Who’s Brent Spiner? Oh: The Problem With Getting Stuck On Data.


Way back in 1890, a couple of dudes who no one particularly remembers published a paper declaring “to be let alone” a basic human right. They titled it, self-evidently enough, The Right to Privacy.

The claim had been prompted by the shock of “recent inventions and business methods” that had turned the goddamn world upside down. These were, obviously, the instantaneous photograph and the contemporary newspaper enterprise, and these “mechanical devices” were going to prove “that ‘what is whispered in the closet shall be proclaimed from the house-tops.’” Since then the population of the United States has grown from around 70M to a low estimate of 295M, and the flood of technology has left us with nowhere but the roof-tops to stand, and so, friends, here we are.

Privacy doesn’t exist. Not really, you know? As Blake Shaw of Foursquare recently told an indignant audience at a Columbia University-sponsored panel, “privacy is a modern invention.” Our concept of individual space is closely tied to things like population growth, religious freedom, personal wealth, and Western individualism.  Think about the living conditions of ancient humans. Houses (if they existed at all) were tiny and cramped and whole families lived together in one central room.

But when Western Civilization scooched over the Atlantic and suddenly there was all this open space, and all this potential for getting paid, and the idea of the Self-Made Man emerged, it created a whole, pun intended, New World. Suddenly humans could spread out and be alone and all it took was some good ol’  American Know-How. Even then, though, it was still only the wealthy who practiced privacy as we understand it. Most people were still poor and cramped and out in the open. But the seed had been planted, and pretty soon the Right to Privacy was as engrained in the common sentiment as were other wacky concepts like the Freedom of Speech and Religion and the Right to Bear Arms that most other humans alive in the middle of the 19th century—and still many today—would have balked at as well.

Fast forward a hundred years or so, and The United Nations seems to think that, at least in some ways, #BigData can solve some of the more cumbersome issues that arise from this whole, fucking, Life thing we’ve been trying on. Following that huge shitstorm in 2008, the UN started Global Pulse, an initiative which aims to turn all the massive amounts of information we’re generaiting into a safe-guard system for the planet.

See, the idea is that there’s a lot of shit going on that, historically, doesn’t get noticed till it becomes, well, history, right? That’s because it takes a fairly long time to get perspective on all the personal accounts and financial records and government intelligence reports and 50-year climate indices and all that super boring stuff that nerds love to analyze and argue about and publish and prove and debunk and, then, who the fuck cares? Nerds! They love that shit. To avoid a mouthful, they came up with a fancy scientific way to say it all: latent assemblage of quantifiable variables (not an actual term) that is: ‘data’. This shit is nothing new—obviously, granted—but it needs to be said.

What has changed is the amount of time it takes to put it all together and analyze. That’s good. That means that the UN can know which regions of which country are about to need food since people there keep Tweeting stuff like “Fuck I’m hungry! #LifeSucks,”, or if there’s about to be an outbreak of some potential pandemic since, like, a bunch of people all searched WebMD for the same symptoms. All good things, right? The downside, of course, is that since it doesn’t take a whole generation or three to clock the world’s ups and downs, all the people involved are still alive. Unlike the traditional approach to historical research (i.e. “Let’s find out why all those people had super shitty lives back then”), the new #BigData model hopes to be preventative, predictive. So we call this: Real-Time Data Gathering. A.K.A.: The constant surveillance of living human beings.

To many of these humans—often using logic when contemplating the potentialities inherent here—this sounds uncool. Global crisis prevention be damned; that’s some Big Brother type of shit to a degree that George Orwell couldn’t possibly have imagined. But, anyway, here we are.

Of course there are potentially huge violations that would be possible in a society that keeps tabs on all its citizens. Certainly. Like, if shit were to get hairy there’d be zero chance for clandestine rebellion. Plus, if data and trend analysis were used in law enforcement one could totally imagine some Minority Report sort of deal which could determine if somebody’s recent behaviors implied a high-probability of #FutureCrime.

