The Future of Porn: a Disturbing Possibility

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

Image representing IBM as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

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

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

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

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

Box art for the PC 'Collector's Edition'.

Box art for the PC ‘Collector’s Edition’. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

In comes the next piece of the puzzle. If you’re paying attention to the technology world you have probably hear

Oculus Rift

Oculus Rift (Photo credit: Hot Grill)

d about the Oculus rift. It is a prototype for a virtual reality device that lets you immerse in a three-dimensional experience when playing a game. The applications for the pornographic industry are obvious, especially if you take into account the previous paragraph: totally immersive “games” with virtual, real-looking characters with whom you can interact in almost any imaginable way.

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

Bethesda developed the Creation Engine for Sky...

Bethesda developed the Creation Engine for Skyrim. It allows for dynamic snowfall, and the integration of dragons in gameplay. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

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

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

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65 thoughts on “The Future of Porn: a Disturbing Possibility

  1. B Gourley

    Fascinating. What’s really intriguing is that only 18% of men work with computers, so the 20% viewing porn at work must be all of them, plus a few who bring their iPhone to the construction site. Just kidding, I completely made up my statistic.

    Seriously, nice post.

    Reply
    1. jugglinbob

      What’s the reference for the stat? I took it to mean that 20% of men had looked at a pornographic image at some point at work rather than looking at them for 20% of the time… in which case it sp

      Reply
  2. Louise Taylor

    Do you think that this ability to actually have sex with something that is not real will reduce or increase sex crimes?
    On the one hand people will be sated so there will be no need. On the other hand they will be used to have the object of their desire doing exactly what they want them to do.
    One of the most disturbing parts of the on-line sex industry is the increase in child pornography. Images of children on the net are widespread and so these 3 D images will be available in all forms?
    Quite a concern.

    Reply
    1. David Yerle Post author

      Hi Louise, you raise some really valid concerns that echo mine. I would like to think the ability to have sex with something that is not real will reduce sex crimes, but humanity has a knack for surprising is in nasty way, so I am not sure.
      The child porn part is a concern. I teach IT and science to primary school children and one of the things we tell children when they go online is to never divulge information about themselves (age, gender, school, city) or post pictures. I think the availability of that technology will make this even more necessary.
      All in all, the future is looking more and more like a pretty disturbing place.

      Reply
      1. Louise Taylor

        I believe you are right.
        Certainly the increase in violent internet games and shooting games have been shown to increase rather that decrease violent crimes. The sense of everything being unreal and having no consequences runs over into real life.
        I don’t know what the solution is. We can’t stop this ‘progress’ but I wonder how we will deal with the fall out.

        Reply
  3. gigglinginthegutter

    Interesting, thankyou. In my lifetime (Im 55) we’ll have moved from completely human to human interaction to electronic interaction. Since, for me anyway, connection is the route to spirituality this raises intense issues. I have always seen God in the smile shared with strangers (for example). The seduction about conversation via email twitter (and blogs?!) is that it is risk free, you hide behind the interface. Whereas interacting with real live people in a social context is psychologically risky. You have to put your real self out there, and that’s part if the shared experience.

    Sex without risk with a personal avatar would take this trend (toward isolation) to a new level …

    Reply
    1. Peter

      Anything less than the real thing; and sometimes the real thing; tends to become obsessive compulsive so that … only by increasing the intake can a person even hold ground.
      Feeling afraid for the human race. very afraid.

      Reply
  4. Jack Curtis

    Now that you’ve pointed to it, the merging of games, Second Life types of simulations and porn seem obvious and inevitable. Performance art in general will likely become a part of that too, no? And all the burgeoning complaints of the effects of gaming and such on kids and on society will be multiplied in Spades!

    It will be time to consider controlling or limiting such a thing when we have learned to control drugs, booze and prostitution…

    What odds that an early fallout will be to public school sex education?

    This is a very nice bit of analysis and forecasting!.

