David Louis Edelman
Geosynchron
'Geosynchron' trade paperback cover

On the Sigh

The Sigh is the colloquial name for a group of autonomous networks devoted to sexual pleasure. Its usage rate among connectible citizens is paralleled only by the multi network.

The impact on society of such a system has been enormous. Sexually transmitted disease has become a thing of the past (though OCHREs and bio/logic programming had largely eliminated those threats anyway). Unplanned pregnancy is almost unheard-of, and abortion as become exceedingly rare.

While the channels on the Sigh all rely on a common set of protocols and guidelines to function, each channel is a private and independent entity. Quality and user experience vary widely from channel to channel, and competition for innovative features rivals the competition among the bio/logic fiefcorps.

Mechanics of the Sigh

In theory, the Sigh works the same way as the multi network. The user remains in a stationary location while sensations are broadcast directly into the mind via bio/logic neural manipulation.

In practice, however, the two networks work much differently. The Sigh is an entirely virtual environment that does not intersect with “real” space at all. Therefore its users are not subject to the strict rules of physics and mechanics that control the multi network. Users can project any type of body on the Sigh they desire, and rules of interaction are as varied as the imaginations (and Vault accounts) of its users.

Because the engineers behind the Sigh compete with one another and are not prone to sharing trade programming secrets, virtual sex is not nearly as “seamless” an experience as projecting onto the multi network. It’s a rare channel that can claim complete verisimilitude in the act of sex.

Many, of course, see the separation between the real and virtual experiences to be the Sigh’s greatest asset. Billions of users are content to trade realism for the benefits that only a virtual environment can provide. The uncomfortable aspects of sexual intercourse can be safely avoided in a world entirely governed by computational rules. The existence of a virtual environment for sensuality has also allowed certain relationships to blossom that might not otherwise have been possible, because of the constraints of nature, distance, or physiology.

So enamored are some of the Sigh’s users of their virtual playground that hundreds of millions of couples choose to never have physical intercourse in the “real” world at all. Since sex is no longer a prerequisite for procreation, many couples decide to keep their love lives strictly online.

Stretching of Boundaries

Any environment used by billions of customers is bound to produce a wide array of legal, technological, and psychological challenges to society. The Sigh is no exception. Some examples follow.

Law. Long-held definitions of terms such as rape and harassment have undergone significant revision as a result of the Sigh. Is it possible for rape to occur in a virtual environment where the victim cannot be physically harmed and can log off the network at any point? Most LPRACG courts say yes, but some claim no. Neither the Prime Committee nor the Congress of L-PRACGs has passed any definitive legislation on the issue.

Companionship. Because of the highly impersonal experience that certain channels on the Sigh provide, some users consider virtual sex to be closer to masturbation than intercourse. As a result, in many modern relationships it is not considered a violation of monogamy vows to have virtual sex.

Gender roles. The Sigh has brought the concept of alternative sexuality to new levels. In a world bounded only by the imagination, some choose to be neither male nor female, but some mixture or blend between the two. The artist Pullix Homer recently caused a stir by creating new and fanciful Sigh genders that interact in strange and sometimes startling ways.

Pleasure. Some scholars have decided that human sexuality is an unneeded intermediary step in the goal of achieving pleasure and have abandoned physical interaction altogether. Instead they have founded a new wave of bodiless “endorphin blast” channels, which many see as a future battleground between governmentalists and libertarians.

Social Implications

When the Sigh first moved from the laboratory into wide public usage (around the 280s YOR), many pundits predicted that virtual sex would be devastating to society. They imagined a world of users constantly plugging in to the network for a sensual fix, to the detriment of work, law, and creed.

Although the Sigh has created its share of addicts, it is apparent that the fears of the doomsayers never materialized. The economics of the Sigh prohibit users from spending too much time logged in; those for whom economics is not an issue often find moderation through strict creed and L-PRACG rules that strongly penalize addiction.

However, on the other end of the spectrum were those who declared the Sigh would bring about an end to social ills such as prostitution, sexual slavery, and rape. Unfortunately, these utopian predictions have not proven accurate either. While the Sigh might provide some would-be sexual predators with a place to vent their behaviors, it has undoubtedly inspired others in the real world to new heights of deviancy.

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Excerpted from “MultiReal” by David Louis Edelman. Copyright © 2008 by David Louis Edelman. Reprinted by permission of Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books. Excerpt licensed under a Creative Commons License.