But then, say the sensors in Grandma’s phone detected a hip-shattering shift in her movements on a rainy day, followed by a prolonged horizontal tendency. The thing could not only send out an emergency call detailing the probability that Nana had slipped off a slick curb on her way home from Luby’s, but also put out a blanket S.O.S. in case any qualified First Responders happened to be enjoying the chicken fried steak buffet right then.

It’s not all big and grand noble stuff, of course. Data is the 2012 summer jam  because it’s sort of like the Holy Grail for companies that dig making money. The fact is that the more companies know about us, the more products they can make that are guaranteed to sell. Successful products usually fill some kind of need—as debatable as the origin of that need is— in our lives. Whether it’s knowing if that can of delicious Coors Golden Banquet is cold without needing to touch it, or having an unbelievably powerful portable computer/GPS/gaming console/personal assistant/infinite encyclopedia/camera in our damn pockets that we can also use to tap into invisible waves of magic and initiate omniglobal vocal interfacing with homies, the need is fulfilled.

Genome from Yahoo! from The Nation on Vimeo.

Yes. Many of these products are cutesy iterations at best. Some are less than worthless, but—as I’ve said before—we are brand new at this, guys. In order for technology to progress—at least in our current system—it needs to be monetized. Companies are trying to figure that out. What we might do, though, is vocalize our boundaries and make sure that our data is being used in our best interests. It can be.

Like, a few years ago I was dating this one babe who went to Cali for New Year’s. I, obviously, stayed in New York during one of the more wintery winters in recent memory. Snowmaggedon aside, it wasn’t all that bad. Except, this: Before said babe ditched for the Golden State Advantage she sent me a textvitation to join something called Google Latitude, a social geolocation app that would cause me endless fits of angst and misery over the following two weeks spent effectively snow-bound in my shitty Bed-Stuy pad.

I suppose the whole idea is that, like, say you and your bros are all super tight together and hang all the time and so figure that if y’all always know when a homie encroaches—like some sort of social Spidey-Sense—well, bonus! Hang time anytime. Or if you’re an overbearing loving parent and your kid is a delinquent free-spirit, you can keep GPS tabs on them to make sure they hate you till you die don’t skip class and ultimately thank you for the TLC when they’re old enough to appreciate your hardshiphow totally nuts you are.

The fact that social apps are so prevalent now is no fluke. People, generally, want to feel like they belong—to something—whether it be the cool-kids club in high school or the even cooler “we’re notthe cool kids” club, also in high school, but then later behind the counters of bars and MacBook screens.

Even if we spend the majority of our time alone, social media gives us the metrics for self-satisfaction, and as these e-clubs have flooded the app stores, a wave of spin-offs have crested. Services likeHighlight  and Sonar scrape little bits from all of our various data-holes and aim to connect us with potential homies.  With Highlight you get a notification every time another Highlighter with mutual friends or common interests is in some determined vicinity. Of course, with the lax way that most people employ the Add Friend and Like buttons, it’s really a crap-shoot on how common or mutual these things are. Mostly I’ve been notified because some rando nearby also Liked Battlestar Galactica,Ted Talks, or you. And with the 647 acquaintances on my FB, the likelihood of us connecting over mutuals for reals is slim, bro. But as we heard at WWDC, Apple’s upcoming iOS 6 will have a Find My Friends feature—and Facebook is dropping the Find Friends Nearby tool—that could prove more right on with direct access to our contacts (For example. I just found out that a dude who I grew up with in Austin now also lives in Brooklyn, we share 62 friends and I had no idea he was here). Though these may stir up some awkward moments when our mutual friend is related to the Melanie GirlAtBar or Daisy OkCupid family trees in our Contacts.

Then there’s the recently debuted Coordinate service from good old Google which aims to kill the Pizza Boy Porn Genre by enabling employers to keep constant tabs on their remote workforce:

“Did you order the sausage?”

