Crowdthink Consensus Thresholds: A Study

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Experiment Log #1

 

Private subvocal record:

Okay, here goes nothing. She’s in position, the tech checks are all greenlit, and I’m ready to jump in if necessary. Participating in the experiment: Anna Yuen Martinez, whose thesis this is all for, and myself, Jamile Johnson, and, well, possibly half the male population of the planet. Okay, wait, of course it won’t only be men who are interested in her, but since I am one, yeah. If you could see what she’s wearing maybe you’d forgive me for the assumption. She has tweaked her avatar to make herself into one of the most typical “Asian sex doll” images I can imagine—right down to the Japanese schoolgirl skirt two sizes too small and chest two sizes too large—except that it’s also Anna, who is fucking hot to begin with, and holy mother of light I don’t know how I’m going to get through seven nights of this. If I weren’t afraid she’d see the notes I’d label this the Blue Balls Log.

 

IM transcript:

JJ: Everything good?

AYM: Everything looks good so far. You did a really awesome job with this virtual environment, Jamile!

JJ: Well, you said you wanted it to be realistic.

AYM: You even reproduced the pattern on my bedspread. Amazing.

JJ: I’m more worried about the other sensory inputs.

AYM: Everything feels fine. Tactile and auditory seem fine.

JJ: Let me get my own trodes on so we can test auditory with dialogue.

AYM: OK

 

Action log:

Avatar-Jamile enters the Virtual Room through the door, closes door, speaks. “Hello, everything okay?”

Avatar-Anna claps, speaks. “You even made the sound of the door closing realistic!”

Avatar-Jamile speaks. “Tell me again how picking a, um, stereotypical porno image for yourself is appropriate to a Feminist Sociology thesis?”

Anna-Avatar laughs, speaks. “You’re so funny. Hey, you’ve been working on your avatar, too, haven’t you? It’ll be neat when your braids get this long in real life.”

Avatar-Jamile opens the door. “Okay, everything’s working. I’ll get out now.”

Avatar-Jamile exits.

 

Private subvocal record:

In the real world she’s lying on her actual bed with the trodes on, just upstairs from me. Technically we should be doing this in the lab, and not in the rental house we share with three other grad students. But technically I shouldn’t be helping her, and technically the whole thing is questionable anyway if you ask me. But I’m just a programmer. What do I know about Feminist Sociology?

 

From my desk on the second floor, I can see the virtual room on my monitor. I can see the image of her looking quite realistic—that is if you consider wearing a schoolgirl outfit with high heels to be “realistic”—and yet I can see she’s enlarged her boobs and mucked with the hair settings so that when she tosses her hair, it bounces. Enticingly, I guess. I want to call her on the boob thing because she’s the one who insisted on a hyper-realistic avatar in the first place, supposedly for the purpose of the experiment. But if I start talking about her boobs, I’m doomed, so I just keep my mouth shut. The last thing I want to let slip is that I know the outline of her chest well enough that I could tell the difference. Let’s see, what else should I record in the starting state? It’s 11:45pm Pacific time. We’re late getting started, so we’ll miss most of the East Coast traffic tonight, but maybe that’s okay for a first run.

 

AYM: Jam, you OK?

JJ: Fine. Should we go live?

AYM: Time’s wasting.

 

Private subvocal record:

Virtual room is live. She’s still just lying there. We’ve been putting feeders out for a few days, porno ads mostly, and so we’ve seen how many clicks a minute we get. I’m expecting we should have 12-20 participants within the first five minutes. Visitors to the site have been getting a “check back later” error message, until now.

 

On my other monitor I can see the logins. Looks like about one in five sees the massive terms of service and bounces away. Most of them are clicking through. This is good. Once we reach twenty, the avatar will be created. Can’t wait to see what he—

 

Oh check it out. He’s white. Stats scrolling in my back-end feed… he’s six feet tall, with a huge dick. Not that this is a surprise in any way. I wonder how many users were truthful on the demographic questionnaire. Do any of our participants match the profile they just created, or do they all just think it’s what a game avatar should be like? I guess that’s part of what she’s researching.

 

He’s live, he’s live, he’s live. Door opening. Clicking over to record.

  

Anna-Avatar speaks. “Well, hello there.”

Groupnet-Avatar enters room, closes door, speaks. “Well, hello there yourself.”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “Why don’t you come sit next to me?” Pats bed.

Groupnet-Avatar moves to sit on bed. Raises hand. Touches cheek of Anna-Avatar.

Anna-Avatar speaks. “Tactile transmission is working perfectly!”

