(Originally published at URBNFUTR- graciously allowing me to republish here)
Techno Desire and Cyber Sex – Part 1
That we are intimate with the world is not news. That we have extended this intimacy to our tools is a reality; the idea that we are becoming cyborgs is already here.
There is nothing mysterious or futuristic about being a cyborg, part machine part biological organism. Using our smartphones to remember our appointments, a long list of telephone numbers, addresses and shopping lists is a cyborg activity. The extension and externalization of our memories in electronic devices makes us de-facto modern day cyborgs.
Deploying devices to upgrade and extend our insufficient neuro performance is only part of what we do as cyborgs. We use these extensions for training, for life tracking, for calorie counts, for sleep, you name it, there’s an app for that. But lest we forget, we also have our loves, our cares and our motivations to deal with, our desires both of the flesh and of our imagination. Also these are slowly coming into this symbiotic relationship.
The accelerated tooling times we are living in, allow us to gradually expand the notion of what it means to be human. For, make no mistake; we are far from being similar to our ancestors. A modern day, urbanized, cyberneticaly hyperconnected human, exists in a state of interdependence and sense extension, the like of which no one could have predicted.
We have a new relationship with technology, one we truly cannot extricate ourselves from, and this changes everything. Cyber technologies and information science have brought to bear, not a new tool but a new world with which to be intimate, a cyberspace horizon of potentiality that extends into the material world.
What happens when these cyber-technologies, broaden our nervous system, into other nervous systems, weaving us with the emergent nervous system of the Internet?
Virtually Yours – Techno Desire and Virtual Sex
A plethora of new technologies offers us a wide swath to expand our sensations and emotions into, and our desires and hidden imaginary wishes. Virtual worlds such as second life already thrive, but a growing segment of virtuality is directed, how else? Into sex.
Red districts offering every conceivable sexual wish, from the Toy Slaves Brothel (NSFW), to Fantasy Escorts (NSFW), are here for the take. One of these virtual worlds, appropriately named Red Light Center, (NSFW), carrying the tag line: “EXPAND Your Fantasy”, is modeled after Amsterdam’s red light district and claims a few million users.
Now come the tough questions of course: “is it infidelity to have sex in virtual worlds?” when no ‘real’ sex has occurred? It is hard to come by numbers, but it does make sense that for many it will be considered as such, creating novel situations where the ‘competition’ is an avatar. The ubiquitousness of cyber sex virtual worlds is however only part of the story. It is still you, probably alone, clicking on a button, playing a game.
Enter Synesthesia, literally the coming together of sensation (from the Greek Syn- together and Aesthesis – sensation), a term, which may well denote that which we are experiencing and will increasingly experience as the electronic tools at our disposal evolve. Though the experience of Synesthesia is anything but common and is considered to be of genetic origin, its idiosyncratic nature is what makes it so convenient and adaptable to the extension of our senses via technology.
In fact new developments in haptic technologies, especially those involving vibrotactile feedback, will soon allow us to ‘really’ feel objects in virtual worlds, to feel, to sense and to enjoy the pleasures provided. Feeling the coldness of steel, the weight of a rock or the warmth of a body in a virtual world, is a revolution of the senses, the like of which we have not yet seen. For once the stream of impressions coming to our nervous system is no longer subject to the immediate, the possibilities open to our perceptual apparatus are limited by imagination only, and that we have abundantly.
Once the new mesh of Haptic and Synesthesia comes together the avatar of our own making, will be able not only to see, but touch, feel and sense remote objects to a fullness of satisfaction, that will practically overwhelm us. One of these technologies already available is offering products such as the real touch award winning male masturbator (NSFW), which pledges to be the future of adult entertainment, followed closely by the Mojowijo (NSFW) promising: “The motions of one device are transformed into vibrations in the other, literally allowing you to share the mojo with anyone, anywhere in the world.”
Though these devices are only the very beginning of what cybersex promises to be, a ‘real’ virtual alternative to common relationship, already their problematic implications abound. While Internet enabled sexual toys proliferate and multiple 3D online worlds offer everything from multiple partners, to every single imaginable fantasy one can have it is their descendents, which offer a real glimpse into the future.
The following is a fascinating excursion filmed, written, and edited by Tutsy Navarathna, NSFW but worthwhile watching. Navarathna: “This film is an investigation into the transformations that human relationships face when interacting in Virtual Worlds. Love and sexuality are on an important factor in any human relationships. However, what is new in Virtual Worlds is the ability to exercise those relationships without any real risk, external censure or imposition from an internal “super-ego”. (NSFW)
The ever-present state of being a cyborg however is only a fraction of the story. The complete story we will know only in the fullness of time, today we will do well to look deep into our minds and ask ourselves what is it that we are becoming? What kind of human do we desire to be, and what is already available or is on the horizon for our use and transformation.
If online virtual cyber sex, extended via prosthetics, is the natural next step, then our evolution as cyborg beings is far from obvious. According to David Levy at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands, not only is it the case that love and sex with robots is inevitable, but by 2050 the state of Massachusetts will be the first jurisdiction to legalize marriages with robots.
What happens when our emotional make-up is no longer a given and our sexual preferences receive a boost of new options never before encountered? What happens when our sensations can be amplified tenfold? What happens when ‘cool’ means- dating a Gynoid or Android?
To quote from Woody Allen:
“Love is the answer, but while you are waiting for the answer, sex raises some pretty good questions.”