“I did call for a five letter word that starts with a P, but I was ho—“

“Seriously, lady, if I’m here for more than two minutes my electro-collar sends out 200 volts right under my head.”

“But you’re not wearing a collar.”

“Oh, yes I am…”

Yo! So some of this sends off all kinds of alarm bells, given its ability to incite relentlessly wack breaches of our personal bubbles—see: Girls Around Me , an app which was to stalkers-slash-date-rapists what Keystone Light is to frat-boys-slash-date-rapists—but we’re new to this game. Kids growing up today won’t remember getting their Facebook because their parents have been using it as a scrapbook since they were born. Also, those same parents will likely have been using digital leashes like FBI Child ID, Footprints, and Glympse since the brats were old enough to need a phone of their own (you know: five). They’ll be so used to the idea of broadcasting their lives that, by the time they’re old enough to have real friends, sharing those permissions could become the new friendship bracelet. We’d call it #BroCasting.

Eventually, when everyone is on the map in real-time, turning off your signal could be tantamount to cruising a big white van with curtained windows around your local school zone. Which brings me to what I’m gonna call The Black Box Effect of Radical Transparency. Just like it sounds, there would be a record for every moment. The Internet would become the world’s most big-mouthed tattle tale. No more unsolved hit and runs, cheating on your spouse would be a real pain in the ass, and Peeping Toms would find that the peeper had become the peeped. Now, while would-be offenders could just leave their phones at home, that’s assuming that these technologies stay in our phones. With the trends in wearable tech and sensor everything, the chances of GPS trackers migrating to our skivvies are high indeed. Unless yon John Wayne Gacy plans on prowling in the buff, he totes won’t be getting around to those home improvements any time soon.

We just live in opaque boxes, and most of our private time is spent sleeping. But if someone were interested in learning everything there is to know about you, it would be wildly easy. Not only in a freaky CIA sort of sense, but with the integration of Social across Internet media, we increasingly put that shit out there for free. On Hulu a box asks you “What are you thinking?” even as another box on your Facebook Timeline populates with what are you watching. On Spotify we get what are you listening to, and with Instagram we go even further to what are you seeing. But does anybody really care about what most of us do with our time? There will always be people watchers, but eventually, as we get more used to the freaky union of our cyber and meat spaces, nobody will care about the constant feed of updates on what people are watching, listening to, or doing just right then. Does anybody really pay attention to that stuff anyway?

Like some geezer being all stumped by that wacky enigma, the personal computer, the next generations will leave us all looking just as confounded and obsolete. When we were kids the common wisdom was, like, why don’t y’all kids respect your elders more since they’ve got all this wisdom and shit and we were, like, “OMG, mom! If grandpa wants to share his stories he should start a LiveJournal like the rest of us. Duh!”

Now, before you get on my case here, I’m no Elderist bigot. My point is that it’s no longer the technology itself that will leave us in the dust long before we bite it. From now on it’ll be the different ways people choose to use existing technology. We won’t be going to community colleges to learn what those kids mean by “right-click”. More like we’d be going to group seminars on being more comfortable with data-nudity. Since, like, how Emily Nussbaum so eloquently put it in this New York Mag feature:

“Kids today. They have no sense of shame. They have no sense of privacy. They are show-offs, fame whores, pornographic little loons who post their diaries, their phone numbers, their stupid poetry—for God’s sake, their dirty photos!—online. They have virtual friends instead of real ones. They talk in illiterate instant messages. They are interested only in attention—and yet they have zero attention span, flitting like hummingbirds from one virtual stage to another.”

But, hey, que viva the future, right? Bet on those wacky assholes of the future broadcasting their geolocation from every Taco Bell in the world. Because that’s what’s up with the future. We can call itRadical Transparency for now, and then likely some portmanteau like RadTran, but eventually they’ll just call it Life. Much like we call this ‘Life’ even though it’s an Orwellian nightmare scenario, Code Red, that our parents spent their lives fighting hopelessly against.