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. Sarcasm. “You say the sexiest things.”

Anna-Avatar blushes. “Sorry! It’s my first time.”

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “Oh, really? I wouldn’t have guessed. Can I see the rest of you? You’re very well programmed.”

 

Private subvocal record:

Oh for the love of… of course it must be a lot of geeks logged in right now. Early adopters. I’m stifling laughter.

 

The lag before dialogue responses is really low. I am pretty impressed with myself, I must say. Over fifty users logged in now. It’s pretty amazing that they can each be making their responses with their microphones and an aggregate answer comes out of the mouth of the avatar. Yeah, I did that. Yeah, those undergraduate courses in linguistics came in handy after all. Anna was lucky to have a roommate with pretty much exactly the background she needed for this project.

 

Anna-Avatar stands, undoes large buttons on schoolgirl blouse, turns to face door, bends over.

Groupnet-Avatar moans.

Anna-Avatar slides short skirt down to ankles, looks over shoulder at Groupnet-Avatar. Licks lips.

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “Turn around.”

Anna-Avatar turns around, sheds blouse, steps closer to Groupnet-Avatar.

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “Lie down and spread your legs.”

Anna-Avatar: “Are you sure that’s what you want me to do?”

Groupnet Avatar: “Yes.”

 

JJ: Holy crap, that’s interesting. It’s like the crowdmind is not only issuing orders to the avatar they control, it’s like they’re trying to control yours, too.

AYM: Yeah, hm. I wonder if the game interface encourages that?

JJ: Is it that people are used to trying to “win” somehow or is it just that they think the male character in the heterosexual paradigm is supposd to be in charge?

AYM: Now you’re starting to understand Feminist Sociology. I’m going to try to elicit a response.

 

Anna-Avatar lies back on the bed, spreads legs, fingers crotch.

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “That’s it, play with yourself.”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “Do you want me to experience pleasure?”

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “Yes.”

Anna-Avatar touches self, speaks. “Do you like what you see?”

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “Yes!”

 

JJ: Hah, the consensus engine almost doesn’t know what to do when the responses are nearly unanimous. And that’s with over 250 logins right now.

AYM: That was kind of an obvious one, wasn’t it.

JJ: I want to know what the hell the three guys who said “no” were thinking.

AYM: Maybe they’re blind and only using the tactile and auditory settings? Or I remind them of an ex?

JJ: Or just contrarians.

 

Anna-Avatar speaks. “Why do you want me to touch myself?”

Groupnet-Avatar hesitates, speaks. “Because it excites me when you do it.”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “What’s more exciting to you, ordering me to do something and I do it, or finding out what I would do under my own initiative?”

 

JJ: Wow, long hesitation. No consensus.

AYM: Perfect. This is awesome data. What a great direction for the experiment to go in.

JJ: Try clarifying the question to shorter answers. It might just be linguistic confusion mucking things up. Over 500 logins now.

 

Anna-Avatar speaks. “Well? Which will it be? Order me or see what I do next?”

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “What will you do next?”

Anna-Avatar smiles, licks finger, circles nipples with it.

 

Private subvocal record:

 In high definition, the saliva on the tips of her fingers glistens, and her nipples darken a little as she wets them. I might have made the wetness look a little too glossy, but I doubt anyone’s going to complain.

Oh fuck I have the worst boner right now. Seven nights. Seven nights of this. And then I can go back to pretending we’re just friends and I haven’t wanted to fuck her brains out since we were freshmen. Oh fuck she’s putting on a show.

 

Anna, I didn’t know you had it in you.

 

Anna-Avatar spreads labia, inserts finger, removes it, sucks it.

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “So far, so good.”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “I want to see yours now. I showed you mine, show me yours.”

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “OK.”

Groupnet-Avatar tears off clothes.

 

JJ: Okay, that was hilarious. I’ve never seen an avatar move so fast.

AYM: Because high consensus was so quickly reached?

JJ: It’s not only that the reaction time was fast—it was—it was that the avatar itself moved faster than is realistic just because of all the same input. Like too many feet on the gas pedal. I didn’t realize it would clock up that fast. It was kind of comical, though, like a Keystone Kops moment.

 

Groupnet-Avatar strokes penis.

Anna-Avatar speaks. “That looks nice.”

 

AYM: Holy crap it’s HUGE.

JJ: You expected the Internet to give itself a small one?

AYM: Well, no.

 

Anna-Avatar speaks. “Why don’t you come over here and put that to some good use.” Moves back on bed and props head up with pillow.

