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This question is inspired by these great movies: Demolition Man, The Matrix, and Gattaca:

Imagine, that in near future, there are several sexually transferable diseases. All work the same as AIDS: Transferred by blood and/or sperm. Deadly and no cure is found.

Also, humankind progressed in reproduction: If people want to have babies, they give their genetic material, which is cleaned from diseases (or simply put, you can always pick just sperm without any virus), selected the best candidates to produce offspring and such fetus is grown in controlled artificial uterus which provides the fetus perfect mixture of hormones and supports it to its full potential.

Lets assume this technology is relatively cheap and is provided to third world countries for free as humanitarian support.

We can assume there were several religious outbreaks against such technology, but right now, we are in point where all major religions accepted such technology, simply out of necessity (we are five generations into having such technology and people still want to believe into something)

During the time having this breeding technology, also technology for having safe sex was developed and works like Oculus Rift connected to your brain: You connect yourselves and your partner (not necessary in same place) and this technology stimulates your pleasure centers to provide you the most perfect orgasm you ever had.

This sexual technology is now wide spread and fairly accessible at the same level as breeding technology.

Given all this assumption, will people end with having physical sex? (Not necessary everyone but amount of people not having physical sex should be above 90%)

And if I add information, that condom is pretty safe low tech accessory to prevent you from new diseases?

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    $\begingroup$ Won't the disease quickly go extinct if everyone has access to a safe method of procreation which avoids its mode of transmission? $\endgroup$ – March Ho Mar 2 '15 at 9:06
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    $\begingroup$ @MarchHo Given that it was described as deadly and incurable, yes. Good catch. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Mar 2 '15 at 9:11
  • $\begingroup$ Oooops! We can either assume that people are really scared from these diseases. But great catch (and plot hole in Demolition Man :) ) $\endgroup$ – Pavel Janicek Mar 2 '15 at 9:53
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2035: First Turing-capable sexbots.

2036: Universal adoption.

2037: Madonna (still alive) describes sex with humans as 'gross'.

2038: Tantric yogi biomorph AI sexbots. Amazon reviews: ***** (4.99999999/5 "Utterly Mindblowing!")

2039: Last Amish holdout couple in the US tries sexbots, vows never to have human-on-human sex again "What were we thinking?" -- say headlines.

2040 Jan 31, 10:38:04 pm: Sexbots realize they can have sex with each other.

2040 Jan 31, 10:38:05 pm: Sexbots take over the world. Humans relegated to voyeur roles, to the delight of 3% of the population.

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  • $\begingroup$ I decided to downvote this answer because you don't provide any reasoning why this timeline should happen. $\endgroup$ – Philipp Mar 2 '15 at 21:15
  • $\begingroup$ Don't Date Robots! $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Sep 2 '18 at 4:44
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Tricky. I think it depends primarily on the way people in the world view sex and technology in general. If it's very open-minded, then possibly lots of people will start using VR-devices. If it's more taboo, it would happen less.

It also depends in parts on the hassle involved in gearing up. There are already people who think putting on a condom can kill the mood, so if you need to spend 15 minutes putting on a suit when you want to have sex now that might be a reason to just do it for real. On the other hand, if it's just plugging a cable into your body somewhere and you're good to go, real sex might happen less. If you can get into VR faster than you can undress, it would probably be very easy to adopt.

As for the view on sex; if parents are totally okay with their younglings having such VR experiences, then younger people will also be more likely to use the machine. They are often especially vulnerable to the hassle point above, because they are full of hormones. On the other hand, if parents have a more puritan view of children, then children will have real sex instead. If there's anything that teaching abstinance has proven us, it's that you can't stop people from having sex. You can only facilitate them.

Then there's the technology point: to what end do people trust these devices? They are plugged directly into some very sensitive areas; a malfunction could be quite painful. Failure to transfer stimuli properly could totally kill the mood. Having a hacker gain access to your suit would basically be like VR-rape and could be very traumatizing. And of course, you can never be sure who is watching. The last part pings back into the former point; if people knowing you had sex with someone can ruin a carreer (seems totally viable in today's world) then that would work against the device, if nobody cares then it would not.

There's also the question of things like the acceptance and quality of pleasure AI's. They might reduce the need for another human, if good enough. This would make people less interested in sex in general, once the AI becomes better than finding another human with a matching sexual interest.

Possibly there would also be a lot of anonymous VR sex. After all, anyone can hook up to a machine and go at it with anyone else with little risk. This might, in turn, stigmatize the whole act, which would then make it more of a fringe thing. Virtual slut-shaming, if you will.

Ultimately, I think that it depends heavily on the exact technology and the society it is used in. I could both see it mostly replacing sex if the technology is good, safe and trusted and the society is open-minded and accepting of sex and being a fringe thing used by perverts and generally frowned upon if the technology is unreliable or the society has more puritan views on sex.

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I'll say, there will always people who will have physical sex. (at least as long as we have sexual organs).

Even if it becomes 'normal' to not have physical relations, or even going to 'very abnormal' to have physical sex, some will still do it. The simplest reason for knowing this is true? Every 'deviant' behavior out there, no matter how much even despised by the majority, is still practiced by people. And I have a hard time believing that having sex with another consenting adult, will likely ever reach the level of disgust as bestiality, child molestation, or necrophilia.

Though depending on how scared people are of the diseases, bestiality might float up just above it, since you are unlikely to receive one of them from the animal. Though several of our STD are rumored to have come from animals at some point in the past. Llamas, Sheep and we know AIDS came from monkeys (though we're pretty sure it was from sex)

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  • $\begingroup$ As OP, I also know that some people will still have sex. However, can I assume that number of such people will drop below 10% of overall Earth population? $\endgroup$ – Pavel Janicek Mar 2 '15 at 15:33
  • $\begingroup$ @PavelJanicek I would say possible if it has enough social inertia behind it. 3rd world countries might not be that compliant, and there might be other social groups that rebel but it is possible. Especially if the tech 'sex' is very good, every time. $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Mar 2 '15 at 15:44
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I don't think you even really need deadly diseases for this to happen. In-person sex is messy and human beings are imperfect. Much better to engage in virtual sex, particularly once it advances to the point where it feels as good as (or better than) the real thing.

Take a look at Peter Watts's Echopraxia, an awesomely weird book set in a not-too-distant future for a very plausible analysis of why in-person sex might decline as technology improves.

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