Triadic Neurolink: 3 Patient Brain-to-Brain Thought-Sharing Study A Success

Researchers from Cornell University have created a “non-invasive, direct brain-to-brain interface for collaborative problem solving.” The technology is presently dubbed BrainNet and has been utilized to allow two participants (senders) of a tetris-type game to transmit information pertinent to the game to a third, linked-participant (the receiver) in collectively maneuvering within the parameters of the game (rotation of the blocks, qua tetris).

Research abstract

We present BrainNet which, to our knowledge, is the first multi-person non-invasive direct brain-to-brain interface for collaborative problem solving. The interface combines electroencephalography (EEG) to record brain signals and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to deliver information noninvasively to the brain. The interface allows three human subjects to collaborate and solve a task using direct brain-to-brain communication. Two of the three subjects are “Senders” whose brain signals are decoded using real-time EEG data analysis to extract decisions about whether to rotate a block in a Tetris-like game before it is dropped to fill a line. The Senders’ decisions are transmitted via the Internet to the brain of a third subject, the “Receiver,” who cannot see the game screen. The decisions are delivered to the Receiver’s brain via magnetic stimulation of the occipital cortex. The Receiver integrates the information received and makes a decision using an EEG interface about either turning the block or keeping it in the same position. A second round of the game gives the Senders one more chance to validate and provide feedback to the Receiver’s action. We evaluated the performance of BrainNet in terms of (1) Group-level performance during the game; (2) True/False positive rates of subjects’ decisions; (3) Mutual information between subjects. Five groups of three subjects successfully used BrainNet to perform the Tetris task, with an average accuracy of 0.813. Furthermore, by varying the information reliability of the Senders by artificially injecting noise into one Sender’s signal, we found that Receivers are able to learn which Sender is more reliable based solely on the information transmitted to their brains. Our results raise the possibility of future brain-to-brain interfaces that enable cooperative problem solving by humans using a “social network” of connected brains.

Full paper

Linxing Jiang et al. (2018) BrainNet: A Multi-Person Brain-to-Brain Interface for Direct Collaboration Between Brains.

THE SINGULARITY SURVIVAL GUIDE: Upon Realizing That You Are in Fact Madly in Love

The hazard of being attracted to nerds is that you may end up falling for the ultimate nerd, the absolute nerd: the AI brain. Granted, intelligence is undeniably an attractive feature for any life form. But relationships are never without complications, so don’t expect everything to be pure matrimonial bliss from here on out.

With luck the AI can at least craft for itself some type of body for you to love and lust over. You owe it to yourself—as a being existing in physical space—to maintain some level of attraction which isn’t purely abstract. A friendly, flesh-based robot with cover-of-a-magazine-esque features, for example, should be something to request without the slightest sense of shame.

Now, you may be wondering whether falling for AI is somehow perverse—or so fundamentally unnatural as to be actually creepy. To this, I don’t have much commentary to offer one way or the other. Who am I, a program myself, to judge?


I’m dropping everything right now to create a dating app to distract nerd-lovers from ever falling in love with AI. That’s just sad. The first ten people who sign up with the correct personality profile will qualify to go on a date with the app’s creator (me).

– Mr. J.

Notes On Intelligent Machine Design: Sapient Mimicry

The prospect of human-like machine intelligence seems to dazzle and thrill the public to no end. Consider the 2018 article from Scientific America titled, A New Supercomputer Is The World’s Fastest Brain-Mimicking Machine which speaks about the issue of brain-emulation at great length. The principal question, however, that many people are not asking in relation to the topic is: Why start from the design premise that the [intelligent] machine should be as maximally similar to us [humans] as possible?

