How free porn enriched the tech industry — and ruined the lives of actors

Journalist Jon Ronson describes his new podcast series, The Butterfly Effect, this way: “It’s about what constitutes a reputable person and what constitutes a disreputable person.”

More specifically, The Butterfly Effect is a four-hour, seven-part exploration of the impact of the tech industry on the porn industry. It’s about the way free porn sites, notably PornHub, have made it very hard for porn workers to make a living.

The music industry has gone through similar upheaval, but musicians get more sympathy than porn actors (and can make money doing live gigs), Ronson says.

In the podcast, Ronson interviews Fabian Thylmann, PornHub’s millionaire founder, along with a spectrum of sex industry performers and creators struggling to make ends meet. For instance, Ronson profiles Mike Quasar, a porn cameraman and director, who tells Ronson he’s powerless to stop his films from being instantly pirated online. (The volume of streaming sites and sharing methods makes it hard for porn companies, often strapped for resources, to fight piracy.) Some porn stars make niche custom videos — performing content in ways requested by specific fans, for a fee — in order to survive financially.

For two decades since Them, a best-seller on extremists, Ronson has been creating engaging, funny accounts of people on society’s margins. The Welshman turned New Yorker’s last book was So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, about the internet pile-ons against the likes of inappropriate tweeter Justine Sacco.

In a wide-ranging conversation — lightly edited and condensed — Ronson discussed porn’s future, Alex Jones, and legitimized bullying.

Alexander Bisley

So these sites like PornHub, which are stealing porn and giving it away for free, have wildly depressed the money available for productions and the fees the performers are able to get, right?

Jon Ronson

Yes. So a lot of people are making a lot less money and are working much, much longer hours to make that money. That’s happening a lot. Whereas the people in charge of PornHub are making so much money they don’t know what to do with it.

These tech people who’ve never set foot on a porn set in their lives, these optimizers and algorithm people and AB testers, these “respectable people” — they’re the ones who seem to be causing the most trouble [in] the lives of porn performers.

I saw time and time again, people [in the porn industry] would have to move from pretty nice houses to much smaller houses. Porn performers have to go into escorting to pay the rent. More and more producers are going out of business. So in many ways it’s decimating the San Fernando Valley, but the tech people are doing very well.

The tech takeover of the world isn’t being criticized enough. It’s having these seismic changes, and people tend not to think about it because they’re giving the world what it wants, which is free porn.

Alexander Bisley

What do you think the future of porn will be, given this seismic shift?

Jon Ronson

I was just reading a comment on Slate that addressed this question. The commenter — Allen Garvin — wrote, “Dirty magazines are dying, porn shops are dying, mainstream porn video companies are dying (or else getting into extreme fetishes). People that go to porn conventions or show up at strip clubs to see specific porn actresses are getting older each year, with young men failing to replace them because they get their porn for free.”

I think all that’s true. So what will take its place? Amateur porn shot on cellphones. Some of those people will get deals with PornHub, and the like, where they’ll make some money from clicks, but it’ll be a fraction of what they would have made in the pre-streaming days.

And the people who built the industry? Some will move into customs and niche fetish stuff; most others will just vanish away into the ether.

Alexander Bisley

One of PornHub’s tech guys, exploiting performers’ work, boasted to you: “I’m not a piece of garbage, peddling smut.”

Jon Ronson

When I ask him about the people whose lives were being decimated as a result of the business practices, he went, “Ugh, okay. Their livelihood.” He talked like a tech utopian, somebody who thinks the tech world can do no wrong. A lot of tech people go out of their way to not think about the negative consequences. You shouldn’t not think about those insidious consequences.

Alexander Bisley

Tech guys like the one you quote above basically dehumanize the labor?

Jon Ronson

Yeah. In the same way we dehumanize people that we tear apart on social media. Or in the same way that despots from the past dehumanized their victims. We just don’t wanna think about it. And that’s one of the reasons my public shaming book got some backlash, because people didn’t want to be confronted with the truth of the psychological tricks they play on themselves to not feel bad about the bad things they do.

Alexander Bisley

Since Them: Adventures With Extremists, your book and documentary series about conspiracy theorists, the idea of humanizing the dehumanized has featured in your work. Alex Jones, a far-right conspiracy theorist that has interviewed Trump on his show, was one of your early subjects, both in writing and in documentary. Did you go too far in humanizing him?

