My following article below was originally published by the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET):
On August 31 of this year, nearly 200 celebrities had their private images hacked and released for the entire world to see. These images ranged from the normal day-to-day activities, to their utmost private moments – from nudity to sex. This event hit both mainstream and social media airwaves, flooding the online sphere under the hashtags #Celebgate and the #Fappening.
In response, both celebrities and non alike went into uproar, calling this breach of privacy a sex crime. Whether one agrees with the charge or not, it certainly raises the question of how we’re to define “sex crimes” in the increasingly growing technological age, and subsequently as we fast approach a Transhuman future.
A few days ago, Transhumanist author Zoltan Istvan had an article published on Vice’s subpage Motherboard, titled “The Transhumanist Future of Sex.” In this article Istvan ruminates about the current technological advent of sex in today’s market, alongside the future implications in a Transhuman future – anywhere from teledildonics to virtual reality sex play. And these are all perfectly legitimate topics to be discussed and fantasized, because, as we all can surely agree, sex is fun and technology plays a significant role in increasing those pleasures.
And seeing as how Istvan did very well in explaining all of the great things that will come as a result of Transhumanist sex, I see no reason to continue on that line. Instead I feel obligated in considering the negative implications that may arise as well – a Transhumanist future of sex crimes. After all, if anything tells us about the recent photo hacking of nearly 200 celebrities, it’s that crimes of the sexual nature may follow suit with that of exponentially growing advanced technologies.
It’s also worth considering the risks, not with the intent of preventing advanced technologies from being developed, but to ensure that we’re ready to address those risks if and when they materialize, consequently making said technologies all the more safe and efficient. So goes the importance of adhering to the proactionary principle.
Hacking will always be that double edged sword that anyone can wield for whatever reason – whether it be for innovative or nefarious purposes. I’m of the opinion that most hackers throughout the world are good, generous people with intentions only to ensure the overall safety of our planet and its inhabitants. However, this doesn’t negate the contrary, nor the prospect of cybercrimes to occur in our not-too-distant future. As we continue integrating our biology with that of the digital world, we make ourselves increasingly susceptible to being hacked. This isn’t news to us either, but is certainly a risk we all (willingly) take as a result.
When it comes to sex, the ability to hack into our sexual lives is becoming all the more abundantly clear to exist. In my opinion, the recent photo hacking of celebrities’ nude images and sex videos was indeed a sex crime. Another legitimate possibility could be the infringing of one’s sexual privacy with the use of drones. Earlier this year, in June, a woman in Seattle, Washington, wrongfully accused a man of using his drone to peek into her apartment window. Regardless of his intent, the prospect of turning drones into “peeping toms” is real.
Just a month before this incident occurred, I’d written of a similar scenario in a sexual cyberpunk poem of mine, titled “Real Girl,” that was published in the literature section of Rap Genius. The relevant excerpt of that poem is provided below:
In the top floor suite of a hotel left in ruins.
Drones overhead, snapping pictures of what we’re doing,
Live-streaming missionary in a city of no missionaries.
A worldwide audience, online for the viewing.
Another strong possibility that may occur today would be the hacking into teledildonics, especially those equipped with haptic sensors. If either a man or woman is using a smart sex toy, and someone decides to hack into the device as they’re using it and starts manipulating it, even if for a brief moment, wouldn’t that be considered a form of rape? After all, the hacker would be partaking in a sexual act with another party, of whom didn’t provide consent.
In Istvan’s article, he notes that people will “use full body haptic suits… to experience full sexual immersion.” If someone were to hack into this suit and take control, the person wearing the suit will be left defenseless to the hacker’s perverse attack. Techno-rape could become a likely new category in the legal system in which our justice departments will have to consider addressing.
Again earlier this year, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina – a city not but 40 minutes away from where I live – a surgeon had developed what is called an “e-spot implant,” which would induce orgasms in female patients at the push of a button. The implant was engineered for women with orgasmic dysfunctions. And as great and beneficial as this implant may be, it still isn’t completely secure from being hacked.
The difference between the e-spot implant and teledildonics is clear: while haptic suits can eventually be taken off and smart sex toys almost immediately withdrawn, implants are embedded in the flesh and nearly impossible to be taken out without medical assistance.
Sex crimes won’t just occur, however, in the use of gadgets and implants, but may also occur with the sexual partners we’ve come to know and trust. Imagine, if you will, you’re having an intimate moment with a sex ‘bot in the privacy of your own home. Like most things electronic and connected to the web, regardless of location, they’re at risk of being breached by nefarious hackers.
If anyone were to breach the sex ‘bot’s operating system and manipulate it against your will, who’ll be to blame – the hackers or the robot? Can we even charge a robot for a sex crime?
I could go on as to the numerous means a person could commit a sex crime using advanced technologies, but I believe the examples I’ve provided thus far are substantial enough to cause concern. Again, my intent isn’t to force people to ban technologies from being used for sexual purposes. In fact, I believe such a response would be inappropriate and would come as a great disservice to what could potentially become a wonderful, new sex market for people.
Instead, my hopes are that, by pointing out the potential risks of committable sex crimes via hacking, we will discuss these matters more extensively and consequently take safety precautions to help mitigate said risks. In turn, Istvan’s Transhumanist future of sex will become all the more enjoyable, and most importantly safe.