Anonymity, Identity, and VR Sex in the Transhuman Future

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Axel the Chimeric Axel the Chimeric's picture
Anonymity, Identity, and VR Sex in the Transhuman Future

One of the things I've started to find about Eclipse Phase is that the more I think about it, the more different and yet familiar the transhuman future becomes. I've had friends who I've talked to about the game or concepts related to it ask me "Then what's the point?" numerous times, and I've had to explain to them that fixing one problem doesn't mean all problems are solved, nor that new ones don't appear.

Interestingly, it's the ones who have watched Ghost In The Shell who don't seem to need that fact explained, but whether that's correlation or causation, I don't know.

So, now there's one I want to bring up, and that's questions of Anonymity and Identity in VR sims, and to question perhaps one of its more extreme forms in the form of VR sex.

First, a groundwork of what I'm referring to. VR sims are ubiquitous in Eclipse Phase. People run simspaces with fidelity down to a realistic degree for fun. People can get computers the size of a credit card that can run a human mind on it for a pittance. Simspaces are likely extremely common.

Second, Infomorphs are able to look whatever they want to with the right skin, and anyone who projects themselves into VR is effectively able to do the same. This means you can look like just about anyone you want to. Want to look like a metacelebrity? Buy their avatar skin. Want to be a mountain-sized troll? Skins for that, probably. Want to change your face, your age, your sex? Lots for those.

Now, here's where things get quirky. It's one thing to play a directed game, equivalent to most modern games, where you have goals or objectives to do. It's easy to get lost in those but, at the end of the day, it's also easy to divorce yourself from them. You might play WoW and create Grimnar Thunderbeard, slayer of the undead and rightful king of Azaroth, and get quite involved in crafting the character, a sort of escapist fantasy, but they're not you. Very few people have trouble separating themselves from that.

But what about less objective-driven VRs? What about whole worlds like a highly advanced version of Black & White/From Dust/Minecraft, where people craft their own persistent worlds? What about equivalents to adult roleplaying chats, save that, in this case, people really can turn themselves, and whomever they're with, into their ideal sex partner?

And then, the question comes out, how do people deal with these discrepancies? How do people deal with identities and relationships that emerge from their digital lives?

I singled out VR Sex for a particular reason here. It's already not that unusual for people who build amazing things digitally, and who have otherwise mundane lives, to become better known by their VR identity than by their real one, and for the two to even be synonymous. However, sex is a different story.

How do transhumans react to the idea that the stunningly beautiful woman they've been spending their off-hours wandering digital gardens with is really a middle-aged, obese male Flat, who works as a terraformer aerating soil in the Martian desert? What about for areas where ego IDs are tied to these things, and ensure that anonymity is a none-thing? Do people suppress their desire to be someone else, or does the squickiness fade away?

How does digital identity and physical identity interact on that scale?




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zend0g zend0g's picture
Re: Anonymity, Identity, and VR Sex in the Transhuman Future

Think about that as a post-humanist rather than a humanist and it solves that problem. Your squickiness is a symptom of your humanity. People can flip genders already (in EP) by changing sleeves. So, I don't think it would even be much of an issue anymore in VR space.

A bigger issue I see is that if VR worlds are even more advanced than now, why do I even care about the meat world? I just work enough as an infomorph to pay for my CPU time, bandwidth and storage space and my subscription to my favorite VR worlds and live as only a king can dream.

Yerameyahu Yerameyahu's picture
Re: Anonymity, Identity, and VR Sex in the Transhuman Future

I forgot it in the other thread (Synth v. Bio), but simulspaces by RAW *do* require 'servers'. And they're 'beyond realistic', whatever that means. :)

I boil your whole post down to 'is there objective reality, and does it matter either way?'; is that fair? The short answer is that some people don't care, and are happy to live 100% in whatever 'reality' they're in. Others might well enjoy living double and triple lives. Some people might care.

My personal take is that they already live in a physical reality where even someone's body is wholly 'fake' and unreliable, and their mind/memories can be duplicated and edited. (With the right implant, btw, you can change sex—not gender—without even resleeving or surgery). That's just the 'real' world, so how much of a shock can the VR world be?

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: Anonymity, Identity, and VR Sex in the Transhuman Future

People already maintain complex social identities. My identity as GM is separate and overlapping with my identity on this forum, and very separate from my academic identity, my wikipedia editing identity and (hopefully) entirely separate from my identity on goldfishsex.com. Links between identities can be important or dangerous - I might want to draw on my academic credentials for winning an argument, but I might desperately want to keep the goldfishsex.com identity separate from all my official identities. Links across time can matter to: what I wrote as a teenager should hopefully not be held against me, and we choose what to pay attention to in peoples lives in a very complex way. But at present we are just in the early days of an Internet society. We have not yet learned to manage these complex identities well individually and as a society - this is something we have to learn by doing. In EP, this has been going on for generations.

Axel the Chimeric wrote:

How do transhumans react to the idea that the stunningly beautiful woman they've been spending their off-hours wandering digital gardens with is really a middle-aged, obese male Flat, who works as a terraformer aerating soil in the Martian desert? What about for areas where ego IDs are tied to these things, and ensure that anonymity is a none-thing? Do people suppress their desire to be someone else, or does the squickiness fade away?

How does digital identity and physical identity interact on that scale?

