in meaningful sexual exchanges. Between uptight religious attitudes, rampant slut shaming, and woefully unequal gender dynamics, finding an adequate sexual outlet is not like going to the grocery store to buy some snacks when you’re hungry. It also comes with all sorts of risks, including disease, pregnancy, and toxic relationships.

The sheer breadth of this difficulty is a major driving force behind the sexual frustrations of many men and women, alike. It’s hard enough just articulating those desires, even to a therapist that is legally obligated to never tell another living soul about your clown fetish. Actually exploring those feelings and achieving some level of sexual gratification is more difficult.

Sex robots don’t just change that situation. They don’t just rewrite the rules of the sexual playbook. They throw the playbook out, shoot the people who wrote it, and use their notes as toilet paper. Sex robots are destined to upend the sex industry and already are in some parts of the world. The impact they’ll have on therapy, though, may be just as great, if not underrated.

Picture a scenario, if you can, of a young man or women going into a therapist’s office in the not-so-distant future. In that future, sex robots are a mature technology in the sense that robots are nearly indistinguishable from humans. They look, feel, and sound real. They have a measure of intelligence, but it’s not much greater than that of the virtual assistants we already use today.

Knowing this, the therapist sits the man or woman down and talks to them. They find out quickly that this person is dealing with depression, anxiety, stress, and loneliness on a level that’s beyond that of most people. As part of the treatment, the therapist provides them with a specially-programmed sex robot. It’s here where the implications become both daunting and seamy.

Unlike the traditional sex robots that ordinary horny people use, or the sex bots you see in an “Austin Powers” movies, these sex robots are programmed with a specific purpose. They’re not just there to give their patients a good orgasm. They can get that from porn or sex toys. The sex robot, in this case, will have a more intimate function.

First, they’re molded to look like someone that the patient feels strong sexual attraction for. That may require some kinky tweaks, especially for those who have crushes on Jennifer Lawrence. However, that’s both doable and kind of necessary. There are already sex dolls molded after porn stars. That same process can be applied to sex robots.

Second, the robot is programmed with a specific personality profile that takes into account the patient’s mental issues. It won’t be enough to just get them off. They’ll need to create an emotional bond with them so that they can help them cope with those issues.

Maybe that involves a sex robots that’s a kinky, assertive dominatrix to help someone with authority issues. Maybe it’s a sex robot that’s meek and submissive to help someone with poor self-esteem. Maybe it’s a sex robot that’s just extra-durable to help someone who’s a real nymphomaniac. There are many ways a sex robot can help people is what I’m saying.

That process may not always include kinky sex. The sex robot may just be programmed to provide some sort of emotional intimacy that the person lacks or can’t find with another person. They could even be programmed to satisfy those who suffer from physical deformities, paralysis, or chronic disease. Thanks to these robots, everyone can have a physically and emotionally satisfying sexual experienced.

The possibilities are limited only by the extent to which a sex robot can be programmed for a specific purpose. Given how good we are at customizing our phones, cars, and even weapons, it’s very likely that we’ll do the same with sex robots for therapeutic and non-therapeutic use.

On the therapy side, though, those possibilities have the greatest implications. It’s one thing for normal, healthy people to enjoy regular, satisfying sex with a robot. It’s quite another when people who would otherwise be crippled or hindered by mental illness are suddenly able to function again and achieve some measure of happiness.

Think, for a moment, what that means for society. It elevates sex robots beyond a mere novelty or kink. Suddenly, they become a means to treat people who never would’ve gotten treatment otherwise. In addition, those who’ve lost loved ones, become ill, or just can’t attract those cute cheerleader types that gets their blood flowing can enjoy intimate, satisfying experiences.

In terms of quality of life, it’s a huge boost. In terms of how we approach our sex lives and sexuality, in general, that’s a bit harder to quantify, even for a mind as lurid as mine. Having a society where everyone, man and woman alike, is sexually satisfied is kind of unprecedented.

It’s really hard to know just how such a society functions or even if it can function. Throughout history, our species has struggled to channel and manage our sex drive. The extent to which we have so many sexual taboos and asinine double standards just proves that the struggle is still ongoing.

Modern medicine, contraception, and even the mainstreaming of the porn industry has helped make sex less dirty, to some extent. We still have a long way to go before full sexual satisfaction is achievable to everyone, not just the beautiful, the popular, and the mentally healthy.

Sex robots could very well be the most critical tool society creates in helping people achieve a level of emotional, physical, and mental satisfaction. In a world where everyone is that satisfied, how will we conduct ourselves? How will we interact with each other? It’s impossible to say, but if writing sexy novels has taught me anything, it’s that few things are more therapeutic than a satisfying sex life.