2.0Pac: The Rise of #PlugLife

On April 15, 2012, the Internet saw a brutal spike in net-wide OMG usage. Meanwhile, @katyperry explored a nascent dualism with the tweet:

WTF? Before we get into the fact that @katyperry saw Tupac Shakur—a man who died long before @ was a nominal prefix—I need to get this off my chest: No. That’s not what you say, @katyperry. No. If you cried, you cried. If you didn’t, whatever. Nobody will think less of you. In fact, what she saw at #coachella was a 2D pseudo-hologram of the often questionably late rapper. Certainly, I’m sure I’d cry as well if I saw Tupac these days. Cry and scream. Even run/crap. But why the fuck would @katyperry cry about a Tupac hologram, right guys?

Anyway It was pretty great. Besides the eerie slidewalk issue, the Hologram Tupac was surprisingly realistic. That is, assuming that you hadn’t expected to see Tupac at all ever again, and are not prone to dumbass comments on Internet Forums, like, “lol. Its so obviously CGI it’s not funny. It only fools people because the stage is darkly lit”. Actually, tim from yayhooray.net, I wouldn’t say It is fooling anybody. Instead they’re surprised because they weren’t expecting to see dead people on stage. Unsurprisingly, many people are not super stoked about this. It seems that Tupac’s projected Coachella cameo, originally conceived of by Dr Dre as a really good idea, strikes some living humans as wildly inappropriate. But, like, why?

It really shouldn’t be that weird. We listen to his music, watch his videos, and, as technology advances, why wouldn’t we see a late great stage performance? It may be no weirder than buying one of the dude’s seven post-alive albums. I mean, tech-wise, it’s about as weird as attending a laser light show to get the Led out or jam down with Floyd at your local planetarium. Many an eye were not batted when Celine Dion had her little concert with the King, or when 2.0ld Blue Eye$ and Alicia Keys hooked up for Simon Cowell’s musical pervertatum. Imagine for a moment that you and your fellow MILFS are at a Bublè concert, when—BAM—there’s fucking Frank Sinatra on the stage for a Half Dead Duet. Or, say, Justin Timberlake had a dance off with a young MJ from the Off the Wall years. Now, excusing our hypothetical JT for a serious lack of tact regarding the Whoa! Too Soon, Bro! clause of fucking forever, these Spectrecles would seem flat out cheesy at best, or, at their most transparent (yes I did), they would seem like just what they are: #FutureHype.

If we did get a holographic tour—which, really, would just be a series of projections under the pretense of intracontinental movement—along with a digital appropriation of his voice (but whose words come through the Bose?), then should we brace ourselves for 2.0PAC’s 2.0riginal material? Then again, is it so different from Gorillaz? Or seeing footage of John F. Kennedy noting to the world that Tom Hanks needs to drain his dick? Also, not to upset you, but Cirque du Soleil will soon be executing—ahem. Pardon me—enacting a not-live Michael Jackson set in Las Vegas. So much for Too Soon. I wonder who I should talk to about securing the rights for a new Whitney Houston reality show, Fall 2012. I’d call it: Not Living With Whitney. It’d be a fucking riot.

So, #ExistentialBummers aside, we may just be a step behind in our acceptance of a presumably acceptable musical medium. Of course, Japan is practically right there. Hatsune Miku is something called a Vocaloid. Her voice is a collection of samples taken of voice actress Saki Fujita, and put together by Yamaha for their synthesizer software. Basically, anybody who buys the software is able then to create their own original Hatsune Miku songs. As many as they want, evidenced by the supposedly 100,000 songs under this babe’s, like, cyber-belt or whatever. Miku tours with sold out sets. In 2010 she released an album that sold 23,000 copies in the first week, securing her a special spot in history as the first ever Vocaloid to top the charts. “She” is a musical phenomenon. To the effect that her existence is a powerful driver in the development of 3D display FutureTek. Obviously, whoever manages to put the most lifelike Hatsume Miku up on a stage will no doubt be gifted a fucking minting press by the Japanese Ministry of Finance. But unlike Tupac Shakur, Hatsune Miku (“whom”, it should be noted, is, in some instances, to holograms what Tupixle Shaklick-here-to-win-free-iPad3 is to smoke and mirrors. That is to say: represents an actual execution of), was never a living human being. The Japanese sensation is, from start to finish, an incredibly successful work of mass-fiction.

