What’s Your Sexual Doomsday Scenario?
May 14, 2012 1 Comment
Now that Rick Santorum has ridden off into the sunset and gay marriage support appears to be beyond the ballyhooed “tipping point,” we’re going to hear a lot less about how two men marrying will tear apart the fabric of society. This is a positive development because gay marriage is highly unlikely to actually tear apart the fabric of society.
That said, the cultural and biological motivations to pursue sex are so powerful that something sex-related could eventually alter society. The private incentives to pursue sex are strong enough that people tend to ignore the public costs. At the moment those costs are low enough (a certain amount of physical and sexual abuse, increased alcohol consumption, etc.) that they have little effect on society as a whole. However, if something were to alter the cost structure collective action problems could lead to negative consequences.
For example, imagine that in the year 2047 advances in neuroscience, robotics, materials science, and visual design allow for an inexpensive, artificial sexual experience that is superior to 90% of casual sexual encounters. (And by “superior,” I mean an experience that a neuroscientist would say was more “positive” based on the level of various brain chemicals.) An inexpensive high quality sexual experience could lead to a sharp reduction in the demand for things used to attract sexual partners. Many of those things — for example, employment, family, and physical wellness — are important to the health of our current society. A new equilibrium would eventually be reached, but there would be a lot fewer people participating in the labor force, getting married, and staying healthy. (Of course by then it might not be a problem because we all live in utopian socialist communities where nobody has to work.)
If Rick Santorum’s sexual doomsday scenario is that the legalization of gay marriage in 2012 creates a 99% chance society will fall apart by 2017, then my sexual doomsday scenario is that in 2047 there’s a 9% chance super-advanced virtual-reality sex robots will make contributing to society in order to attract a sexual mate a thing of the past. In other words, if sex destroys our society, it will be because of robot sex, not gay sex. What’s your sexual doomsday scenario?