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Fake News, AI, And The (Potentially Horrifying) Future Of Media

In one of the most iconic scenes in the famous movie/mindfuck that is “The Matrix,” Morpheus asked Neo a question that has perplexed philosophers, scientists, and stoners for centuries.

“What is real? How do you define ‘real’? If you’re talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then ‘real’ is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.”

To this day, the answer to that question is incomplete. It’s just as much a mental marathon to Keanu Reeves as it was to Plato in the days of Ancient Greece. Plato had his famous allegory of the cave.  Neo had his existential breakdown after taking the red pill. Everyone else is just waiting for someone to resolve the debate over what is real so they can get back to playing fantasy sports.

The philosophical conflict over what is means to be real is an old, philosophical question with some pretty mind-bending implications. I’ve talked a lot about the frustrating limitations of the human brain, but I’ve tried to avoid some of the more metaphysical questions, if only because I favor stimulating genitals more than minds.

Avoiding these questions has actually been fairly easy for most of human history. That’s because, even in the era of mass media, we can usually trust our senses to tell us whether something is sufficiently real. Even in the era of Photoshop, we can usually figure out when someone is trying to polish reality to an extreme. Sometimes it’s painfully obvious.

Well, now find ourselves entering unknown territory beyond the so-called uncanny valley. We’re just starting to become more aware of the flaws in our brain wiring. Concepts like “alternative facts” and “fake news” are buzzwords that might as well have come from a George Orwell fever dream.

We may not be living in the world of “1984” yet, but we are experiencing the concepts behind it, such as doublethink and newspeak. It’s all too easy these days to find instances of politicians being hypocrites or debates over proper pronouns. These are all elements that undermine our ability to make sense of what’s real.

As hard as it is to understand reality in an era where people get into arguments over the color of a dress, it’s actually about to get even harder. In fact, it’s about to get so distressingly difficult that our caveman brains will be even less reliable than they already are. Those brains already convince us that we have a chance to win the lottery or date Megan Fox. It’s not equipped to handle greater challenges.

It may not have a choice because at the same time we’re adapting to this era of alternative facts and fake news, the pace of technological advancement is accelerating and giving us the finger as it passes us by. The growth of artificial intelligence is already accelerating, so much so that even brilliant people like Stephen Hawking are calling it an existential threat.

Even before we face the prospect of fighting real life terminator robots, though, there’s another issue we’ll have to deal with. Anyone who owns PlayStation 4 or X-box One already has a vague idea of what I mean. Long before computers become smart enough to enslave us, they’ll become powerful enough to fool our senses.

Recently, researchers at the University of Washington accomplished an amazing/terrifying milestone in computer science. They were able to use an artificial intelligence technology to create a completely artificial rendering of former President Barack Obama. Watch this video and you might have a better understanding of how Neo felt after he took that red pill.

It shouldn’t take a dirty imagination that spends a lot of time contemplating sexy stories to realize the implications. It’s hard enough figuring out what’s real, if anything, about a rant by Sean Hannity or a documentary by Michael Moore. How the hell are we going to trust any video image we see if there’s technology that can render images so perfectly that our brains can’t tell the difference?

The short answer is we can’t. The long answer is even more distressing. Picture a world where realistic videos depicting Justin Beiber waving his dick in the face of starving orphans in Uganda surfaces. Picture a world where a realistic video of Kim Kardashian choking a bald eagle to death. With this technology, it won’t just be possible. It might be unavoidable.

Let’s not lie to ourselves. People have agendas and they’ll go to absurd lengths to further that agenda. It’s easy to ignore someone standing on a street corner, wearing a faded Pink Floyd shirt and shouting from a soap box that the CIA is slipping crack into milk. It’s a bit harder when that same person can use a computer to create realistic video showing CIA agents working with washed up rappers on a secret farm in Montana.

We’re already seeing this technology in movies where long-dead actors are coming back to life for iconic roles. There’s no way it’ll stop there. There’s just too much potential for someone to further their agenda. In the era of fake news and alternative facts, we can expect plenty of that potential to be realized.

What does this mean for the future of media? Well, that’s actually pretty damn scary when you think about it. While the technology is still being developed, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes refined. Add this to growing improvements in computer graphics technology and suddenly, you can’t trust any video you see.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s something as simple as a speech by the President or Teddy Roosevelt fighting a grizzly bear. Who’s to say which is real and which is simulated? With enough computing power, both look equally real to our brains.

