The Erotic Engine

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Published in the United States by Anchor Press June 2011, in Canada by Doubleday Canada, September, 2010, in Australia and New Zealand by University of Queensland Press November 2010

Pornography: The force for change that has been written out of the history of world culture.

It has always been at the cutting edge in adopting and exploiting new developments in mass communication. And in so doing, it has helped to promote and propel those developments in ways that are rarely acknowledged. Pornography built the hidden infrastructure of the Internet. Without pornography, cable television and the VCR might never have made the big time. E-commerce would be at a far more primitive stage of security and usability. The video streaming software developed for and by the pornography industry paved the way for CNN and YouTube.

The Erotic Engine shows how a vast hidden trade has bankrolled and shaped the machinery of mainstream media.

For 40 millennia, pornography and sexual depiction have consistently been a powerful source of creative and technological innovation. From the earliest known examples of human beings using a medium to express themselves, sexual representation has been at the heart of advances in human communication. Media that have been influenced by sexuality include 40,000-year-old cave drawings, 6,000-year-old Mesopotamian reliefs, traditional Japanese woodblock prints, Hindu temple carvings, Medieval European music, the output of the Gutenberg Press, oil paintings, water colours, daguerreotypes, photography, cinema, videos, DVDs, cable television, videogames and every nook and cranny of the Internet.

In the past half century, this influence has become so pronounced that there is a clear argument that any business model for a new communications technology should consider appealing to the pornography market in its early days. Pornographers are “early adopters” who will see a new medium through its rough early stages until it is ready for mainstream markets.

It is clear that the privacy, convenience and anonymity afforded by modern media have made them pornography’s natural bedfellows. But the most surprising aspect of this story is how people’s desire to express themselves sexually, passionately and intimately to and with other people has proven a staggeringly powerful force driving creativity and innovation in mass communications.

With a sharp intelligence, a dry wit, and virtuosic grasp of the interweaving stories of science, art, commerce and the taboo, Patchen Barss breaks the embarrassed silence to tell the history of what’s really been driving communications technology—and where it will drive it next.

One Comment

  1. Cognitive computing and sex?
    April 16, 2016 @ 1:35 am

    […] the premise of Patchen Barss’ book The Erotic Engine is correct, this could be the surest sign that Cognitive Computing is here to […]


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