    Reply
  5. lizardyoga

    Interesting point. I don’t spend much time thinking about porn – in fact I usually try not to think about it, but I’m sure you are right in your prognostications. It’s very disturbing to think about – already porn is distorting human relations to the extent where teenage boys who view it often can’t understand why a girl wont’ instantly jump into bed with them. We need to watch this carefully else it will effectively roll back decades of equal ops legislation

    Reply
    1. David Yerle Post author

      Thanks. I guess I do spend some time thinking about porn, even though hopefully most of my time is occupied otherwise.
      And yes, porn (not so much is existence, but its widespread accessibility) is seriously affecting the way young people see sex. I wonder where that will take us.

      Reply
  6. catalyst23

    I’m not seeing the “like” button (maybe because I’m using my phone?), so I’ll comment and say I enjoyed the post. I wrote a segment in a novel about “virtual porn,” and it seems quite plausible in the near future.

    Reply
    1. David Yerle Post author

      There is no like button because this is a self-hosted wordpress which is connected to a wordpress account. So, unfortunately, no-one can “like” my posts or see them in the reader. Fortunately, I can see other people’s…

      Reply
  7. kimberxinspace7

    I wasn’t creeped out or particularly surprised, although it is a bit like something out of a ‘Brave new world’ until you said “So we have a pretty disturbing scenario: a future where anyone can use your picture to create a virtual avatar of you and sleep with it.” UMMM ew.
    Still. Something to think about.
    Interesting blog, like all your posts I’ve read thus far 🙂

    Reply
  8. Shinashi As Usual

    “So we have a pretty disturbing scenario: a future where anyone can use your picture to create a virtual avatar of you and sleep with it.”

    Interesting article, definitely, and I actually have no doubts that such a scenario will come to pass, but when I was looking for the ‘disturbing possibility’, I wasn’t able to find it.

    Now, I can understand why people will find it disturbing, I do. However, maybe because I like pornography, maybe because I don’t really care about my own privacy, but I wouldn’t have any such fear or an urge to protect my image.

    Seriously, in the whole scheme of things, that person would be seen by me as weird and lonely, but as long as that persons stays away from me… I wouldn’t really care.

    Reply
    1. David Yerle Post author

      Good point. I guess I wouldn’t really care, either, but maybe I would if it was my daughter they were “sleeping with”. I’m not sure. We’ll have to see this pass and the gauge our reaction…

      Reply
      1. Shinashi As Usual

        I hope when this technology develops, they’ll have measures against avatars with child-like proportions.

        Not necessarily because I don’t want my children’s images used like that (I don’t), but because abetting pedophile temptations is wrong period.

        Once my children are of age, I hope the person stays away from them. But I’ll be an older person then, so, yea, who knows?

        Reply
  9. josephineyoungs

    What a fascinating piece. People predilections are entirely their affair so long as they are consenting adults…. but surely that is what is so disturbing here.

    By taking a virtual person without their knowledge and doing – whatever with them…that crosses boundaries that leave me feeling deeply uncomfortable. Will that lead to a change in people’s moral code over time!?

    I guess like so much tech it would be a double edged sword.

    Reply
  10. David Halliday

    It does open positive possibilities. Sex for quadriplegics. Sex with loved ones far away (even in death though that is filled with all kinds of Poe-isms.) What is disturbing is the introduction of things like violence, mental health issues, etc. Good stuff.

    Reply
  11. tituswu

    Wow. Absolutely disgusting and unethical. Especially the part of taking someone else’s image to create a virtual body. Thanks for bringing this up; the last thing I would be philosophizing about is porn.

    Reply
  12. reverendhellfire

    What I don’t understand is what is the economic underpinning of the porn Industry, how the hell does anyone make money out of it. There’s so much free porn (including the amateur stuff 7 the fan-fiction)I don’t see why anyone would ever pay for it.