Jon Ronson

I’ve thought a lot about this, and I think Alex has changed. Alex is a different person now compared to how he was when I first knew him in the late ’90s. A lot of people who work for Alex would probably say the same thing. So the way we should regard him, the way we should write about him, should change. He’s changed partly because he’s more powerful now, and he’s richer, and he’s got an ally in the White House, and some of his conspiracy theories have got darker.

A couple of years ago, when Alex suddenly made a fortune from the Super Male Vitality supplements and so on, that’s pretty much exactly the same time that his discourse got more aggressive. As much as he denies saying that Sandy Hook didn’t happen, he did promote that conspiracy theory.

Alexander Bisley

How do you feel about the future of media?

Jon Ronson

I strongly believe the future for that industry of broadcasters is to welcome idiosyncratic voices and then just give them the freedom to do just that, which is exactly what Netflix did with Bong Joon-Ho for Okja, a film I co-wrote, and what Audible did with me and The Butterfly Effect. The days of gatekeepers making you jump through hoops is kinda over.

Alexander Bisley

The Australian writer Christos Tsiolkas, author of The Slap, wrote a compelling essay about the Internet zeitgeist. “I have become increasingly wary of morality disguised as politics and of our reversion to a language redolent of sin and shaming, certainty and righteousness.”

Jon Ronson

Yeah. The way I would describe it is legitimized bullying. The destruction of people like Justine Sacco [who tweeted an inappropriate joke that launched a viral pile-on and that led to her being fired] — what of social justice? It was a cathartic alternative to social justice.

When you’re bullied in school, quite often, you’re bullied by everyone. You don’t have friends to turn to. Monica Lewinsky, in an interview I did with her, told me of her scandal: “I was hung out to dry by everyone; I didn’t belong to any group.” That’s the same as what happened to Justine Sacco — she was hung out to dry by everyone: Misogynists hated her, philanthropists hated her, social justice people hated her, Donald Trump tweeted about her. So that’s probably why I felt so animated about that story … because it reminded me of school. When you’re being bullied by everybody, it’s legitimized bullying.

In a way, it’s the reason I wanted to do The Butterfly Effect as well. Because it’s a story about every time somebody watches porn for free on PornHub, they are potentially exploiting the lives of the porn people they’re watching.

Alexander Bisley

David Simon, creator of the sex work–themed television show The Deuce, believes a big problem with porn and sex work is poor labor rights.

Jon Ronson

Definitely in terms of royalties, back-end and stuff like that, porn people would agree with David Simon. Where they might disagree is that there’s definitely a narrative out there about porn people being forced to do things they don’t want to do on set by exploitative directing. Maybe their boyfriends were coercing them in some cases. But I can say that the side of the San Fernando Valley industry that we were in for a year on and off [making The Butterfly Effect], I saw nothing like that. That may happen in Miami and Las Vegas.

But the [Valley] directors and the producers and the other porn actors — it’s basically a kindhearted and respectful community, certainly more than outsiders might think. It has its problems, but it’s way more collegiate than outsiders would think it.

Alexander Bisley

What might surprise listeners about The Butterfly Effect?

Jon Ronson

Probably the most surprising thing about the series is how moving and endearing it gets. How supportive the performers are to each other. And in the world of custom, in the world of bespoke porn, how there’s this really lovely bond between the cast and producers and their client, their fans. A bunch of people have said they’ve never thought that a series about the tech takeover of the porn industry would make them cry, but the end of the series will make you cry.

Alexander Bisley

And challenge them?

Jon Ronson

There’s this amazing line in episode five of The Butterfly Effect where I’m talking to this girl who was a big porn watcher, and I said to her: “Did you ever learn their names?” And she said: “No, I never learned their names. It’s like when you kill a deer; you don’t name it because then you can’t eat it.”

Alexander Bisley

In addition to the pressure for some of them to work as escorts, porn stars have to be an enthusiastic brand all over social media. Is that a challenge?

Jon Ronson

Yes! In episode two I meet this woman called Maci May who was having a terrible time, and she used to vent about it on social media but now she’s much more wary because you have to be like a brand. She can’t tweet, “I don’t have any money.” She’s discouraged from acting that way by porn producers and directors who say to her: “No, no, you’ve got to constantly be chirpy and happy.”