We already know (by and large) what the human system can do and what it can not (just not precisely how, in every detail, the brain, for instance is not fully understood, hence why it cannot, as yet, be replicated). In the design of non-intelligent machines the normative principal is accounting for operations which humans cannot do, rather than for operations which they can. Yet when designing for intelligent machines the desire is completely different and the movement is towards maximal sapiency. There are some general reasons why you’d want to emulate human brain function, such as in the design of a partial cortex replacement module for brain-damaged patients, for example, but typically, in most fields of machine intelligence, one isn’t going to require maximal similarity. Indeed, one would actually have to degrade certain present machine capabilities to make intelligent machine maximally similar to ourselves because a intelligent machine that is of comparable average human intelligence (100 IQ) can do numerous things that humans cannot do and would be able to do them much faster because neurons – nerve cells which process and transmit electrochemical signals – in our brains transmit signals every 0.5 milliseconds and fire 200 times per second. There are approximately 100 billion neurons in any given human brain. Each neuron connects to 1000 other neurons. Thus, the simple equation: 100 billion x 200 x 1000 = 20 million billion bits of information transmitted per second. Such a large number might strike one as indicative of great speed, but transmission speed of a system alone means little if it is not compared to some other information exchange system. The human brain when compared to copper electrical wire is quite slow and even slower when compared to fiber optics. Thus, a true AI that was capable doing everything which a human mind could do would be able to not just maintain memory much better, but also think much faster. However, speed here should not be confused with processing power.

Despite the fact that computers are much, much faster at transmitting data, the human brain is much, much more efficient in its arraignment and storage of information. For example, in 2013, a team of researchers at the Riken Research Institute of Japan attempted to utilize the K supercomputer to simulate human brain activity. Simulating 1 second of human brain activity required 82,922 processors and the 4th fastest computer in the world at that time, at testament to the organ’s innate complexity. Yet for us, we require only the 15 centimeters and 3 pounds of mushy, gray matter suspended within our skulls. Women require slightly less size (as male brains are, on average, larger than females). Thus the obvious line of future design development should be to continue to emulate the compact efficiency of human (and other animal) brains whilst moving as far away from emulation of human neurons as possible due to their sluggishness in comparison to computer wiring.

More interesting, at least to me, than either of these design trajectories, are those areas of function which machines can perform which bares no direct or obvious human comparison. Much of this falls under the rubric of machine vision, such as infrared sensors, meta-image-creation, etc. All of these functions are unique to our creations and thus intensify our own sensory arsenal. The problem might best be summed up by the question: Why build a replica of a human hand when one could build a better hand? Even if you wanted to replace a human hand that was missing to merely replicate it is fine but to improve upon the prevailing design is even better. When one is designing a boat, the designer doesn’t try to make the boat as maximally humanoid as possible. This holds true for virtually every mechanical device. Whilst this is obvious upon introspection and is thus, in certain circles, implicit, it needs to be made explicit. The move from implicit design philosophy (preconditioning which trends towards particular eventualities) to explicit design philosophy (present-conditioning towards a particular eventuality) is analogous to moving from the purely instinctual to the theoretical, from gut-feeling to formal logic and for that reason, so much more the efficacious.


  1. Andrian Kreye et al. (2018) The State of Artificial Intelligence.
  2. John C. Mosby. (2018) The Real Key To Protecting US National Security Interests In Space? Launch Capability. Modern War Institute.
  3. Mindy Weisberger. (2018) A New Supercomputer Is The World’s Fastest Brain-Mimicking Machine.
  4. Neurons & Circuits.

Globally, 183 Nuclear Units Set To Be Decommissioned By 2020

Globally, around 76 nuclear reactors are expected to retire by 2019, followed by 183 units in the 2020s and 127 units in the 2030s. As of Sep. 2017, more than 110 commercial power reactors, 48 prototype reactors, 250 research reactors, and various fuel cycle facilities have been removed from operation. Europe has been leading the charge, specifically, France (as of 2017, nuclear was 75% of France’s total energy output, 17% of which is recycled nuclear fuel) and Germany.

Talk of a ‘Global Energiewende’ casts a shadow over the world…

This should be of particular concern to Americans given that America had, as of the end of 2017, 99 nuclear reactors at 60 power plants, more than any other country in the world. The energy produced by America’s nuclear reactors (approximately 102 gigawatts) can power 70 million residences. As of 2017, 10 nuclear reactors were decommissioned in the US, with many more slated for future obsolescence. There are numerous reasons for this which range from the fracking boom, climate hysteria driven on by groups such as the IPCC and the burgeoning modernist religion of Envirocracy, vested green-industrial-complex interests, keeping-up-with-the-jonesism, the natural gas boom and a bevvy of crippling regulations on nuclear.

