By Alex Babeanu
Virtual Love
So what’s wrong with the young Japanese these days then?

According to some articles (seen here and there), the modern young Japanese don’t have, or even want, sex with each other. Not interested. This strange state of mind seems shared by both genders, so much so that some worry that the Japanese people might eventually disappear, maybe even this century…

I’m not going to paraphrase the articles here, but one of the reasons cited (along with a strongly patriarchal society and work environment, an obligation for a strongly codified marriage and tough economic times) is Virtual Reality and cyberspace.

The young Japanese just love Virtual Reality. Their virtual lives are, apparently, a frenzy of chats, tweets and updates, all real-time data feeds which form the vast circles of their virtual friends. It’s that same online hyper-connected population that Charles Stross describes in this spacey Cyberpunk novel “Accelerando”… where they break the entire Earth apart and transform it into “computronium” : processing matter for a gigantic computer that calculates the entire digital lives of a population that ceased to exist. 

In a word, to these young Japanese, the digital lives are way better than their real ones, especially since in their opinion their real life sucks.

But then also, Japan really is a Cyberpunk Nirvana.

Haksune MikuHaksune Miku
Mangas and Anime everywhere, super high technology, advanced robotics including highly evolved virtual-only personas such as Hatsune Miku or that Nintendo DS game that emulates a (virtual) girlfriend….  And of course Akira and Ghost-In-The-Shell… They are naturally the first to experience what a real digitalized society might go through or look like. I am convinced that any one of these young men and women would not hesitate much on getting themselves digitalized and stored on a chip, right now… say a USB key. Why not? “Friend-in-key”… selling concept?

And it’s little wonder then that Japanese cultural references abound in many famous Western cyberpunk works. Take for example Chiba City in Gibson’s “Neuromancer” or Hiro, the digital samurai in Stephenson’s “Snow Crash”.

Picture
But where the Japanese quite literally replace their girl/boyfriends by digital (“perfect”) ones, in the Western digital world we rather seem to experiment with any possible combination of genders and sex. What does it feel like to be a man? A woman? And what would it feel like to be a woman having sex with another woman? Or any combination thereof, including having sex with another copy of yourself and feeling both sensations at the same time, fed directly into your brain?

Take for example the movie “Being John Malkovich”. 
Cameron Diaz enters poor Malkovich’s mind while he’s taking a shower, and she feels quite aroused. In “Strange Days”, Ralph Fiennes’s character tries to sell some black market VR tapes by putting the mind of his potential customer, a man, into the body of a teenage girl taking a shower. Interesting, the shower in both cases? Note to self: add a shower scene in the next movie....

PictureOnline porn most profitable in Asia
The people of the world therefore conceive and experience digital sex quite differently. But by the same token, it means that digital sex is absolutely everywhere. It’s a global characteristic of the human race. There isn’t any highly connected society that doesn’t have its share. Guess for instance which country generates the most revenue from Internet porn… Just guess…

Did I hear “the US” in the back, there? Wrong.

It’s China. (source)

Japan (of course), and South Korea are close behind. The US, our Western-world giant, is “only” the fourth country to profit the most from Internet porn.

Internet porn is ubiquitous, but at the same time, nobody really talks about it. It’s one of those subjects nobody talks about, well, not openly anyway. It is taboo. Even though 42.7% of Internet users are immersed in porn every day… This rather hypocritical silence hides a real ocean of data flowing in and out of the computers of almost half of the users connected to the Internet. The numbers and the facts are quite mind blowing…

According to Wikipedia (source of all Truth nowadays, right?) – see Internet Pornography – we can date Internet porn back to the early ages of networking, before even the Internet itself. It didn’t take long after the first FTP servers or the Gopher protocol were up and running for some bored computer system administrators to share some scanned low-definition “juicy” pics.

In 2006, the Internet pornographic industry thus generated $97 Billion, which is “larger than the revenues of the top technology companies combined: Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix and EarthLink” (according to this source). And this growing trend is not slowing down. Nowadays, 12% of all Internet websites are dedicated to porn, and 35% of all worldwide downloads are porn (source). 

Digital Sex
That is a LOT of data. 35% of all worldwide downloads are just people shagging each-other?!

That leaves 65% of worldwide downloads for non-porn material. Now if you add-in the 22% of the global Internet bandwidth dedicated to, well illegally I guess, sharing copyrighted material, you start to really get a sense of what the Internet world is really interested in…

So what’s next then for digital sex?

Well, in my sense it all comes down to the oldest profession… The advent of modern technologies is simply the logical continuation of the everlasting human quest for more sex. Our current technologies allow us only to view the profusion of ways to have sex, and this already has a tremendous impact on the various people of this world.

But what if our technology proposed virtual universes so immersive that we could not only be a voyeur, but actually be an active participant in sexual congress, without ever having contact with another human being ?!

Welcome to the first scene of the up-coming short movie “Silicon Jungle”…