No way, no how this sex tech is on the horizon!
“I was a peripheral visionary. I could see the future, but only way off to the side.” – Steven Wright
We’ve all seen them: those moments in science-fiction shows and movies when they try to depict what sex might be like in the future.
And end up getting it totally, laughably wrong.
So, in the spirit of trying to inspire some much more realistic, or at least imaginative, ways of looking at the future of human sexuality, here is a quick rundown of some of those most egregious clichés. What makes them so particularly cringe-worthy is how they compare with recent technological innovations.
No laughing matter
In all fairness, a lot of these cruddy future sex tech depictions have comedic leanings. They either poke us in the ribs about “how the more things change the more they stay the same” or strike as a commentary on how humans seem to be fascinated with trying to “improve” everything with technology.
The problem with these humorous approaches, though, is that they can sometimes drift too far into affecting our real expectations of what the future will be.
It’s not a huge leap, for instance, to envision smart-ass androids being the norm in the future: all because we’ve come to expect them to be that way, and manufacturers creating them that way—just to live up to our distorted expectations.
No more clunky sexbots
Even more common than the sassy robot is the sexy one, especially of the Heavy Metal (or Métal Hurlant to be needlessly geeky) cybernetic sex object type.
Think chrome breasts, burnished and other highly polished sexual attributes, and—most of all—no way anyone could ever actually do anything actually physically erotic with them.
These kinds of robots have also become a tired mainstay of far too many movies and shows. Notably, they recently popped up in the otherwise fantastic Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 as the pleasure bots clearly “service” the Ravagers.
They have it all: unsexy hardware, absolutely unalluring features, and clearly mechanical parts. They are also so far below even our current state of gynoid technology that it’s like watching Captain Picard using a slide rule.
The good news is that some shows have acknowledged our progress creating highly realistic synthetic humans (the UK series Humans, for example), which makes these old-school, and unimaginative sexbots so embarrassing when they pop up.
No more cruddy holograms
Next up on our cliché list is the flickering, fuzzy hologram. But before the dishing of bad examples, we have to tip our the hat to one that got it right: the depiction of Joi in Blade Runner 2049.
There were still some moments during the sequel when the technology presented seemed painfully poor for the year the film was set in. However, the depiction of a full-spectrum hologram overlaying reality was still pretty realistic.
But one good doesn’t offset so many bad. This is particularly cringe-worthy after considering that there is no point in using a hologram when a high-definition monitor would do the job so much better. Because of this, 90% of hologram scenes, erotic or not, always seem to be nothing but a clumsy way of reminding the audience that this is in the future!
On a side note, and not exactly erotic but still a cliché that needs to die, is the overuse of transparent displays. Sure, using them allows the director to show both the actor and what they are looking at without shooting from behind. Still, they are mostly, yet again, a needlessly technological gee-whizz.
No more implants
Now we drift into a personal favorite territory of mine: cyberpunk. Or, to be more specific, the neural implant.
We don’t see this as often these days, but back in the 80s and 90s characters in the genre often sported a huge plug on the side of their heads. This would allow them to “jack in” in order to visit all kinds of terribly animated CGI virtual worlds. Once there, characters too often end up having sex with everything and everyone.
That eventually we will be able to do the same is undeniable. But here’s the thing: no one, unless they’re a hardcore fetishist, is going to have anything implanted into them that can’t be easily removed or modified.
Just think of the number of times you have had to fix or replace your smartphone. Do you really want to open up your cranium to an app store?
Fortunately, neural implants are fading from a lot of films and TV shows, and are mostly being replaced by a much more realistic anticipation of augmented reality (AR). In a sideline, while far from a great flick, I have to give kudos to the recent film Anon (starring Clive Owen) for showing AR in a unique and pretty realistic fashion.
No more dumb-as-rocks AI
Back to robots—or, at least, their brains.
Like with Blade Runner 2049’s holograms, there have lately been some recent pretty-well done depictions of artificial intelligence. But for each Her there’s still the lazy-storytelling of either malevolent machines-out-to-get-us or the Pinocchio syndrome with them wanting so very much to be a real-live boy—or girl.
This is particularly irksome when taking into consideration the breakthroughs we’ve been seeing in AI, especially in the world of sex tech.
For example, while being controversial, Samantha—the sexbot that has to be “seduced” into erotic activities—demonstrates that more than likely in only a few years we’ll have AI that will be able to pass the legendary Turing test without a hiccup.
So, pretty please, enough with the idiotic—or insane—sexbots. They aren’t just unrealistic but they’ve moved from being a cliché to even worse: the source of a bored yawn.
But the future’s bright
As mentioned a few times above, there’s actually some reason to be hopeful that these tired depictions of futuristic sex are on their way to the scrapheap. Films like Her and Blade Runner 2049 have shown there are some filmmakers using their imaginations and not resorting to repetitive depictions.
More importantly, dropping these old clichés they could be instrumental in getting audiences to look forward to how sex tech might change and evolve in the coming decades.
Or, at least, give us entertainment that doesn’t insult our intelligence.
What do you think of our list of sex tech clichés? Did we miss any that you find particularly tiring? Let us know in the comments.
Image sources: Mr.Moment