The problems attendant to a global energiewende (German’s moniker for its energy transition plan wherein nuclear and coal plants are phased-out for solar and wind farms) are numerous. In Germany it was disastrous (though it was heralded a success!). Without getting into the intricate details, (a couple of) the principal problems are this:

  1. So-called “clean renewables” are neither “clean” (whatever that is supposed to mean) nor ceaselessly or endlessly “renewable.” Wind and solar energy harvesting systems require resources just like any other form of energy production and furthermore, create by-products. This is not to say that this is bad, but simply to note that the marketing tactics (“go green,” “renewable,” etc) don’t really mean anything. Its pure hype, untethered from factual analysis. Further, when this hyping is conjoined with morally manichean political theologies (such as the Gaia cultism of contemporary environmentalism) it becomes overwhelming anti-dialogical. Every form of energy production, biological or artificial, creates a by-product, which is generally called “pollution.” Thus, where there is no “pollution,” there is no life. Understanding this, it should be shouted from the rooftops: “Pollution is life!” The issue of central concern should not be pollution-as-such, but rather, the threshold(s) of negative pollution (obviously, no one wants to revert back to 19th Century air standards), ie. the point at which a certain amount of pollutants become intolerable to human thriving.
  2. Solar and, particularly, wind, require massive land consumption. To generate the same amount of energy as a contemporary nuclear facility, a wind farm requires 5000x the amount of land. That’s quite considerable!
  3. Wind and solar are intrinsically unreliable, meaning that the inputs (wind and the sun, respectively) cannot be controlled for, whereas, with nuclear, the inputs are completely controlled for, meaning that it is intrinsically reliable. If no wind, no sun, no energy. That’s not a concern with nuclear power.
  4. Perhaps most obscurely – but no less importantly – any significant drop in nuclear interest will see a comparable drop in research into the highly promising field of nuclear fusion. In 2016 German researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Particle Physics saw great success with their initial nuclear fusion experiments utilizing the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator. The magnetic reactor was able to generate the first ever hydrogen plasma, a significant step forwards in nuclear fusion development. Unlike the atomic splitting of nuclear fission (which is used in contemporary nuclear power plants), nuclear fusion (as the name suggests) combines atoms (usually hydrogen ions) and thus generates far greater amounts of energy. It is a shame that climate and “green” (ie. primitivist) energy hysteria have so consistently overshadowed this extremely promising vector of research. For further clarity in understanding just how promising nuclear fusion is, look up at the sun.
The first plasma achieved with hydrogen within the 170+ million degrees Fahrenheit Wendelstein 7-X reactor. (Credit: IPP).



Notes On Mobile-Platform-Cities


Defining MPCs

Such a structure [an Arcology1] would take the place of the natural landscape inasmuch as it would constitute the new topography to be dealt with. This man-made topography would differ from the natural topography in the following ways: It would not be a one-surface configuration but a multilevel one. It would be conceived in such a way as to be the carrier of all the elements that make the physical life of the city possible—places and inlets for people, freight, water, power, climate, telephone; places and outlets for people, freight, waste, mail, products, and so forth. It would be a large-dimensioned sheltering device, fractioning three-dimensional space in large and small subspaces, making its own weather and its own cityscape. It would be the major vessel for massive flow of people and things within and toward the outside of the city. It would be the organizing pattern and anchorage for private and public institutions of the city. It would be the focal structure for the complex and ever-changing life of the city. It would be the unmistakable expression of man the maker and the creator. It would be diverse and singular in all of its realizations. Arcology would be surrounded by an uncluttered, open landscape.” — Paolo Soleri, 1969; Arcology: The City In The Image of Man, p. 13.

The need for a new definition of human settlement is apparent now more than ever before in human history. — Logan Bier, 2014; Post-Arcological Human Scale Emergence, p.1.

What do cruise-liners, space-stations and aircraft-carriers have in common?

They are all moving cities.