The issue here may be that Tupac wasn’t just a celebrity like any other. He was more than the 3 x platinum 24 year old we all remember. More than the dead dude who pulled in fifteen million dollars in 2008. Tupac was nearly the embodiment of the modern Thug Persona that we’ve built up over the last thirty years. The raw dog, shoot first, hair trigger, fuckhead image that sends palpable waves of discomfort through passengers during the first three stops on the L into Brooklyn. But it wasn’t that empty animal unpredictability that keeps this dude alive. It’s the other part. That inner shit we might label the #TruPac. An intellectual with a nigh obsessive revolutionary bent. By the time he died, this dude had effectively riled the dangerous classes. The poor who felt misrepresented, at best, if not downright abused, by the state. This, during a time when #GangFright was such that we used to get stopped and questioned if more than one of our set had the same color shirt on.

Where this whole wacky thing may get a bit sticky is when we have a dead rapper giving shout outs to people and places he never knew and never was, respectively. Or when we watch Snoop’s attempts to act cool on stage with his dead homie, looking exactly the way he did twelve years ago. More than anything it raises questions as to fair use of a man’s image. Like in the Loyal to the Game album wherefrom Eminem caught a little flack when he digitally rearranged Makaveli’s previously unreleased material to have Pac say shit he never said, and adjusted his waveforms to better match the new beats. 2Pacworld.co.uk, for example, claims to have been “in disbelieve” [sic] when they “found that Eminem used his position to edit/change Tupac’s lyrics”.

Many folks may be tempted to call Scandalouz on this kind of vocal infringement, but we see this shit all the time, right? Sampling is a cornerstone of rap, and studio producers will often disassemble a musician’s session by means of beat slicing and the finished product is more machine than man by the time it gets to our shitty Apple earbuds. Then, I suppose, if a line is not drawn, and we reduce a human voice to the level of a sequencer drum kit, then how long till we begin introducing Lil So’n’So on the PAC, right alongside MC Slim GnZ and DJ h1p 5tar? And, yo, speaking of dead dudes rock and rolling over in their graves: Hitoshi Ueki, Japanese famous guy, is set to be the first dead celebrity to be given the old Dixie Flatline treatment. The Yamaha Vocaloid team recently announced their semi-successful appropriation of the deceased vocalist’s vocal chords.

But, come on, the mu$ic indu$try would never do something so base as to create a 2Pacaloid all for the sake of a little cash, right? That’d be more inappropriate than a Vic Morrow Pez dispenser. #GoogleIt.



[Author Edit of Article Written for and Published by @TheClusterMag]

Artificial Skin-telligence: The Fleshlight at the End of the Tunnel.

Daughters, 24″X30″, Vinyl on Canvas, 2013 – Courtesy of Matthew Palladino

Future Sex, Also, Love Sounds

What’s the future of fucking? If every other thing in our lives can be taken as an indicator, I’d say it’s going to be wired. It’s also going to get seriously weird. With the furor over teen sexting and the righteous boner we popped for Wienergate, communication technologies will obviously play a part. But wherever this e-river flows, be sure to pack a towel (or at least an old sock) because these cyber-rapids are cresting white with porno, and everybody’s getting splashed. Join me:

Who Feeds the Machines With Their Own Flesh?!