If you think you might be able uncover the truth through sound, then I’ve got bad news for you. There’s another AI in development that can simulate anyone’s voice, including those of politicians and celebrities. You want to hear Sean Spicer go on an anti-sematic tirade that would make Mel Gibson blush? With this technology, that’s entirely possible.

There may very well come a time in the near future when anything we see and hear from the media is potentially fake. We already have cases of the news media deceptively editing stories to spin the story a particular way. Can you imagine what they’ll do when they can just use a computer to create imagery out of nothing? It might end up giving Alex Jones a heart attack.

These advancements in computer technology couldn’t come at a worse time. Trust in the media is already at an all-time low. Trust in government has been in decline for a half-century. Once the media has tools with which to forge their own reality out of nothing, then people will have even less reason to trust them.

This goes way beyond fake news and propaganda. This technology will allow those in positions of power to literally mold reality in accord with their message. That’s a terrifying thought, especially to anyone who sees the kind of dishonesty that major outlets like Fox News and CNN have exercised.

Now, that’s not to say these false stories will be accepted by anyone with a functioning brain. However, and it’s worth belaboring, our limited human brains will still struggle. We can barely get through a season of “Lost” without getting a headache. What hope do we have in a future when it’s possible to forge a false reality on demand?

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Virtual Reality: The Future/End of Intimacy?

There was a time when the idea of having a hand-held device that allowed you to communicate directly with others, translate multiple languages, and access a near-limitless database of free porn seemed absurd. In fact, it seemed so futuristic that these fanciful devices often showed up in sci-fi shows like Star Trek. How many people who watched that show really thought that such a device was even possible?

That time really wasn’t that long ago. I’m still old enough to remember pagers and flip phones. That alone makes me feel way older than I want to, but it illustrates an important point. What seems like crazy science fiction today can become a reality in the future. It can even happen within our lifetime.

There are people who grew up watching Star Trek who now have smartphones. I can only imagine how amazed they must feel whenever they send an email, translate a conversation, or watch free porn. It’s an amazing and beautiful thing, right?

There’s another futuristic, seemingly impossible gadget that, for the moment, is still relegated to the world of Star Trek. It’s a gadget that also relates to my ongoing discussion about hugs and the importance of human contact.

It’s a gadget that has the potential to disrupt society in ways that pales in comparison to smartphones. In fact, it could be so disruptive that some speculate that it could be mankind’s last invention. Which invention could be this disruptive? Ladies, gentlemen, and those of unspecified gender, I give you the holodeck.

Without getting into the sci-fi jargon that will probably get me beat up by angry Trekkies and physicists, I’ll stick to the basics here. A holodeck is basically the ultimate extreme in virtual reality. It creates simulations so life-like that they’re indistinguishable from reality. If our feeble brains, which are still working under the assumption that we’re cavemen living on the African savanna, interprets it as reality, how can we possibly tell the difference?

Our brains are already easily fooled. It’s not just funny brain teasers that make us question our own internal wiring. As I’ve pointed out on this blog many times before, our brains aren’t wired to make sense of reality. They’re wired to help us survive and reproduce. That’s part of why we have such wonderful evolutionary manifestations like orgasms. In that context, it stands no chance against a holodeck.

It may seem like such an advancement is a long ways off, but I imagine early Stark Trek fans thought the same about smartphones. This invention is already in its nascent stage. At the moment, we call it virtual reality and it’s just starting to develop a consumer base.

Thanks to continued advances in computing power and a growing market for more immersive experiences, VR is becoming more mainstream and affordable by the average consumer. Like personal computers and smartphones before it, VR is creating a new market for new experiences. Those experiences, by the way, will probably involve virtual porn.

New markets mean new profits. History shows time and again if there’s a profit to be made, it’s going to happen. It’s the reason the War on Drugs is doomed to fail. It’s the reason the wars on porn, smoking, and everything fun that religion and government despises is doomed to fail. It’s also the reason why VR will become more and more indistinguishable from reality as time goes on. The recent success of Pokémon Go is proof enough of that.

So that begs the question: what happens to us when we reach the point where we have a functioning holodeck? What does that mean for the human race? What will it mean for our basic desires for intimacy?

Well, let’s all channel our inner horny teenager for a moment and state the obvious. Just as we saw with VHS and home video technology, VR and holodecks will likely be used for porn. This isn’t speculation. This is a certainty. Someone is working on this right now as we speak. You can count on it.

Do a quick thought experiment and picture how you’d use a holodeck. If I’m really horny, I could create an entire army of beautiful women that look like a mix of Kate Upton, Halle Berry, Scarlett Johanson, and even Starfire from DC Comics if I want. In case you’ve forgotten, Starfire looks like this.