Groupnet-Avatar climbs onto bed, strokes penis, speaks. “Is it really your first time?”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “It really is.”

Groupnet-Avatar lies between the legs of Anna-Avatar. Groupnet-Avatar penetrates the vagina of Anna-Avatar.

 

JJ: Holy shit, Anna, I thought you weren’t taking it all the way?

JJ: Anna?

JJ: Anna?

 

Groupnet-Avatar pumps hips.

Groupnet-Avatar pumps hips.

Groupnet-Avatar pumps hips.

 

Private subvocal record:

Oh shit. I need to put that limiter in place!

 

Anna-Avatar screams.

 

JJ: Anna! fuck, I’m aborting you right now

AYM: Stop! No! Don’t!

JJ: Me?

AYN: Yes you! Jamile stay right there don’t change anything don’t change anything

 

Private subvocal record:

Holy fucking shit, the guy-avatar is banging the hell out of her with supernatural speed. She’s screaming and I mean here in the house she’s actually screaming but she said don’t do anything, don’t interfere, but oh my god it’s hard not to just run upstairs and tear the trodes off her. Oh fuck oh fuck and what the hell kind of friend am I, I just don’t even…

  

I came in my shorts. And I only touched myself a little. Just a little. Holy… and six more nights of this? Fuck fuck fuck.

 

* * *

Experiment Log 2

 

Private subvocal record:

Okay so I had misgivings about this from the beginning, and they’re only worse after last night, but Anna says she’s okay, that she actually really liked it. I suppose I overreacted. It wasn’t like 2212 guys were actually gang-banging her, and it’s not like any kind of actual physical damage can occur through the neural net. She got a really gigantic jolt of pleasure when all 2212 guys were sending the “fuck” command at once, and I really shouldn’t have any objection to that. I just wish she had warned me she was going to take it there right away. Not that Anna has ever really given me any warning about anything before. She’s a force of nature.

 

I think she knows to dial it back a bit tonight, though, because instead of the schoolgirl outfit, tonight she seems to have gone for a girl next door sort of look. More like she actually looks, I guess, in a soft pair of jeans and a cardigan.

 

Maybe it’s that I’ve been thinking about what happened last night, but as she sits on the bed and crosses her legs in a totally normal way, I’m getting hard already.

 

AYM: I’m ready. Going to go for more dialogue tonight.

JJ: OK. The system handled a few thousand without any trouble last night.

AYM: What do you think the limit will be?

JJ: We’ll probably start to see lag around ten thousand logins. If we start getting that many we might need to put a cap on numbers.

 

Groupnet-Avatar enters the room, closes door.

Anna-Avatar speaks. “Hi, what’s your name?”

 

JJ: Ooh, throwing a curve ball right off the bat!

AYM: Look at him thinking!

 

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “Brian. What’s yours?”

Anna-Avatar uncrosses legs. “Anna. I’m a little lonely tonight. I’m guessing you are, too, or you wouldn’t be here.”

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “Yeah.”

 

AYM: I wonder how he came up with Brian?

JJ: I’ll have to analyze the data later. Maybe a lot of them are actually named Brian.

AYM: You’re limiting logins to US and Canada, right?

JJ: Yeah, like you asked.

AYM: Although it would be totally fascinating to do this experiment again with group avatars from different countries…

 

Private subvocal record:

Holy cats, woman, when you want to have a one-night stand with all of Turkey or Japan please don’t make me be the one watching over you.

 

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “I really like you. You’re pretty.”

Anna-Avatar speaks. ” I’m glad you think so. Will you sit by me?”

Groupnet-Avatar sits, speaks. “Why are you so lonely?”

Anna-Avatar folds hands, speaks. “I, um, I just work so hard all the time I don’t have time to meet anyone.”

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “Oh really? What do you do for work?”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “I’m… in science. Research.”

 

JJ: Don’t tell them that! You’ll skew the data.

AYM: Hush, they don’t know it’s an experiment.

 

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “You look really smart.”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “I do?”

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “Yeah. I like that. It’s hard to meet a girl who’s smart and pretty.”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “You’d think a girl who is both smart and pretty wouldn’t have to meet people on the Internet.”

 

JJ: Don’t tell them that, either! Don’t introduce doubt!

AYM: Jam, hush up. It’s my data. I know what I’m trying to do.

JJ: You’re right. Sorry.

 

Anna-Avatar speaks. “Will you kiss me?”

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “Do you want me to?”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “Yes. It’s hard to find a man who really expresses his desire clearly.”