She doesn’t even blink; just smiles with her hand on her ankle, leg straight extended high above her head. Her bushy dark pubic hair is gobbed with thick clumps of cum, and a headless man is half flaccid between her thighs. It’s like she doesn’t even notice him. She never takes her eyes off of me and her smile never fades. There, in my room, is the state of pornography in early 2012. We’ve come a long way, and like any industry tethered to the Internet, we’ve come all this way in a very short span of time. But unlike any other industry or product available in the United States—unlike, say, totally illegal drugs that have huge subcultures built around them—pornography is unique because for all intents and purposes it doesn’t exist. On paper, pornography is an enormously mass-produced product which grosses billions of dollars per year, but in polite society it should be understood that nobody consumes the stuff. Fair enough. Me neither.

Given our cultural radio silence on the issue, pornography seems like a lonely quasar on the edge of the conversational universe, dumping massive amounts of horny energy into a social black hole. It’s a weird setup. Here we have The Industry which, in 2006, cranked out around 288 smut productions in the United States alone…per week. That’s 41 titles per day, nearly two every hour, which means that every 30 minutes or so someone—somewhere—is thinking, “what’s my motivation?” RE: doing it. In most cases we could expect that such a large industry should have an enormous and obvious following; any other would have invested in at least one giant glass building where product enthusiasts could come together and share their user experiences in broad daylight. Statistically, 7.5 percent of the United States population regularly visits Internet porn sites. That’s 40 million adults, or just over 1 in 7 if you’d like some food for thought next time you’re on mass transit.

It used to be that we knew who the “perverts” were. They walked out of Arcade News with brown paper bags. They’d mill around the video store before quietly ducking into the curtained section. They’d Paul Rubens and George Michaels. But where are they now? Cozied up with their pants around their ankles, interfacing sensually with Hi-Res displays and Hi-Speed connections. If you, or somebody you know, is struggling with an addiction to Internet Pornography—which, as we’ve seen, is a statistical certainty—don’t worry: it’s going to get soooo much better.

I totally understand if you think I’m being insensitive. Addiction is a disease, make no mistake, but pornography is not heroin or crack. Nobody is getting HIV from used Hustlers, nobody is out sucking dick for XXX.avi samples. We Internet porn users are functional members of society. In fact, if we were to look at this through a self-help lens, it turns out the majority of FuckNet users make over $75K a year, which makes wanking a contender for the Eighth Habit of Highly Effective People. Most of the literature on Internet porn seems focused on proving its negative effects or harshing previous studies for unsound methods and cherry-picked results. There are only three things I can definitively say after my deep plunge into research literature:

There is a lot—a lot—of porn on Planet Earth.
Most Earthlings agree that children should not be exposed to any of it.
Children are exposed to porn. A lot of it.

The People Want Paradise

The other day I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed and I saw a post headlined, “Do You Remember?” It was one of those wall pictures that had been shared across thousands of users, surviving the digital drainhole of hundreds of networks of acquaintances, until, finally, there it appeared on my screen. “Do you remember staying OUTSIDE all day and only coming in WHEN THE SUN SET?” “Do you remember….” Something else. I stopped reading it. But I assume the gist was that, like, who cares about ‘outside’ these days?

In fact, I do remember something like that. Summer days spent walking aimlessly on the railroad tracks and through creekbeds in Austin, TX. Making up games with no rules that ended when we forgot how to play so we’d make new ones. I remember setting brush fires and throwing rocks at windows and laughing and playing ding dong ditch with my lowercase g’s. But I also remember the transmission reveille of a 56k modem, and waiting three minutes for a lo-res .jpg to load pixel by pixel till I’d lost my little teen boner. I remember having to excuse myself from the Compuserve chatrooms because my mom had to use the landline to make a phone call.