See where I’m going with this? On top of that, with the right programming, I can make these simulations do whatever perverse shit I can think of. If I want them to cover their bodies in oil, pour chocolate on my dick, and take turns licking it up, I can do that.

I’m sure that’s not the kinkiest thing I could do. I’m sure there are others out there with far kinkier proclivities. A woman using such a device could create a football team of Channing Tatums and Brad Pitts, each programmed to cover her body in honey and lick it off.

I’ll stop speculating right now because I think I’m revealing too much about my own perverse fantasies. Also, they’re making me very hungry. Maybe writing this on an empty stomach was a bad idea, but it’s too late now.

It doesn’t matter how perverse your tastes are. They can even be outright illegal. So what if someone uses a holodeck to have sex with a baby elephant? It’s a simulation. It’s technically not hurting anyone or anything real. Even so, the mere fact that someone will probably use a holodeck to do something like this is kind of a mood-killer.

Again, our brains aren’t wired to be rational and make sense of reality. It’s wired for survival and reproduction. So if a holodeck simulation is that realistic, our brains literally aren’t equipped to tell the difference.

Imagine the kind of confusion this would cause. Hell, this would be 10 steps beyond confusion. This is a dissociation with reality on par with The Matrix. When a simulation becomes that real and malleable, would we even want to escape? It’s either face a cold, harsh reality or spend more time wrestling naked with Starfire and Halle Berry. That’s not a balanced decision, to say the least.

Whether you’re an anti-social sociopath or a hugger like me, a holodeck can literally give you everything you need to fulfill all the physical and emotional needs you want. I can go from having a three-way with a couple of supermodels to hugging every member of my family, even those who have passed away, on a whim. The caveman wiring of my brain will tell me I’m doing exactly what I need to survive and reproduce. Why would it want me to stop?

The cynical side of me says that I’ll join the billions of other humans on this planet who will go extinct with a big, content smile on my face. However, the less jaded side of me, which also happens to be the side that helps me craft sexy romance stories, thinks there are other possibilities.

If history is any guide, and it often is, human beings can and do adapted to these major disruptions. The 20th century gave us a number of examples, but one in particular stands out. It involves the impact of contraception and, to a similar extent, antibiotics.

It’s easy to forget in a era where contraception is so ordinary that only right-wing religious nut-jobs like Rick Santorum speak against it. Women today have all sorts of methods for controlling their fertility, deciding when and in what circumstances they’ll bear children.

This is a huge shift compared to the bulk of human history where contraception was limited to pulling out, make-shift condoms, and the medical treatments on par with smearing chicken entrails on tumors. Then, after centuries of uncertainty and superstition, we created something that worked. It worked so well that it disrupted a great many these assumptions we once had about society.

Think, for a moment, how jarring that must have been. Suddenly, women don’t have to lament whether or not they’ll get pregnant after one night of reckless indulgence. Suddenly, society has some measure of control over a basic human function. It was exciting and scary. Hell, the Catholic Church is still scared to death of contraception, which is saying a lot from the folks that gave us 2,000 years of hellfire and brimstone.

Despite what religious institutions and bad reality TV shows would prefer, contraception is not going away. It impacted society immensely, but you know what? Society adapted. The human race hasn’t gone extinct. Civilization hasn’t collapsed. The fact that people can now hump without as many consequences as before didn’t destroy humanity. It just freed us up to focus on other things.

By and large, this shift has been positive. As society has adapted, violence throughout the industrialized world has declined sharply. Opportunities for women have risen as well and not just because they can have sex with fewer consequences. This disruption that upended centuries of limits did so much good. So how much good can advancements in VR and holodecks achieve?

It’s impossible to say, but it’s a question worth asking. What do people do when they have a means of meeting their physical, emotional, and sexual needs with relative ease? We’ve never lived in a society like that before. Remember, though, until recently, we had never lived in a society where women had control over their fertility. We had no idea what to expect, but we adapted. We improved as a civilization and there’s still room for improvement.

I don’t want to be too much of an optimist. With every advancement comes challenges and pitfalls we can’t possibly foresee. At some point, somebody will use VR or holodecks to do something that’ll make us throw up. However, like those who use ski-masks poorly, we must take the good with the bad.

In the end, I believe the good will outweigh the bad. I think when human society has a means of meeting all their physical, emotional, and sexual needs, the sheer breadth of human potential will be realized.

What form might this potential make? How would such a society function? How would it adapt? These are all important questions to ask, but they’re impossible to answer right now. That said, they could make for an interesting premise of a book. Think about it, a story involving a holodeck told by an erotica/romance writer who writes stories about strippers and sex cults? That could be interesting, among other things.

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