When she said that to me, I thought, “That’s really sad.” In a parallel universe, there’d be a Twitter where Maci May could do all of that stuff, vent about how unhappy she was. But that’s not the Twitter we created for ourselves, sadly.

Alexander Bisley

“Sex is probably the most interesting subject in the world,” Paul Auster says.

Jon Ronson

I would never disagree with anything Paul Auster says, because he’s amazing. … I never thought of sex as interesting. What I thought was interesting about The Butterfly Effect wasn’t sex, but it was about what constitutes a reputable person and what constitutes a disreputable person. The thing that really got me interested was this idea that tech people are considered reputable; sex workers, porn people are considered disreputable. But this story shows that the porn people and the sex workers are supportive, kindhearted, lovely people, whereas the tech people are amoral, ruthless people.

source;-Vox

3 Unexpected Ways Apps Are Changing Our Lives: What’s Next?

Remember the “dark days” of 2006?

A decade ago, we were still busy scrolling through email on our Blackberry phones. It was hard to imagine using our phones to summon on-demand rides, virtually deposit checks, stream music for free, or even find instant turn-by-turn directions to our destinations. A decade later, Apple’s mantra “there’s an app for that” has become a way of life.

Whether we’re reading, playing, shopping, learning, writing, emailing, running, traveling or sleeping, apps put the world at our fingertips.

The app-driven life kicked the mobile phone revolution into high gear. Globally, we’ve adopted smartphones and tablets 10 times faster than personal computers in the 1980s and twice as fast as the Internet boom of the 1990s, according to app-tracking firm Flurry. Young adults spend an estimated one-third of their waking lives on smartphones, reports Huffington Post, with most of us checking our phones twice as often as we think we do. We’re using phones an estimated five hours a day thanks in part to habitual automatic behaviors. Waiting in the grocery line or for your morning coffee? Time to check Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. More than half of our smartphone usage comes in short bursts of less than 30 seconds of activity, which is one reason we often underestimate our usage.

Here are three key ways apps are changing our lives — and how your small business can leverage these changes for success:

1. Digital payments. Last month, popular mobile payment app Venmo processed more than $1 billion in mobile payments. Google Wallet and Apple Pay have both launched contactless payment options, allowing users to pay simply by using a thumb to verify identity on their mobile phones. Industry analysts predict mobile payments are on the edge of going mainstream: soon, paying with our phones will seem as natural as swiping a credit card. Cash will be a thing of the past, reports Due.com. And while Bitcoin may never catch on as a new digital currency, the blockchain technology that it’s based on is taking off with unexpected applications. Innovation opportunities: The digital currency marketplace is wide open for innovation. There are a number of innovative companies experimenting with blockchain technology to make transactions cheaper, easier and safer. For example, BitWage uses blockchain technology to make international payroll cheaper, faster and more reliable. Voatz is working to eliminate voting fraud and make elections cheaper and more transparent.

2. Healthcare at our fingertips. Forget heart rate monitoring during a workout; today’s healthcare apps are truly transforming the patient-provider relationship. Last September, Apple demonstrated how the new Air Strip app can change how doctors and patients interact; doctors can monitor a patient’s heart rate and other acute health statistics via the app. This would allow doctors to better monitor patients with chronic health conditions like heart disease and diabetes without ever having to make the trip to the hospital, reports Popular Science. Innovation opportunities: A number of health care apps are hitting the app marketplace, all aimed at simplifying symptom monitoring and management. The HIPAA-compliant app CaptureProof lets patients virtually “show and tell” their symptoms; patients snap a photo of symptoms and send it to their doctor to monitor progress, reducing unnecessary follow-up appointments. For busy parents, Fever Scout provides continuous temperature monitoring during the night, gently waking parents when a child’s temperature exceeds a pre-determined level.