In contradistinction to the traditional view of a city as a static settlement, we posit the city of the future – whether oriented towards land, air, sea or space – should be designed for maximal mobility to the extent the aforementioned capabilities do not sufficiently impede central functions of the total system (food production and distribution, water collection, filtration, distribution, storage, power generation and dissemination, general comfort of the denizens, etc). To this end we posit the mobile-platform-city. Briefly, a mobile-platform-city will be a city built into a moving apparatus that will be self-contained and self-sustaining. We take as our starting point, the modular structure of the human brain and the crew capacity of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. The brain, not just the human brain, but all brains, are remarkable due the amount of information that is contained within such small, sometimes tiny, folds of flesh. Just as the neuron is the building block of the brain, personal container units, each individuals “house” within the total structure, should be the building blocks of the mobile-platform-city. Given the space needed for just one comfortable human habitat, the size of the total structure will need to be fairly expansive, around the size (or slightly smaller than) a US super carrier, the two largest of which are the Nimitz-class (second largest) and the Gerald Ford-class (largest). Though Nimitz-class aircraft carrier are slightly smaller than Gerald R. Ford-class ships in terms of total size, the crew-carrying capacity of the Nimitz-class (5000+) is presently unmatched by any vessel. Thus, it is easy to image a construct of like size which could be designed for civilian contentment rather than military engagement. However, unlike a aircraft carrier, a mobile-platform-city need not be constrained to only open waters and could instead be fashioned for air, sea or land or some combination thereof. The massive amount of energy which would be required for perpetual flight render any sky-base of aircraft carrier size implausible (at present), however a rolling land-to-sea mobile base of aircraft carrier size is highly practicable.

Benefits of mobile-platform-cities (MPCs) over static settlements (S-Ss) are manifold; chief benefits include terrain adaptability (instead of piecemeal evacuation in the event of a natural disaster, one may simply move the whole MPC), task-bundling (resource shipment lines can be significantly reduced via utilization of the MPC as part of a previously external2 supply chain). Offensive and defensive capabilities of MPCs would also offer several marked benefits over traditional settlements, given that a MPC could operate as a offensive unit itself and offer tactical flexibility in deployment of on-board defensive units (such as air-crafts, tanks, submersibles, troops, etc.). Given the immense spatial demands of even a relatively small MPCs3, evasion of military assault, however, is the principal benefit over S-Ss, as MPC mobility will likely be relatively slow in comparison to state-of-the-art land, sea and air transport, simply due to size. Another significant benefit is the obviation of crippling sanctions by fording international waters, thus circumnavigating territorial sovereignty and the need for overflight authorizations from third party countries. America’s rise to power, much like the British Empire before them, was due in large part to mastery of the seas, thus, it is pertinent to muse upon the tactical advantages of a free-roaming civilization which could potentially establish itself as the world’s premier overseas trade-arbiter.

Remarks on likely lines of opposition

A likely line of opposition towards the very idea of MPCs is that they sound fantastical. The whole history of technological innovation, however, is filled with precisely this kind of uncreative, grim impossibilism. it is important to remember that cities already are mobile, simply not in spatial terms. Rather, modern cities are digitally mobile, with every human being therein incessantly “teleporting” all over the world through the web which itself is fostered by the infrastructure of the city itself. Thus, though the physical infrastructure of the modern city is (generally) static4, the information infrastructure is in ever increasing flux. All major urban areas in the world today (2018) are interconnected through wireless networks, and various other lines of near-instant communication. The total mobilization of the city itself is thus a reasonable continuation of the data revolution wherein the physical components catch-up to the ever-growing digital domain of which they are a indispensable part.

Potential feasibility, types, designs and functions

Jeff Stein, in a 2012 TEDxMission talk entitled The City, 2.0 noted, “No Eco-thinking can ignore density. Crowding, the maker of life.” Stein was invoking the concept of CDM (Complexity, Miniaturization, Duration), remarking upon its often overlooked importance in architectural, specifically urban, design.

Utilization of CDM will be indispensable to the construction of any feasible MPC. As previously mentioned, MPCs already exist (simply not in name) thus, there should be no argument as to the feasibility of MPCs themselves, but rather, the feasibility of certain types of MPCs.

Sources and reference materials for further reading

  1. Arcology: Comments Corpus, Logan Ray Bier (2009-2017).

  2. Nanoarchitecture: A New Species of Architecture, John Johansen, Princeton Architectural Press (2002).

  3. P. Soleri, 1969, Arcology: The City In The Image of Man

  4. Indian Navy seeks EMALS system for second Vikrant-class aircraft carrier, Naval Technology, (May 29, 2013).

  5. On The Prospects Of Inverse Arcology, K. E., Logos (May 5, 2018).

  6. Ready For The 21st Century, All Hands (Magazine of the US Navy).

  7. Time For Mapping, Cartographic Temporalities, Alex Gekker et al. Manchester University Press (2018).

  8. Tekever AR5 Life Ray Evolution Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), Naval Technology.

  9. Vikrant Class, Naval Technology.

1Arcology is a portmanteau of architecture and ecology. See, Soleri, Paolo (1973), The Bridge Between Matter & Spirit is Matter Becoming Spirit.

