This article originally appeared on VICE Canada
What did you do to piss off your parents when you were a kid? Did you sneak off to the park and smoke a J? Maybe you had sex somewhere or with someone you weren’t supposed to?
Now that I’ve got you thinking about the good ol’ days, pull out your crystal ball and think about how your bratty kids and even grandkids will tell you to shove it.
They’re going to do something that we think is painfully idiotic, that’s no doubt. But what?
Will they still smoke weed when their parents are having lame cannabis and cheese tastings? Will they bother to bone when they’re oversaturated with porn from the moment they start feeling tingly in weird places?
To find some answers I called up Dr. Ian Pearson, a futurologist who predicted that human-on-robot sex will be more common than human-on-human sex by 2050.
Pearson predicts that many drugs we know (and love) today will likely become legal after they’re chemically engineered to be safer. But, advances in medicine and biotech will have us getting high in trippy new ways.
For instance, scientists have already developed transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), as a form of therapy for psychiatric disorders. In the future, you might be able to pop on a pair of nifty rTMS headphones and feel the effects of getting high by disabling different parts of the brain. You might even have the ability to turn your high on and off whenever you want.
Scientists are also working on ways to steer pills packed with medication into certain areas of the body as a way to fight off cancer. Once the drug reaches the desired location in the body, like the liver for instance, the plan is to rupture the capsule from outside the body using electromagnetic waves or ultrasound. “But what if,” Pearson asks, “you were to encapsulate heroin or morphine in smart drug capsules?”
Picture this scenario: You go to the club after dropping a pill of Molly—but nothing happens after you take it. You’re bobbing around sober for a while, until suddenly the DJ flicks a switch. Invisible electromagnetic waves are sent out into the club, rupturing all the ecstasy pills, and boom—everyone is higher than a spaceship telling their friends how much they love them. Maybe you’re even wearing a pair of rTMS headphones at the same time, giving you the ability to turn off your high if you’re not into it.
Photo via Flickr user Marcelo Alves.
Cool right? But if the drugs are all safe and legal, taking them would be about as rebellious as gobbling up munchies on the couch with your blazed parents—kinda meh.
“The trouble with becoming a rebel is that if something’s legal it’s not very rebellious to take it,” said Pearson.
So what could our grandkids do that’s unsafe, stupid, and illegal all at the same time?
“Supposing you were able to use one of these fancy drugs and put some clever IT in there so that you could give control of your brain to somebody else, now that would be rebellious,” Pearson said.
He predicts that by 2040, humans will be able to electronically share bodies with somebody else, link consciousness through the internet, and even control someone else’s brain against their will. Yep, we’d have the power to turn our friends, sex slaves, and enemies into freaking zombies.
For this to go mainstream, Pearson says all it would take is the Selena Gomez of 2040 to post on social media about how dope it is to be a zombie and millions of teens will be going to school not just dressed as their BFF, but living as their BFF.
Pearson took me further down the rabbit hole by throwing another future technology into the mix. He says the next level of Fitbits will be receptors pasted right on our skin. At first, we’ll be able to simply record our pulse and basic stuff like that. But when we’re able to insert the device deeper than the first layers of skin and get in contact with our nerves, we’ll have the potential to record, replay, and even control an orgasm as easily as pressing Ctrl+Alt+O.
Pearson provided this scenario: “So if you were wanting to go to bed with your best friend’s girlfriend and you give the best friend this fancy wristwatch and you don’t tell him that it’s got his nervous system on it. You could use that to hack into his nervous system and steal his sensations and effectively be in bed with his girlfriend.” Which is basically a David Cronenberg film come to life.
Besides mind and nerve control to spice it up in the bedroom, Pearson predicts “an explosion of sexual capability” where future generations will move past the binary of male and female and invent third, fourth, and fifth genders. And he’s not talking about transgender. With the ability to electronically control sensations in addition to advances in virtual and augmented reality, people could dream up completely new genders and genitalia.
“There’s nothing to stop you from having another organ coming out of your belly button or your right arm,” he said. “You could have some appendage that attaches to your forehead and acts as a sex organ.”
Again, social media, might determine what becomes a popular way to rebel, and what’s just plain weird.
“You can’t predict which [genders or sexual orientations] will be successful because ultimately it’ll come down to which pop star is most popular on the future Twitter and they’ll create fads.”
But the problem with going down a path where we continuously seek out new ways to fuck and get fucked up is that it could just as easily go too far—think raping and murdering robots like in Westworld or watching torture on live TV.
Read more: The Future of Drugs
So what if we go down a different path?
Pearson says the mob mentality we see today on social media where everyone gets offended could lead us down a road where we’d become outcasts for what we do and say today.
“You can bet your life that whatever things you believe today, that same basket would get you into trouble in 2050,” said Pearson. “Kissing your girlfriend might be a criminal offense.”
In that dystopia, advancements in surveillance technology could make it possible to be thrown in jail for committing thought crimes à la Nineteen Eighty-Four or automatically fined for swearing like in Demolition Man.
In either scenario, Pearson says the world is probably going to shit (WTF grandkids?). The reason the futurologist has such a negative viewpoint of the future is because even if we develop all the technology we can muster to make sex and drugs better, at the end of the day, we’re still the same species that has tortured, enslaved, and imprisoned each other for centuries, and that’s the problem right there.
“We have plenty of evidence humans aren’t really nice underneath,” he said. “We haven’t really progressed since we were cavemen in any real respect and given the right technology or the right legal environment people would do exactly the same again.”
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