Sometimes, I wonder what the rest of the world is looking at.
And I espied that one of the most popular articles in the Independent newspaper was titled "iSex: How pornography has revolutionized technology."
At first, I assumed this was a piece about how highly committed individuals in Silicon Valley and other places of technological worship had resorted to pornography because they didn't have the time to enjoy relationships with real human beings.
Propelling the world toward enlightened modernity is very time-consuming.
However, this Independent opus, in words and pictures, actually purported to suggest that the needs of pornographic enterprises had thrust the technological world toward many of its finest achievements.
The story begins with the Super 8 projector, whose rise the authors put down to the "large amount of pornographic material that was quickly available for it." It was allegedly a favorite for frat house home movies.
This interesting history moved to the Polaroid camera, which, as I recall really did provide a sort of instant intimacy that no other camera had offered before. You didn't need to take it to the pharmacy for your most personal moments to be developed. They happened before your very eyes.
Then, there's VoIP. The article claims that this was created "to feed the porn market after frustrated internet users bemoaned the lack of 'dirty talk' online."
VHS is alleged to have had a dirty beginning too. Apparently "the rival Betamax tapes were not long enough to record a film, at only 60 minutes, and adult content was not available on Betamax."
The researchers suggested that porn was the reason Blu-Ray defeated HD-DVD. Which, given Blu-Ray's clear superiority, might suggest their view of pornography's technological influence is less than perfect.
Then there was pay-per-view and cable, which gave pornographers the opportunity to pump material into people's homes without having to deliver tapes in plain brown envelopes.
And then there's camcorders, the Web, even interactive TV, inventions that all allow for more personal, more varied, and more immediate communing with images of people communing.
I thought all this somewhat fanciful, so I turned my most alluring gaze toward academia for help.
I found a 1996 essay by a scholarly lawyer called Peter Johnson, published in the Federal Communications Law Journal.
Johnson declared: "Throughout the history of new media, from vernacular speech to movable type, to photography, to paperback books, to videotape, to cable and pay-TV, to '900' phone lines, to the French Minitel, to the Internet, to CD-ROMs and laser discs, pornography has shown technology the way."
Johnson's opus is quite extraordinary.
He writes sentences such as "Both English and Italian can trace their emergence as popular tongues partly to pornography."
Which he swiftly follows with: "The victory of VHS over Betamax, and the triumph of video rental and purchase over time-shifting, is a rare example of pornography specifically adopting a product and a method of retailing that drove its competitor from the market."
And please enjoy this hearty rendition of Johnson's: "When new media offer new markets, porn spies them quickly and rushes to fill them, like an amoeba extruding a new pseudopod where its skin is thinnest."
While the image of a brand-new pseudopod occupied the happy part of my inner matter, I still found the conclusion of his rather interesting study couldn't be be deflowered: "Far from viewing cyberpornographers as pariahs, society would do well to view them as mountain men and women in the mold of Jedediah Smith, who discovered and opened the passes of the Rockies for entire families to follow west."
While you might conjure a picture of the passes opening for yourself, I have a little question.
Currently, the porn industry is whining that its profits are being severely chafed. Does this mean that technological development will shortly grind to a embarrassing crawl?
Some are concerned that porn's salvation may lie in more mobile usage, there is a considerable fear that they will be frustrated by a lack of bandwidth.
Personally, I prefer Hollywood's notion that America is driven by violence rather than sex and that therefore it is military exigencies that drive technological invention rather physical urges.
However, if it is really true that pornography pushes technology, what invention will it give rise to next? Porn beamed to the inside of your sunglasses, perhaps?