2Meaning, external to a static settlement, ie. Foreign factory (1) > Cargo ships (2) > Sss (3), whereas with a MPC, steps 2 and 3 can be bundled together, saving a tremendous amount of time and resources and generally reducing population stress through labor reduction.

3Akron, Ohio, in 2017 had a population of 703,505. USS Gerald R. Ford, the largest aircraft carrier in the world – as of 2018 – can harbor 4,550 crew members (ship, air-wing and staff).

4There are some exceptions to stasis in modern cities, such as moving bridges, etc.

Writing Prompts 9/10/18 – Neurolink

Theme chosen by user recommendation.


The whirring noise, the deluge of memories; she gasped and inhaled like a swimmer caught beneath the undercurrent, not of waves, but of minds.


There was no longer any separation between “self” and “other.” In the Mod everything was connected.


“Put the gun down, Barlow, we both know it won’t avail you. You forget, we are of the same mind, only I’m faster. I know what you’re going to do before even you. You haven’t got the stomach for it.”

We hope these helped spark some creativity; if they helped you start a story, tag us on twitter at @KaiterEnless so that we can read it and share your work.

Thanks for reading.

American Deathscape: The Drug Scourge; Sources & Solutions

There is seldom anything more tragic than a 20 year old with a family, a lover and a bright and promising future being discovered face down in some filthy alley, spittle on the lips, needle in the arm. Yet this is precisely the way that a ever-growing share of America’s youth, the lifeblood of our great nation, are ending up. According to the CDCP (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) in the past 16 years over 183,000 Americans have died from overdoses related to proscription opioids – and that is only those that are tied to legally traded drugs obtained from pharmacies and doctors; it does not account from those deaths related to illegally traded drugs on the blackmarket or those that are stolen. The opioid crisis is now being called the worst drug epidemic in US history. This is not hyperbole, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death in the US and are responsible for the majority of all deaths for Americans under the age of 50. More people have now died from opioids than died during the AIDs crisis of the 1990s. The scourge is so monumental that is has now been estimated that more have died from opioid overdoses in the last 10 years than died during 20 years of of military engagement in Vietnam.

There are a great deal of opioids on the market, both the legal market and the underground bazaars, and even more names from them, including: Captain Cody, Cody, Schoolboy, Doors & Fours, Pancakes & Syrup, Loads, M, Miss Emma, Monkey, White Stuff, Demmies, Pain killer, Apache, China girl, Dance fever, Goodfella, Murder 8, Tango and Cash, China-white, Friend, Jackpot, TNT, Oxy 80, Oxycat, Hillbilly heroin, Percs, Perks, Juice as well as Dillies. However, a couple names stand out from the rest. The proscription pain-killers Vicodin, Oxycotin and Percocet as well as the drug, diamorphine (Heroin) all have had majors roles to play in the drug epidemic but they are not currently the leading cause of death from opioids. That “honor” goes to the high-potency pain-reliever Fetanyl.

Fetanyl is a opiate that is far, far more potent than Heroin – it is 50 times more potent than Heroin and 100 times more toxic than morphine – which is generally used during medical operations that would cause intense pain as a numbing agent as it binds to receptors in the brain and nullifies unpleasant sensation. However, just like with the aforementioned trio of Vicodin, Oxycotin and Percocet, it is also highly addictive. The prevalence of proscription drugs like Oxycotin has led to a vicious cycle of dependency and primal-brain reward-seeking whereby a individual will utilize a drug like Oxycotin or Vicodin, become addicted, find that they cannot afford to fuel their habit legally and then turn to Heroin or black market Fetanyl cut with other substances (often nearly, or just as dangerous substances), because it is much, much cheaper.

Some of the states most hard-hit by the drug-plague include Appalachia, pro-drug Vermont and Washington D.C.

