A futurist friend of mine likes to tell people of his aspiration to somehow remove all sexuality from his brain.
Most people think he's nuts in this regard (including his wife, with whom he has an active and healthy sex life), but he's convinced that sexuality is one of the main factors slowing down our progress toward the Singularity, immortality, superhuman benevolent AIs and all the other good stuff.
One point he always makes in these conversations it that it's amazing, when you really think about it, how much of modern human society is structured around sexuality.
Marriage, kids, dating ... buying nice clothes and making oneself up to impress the opposite sex ... buying cars or houses or the latest cellphone to impress the opposite sex with one's success ... etc.
Sexuality pervades nearly everything in our lives, implicitly even when not explicitly.
As is now common knowledge, the power sex has over us is rooted in the power our DNA has over us. We are evolved to obsess over reproducing, over extending our DNA to future generations. Even though most humans in First World countries now use birth control for nearly all their sexual encounters, and many humans choose not to reproduce at all, we are still strikingly controlled by the mind-patterns ensuing from our DNA's urge to persist itself.
But evolution has tangled sex up with all manner of other aspects of our psyches. As Freud, Reich and others pointed out so thoroughly, human motivation is deeply tied with our inner sexual energy. Eunuchs seem to generally lack aggressive, enthusiastic motivation even for things outside the realm of sex. But when my anti-sex futurist friend speaks of blotting out sexuality from his mind, he doesn't want to blot out his passion and energy generically -- he wants to focus it on things other than simulations or enactions of the reproductive act.
And yet -- for all the distraction that it provides -- sex, at its best, is a profound "altered state of consciousness" experience, just as self-melting and reality-changing as meditation or psychedelics or any other extreme of human experience. It brings you outside of your ordinary self and state-of-consciousness, putting you in touch with wholly different ways of being, interacting, experiencing.
A couple decades ago there was a color glossy periodical called "Future Sex Magazine." It didn't survive too long, partly because there wasn't that much to say on the topic. Teledildonics is a fascinating idea but it's easy enough to get the idea across ... and apparently there was a limited audience for monthly photos of hot models making it with robots and electronic AI-powered uber-vibrators.
What's more interesting is the prospect of new forms of experience, providing the same things sex provides -- but also going beyond sex in significant, surprising ways.
As satisfying as sex and sexuality are for human bodies and minds, there seems little doubt that, eventually, transhuman minds will discover new forms of pleasure and fulfillment going far beyond what we now get from sexuality. Sexuality is amazingly wonderful but it's also a mess ... it wraps up confusion and pain with pleasure in complex ways, surely more than is necessary based on the innate interconnection of pain and pleasure that exists in any finite mind.
It may seem cold or eccentric to say so, but the fact is that orgasms and genitals and romantic relationships -- as glorious as they are -- are hideously badly designed. It's obvious that other entities better serving the same purposes (and more) could be developed...!
But what do we do now, while we're stuck in legacy human form? Should we embrace asceticism, so as to more effectively work toward transhumanity without distraction? Or should we make the most of the pleasures afforded by the human form, while they're the only ones we have ... so long as we can do so without killing our chances to find something even better later on?
To what extent is a healthy sex life needed to give the human mind/body an effective grounding for making the difficult judgments that will come in the next decades as technology develops?
There are no easy and immediate answers to these questions ... each of us has to make our own judgment.
All Cosmism does is urge us to make such judgments based on a rich understanding of the issues from multiple perspectives. And urge us to obsolete the dilemma, by fixing the underlying problem, which in this case is the rootedness of our experience in a body and brain that are very difficult for us to reflectively modify and manipulate according to our deliberative desires and conclusions.
What Would Asexual Aliens Think of Human Sexuality?
One interesting exercise is to view sexuality, or other practical issues, as if one were an asexual alien viewing humans objectively and for the first time. What would such an alien think about the role of sexuality in human society and psychology?
Assuming the alien perceived the human race as being on the cusp of a technological Singularity or something similar, what would the alien think about the optimal human relationship with sexuality and other in-built obsessions of the human brain/mind?
The Essence of Sex
Considering the potentially broad scope of alien sex brings us to a more fundamental question: What is the "abstract essence" of sexuality, apart from its particular manifestation in our human embodiments?
Is it just, say, "the mutual exchange between two intelligences of positive emotion and pleasure-center stimulation, coupled with emotional open-ness?"
That sort of abstract sex seems like an unabashedly wonderful thing ... but of course, there is so much (good and bad) about human sexuality that isn't implied by such an abstract essence.... For one thing such a notion of sex is uncoupled from reproduction. It is also not intrinsically tied to any notion of long-term commitment -- although there may be an implicit relationship there, since emotion-sharing may work best between two minds that know each other well, in the way that only long-term togetherness can bring.
Probably there are forms of experience that embody the abstract essence of sexuality -- and intensify it more than is possible within the constraints of humanity -- and without the downsides of human sexuality (though perhaps with new downsides that we can't now imagine).
What can I say? Bring it on!