In a world where people can order a pizza from Azeroth, it’s no surprise that sexuality is stampeding from the physical realm to cyberspace. According to an in depth piece on the future of relationships and sex in The Kernel, focusing on online dating, removing fellow humans from romantic and sexual encounters is not completely out of the question. Websites and mobile apps are only the beginning of a tide of technological sexual evolution; sites like OkCupid and apps like Tinder are the gateway to a staggering array of innovation.
Technology writer Emma McGowan writes that companies like FriXion are moving toward robotics that will enable users to transmit touch and feel, allowing, in time, for penetrative sexual experiences with nothing but a computer present. There’s a myriad sex tech companies following suit, developing Bluetooth enabled devices, and teledildonics and haptic technologies, to usher in an age of sex with online partners and even artificial intelligences.
At present, there are many different forms of sexual exploration, but Internet-based evolutions in sex are the strangest; the possibility of sexual experiences with people across the digital cosmos or with robots programmed to emulate every response a lover would is exciting and terrifying.
Cue the theme from Terminator, but with Stanley Clarke converting the entire thing to a bass funk riff.
In a recent Medium article, writer Emily Witt chronicles her experiences on the site Chaturbate, a webcam site where users perform all manner of sexual activity. Witt comments that she sees people having relations with children’s toys, adventuring in a van, and even hanging around fully clothed on a bed for thousands of viewers. Performers apparently enjoy organic conversations with their viewers, not only earning tips but also valuable connections between people from across the digital divide.
Witt poses the question as to whether or not we are now “internet sexuals.” Online dating, hook-up apps, and now the ability to explore sexuality from the comfort of a computer chair–granted you have a webcam and maybe even a futuristic robot sex device–has evolved into a sexual persuasion based on digital space. That means that people can enjoy healthy sexual lives without the fear of disease, pregnancy, or violence; Witt spoke with one woman who covets the fact that she is in control of the situation, knowing that a mouse click can remove an ill behaved user as a factor.
I generally worry that the more powerful we make artificial intelligence, the more advances we make in cyberspace existence, the less likely we are to interact with humans face to face, skin on skin. It is worth considering, though, that the security online romantic and sexual exploration affords performers and users is an incredible technological advantage. I would take a science fiction style end of days if it means safety for people interested in adventurous sex practices without the risk of interested parties getting physical in the wrong way. Also, technological advances in robotics and communications means people can discover latent sexual urges that arguably normal sex wouldn’t easily permit.
The finale of Witt’s journey into Chaturbate analyzes the evolution of sex in a quite cutting manner. She comments that mainstream sexuality is stuck in being seemingly, “loving, maybe; monogamous, probably; dignified by its secrecy; more authentic for not being shared; sacred because it’s not mediated through a cell phone.” Although I’m a fan of romantic gestures that would make most millennials vomit a little–personally, the vanilla, monogamous lifestyle is work as is, don’t think I could manage multiple AIs, an online chatroom, and a legion of gadgets–I completely agree with Witt’s realization that technology gives the opportunity to experience sexual evolution in real time. It’s mediated, secure openness, where you have personal agency in cyber solitude.
Does this mean we’re all on the verge of getting down with machines? Probably, but hopefully this future doesn’t preclude the end of corporeal relationships between people altogether. Though, if there has to be a technological apocalypse, this is the best kind we could ever hope for.