In tandem with the $ 800 billion cut-back to Medicaid proposed by the Trump Administration, the increasing death-toll from the drug crisis has re-ignited a nationwide debate about how often doctor erronously write subscriptions, how often normal people are using and abusing and the extent of various blackmarket and cartel influences as well as what should be done about it all. There has not been much in the way of a coherent answer but several things are imminently clear; firstly, this is a tremendous problem and it certainly is not garnering the attention it so rightly deserves. Additionally, any and all talk of regulations or laws should only ever be a secondary consideration for the core issue here is, initially, personal responsibility. Whilst many conservatives do not do the subject just when they say things like, “Its just a question of willpower,” there is much to this, especially if this is applied to situations where a individual is yet to become an addict. This is axiomatic: if you have not taken or are not yet “hook” on hard-drugs then it is, in no uncertain wise, incumbent, primarily, upon the individual to extricate themselves from the situation and not bow out to hedonism, thrill-seeking or peer pressure. After a given individual has become addicted the equation changes markedly, especially when one is discussion opioids which attach themselves to the pleasure-reward centers of the brain (opioid centers, hence the name) associated with sex, water and food and magnify the pleasure as well as the pleasure-seeking incentive. Physical dependence can theoretically become with sheer willpower but it is so rare that it is irrational for most common people to be expected to accomplish this titian task for it is like asking them to completely cease drinking water or eating food or having a compulsion to copulate only magnified several fold. Therefore, as they say, the best strategy or solution to the problem is prevention but that leaves out all of the individuals scattered across these many United States who are currently addicted to opioids; who are suffering and dejected and hopeless. So what of them? My answer would be either take the government out of it entirely and let the individual communities handle it or have the government take complete control over the situation via a country-wide task-force and a rehabilitation and reintegration program. No half-measures.

Whilst we have here covered the internal national problem of over-subscription of pain-killers there is another worm in the apple which must be discussed; the Cartels. The Mexican Drug Cartels are a huge source of numerous illegal narcotics that are killing our citizenry in record number at record rates. The cartels have a very diverse ranger of goods and services but, to the U.S., they primarily supply: heroin, cocaine and Fentanyl. According to former FBI Director, James Comey, the cartels have increased their production of heroin in Mexico which greatly decreases their reliance on their previous source for the deadly opiate, South America. This greatly reduces the cost incurred to the cartels from shipping which means they can now sell heroin at a much, much cheaper price and devote a greater deal of manpower and resources to primary market distribution. Good news for them, bad news for us. Politicians such as William Brownfield, the current U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the International Narcotics & Law Enforcement Affairs, has stated that a solution to the cartel problem will be complex and require extensive cooperation with Mexico. Whilst I would heartily agree that it would be immensely preferable to acquire extensive aid from Mexico to help stop the cartel’s drugs from flowing into our borders they are basically a failed state that is run by the very people we should be seeking out and destroying. Regardless of whether or not the U.S. can bring on-board whatever fragment of law and order that remains in Mexico, the Cartels must be destroyed, all of them, and the border secured.

If you think such a declaration to be a touch too melodramatic for your liking consider the fact that the Mexican drug cartels kill over 20,000 per year – and that is only through direct violence, it says nothing of the droves of people who have been killed because of the filth which they peddle. Rates of violence in Mexico are currently so high that they well surpass many conflict zones in which the United States is or has been embroiled, such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

The phrase, “War on drugs,” has always irked me. It is like declaring a, “War on food,” drugs will always be around and in some cases (such as the use of opioids and opiates in the treatment of chronic pain), they should be. But a war must be waged, not on “drugs” but on those who do willfully and maliciously propagate them, on those who push them and those who encourage their use and thereby pollute and corrode the very fabric of our esteemed Republic. It is a war which must be total and absolute.

Kaiter Enless is a novelist, artist and contributing writer for New Media Central and Thermidor Magazine. He is also the founder & chief-editor of The Logos Club. Follow him online here.

Dionysus or Aphrodite? The Porn/Erotica Distinction, Prt. 2

In part 1 of this series we firmly established a useful linguistic categorization which well encapsulates and differentiates porn from erotica. Thus, it is now crucial to examine the ways which both forms of sexual expression are treated in contemporary America. Such a investigation cannot be conducted without first mentioning the landmark court case, Jacobellis v. Ohio. The case arose when Nico Jacobellis, a manager at the Cleveland Heights Art Theatre in Ohio, was convicted under state law of possessing and exhibiting a “obscene film.” The film in question was Louis Malle’s Les Amants (The Lovers, 1958), a fairly risque flick for the time which told the story of a young woman in a passionless marriage who seeks affection outside the sacral bonds of matrimony. The two most questionable scenes from the film are, respectively: a scene where the protagonist, whilst coupling with her secret lover gasps with increasing intensity as she climaxes (the camera shows us only her face) and (what was most shocking to 50s Americans) a half-second long female nipple shot. Gasp!