    Reply
  13. Mike10613

    Hi David,

    What interests me is the seemingly unnatural acts that porn is making appear quite natural. I was thinking maybe in the future people could evolve with this change in behaviour. There could be interesting physical changes as women got shorter and male penises got longer… I hope I’m not around to see it…

    Reply
  14. nikgee

    i guess I hadn’t considered the future of porn. Alhough it is a concern, it is but the tip to the ice berg.i have no time reference, but just that ill be much sooner then we expected.. there is going to be such an explosion between man and machine it’s going to rock the planet. It has already begun we can’t turn back now.

    Reply
  15. schn00dles

    Another interesting article. I wouldn’t rush to regulate something when we haven’t any idea yet of its effect. That would be a little like imprisoning someone’s genes before they are born. It very well might be a way to discharge a whole bunch of sexual expression privately and without victims.
    The general tenor of human (and animal) progress has been positive.

    Reply
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  17. ArkRoyal

    Have to disagree with much of what was written. If you look at how porn has evolved in the past 15 years (since the internet age), its been about consuming mass quantities of it at a time, not increasing quality. Porn users click through hundreds of pictures in each viewing session, they watch countless video clip after video clip. No one watches whole movies – they’re after only parts they want to see. They endlessly search for the high from getting something they’ve never viewed before. Porn users aren’t after simulating sex, they’re after the dopamine kick of seeing more potential mates in 10 minutes than their ancestors saw in a life-time. And when that wears off, they’re after the shock value, increasing the dosage to get another dopamine high. Porn these days is hyper categorized, tailored to every imaginable need. The future of porn? Maybe some sort of mind interface that can read exactly what fetish, type of women or scenario the user is craving at that very moment. The reality is for many porn users, actual sex has become boring – it cant compete with porn. Simulated sex? I dont think that’s what porn users are actually after.

    Reply
    1. David Yerle Post author

      You make some good points. I especially like this one: “actual sex has become boring – it cant compete with porn.” And I agree that’s how people use porn nowadays. However, I do think many people would be interested in being able to sleep with whoever they chose. I don’t think this new “porn” would substitute porn. It would substitute prostitution. As far as I know, that’s still pretty popular.

      Reply
    2. Duder

      I have to agree partially, the user does want a smogasboard of fetishes at their fingertips, but that isn’t to say VR and 3D avatars aren’t going to be instrumental in getting to the next high. I envisage countless simulations where a person can be a voyeur and spectator viewing the action as if they were there with the ability to interact or just view at any angle at any proximity. Any fetish will be satiated be it kiddie porn or whatever. As the user will be able to craft the object of their desire as if it was Sims 4.

      As disturbing as it may be, we will learn that porn is a private experience. If someone is a deviant its nobody’s business but their own. We have no right to dictate what someone is allowed to indulge in sexually as much as we have the right to tell anyone what they should dream. Hopefully we will learn to respect each others privacy and realize sexuality is not something to be feared or scrutinized but rather explored and respected.

      Reply
  18. jakob

    Honestly i was looking for future based porn but this caught my attention and kept it u have several great points. And i am disturbed to learn that my ex girlfriends who i regret dating and have had intercourse with will soon be able to relive that point in time over and over as much as they want.

    Reply
  19. Adbul

    Sadly, everything’s been running out of control since technologies such as Internet or computers arrived and became massive. I do not wish to live in this kind of society.

    Reply
  20. Kenny

    20% of Men watch porn from work? I thought it would have been higher than that. Makes you wonder how many Men view porn in the privacy of their own home, if 20% are looking at it from work. After all, the porn industry brings in billions of $$$ every year.

    Reply
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  22. jorge

    Viva la revolution!!! I’m gonna start saving my favorite online pics right now in anticipation of this glorious watershed moment!