Be real. That was a different world. It was populated by humans who had to DOS prompt, and blow into cartridges when their games broke. These people spent 30 minutes flipping through Brittanica-sized volumes to find a scratched Smashmouth CD. That’s just not what’s up anymore, people. The generation now coming of age in the United States don’t know what a reality without the Internet looks like. These kids are simultaneous. They text and tumblr and tweet like it’s as natural as farting when you piss. For them the Internet is a place in reality where they must actively maintain appearances. Their accumulation of profiles are almost as representative of their person as their persons are. Socially, the lines between the two are getting blurrier. In an interview with the New York Times, Christopher Poole, founder of 4chan, that weird ditch at the edge of the web that spawned the Anonymous movement, remarked that “as kids, we say stupid things, and because there’s not a record of it, nobody is going to give you a hard time at 30 years old about something you said or did when you were 8 years old. Online, you have all these social networks that are moving to a state of persistent identity, and in turn, we’re sacrificing the ability to be youthful. In 10 years, everything you say and do will be visible online, and I think it’s really unfortunate.”

Now while I’m not sure if what is happening is really a sacrifice of youth, I do see this tethering effect. Like humans through the eyes of Kurt Vonnegut’s Tralfamadorians in Slaughterhouse-Five, the rise of social networks are stringing us into the fourth dimension. Online, new humans will exist as a collection of their lifelong actions. No doubt it’ll effect them off-line. Maybe it’ll make people more conscious of consequences, or maybe it’ll just desensitize them to the reality that everyone’s a jerk. Who knows? What is becoming obvious is that the youth are comfortable with computers, and in the near future, their lives as human beings may be unimaginably different than anything we have ever seen on Earth.

The rise of sexting in teen relationships shows that young humans are comfortable with utilizing computers as sexual vehicles. In a focus group organized by the New York Times to see what teenagers thought of the sexting phenomenon, Kathy, a seventeen-year-old from Queens, claimed that “there’s a positive side to sexting. You can’t get pregnant from it, and you can’t transmit STD’s. It’s kind of a safe sex.”

In 2009 the top three web searches for children of both genders were “Youtube,” “Google,” and “Facebook,” in that order. The fourth was a split. For females it was “Taylor Swift,” and for males it was “sex.” Regardless of what the seemingly pop-addled and bubblegum obsession over Taylor Swift might actually imply for the impending sexuality of young girls, their statistical preference for her was only just above “sex,” which was matched in the fifth place with “porn” for boys. Of course the landscape of the Internet has changed quite a bit in three years. Myspace is now a wasteland, Facebook and Google are all-encompassing, and the children who would now be the focus of a similar study were weaned on algorithms and connection speeds that have turned instant gratification into a God-given right.

Is it unhealthy? I don’t know. I can’t really take a side; childhood development is way out of my scope. Are children being exposed to pornography? Yes. Certainly. How could they not be? We produce a God’s weight of porn every year. If porn were plastic and humanity were water, children’s eyes/ears/brains would be that huge vortex in the Pacific Ocean. Nobody knows what to do with it, but it’s definitely getting bigger because we can’t stop using plastic. Or jerking off.

Unfortunately, we have yet to see conclusive wide-ranging data that suggests what this means for our sex lives down the line. Still, we can guess. Will it lower the age at which children start engaging in sexual relations with each other, or will it remove a primary contributor to their current interest in getting it on?

However, in one recent study of 28,000 Italian men results suggested that many were suffering from some new shit they’re calling Sexual Anorexia. A bunch of these dudes started using Internet porn around fourteen years old, and consuming so much of it that by the their mid-twenties they were uninterested in having real-life sex. It has to do with an inability to invent sexual fantasies and, I guess, a kind of Pavlovian deal when only pixels can pique their pricks.

Today, access to content that spans the breadth of global pervert ingenuity has become as simple as toggling the SafeSearch on Google Images from On to Off and typing in any random word or number you like. What we’re seeing now is the development of the first generations of modern humans who will learn all about sex from machines.