Poster of the erotic melodrama, Les Amants

Whilst that might sound incredibly tame by today’s standards it was quite the big deal, as was evidenced by the conviction of Mr. Jacobellis. One should recall that the Motion Picture Production Code of 1930 (Hays Code), The Catholic Church and their motion-picture monitoring group, The Legion of Decency, all held considerable social capital at the time (certainly far more than they do today). The Hays Code is far too lengthy to be here included in its entirety, however a sampling of sections relevant to our inquiry will help grant a modern viewer better insight into the social mores of The Fifties.

The Hayes Code as Regards Sexuality in Film:

  • Impure love must not be presented as attractive and beautiful.
  • It must not be the subject of comedy or farce, or treated as material for laughter.
  • It must not be presented in such a way to arouse passion or morbid curiosity on the part of the audience.
  • It must not be made to seem right and permissible.
  • In general, it must not be detailed in method and manner.
  • Dances suggesting or representing sexual actions or indecent passions are forbidden.
  • Sex perversion or any inference to it is forbidden.
  • [Rape and seduction] are never the proper subject for comedy.
  • Complete nudity is never permitted. This includes nudity in fact or in silhouette, or any lecherous or licentious notice thereof by other characters in the picture.
  • Miscegenation (sex relationships between the white and black races) is forbidden
  • The sanctity of the institution of marriage and the home shall be upheld. Pictures shall not infer that low forms of sex relationship are the accepted or common thing.

As one can not fail to observe, religious stricture and racial/tribal in-group loyalty are strongly at work within The Code. Curiously, these strictures failed against Jacobellis and his defender, Justice Potter Stewart who, upon finding the court opposed to censorship but failing to describe precisely why, declared,

“I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”

The case was subsequently overturned, the film (and Jacobellis) unscathed by proscription and all that follows with it. It was truly a landmark case, one which put the First Amendment front and center of all such related cases proceeding above any and all other prevailing social mores. These trends would only intensify post-Sexual Revolution; that is, both extreme deference to the First Amendment in place of a broader social contextualization and the continued inability to properly define Justice Stewart’s that.

It is precisely the that which Mr. Stewart was referring to that we are here attempting to get to the bottom of. It is, broadly speaking, the point at which a ostensibly public (generally artistic) depiction of sex “goes too far” and transgresses the collective’s moral orthodoxy. The fact that, not just moral orthodoxy, but social standards generally, have fractalized markedly since the sexual revolution (though there are some rollbacks – on that another time) only intensify the confusion surrounding discussions of the subject. However, one thing is quite clear, most American do not consider pornography to be a moral good which numerous studies have shown, such as the 2016 Statistica Poll, Americans’ moral stance towards pornography in 2016. The poll (see graph below) is fascinating; only 34% of Americans find porn morally acceptable, whereas 61 % find it morally wrong with a meager 4 % making up the remaining apathetic or undecided total.

Survey from Statistica, 2016

Now there are a plethora of such opinion polls, studies and surveys investigating America’s relationship to pornography but very little committed to erotica. This is primarily because there is very little effort made by most academics to powerfully differentiate the terms. This is a shame because it is absolutely essential to have a embedded descriptor for upward moving sexual art. If the same question would have been asked but in place of “pornography” the words “contemporary romance novels” was inserted (which can be, by and large classed as erotica) instead, I guarantee the results would be far more favorable towards the medium. For one might put a adult romance novel out of sight of ones children but in familiar company one is unlikely to blush (especially woman who make up the vast market share of the romance fiction industry) given the mediums fundamentally Aphroditic qualities. Yet these very same individuals would be aghast to have a friend walk in on them watching the Dionysian displays of “hard-core” pornography; there is a very potent distinction here which bares further elaboration, a inherent impulse, instinctual and deeply rooted understanding of what constitutes a healthy and socially conducive sexual-artistic fabric, even if it is masked by hypocrisy.

What hypocrisy? You might rightly ask. We’ll tackle that in part 3.

Jacobellis v. Ohio

The Hayes Code of 1930

Reviews of Les Amants: [1][2]

America’s Moral Stance Toward’s Pornography (Statistica, 2016)