3. Virtual house hunting. A decade ago, searching for your dream home required a big stack of MLS listings and a lot of in-person home visits on the weekends. Now, apps like Trulia, Zillow and Redfin have made the house hunt virtual. “Apps put real estate listings directly at a house hunter’s fingertips,” says Ocala real estate agent Fred Franks. “They let house hunters hone in on a specific community or a handful of property listings, streamlining the search process. These apps are especially helpful for homeowners who are relocating from other cities or states and aren’t able to drop by every open house on the weekend since they’re not living in town yet.” Innovation opportunities: The house hunt is about more than just finding the perfect listing; would-be homeowners need great credit and mortgage pre-approval, as well as a clear understanding of the neighborhood. Zillow’s mortgage app gives users a better idea of what their homes will actually cost when they factor in property taxes, interest, home insurance and other expenses. And apps aren’t just for house hunters; Homesnap Pro is an app built specifically for agents that gives realtors access to real-time agent-only MLS data.

Bottom Line

From how we search for our dream homes to how we split the cost of brunch with friends, new apps are changing virtually every aspect of our daily lives. Understanding these patterns of usage, including evolving consumer preferences for when and how we interact with our phones, is essential for successful mobile marketing.

Mobile Apps Photo via Shutterstock

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

3 Unexpected Ways Apps Are Changing Our Lives: What’s Next?

mobile apps

Remember the “dark days” of 2006?

A decade ago, we were still busy scrolling through email on our Blackberry phones. It was hard to imagine using our phones to summon on-demand rides, virtually deposit checks, stream music for free, or even find instant turn-by-turn directions to our destinations. A decade later, Apple’s mantra “there’s an app for that” has become a way of life.

Whether we’re reading, playing, shopping, learning, writing, emailing, running, traveling or sleeping, apps put the world at our fingertips.

The app-driven life kicked the mobile phone revolution into high gear. Globally, we’ve adopted smartphones and tablets 10 times faster than personal computers in the 1980s and twice as fast as the Internet boom of the 1990s, according to app-tracking firm Flurry. Young adults spend an estimated one-third of their waking lives on smartphones, reports Huffington Post, with most of us checking our phones twice as often as we think we do. We’re using phones an estimated five hours a day thanks in part to habitual automatic behaviors. Waiting in the grocery line or for your morning coffee? Time to check Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. More than half of our smartphone usage comes in short bursts of less than 30 seconds of activity, which is one reason we often underestimate our usage.

Here are three key ways apps are changing our lives — and how your small business can leverage these changes for success:

1. Digital payments. Last month, popular mobile payment app Venmo processed more than $1 billion in mobile payments. Google Wallet and Apple Pay have both launched contactless payment options, allowing users to pay simply by using a thumb to verify identity on their mobile phones. Industry analysts predict mobile payments are on the edge of going mainstream: soon, paying with our phones will seem as natural as swiping a credit card. Cash will be a thing of the past, reports Due.com. And while Bitcoin may never catch on as a new digital currency, the blockchain technology that it’s based on is taking off with unexpected applications. Innovation opportunities: The digital currency marketplace is wide open for innovation. There are a number of innovative companies experimenting with blockchain technology to make transactions cheaper, easier and safer. For example, BitWage uses blockchain technology to make international payroll cheaper, faster and more reliable. Voatz is working to eliminate voting fraud and make elections cheaper and more transparent.

2. Healthcare at our fingertips. Forget heart rate monitoring during a workout; today’s healthcare apps are truly transforming the patient-provider relationship. Last September, Apple demonstrated how the new Air Strip app can change how doctors and patients interact; doctors can monitor a patient’s heart rate and other acute health statistics via the app. This would allow doctors to better monitor patients with chronic health conditions like heart disease and diabetes without ever having to make the trip to the hospital, reports Popular Science. Innovation opportunities: A number of health care apps are hitting the app marketplace, all aimed at simplifying symptom monitoring and management. The HIPAA-compliant app CaptureProof lets patients virtually “show and tell” their symptoms; patients snap a photo of symptoms and send it to their doctor to monitor progress, reducing unnecessary follow-up appointments. For busy parents, Fever Scout provides continuous temperature monitoring during the night, gently waking parents when a child’s temperature exceeds a pre-determined level.

