Make or break for new tech? “Adult entertainment”

Whether you call it Rule 34, educational content or, as in past times when Broadway was more honest – The Internet is for Porn – the fact remains that sex sells and sex-related trade is a driver of most new technologies. How that makes you feel is a separate conversation for some other time.

Short history

The oldest ever video was shot in 1874 and it’s something really autistic – the passing of the planet Venus over the Sun. The second oldest is from 1888 and it’s a random scene from someone’s backyard/garden. Third oldest is Lumière’s now famous 1895 shot of workers leaving the factory. The scene is now relatively famous because more people look up on the Internet “oldest continuous/smooth video”. But at the time, that scene had an audience of 10. Not ten thousand, but 10 people.

Just a few months later, in 1896, the first two erotic movies are made – one in France and one in the United States. That is the moment when “motion pictures” became an industry. Sure, the two films from 1896 wouldn’t be considered “erotic” today – but they were in their time. It’s also unsurprising that they happened in France (then just as today one of the most sex-positive countries and home of the invention of cinema) and in the US (the place where permitless innovation was the norm and daring investments a routine practice).

Video cassette recorder on the Betamax format

If you know what Betamax is, you’re either very old (and from a rich Western background) or someone who worked with anything that could be acquired in the post-communist chaos of early 1990s (like me).

If you don’t know what Betamax is, you’re either younger than 20 or you already know what VHS cassettes are. Betamax was the other format of cassettes, produced by Sony, as opposed to VHS cassettes produced by JVC.

In fact, Betamax cassettes were slightly better (and smaller in size) and they were the first video cassettes to be produced. A huge intra-Japanese war ensued with the Japanese government trying to force all manufacturers to adopt Betamax (because it was the first).

But the war was swiftly won by VHS. Why? Logistics and porn. But especially porn. The porn producers’ decision to adopt VHS as the medium of distribution for their production ended up making VHS the standard for everyone regardless of how they wanted to use their recorders/devices. This got expanded to cameras/camcoders too – which initially had a VHS cassette and later on a mini-VHS for regular people, while professional studios maintained the bigger ones (I filmed with one of those as late as 2004).

Betamax cassettes were produced until March of 2016 (!!) and VHS cassettes are still being produced today, though not by big mainstream manufacturers.

DVDs? Same story. They became widespread when pornographers decided they’re great for distributing higher-quality video. Then came mainstream movies and music. The reason pornographers adopted the DVD so fast was simple: Finally they could offer their end-users the ability to jump to the… ahem… preferred scene and do so seamlessly and without risking ruining the medium – as it had been the case with VHS cassettes. Anyone who digitalized VHS cassettes knows what I’m talking about – the most watched scenes tend to be the hardest to recover from an old tape.

Pay-per-view TV? Yeap, that’s pornographers’ work as well. And it was the same incentive: How to deliver content to clients in the most private way possible and as on-demand as possible while also charging money. Pioneered first in hotels and then in digital networks, pay-per-view TV became mainstream in early 2000s after the pornographers had perfected the model in the 1990s. In fact, the same pornographers then became consultants in tech and sale for mainstream content distributors later on.
The best example is Danni Ashe, the first big name in Internet pornography in 1994. Her career as a pornographer was, naturally, short. But her experience made her a sought-after consultant for every single big media corporation. She’s just the most famous example, but many others have been in the same position.

E-commerce? Yeah, that’s porn too. Long before anyone knew what e-commerce is, pornographers were already doing that as early as 1993. For the next 15 years, e-commerce meant porn. And then when it was perfected, industry insiders offered consultancy (for hefty fees) to everyone else on how to do it.

Likely the smartphone would’ve never become ubiquitous without the incentive for porn. In fact, the investments into 3G and 4G were only green-lit after consulting with the porn industry. It was (correctly) assumed that without the ability to distribute porn, the adoption of “smart” phones would be sluggish or simply won’t happen at all and thus investments would never be recovered.

By the way, this moment (around 2002 when 3G started to become a thing) is when you see a sharp rise in women consuming porn. A fact of life that anti-porn crussaders of 2024 have yet to integrate in their narrative(s), in part due to the women-are-wonderful effect.

Fast increase in bandwidth? Piracy and porn. Netflix came much later, when the market had “matured”. Netflix would’ve never happened without ThePirateBay and Porn.

From glorified tape recorder to useful technology

Michio Kaku calls present-day “AI” a glorified tape recorder. And he’s not wrong. As opposed to nearly every other take on “AI” on the Internet which competes in the “who can be the most wrong” Olympics.

But in order for “AI” (really just LLMs and 50 year old technology with bigger hard drives) to really become relevant, it will have to pass some tests. And the testing ground will be porn – regardless of what you and I think about that.

Just two days ago the first “AI” beauty pageant was announced. Well, sort of. It’s not exactly the first and the whole thing is not exactly new. But propaganda marketing matters because it creates perception. And in the world of propaganda, perception is reality.

But what will make or break this not-exactly-new-but-better-marketed technology will be “AI girlfriends” – which is a nicer way of saying porn. For now, there’s quite a bit of talk about how much that would be worth. But so far it’s only limited to chatbots.

May I remind you that chatbots for lonely people is not exactly something new. ELIZA is almost 60 years old.

Also, by “AI girlfriend” I don’t necessarily mean sex-bot androids with a language processor either – though that would certainly be a huge improvement. It will be enough if someone manages to create an advanced enough bot that can simulate a videochat-like conversation. That is to say… interactive porn by prompt.

By the way, interactive angle-changing for sport events that was the big thing in mid 2000s had been a thing in porn for over a decade prior. And the first interactive sports broadcasts paid for proprietary software to porn studios.

Similarly, the one who will be able to create interactive porn by prompt will get to set the standard for its “mainstream” offshoot (think realistic news anchors, entire sections of a featured movie and so on) and make big bucks out of it too.

There have already been some attempts at this, but they’re nowhere near close to good enough. And the only way they get good enough is through porn.

That’s when “media creators” should start worry. When the first company makes the first billion in revenue (VC investment doesn’t count) from selling access to PornGPT. That’s when we will also see the first really big REEEEE about porn in the 21st century, not dissimilar to the one from 1896 at the projection of (one of the) first erotic movies in a theater.

Or, alternatively, this doesn’t happen at all (or doesn’t happen in the next 50 years) because it’s too complicated without quantum computing – in which case “AI” goes where it deserves: A cute gimmick with niche applications – such as a glorified Grammarly to be used by kids to save time on bullshit assignments by bullshit professors/teachers in the bullshit institutions we still force them to attend because our societies are ruled by crazy people with bullshit ideas.

We’ll see what happens. But porn will be make or break.

Lucian Vâlsan on Youtube
Lucian Vâlsan
Not particularly nice. Mostly libertarian-conservative. Founder of the Freedom Alternative Network.