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June 19, 2004
Volokh on the Future of Virtual Pr0n
UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh poses an interesting hypothetical this afternoon regarding the future of pornography (Guess who'll be in porn movies in a decade or two?):
Within about ten years, there will probably be software that can merge people's photographs and voices with movies that depict someone else. ... But, practically, the most common use of this would probably be for pornography. Consumers would buy the program; get ordinary, nonpornographic photographs of celebrities or of acquaintances; merge the photograph with a pornographic movie; and then be able to watch pornography that "stars" whomever it is they lust after. ... if I were the sort of person whom either acquaintances or strangers would like to merge into a porn movie -- even one they'd only watch by themselves -- I wouldn't be at all pleased by this technology. Even if they watch the movie in the privacy of their own homes, there'd still be something mighty icky about them watching pictures that show me having sex.
I've actually written something along the same lines back in 2002 on LawMeme (The Future of Virtual Kiddie Pr0n and Other Notes on Ashcroft v. Free Speech). I think my example of virtual child pornography is even more disturbing and icky than celebrity porn.
However, I have to disagree with Prof. Volokh. As someone who is (peripherally) involved in the Machinima community, I believe that although pornography will be quite prevalent so will many other legitimate uses. The tools available to the pornographer will be the tools available to the budding film student. I think we are going to see many more non-pornographic uses than not. Yes, people will make pornography, but they will also download comedic scripts and the images of their favorite comedians.
Heck, it may become a significant art form with those who make the script suggesting several actors (or synthespians) for a particular role, but leaving the final "casting" decisions up to the consumer. Why pay for actors if you can direct the script and have the consumers add in the actors that they want later?
In any case, there better be significant legitimate uses, otherwise you are going to have a lot of explaining to do when your spouse/significant other stumbles across the program on your converged media center.
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