Sex On The Super Highway

Copyright David J Rodger 1999

"Where can you get 3 hours of steamy sex with a bronzed Miss World, and then turn off before the girlfriend comes home?"

Back to reality. I was sat in a cafe discussing this article with a woman who was extremely intelligent and full of the latest techno buzz-words floating through the media pools. I thought she had grasped what the Internet was all about until she asked me, "So how do I get onto the information superhighway? Do I need a special kind of computer?"

Twenty years ago people talked about the technological revolution: some saw it as a Tsunami that would sweep through our lives and remove the need to ever step outside of our home. Aspects like the office, the supermarket and the night-club would become redundant, as people telecommute to work, smart stores deliver groceries to our door, and virtual chat rooms expand into multi-player game zones and electronic pick-up pads.

This is all here today. So where's the revolution? Did you blink, and miss it? Everyone has that moment when they were seduced by technology, for me it was being transfixed by the LED display of my dad's Casio calculator, not everyone is aware of it.

The Revolution, or evolution, is still taking place and is picking up speed. Some of those who saw what was coming bemoaned the erosion of human society as we know it. The dissolution of the Old Order of human society has occurred and whether it is the fault of technology is not for this article to argue. In my world, friends are what family used to be, and if you don't want to talk to your neighbour because the man mows the lawn on Sunday mornings and has an unhealthy interest in the women you date, well, then, you are now free to ignore his existence without breaking any tired social values. The 21st Century beckons and offers you Freedom and Choice. God is the Individual. I am, therefore.... fill the blanks in any way you choose.

Human Nature craves human company. Technological advancements can vastly improve the quality and productivity of your life, but can it ever replace sharing a pint down the pub with some pals? The answer will always depend on the individual, on the boundaries of synthetic reality, satisfaction and Need.

A few grizzled sceptics `the last neo-luddites of the 20th Century' still insist the Internet is just a phase, a disposable must-have for the Techno Junky. These people may as well bury their heads in the sand. The Internet is here to stay, forever expanding through the universe of raw information, through the constellations and clusters of data-handling systems. From a simple client list of a small firm to a multinational marketing corporation's demographics of a country's entire population, as users hook up home PC's and whole computer networks, all the information that is attached to the connecting point is added to the Internet's bulk and accessible from the remotest regions of Earth.

The Internet was born a plate-steel creation of late sixties, hammered together by the American defence establishment. Then the academics jumped aboard and it grew a little bit more. Potential has a smell - money. The Internet does not simply smell, it reeks!

The turn of the 1990's washed in droves of bedraggled Marketeers, the swashbucklers who had hacked out a grand living in the Thatcher years until they hit the big rock and sank, who had found a new frontier to conquer, chop-up, wrap-up and hand feed down our slender throats.
What do you need to get On-line? A computer, a modem and the software (sent to you by an Internet provider). When you log-on to the Net your modem is just dialling the provider you have chosen to use, normally at the cost of a local telephone call. The provider handles the link between your computer and the rest of the world, and of course, charge you for the privilege. Prices are falling, however, and naturally, shop around before you choose.
CompuServe, Demon and Pipex are three to look at if you need a starting point.

If this seems like too much for you, then sit back and wait for the current liaisons between computer and electrical goods manufactures, and media corporations to provide you with a hybrid unit that will sit in the corner of your lounge like any television set, with the difference that will also act as a home computer with direct access to the internet and cable and satellite entertainment services. All with one-button simplicity.... they hope.

SEX! Human fascination with the subject has been recorded through history, even since Eve told Adam she was too short to reach that apple up there in that tree. No surprise then that one of the most popular subjects for web-site visits is sex. From porno-flicks to sensory stimulation the sex industry is keeping pace with the dynamic advance of technology, and like any industry it is fed by demand.

As with the unprecedented explosion in `Adult Sex Lines' available on the telephone during the 1980's, the same suppliers of the cold orgasm are slipping effortlessly into the medium of the Internet.

The Internet crosses all boundaries; personal, social, political, ethical, religious and national. It is a global phenomenon but there is no global policy to police it. Right now, with a few keystrokes of on a computer, you can have access to every form of sexual diversity you might wish to view. And that is the crunch. You can look but you cannot touch. It is just conventional pornography in a different paper bag.

