Just in time for Valentine's Day, a duo of influential academics is warning that more people could start to choose digital avatars and other technologies in lieu of human sex and intimacy — a society-shifting sexual orientation they call "digisexuality."
"A digisexual is someone who sees immersive technologies such as sex robots and virtual reality pornography as integral to their sexual experience, and who feels no need to search for physical intimacy with human partners," University of Manitoba researcher Neil McArthur and University of Wisconsin Colleges professor Markie Twist wrote in a recent essay for The Conversation.
McArthur and Twist, whose work on the future of sexuality we've covered before, argue that we're already in the midst of a sexual and romantic revolution, with technology — think dating apps, conveyor belt beds, and "sex buttons" — disrupting the ways people form and maintain intimate bonds with one another.
But the duo also predicts that new tech — ranging from sex robots and virtual reality to artificial intelligence and teledildonics — is set to blow those changes out of the water as a growing population of digisexuals embrace virtual lovers and forego human partners altogether.
It's not hard to imagine. Consider the 2013 movie "Her," where Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with an AI, or last year's "Blade Runner 2049," in which Ryan Gosling's character is in a relationship with a virtual avatar.
Or look at Akihiko Kondo, a Japanese man who took part in a marriage ceremony wedding him to a hologram.
Before you condemn people like Kondo, McArthur and Twist also warned that digisexuals are likely to face discrimination — but that, obviously, we should fight that urge.
"Marginal sexual identities almost invariably face stigma, and it is already apparent that digisexuals will be no exception," they wrote. "As immersive sexual technologies become more widespread, we should approach them, and their users, with an open mind."
READ MORE: For the Love of Technology! Sex Robots and Virtual Reality [The Conversation]
More on digisexuals: “Digisexuals” Are Falling In Love With — And Lusting For — Robots