    Reply
  23. Yaktub

    I actually think we are headed for a global orgy. It will be a non-stop, “network” of streamed orgies that people can join in person (if proximity allows) or join virtually. You can plug in and get off when you feel like it. It will be started by college kids who are not initially trying to make money, but trying to offer sex for all. The big firms will fight it as it will be hard to monetize that experience.

    The trouble is any child with a smartphone will be able to participate and many will. So, socially, we are sexifying or children and we don’t even know the ramifications. I think one problem will be a rise in violent sex crimes by minors. They are too young to know how to manage that.

    Reply
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  26. H.C. Disney

    I think the greater concept is not the porn issue, but the human experience or human interaction. Why leave your house an risk rejection, failure and humiliation, when you can pick and choose from personality and physicality of your three great loves and roll them into one. Indeed, why look any further? Resturants close, bars close All intertainment out side cesess to exist. All will be there in your solitary room. Perfectly choreographed, perfect…

    Reply
  27. Dustin

    Well written. I agree with everything you said about where it’s heading, but I don’t think it’s going to be a bad țhing necessarily, nor do I find it disturbing. There is a creepy factor to some of the implications lol, but same with some current porn.

    When it comes to technology, if we can do something, we will. In these combined fields of tech, it’s the next logical advancement towards. After that in 2100, I don’t know maybe they’ll clone you a real sex partner lol. So I feel this “revolution” as you it, is just another inevitable stepping stone in those areas. Which admittedly, Is very impressive technology in any case. Lol i might get one and just hold hands with a nice lady xD,
    right..

    Anyway heres why it doesn’t disturb me. Sexual lust has always caused people to do awful things. Rape, and child exploitation, sex trade, etc. I know all this goes on, it’s already disturbing.

    And I don’t feel like this near future medium of porn is going to help facilitate any of these truly horrible acts. Yes, there will be exploitation and violations of innocent people. Just like it’s always been though. I don’t think it will be proportionally worse though.

    One might argue the increase of digitized porn, and resulting decrease of real porn, would decrease the amount of misdeeds. The lessened demand for child porn may be a result. Also perhaps less rapes would occur. That’s speculation though, who knows how it will really affect things. There may be unforeseen consequences none of us even thought of.

    the idea of secretly modelling characters after a person you know isn’t as bad a thing as it sounds in my opinion. I mean, people can already think about anyone in anyway they please. But it’s not like the cute clerk at the store will ever know the lude things she is made to do in imaginations lol. Because no one would share that info. Even though everyone, I think anyway, has these thoughts to some degree.

    Now it’s just out there and harder to hide. that’s the difference. People can add sensory perception to their fantasies now. But likely, people won’t be going around telling everyone about their virtual sexual exploits. Porn will always be a private thing for most. The cute clerk will likely remain in oblivion about people virtually screwing her every night.

    I suppose legally and morally I’m not bothered. But the idea some creep can fulfill his sick desires at will, kinda is unsettling. But all he’s feeling is machines, smelling fake aromas, and looking at millions of points of light offering the illusion of reality. So, at the same time, what’s it matter where he goes with it? If he’s having sex with virtual children for example, then he’s already had those thoughts and desires and THAT’S the problem; the way some people are, not the technology.. It’s just a new way, albeit a drastically upgraded way, to enjoy our sexual desires, which won’t change, whether they’re typical, or sadistic. I just can’t think of a scenario in where crime will be made easier or any extra suffering will be caused.

    Plus it’ll be long ways off before it becomes anywhere like real sex. And the awareness it’s not real can never be removed. So it won’t be ending loneliness or give true satisfaction.. Well… Some people are great at lying to themselves actually lol.

    Porn in general is probably impacting society though, and in the long run may not be a good thing. Problems like sexual dysfunction, diminished libido, less “cavalier” mindset. Technology is too good sometimes for our own good. Everyone is trying to make things easier. Less movement, interaction, and just less substance all around. Depending how see It. People enjoy technology and porn hahs I know I do! Lol, thanks for the article it got me thinking!

    Cheers

    Reply
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