In research facilities across the world, the foundations are being entrenched for a more interactive future.

In Los Altos, on the edge of Silicon Valley, stock option millionaires pore over their computer for hours every day like a colony of worker ants continuously perfecting their code, pushing their intellectual endeavours beyond all limits. One significant driving force are VM Labs who are ram-raiding the barriers of computer generated graphics realism, with a schedule to accelerate the power of processors to about sixteen times today's standards by the year 2000.

In Martlesham Heath, a village outside Ipswich, BT's headquarters for R&D have been developing the CamNet, a device to enable people to participate in events from remote distances. Detectives could investigate multiple crime scenes, at any distance from each other, through an array of high-tech scanning equipment mounted on a remote-controlled platform, without leaving the Incident Room.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology are behind a system to allow eye surgeons to work on patients on the other side of world, seeing through VR goggles and manipulating a robot poised with a scalpel to perform the actual operation.

One day Reality could become a thing of the past.

Nobody will be able to squeeze your perfect lover out of the computer into your bedroom, but at some point, your computer will be able to take you to her bedroom. She could be a real person plugged into a computer just as you are. Or, you could be in the Sin City of your choice, a digital pick and mix where you select the scene and contents of your ultimate erotic fantasy. The only limitations will be how much you can afford.

How can a computer rendered virtual reality satisfy your sexual hunger? The question propels us in the blue-steel corridor of projected futures, toward cyberspace.

For novelists and screen-writers, cyberspace is a realm where human and machine are linked. In the film Strange Days, the protagonist uses something called a SQUID (Superconductive Quantum Interference Device) to record a person's experience directly from the mind in a format which can be played-back, giving any paying customer an `as if you are really there' experience. The concept works by dermatrodes picking up the electrical activity of the brain through the skin.

Another concept is direct neural interface; where a user literally plugs the computer into himself, via sockets which have been surgically implanted into the body and hooked into the nervous system. The computer then feeds the `experience' directly into the user's sensorium, the part of the brain that receives and correlates the impressions conveyed from sensory areas. Far fetched?

There have already been successful experiments with dermatrodes being used by disabled people to control the movement of a cursor around a computer screen, as if by thought. As for wiring the nervous system to a socket like some kitchen plug, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Germany have succeed in creating `neuronal transistors' by connecting a nerve cell from a live leech to a silicon chip, both of which can communicate with each other.

There is a danger then, addictive/obsessive personality types being sucked down a whirlpool of sensory abuse, burn outs on excessive physical stimulation; property repossessed for unpaid `service' charges; criminals invading houses with cyberspace access to get another hit. Sound like a drug to you? The idea is not new. Woody Allen touched on it in the film Sleeper with the Orgasmatron; in the film Brainstorm, Christopher Walken receives a distraught telephone call from the wife of a colleague. `There's something wrong with my husband!' Walken goes round to investigate and finds the colleague almost comatose, twitching and jerking in a chair. He has plugged his nervous system into a loop of recorded physical sensation: the loop is an orgasm without start or finish, it just goes on and on.

This technology will arrive with the impact of a meteorite striking an unsuspecting planet. No one can predict the absolute outcome, but we can be certain there will be upheaval. It might be the ultimate test for religion and humanity, self-control in the presence of unlimited pleasure. The policy makers might lift their heads, but will they view it as alcohol and tobacco, or will it be treated as crack? Once again, personal freedom may come under attack in the guise of legislation to protect society from itself.

At present, when is comes to sex on the superhighway the `illusion of touch' is nothing more than a force-feedback glove and glorified vibrator. Not really the sleek chrome representation of cybersex, is it. More like squeezing yourself into a wet-suit and strapping on latex extrusions that resemble the severed parts of a shop-dummy's anatomy. Try explaining that one when the partner comes home early.... what's that? You've got a thing about Tango?
Whatever you want, there is a Brave New World expanding into infinite possibilities of entertainment, business applications, information.... and sex. It is all out there, in reality or the conceptual future, but it is waiting. You just have to know where to look.

- END -