What is the problem with the woman/flat example? I think the main issue is whether there is some misrepresentation going on. Does the person interacting with the lady care about the true nature of the player? In some environments and with some participants this does matter. There are no doubt people who want to be sure they have a genuine, deep contact with someone else and would be upset if this was misrepresented. Others might care about certain things being true - that the other person is a person and not an AI, that they are of the right gender, that the emotions involved are as authentic as real life emotions, or just that the other party can in principle be contacted or held legally liable. Others might be OK with just a consistent nym with a reputation and great erotic skills, not caring about their underlying nature.

If we look at how people's values are changing today I think we are going to see more and more people willing to have relations that are largely constructed. That doesn't mean the people who want truth and authenticity disappear (or that people will not have complex mixtures of desires).

So I expect different simspaces to have very different rules and identity domains.

The strictest are the ones where people's identities and appearance (and other attributes) have to mirror the real world. That is their whole selling point. They cater to truly conservative people, but also the exclusive group that can make an encounter in real life exciting.

Then there are the ones that maintain strong ties to reality, but allow improvements. After all, who doesn't allow a bit of AR photoshopping of their significant other? In the social space people might be known by pseudonyms and have local reputations, but it is always possible to link them to their off game characters.

The fully anonymous ones protect your RL identity, and usually allow you to freely pretend to be whatever you want. That is in itself a reason many like them - it is not that fun to be a flabby soil aerator or a defence satellite. Some simspace companies specialize in ensuring certain restrictions; this might not just be dating companies restricting partners, but restrictions on automated responses, ways of linking in, or even demographics. Of course, the more exclusive the smaller the market but (if it is chosen well) the more it might want to pay. The rep required to get invited to the Xanthe Mansion social space is astronomical.

So, by this line of reasoning, I think most people decide what kind of environment they want to socialize in. It is not as if people have all gravitated towards the same views. Rather, they found a way to get what they want and a chance to look down on those perverts and conservatives who doesn't do as they do.

Extropian

Lilith Lilith's picture
Re: Anonymity, Identity, and VR Sex in the Transhuman Future

Axel the Chimeric wrote:
How do transhumans react to the idea that the stunningly beautiful woman they've been spending their off-hours wandering digital gardens with is really a middle-aged, obese male...

How do humans today react to the same thing?

This is nothing new, by far.

nezumi.hebereke nezumi.hebereke's picture
Re: Anonymity, Identity, and VR Sex in the Transhuman Future

Axel the Chimeric wrote:
How do transhumans react to the idea that the stunningly beautiful woman they've been spending their off-hours wandering digital gardens with is really a middle-aged, obese male...

"My girlfriend, Rahel, is stuck with a trashy old morph and needs cred for an upgrade."

In a world where people change morphs like they change cars, the body you're born into likely is about as important as your astrological sign. Everyone knows it 'defines your personality', and when you say it to them, the person inevitably says "I knew it!", but for most cultures, it doesn't have a lot of relevance. If Rahel says she's truly, spiritually female, but trapped in a male body, that's more culturally believable than the medically-accepted current issue of being transgendered.

Extrasolar Angel Extrasolar Angel's picture
Re: Anonymity, Identity, and VR Sex in the Transhuman Future

When it is so easy to escape the problems of sex in EP, I can't see a person like me not abandoning the atavisms of animal origins that bring so many problems and abandoning the gender and desire altogether.
The only question would be-wouldn't I turn ex-human by doing that?

Mankind must shed its meat chrysalis and become our true selves. We will take wing and leave for unguessable spheres

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: Anonymity, Identity, and VR Sex in the Transhuman Future

Extrasolar Angel wrote:
When it is so easy to escape the problems of sex in EP, I can't see a person like me not abandoning the atavisms of animal origins that bring so many problems and abandoning the gender and desire altogether.
The only question would be-wouldn't I turn ex-human by doing that?

Exhuman is in the eye of the beholder. Many Jovians likely think most of the solar system is inhabited by exhumans (I'm having great fun reinforcing this to the Jovian PCs in one campaign). Many extremely enhanced people think they have retained what is truly human, ditching the unimportant dross - while others disagree, thinking they have lost that important something that makes them fit to call themselves transhuman.

Getting rid of gender and sexual desire is likely not a big deal. There are plenty of androgynous and asexual people around already, and we find them quite human. Getting rid of the desire for social companionship, that is a bit more radical. To rewire the social recognition and reward system to react to software interfaces or mathematics as your social world, now that likely makes you exhuman.

Extropian

Quincey Forder Quincey Forder's picture
Re: Anonymity, Identity, and VR Sex in the Transhuman Future

As a somewhat regular user of Second Life, such questions pop up regularly
who's really female? Is that person I'm talking to really that person or an altie (alternate account) of someone I muted for griefing me or my sim.

A question I tend to ask pretty often while flirting on SL is: "Did you model your avie after your first life self?". As a matter of fact, I did build mine to look like I do -albeit a bit idealized- in real life. I called that being a Matcher. Some answer, some don't. It's just that knowing a person does look alike in both realities is a plus (especially when that person is a dancer in a club! :p)

One of my best friends is working as a host and HR manager in a second life store called Lovecats, and she does it very, very seriously. More so than I've seen people do in RL stores. In stores like that, employees are supposed to present the wares (like skins, hair, accessories) sold by the store, fulfilling both the role as host and model. Some of the biggest brand names on SL like Calico Creations or Sin Skins reached their levels of rep because of such online profession.
Go check SL, it's really great inspiration for what life in simspaces would be like in EP (not counting the quality of the graphics or so, but the way people interact and do bizness there, and how they deal with identity(ies) and annonymity.

Q U I N C E Y ^_*_^ F O R D E R

"Chaos isn't a pit, Chaos is a ladder."
-Pityr "Little Fingers" Baelish