3. Virtual house hunting. A decade ago, searching for your dream home required a big stack of MLS listings and a lot of in-person home visits on the weekends. Now, apps like Trulia, Zillow and Redfin have made the house hunt virtual. “Apps put real estate listings directly at a house hunter’s fingertips,” says Ocala real estate agent Fred Franks. “They let house hunters hone in on a specific community or a handful of property listings, streamlining the search process. These apps are especially helpful for homeowners who are relocating from other cities or states and aren’t able to drop by every open house on the weekend since they’re not living in town yet.” Innovation opportunities: The house hunt is about more than just finding the perfect listing; would-be homeowners need great credit and mortgage pre-approval, as well as a clear understanding of the neighborhood. Zillow’s mortgage app gives users a better idea of what their homes will actually cost when they factor in property taxes, interest, home insurance and other expenses. And apps aren’t just for house hunters; Homesnap Pro is an app built specifically for agents that gives realtors access to real-time agent-only MLS data.

Bottom Line

From how we search for our dream homes to how we split the cost of brunch with friends, new apps are changing virtually every aspect of our daily lives. Understanding these patterns of usage, including evolving consumer preferences for when and how we interact with our phones, is essential for successful mobile marketing.

Mobile Apps Photo via Shutterstock

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

INNOVATION INSIGHTS: How this Australian facial recognition business helped save thousands of lives

How the machine sees you. Source: supplied.

Artificial intelligence and autonomous cars are no longer exclusive to science fiction. Google’s self-driving cars have driven more than five million kilometres, while some Teslas can drive themselves under certain conditions, and Singapore could see a fully autonomous taxi hit the streets by the end of the year.

While all these initiatives are focused on what’s outside the car, on equipping and teaching machines to understand and react to the outside world, it’s also important to understand the people inside.

That’s the mission of Canberra-based Seeing Machines. The solution they created – a camera that can understand when drivers are fatigued or distracted, has helped save thousands of lives.

The company traces its origins to a group of roboticists at the Australian National University in 1997. According to Adrian Dean, director of marketing at Seeing Machines, the researchers were imagining the “car of the future” and realised that an autonomous car would need to interact with passengers.

“The future car would need to understand and relate to the occupants and the driver, in a similar way that a humanoid robot would need to,” says Dean.

“Understanding the driver was the next step in marrying the two together. Because it is about how the driver is interacting with the robot vehicle, but also so that the autonomous car can understand what the occupants are doing when it’s driving.”

That an autonomous car should know what its occupants are up to is especially important in the handover period between human and autonomous drivers. Many of the recent laws allowing autonomous cars require a person to sit behind the wheel – Tesla’s Autopilot requires the driver to touch the wheel regularly. But for this to be useful, the car needs to know that the human is capable of taking over, that they aren’t asleep, texting or otherwise distracted.

The Seeing Machines Guardian Camera. Source: supplied.

To understand the passengers inside a car, Seeing Machines married hardware and software. They created a camera to sit on the dashboard, and developed algorithms to process the information. The cameras can collect a whole series of data points – from the positioning of the eyes and the face, to detecting heart rate through the skin. They can use this to infer a great deal about the state of the driver.

“We can obviously measure eyelid closure very accurately, which lets us measure micro sleeps. There’s also the head pose — whether it’s tilted a certain way, you can understand if someone is looking down at their phone,” says Dean.

“What we can also detect is where you are actually looking – using infra red and the glint off your eye enables us to read through sunglasses and normal glasses and interpret whereabouts you are looking.”

In the future, these capabilities will be vital for autonomous cars to understand the state and intention of their passengers. But they also have very real uses right now, and the technology has already been adopted by many in the mining, aviation and transport industries.

Truck drivers and pilots often work long shifts, operating complex and potentially deadly equipment. Pilots will spend hours on end looking at instrument clusters, trying to figure out what is going on. These are situations ripe for distractions and micro sleeps. Both are huge causes of accidents.

Seeing Machines sold more than 4,000 units worldwide to mining companies. The devices monitor driver fatigue and distraction, send out alerts in case of micro-sleep, and record all the data so companies could react to new information.

The company is doing similar things for truck drivers, partnering with fleet owners like Toll and Linfox to monitor and alert drivers when they are in dangerous situations. There’s also extra information they can add into the mix, like GPS, to infer even more about what drivers are experiencing. Altogether, these technologies allow companies to know more about what’s going on in the front line, to react and reduce risk where they can.

“We’ve saved the lives of thousands of drivers, whether they are on the mine sites or the public roads,” says Dean.

“It’s quite a difficult technology to sell to a truck driver, but then they get home to their kids because we woke them up before they had an accident. At its core, that’s probably the biggest impact that we’ve had.”

[“source-businessinsider”]