Transgressive Love: Cyborg Tenderness – Part 2
It is now easy to love our selves as cyborgs, cyborg love is here, embrace it. The essential notion of Cyborg love is constructive transgression, a spreading out of our sense perception, into new domains of feeling. More than stimulating, less than exciting, slightly uncomfortable, the cyborg symbiosis we are moving into is an opportunity to expand our humanness. According to Amber Case who studies Cyborg Anthropology:
“It’s not that machines are taking over – it’s just that they are helping us be more human”
TEDTALK: Amber Case – We are all cyborgs now:
This emergent symbiotic relationship might represent a possible break with our proto emotional selves and a real opening to redefine our perceptual machinery.
It might be easier for some of us to accept a robotic firefighter, sand that self metamorphoses, or mechanical helpers that feed on organic matter (our very own waste!), but when these same robots become very similar to us the notion of us vs. them, will blur into nothingness.
Enter ECCEROBOT (Embodied Cognition in a Compliantly Engineered Robot) a three-year project funded by the 7th framework programme of the EU (ICT-Challenge 2, “Cognitive Systems, Interaction, Robotics”). The project has three goals: to build the first truly anthropomimetic robot; to find out how to control it; and finally, to investigate its human-like cognitive features.
Anthropomimetic robotics is nothing new, what is new however is the manner by which we learn, slowly but surely, to accept these as another form of us, humans. The fact is that, as we become more cyborgs and the more robots accumulate human like properties, the distance between these two forms of life decreases exponentially. The transgressive aspect enters the equation when we manage to leap across the ‘uncanny valley’ (a term coined by Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori first in 1970):
“Mori’s original hypothesis states that as the appearance of a robot is made more human, a human observer’s emotional response to the robot will become increasingly positive and empathic, until a point is reached beyond which the response quickly becomes that of strong revulsion. However, as the robot’s appearance continues to become less distinguishable from that of a human being, the emotional response becomes positive once more and approaches human-to-human empathy levels.”(Wiki-uncanny valley)
The motion to empathy is only an aspect of a larger shift in our interaction with machines, for when our minds can no longer distinguish the difference between man and machine, our emotional system will adapt accordingly.
Beyond the, by now proverbial, consensual hallucination of cyberspace the enlarged domain of the metaverse allows us a glimpse into our futures. A future, already here, in which we will love both ourselves as cyborgs and our newly emerging companion androids and Gynoids. One of the most fascinating developments in this respect is the work of Japanese robotics creator Hiroshi Ishiguro, who recently unveiled his newest creation the new robot F.
Geminoid F serenades the crowd during Hong Kong’s “Robots in Motion 2012″ Expo:
Can we love Geminoid F? My definite answer to this question is, if not Geminoid F then her next of kin or her descendants. Cyborg love and Robot love are two converging lines of emotional connectivity that do not come to usurp our ‘common’ state of affairs. On the contrary, as technologies of augmentation become more available, as hyperconnectivity increases and as robots become more life like, we are finally extending our family of beings to new domains.
Of course we will love these creations, we will love them for their beauty (created to fit our tastes) and their resiliency, for their functionality (created to meet our needs) and their otherness. But there is another reason for which I think we will love these created companions, lets call it, mental transportation. Like Hiroshi Ishiguro I believe that androids and gynoids will become our friends, companions, colleagues and lovers, as part of an extended cyborgization process. A process that is as natural as it is inevitable and inexorable.
In his book ‘Love and Sex with Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships’ Levy states that: “Love with robots will be as normal as love with other humans,” he further writes, “while the number of sexual acts and lovemaking positions commonly practiced between humans will be extended, as robots teach us more than is in all of the world’s published sex manuals combined.”
Most of us will remember fondly the impressive character of Rachael in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, a cybernetic creature of immense beauty played artfully by Sean Young. In the movie Rachael is an advanced replicant prototype of the Nexus-6 generation, carrying implanted memories from Eldon Tyrell’s niece. What is important in the case of this representation is the sense of intimacy and tenderness carried over to the audience. Rachael transports us into a new world, that of a totally transparent human-replicant relationship.
Like all modern relationships, technology and sexual desire will play a major role in both adoption and implementation of cyborgs and androids. It is quite certain that the future human civilization rests with a new natural state of affairs one in which androids, gynoids, cyborgs and robots play a complex interactive game with us common mortals. This is good.
It is good because a new space is being created. A space allowing for a broadening of horizons; an overarching space of potentiality, vital and natural. The relationship of human and machine, mind and electronics, evolving in tandem, is changing the concept of embodiment, enlarging it to encompass new realities. We are no longer alone in the family of beings. Transgressive love is our lot, through which we explore new forms of existence, new fashions of self-reflection. The tenderness we extend to machines is not a postmodern relativism but an actuation of our innate desire to merge with everything. To merge with all life, machines included.
I leave you with the amazing Demo-presentation by Quantic Dreams of their latest creation: Kara:
Are we not falling in love with her? Soon Kara, and similar forms of life will be here, are we ready to extend our tenderness? To embrace the new members of an extended humanity, with warmth, with fondness and maybe adoration? It will take time, but I am certain that we will.
This series concerning the evolution of our Cyborg lives will continue shortly.
Image 1 Source: flickr.com/photos/sergioaraujo
Image 2 Source: flickr.com/photos/mtonic
Image 3 Source: flickr.com/photos/lainyvoom
Image 4 Rachel Replica from Blade Runner // Source: flickr.com/photos/blile59
(all videos are in the original link)