An Insect Who Dreamt He Was a Man

There’s a scene in the 1993 sci-fi movie Demolition Man in which John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone) and Lenina Huxley (Sandra Bullock), seem as though they’re about to have sex. Just as Spartan, who has been cryogenically frozen for 36 years thinks that it’s finally going to happen, Huxley pulls out a device to be placed on their heads. In this future, as imagined by writers Peter M. Lenkov and Robert Reneau, humans no longer engage in physical sex. They use technology as a sensual proxy. The scene, like any good science fiction, holds some very non-fiction potential. Every part of our modern lives has been revolutionized in

Space Shuttle Columbia, 37″X49″, Acrylic and Ink on Paper, 2010 – Courtesy of Matthew Palladino

convenience, efficiency, and speed by computers. But the fact that we are willing now to include these gadgets in our sexual lives means something else entirely.

Despite off the charts revenues, the porn industry doesn’t seem to be actively investing in futuristic Fuck Tech. This surprises me. The idea that sex sells could become some crazy self-perpetuating money-making machine. A future human might one day stand before her fellow citizens and say: “To think, our species was at the brink of societal collapse. But here we are. We should all take a moment to remember our forefathers, the producers of Edward Penis Hands XVIII: Planet of Penis Hands. If they hadn’t invented the Ionic Plasma Propulsion system so that people could fuck in space…well…where would we be today?” Then she would turn in reverence, a single tear catching the light of the Martian sunset.

Even though the porn industry isn’t investing, the Tech that may just change sex forever is already seeping out of the labs and onto the consumer market. Brain Computer Interface (BCI) has been in the slow cooker for years. Now companies like NeuroSky and Emotiv have rung the dinner bell. These things are really astounding. Essentially Electroencephalogram (EEG) rigs, the sensor hairnets that doctors stick onto your head to look at your brainwaves. But these are really slick ones. Emotive has the EPOC which they call a “high resolution neuro-signal acquisition and processing wireless neuroheadset.” Let’s not science around this and just come out and say it: this thing lets you use a computer with your fucking brain. Wirelessly. And here we were all waiting for that gesture interface from Minority Report. Ha! Future! While the EPOC, and NeuroSky’s Mindwave headset are functional inputs, the real sexy shit will come when we figure out Two-Way BCI.

In very unsexy research at Duke University, nerds have wired up some monkeys and trained them to ‘feel’ virtual objects. Using their brains to move an avatar hand, these monkeys can successfully distinguish between different VR ‘textures.’ What they experience is sensory feedback directly in the brain. Now, these textures aren’t quite velvet and lace, of course. For now they’re just different intensities of vibration, but give it a few. Bet if the Bang Bros threw a little R&D budget that way we’d probably already be cyberscrewing Marge Simpson in some freaky pervert matrix.

Enter the world of Teledildonics (TD), With TD setups users engage in sexual exchange with the Internet between them. For a device to be certifiable TD it needs to have hardware like a dildo or a fleshlight wired through software which interprets the sender’s actions and transmits them to the receiver’s device. For now the technology is pretty clunky; wired apparatuses which translate inputs in simple thrust, vibrate, motorize actions in the output device. The future is open though. Current TD should be seen as a stepping stone. What these products show is that there is a willingness to use technology to enhance or supplement our sexuality.

Take all this and make of it what you will; I do. In the year 2525 will wires and nerves and Google and neurons—and the Singularity and shit—all come together with our genitals? Will it be cool? Will it suck? Will ‘suck’ be stricken from the lexicon because of early FukTek fears of fatal electrocution? I don’t know. I know that I know that you don’t know, and, all in all: whatever. If we’ve learned anything at all about this wacky living thing, let it be this: we’re brand new at existing. Thus, who the fuck knows?

Carib Guerra is est.1984+41.2-123.2;1/6992694217;loc.+40.7-73.9circa2012; you can find him on twitter @44Carib

All Art Courtesy of Matthew Palladino

[Written for and Published by the excellent dude/ettes at The Cluster Mag]