 

Private subvocal record:

Jeez that’s a really long kiss. I suppose she must be enjoying it, or she’d break it off, and the whole Internet—well, 5,813 logins—must be enjoying it or they’d have moved on, too. The guy-avatar tonight is a little less hunky than yesterday, dark hair, needs a haircut, not as tall but a little lanky, in a T-shirt and jeans again, but there’s kind of a hipster look to him, I guess. Starting the session sooner brought more East Coasters online this time but I’m not sure that accounts for the change.

 

Oh, now they’re lying back, and kind of fumbling at each other’s clothes. I don’t need a degree in Feminist Sociology to tell you where this is going. He’s going to go from “first base” to “second base,” touching her breasts, and so on. Yep, here he goes, unbuttoning her sweater. He’s lying beside her and has one hand inside her sweater and now inside her blouse, teasing her nipples. The nipple-teasing also seems to be going on for a really long time. I wonder if I set the limiter too high? Or maybe it just seems slow to me. It’s not like I know what the norm is, like most guys spend an average of 4.25 minutes fondling their partners’ breasts or something.

 

Someone should study that.

 

He’s sucking her nipples now. I wonder how many guys are whacking off at their desks this very minute. Or women, for that matter. I should look at the data breakdown from last night. Huh, 15% of last night’s logins reported themselves as women.

 

He’s getting her jeans off now. She’s making these incredible little whimpering sounds and I wonder if they’re real or if she programmed them from somewhere. I mean, obviously she programmed them, but are they based on real noises she’d make?

 

So far it really looks to me like everyone’s sticking to a kind of script. Consensus meters are really high, so the action is seamless, no pauses, apparently everyone out there wants to stick their tongue up her vagina. I mean, not that I can blame them, when she makes noises like that. But come on, don’t any of you guys want your dick sucked, too? Oh wait, I’m just ahead of them again. Here comes a sixty-nine. It’s really a good thing I put the limiter in because I don’t think she’d enjoy getting her face fucked as hard as she was last night.

 

Oh shit. She just flipped him over like something out of a kung fu movie and planted herself on him. Matrix bullet time meets porno. So much for girl next door. She’s riding him like she can’t get enough of that oversized virtual meat.

 

Holy cats holy cats holy cats, Anna forgive me if I can’t take it anymore, I’m whacking off into a washcloth here at my desk so I don’t leave you unsupervised.

 

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “That was great. Do you want to cuddle?”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “Um, sure, cuddling would be great.” Lies down.

Groupnet Avatar hugs Anna-Avatar. “Seriously, that was great. I’m so glad you were here tonight.”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “Me, too.”

 

JJ: Think the pillow talk will go on long? That seems atypical.

AYM: Nothing’s typical about this scenario. I mean, no one’s ever had groupthink avatar control like this before.

JJ: True.

AYM: Speaking of which, did you get those patent applications in?

JJ: Yeah, I did.

AYM: How many logins did we have?

JJ: Peaked at just under six thousand tonight.

AYM: How many are still logged in now, pillow talking?

JJ: Just under five thousand, but dropping steadily.

 

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “Will you be here tomorrow night? I’d like to see you again.”

 

* * *

 Experiment Log #3

 

Private subvocal record:

So she’s throwing a new twist in tonight. It’s the girl next door outfit, but she’s wearing red lace lingerie under it. She spent all day coding the lingerie so it would look right and also not be as itchy as real lace, or so she says. I’ll take her word for it: my avatar did not try it on. The only testing I did was making sure the safety locks still work after the mods I made to the limiter. The disconnect subroutines are all triggered by the door itself: pretty damn elegant if I do say so myself. All systems go: damn, I’m good.

 

JJ: Wow, we’re hitting our ten thousand login cap already, and you’ve only been live forty seconds.

AYM: Huh, word of mouth?

JJ: I wonder if we went viral. Searching for references now.

 

Groupnet-Avatar opens door, enters, closes door, speaks. “Hi, remember me? Brian?”

Anna-Avatar clasps her hands, speaks. “Brian! So great to see you again!”

Groupnet-Avatar sits, takes her hand, kisses it.

Anna-Avatar speaks. “Charmer.”

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “Are you really happy to see me again?”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “Definitely. And I have a surprise for you.”

Groupnet-Avatar sits back, speaks. “A surprise.”

Anna-Avatar takes Groupnet-Avatar by the hands, places them on her own breasts, speaks. “You’ll see.”

 

AYM: The repeat of the name is interesting. Clearly a lot of repeat users and/or the new ones heard about it so had the expectation.

JJ: Holy cats, found it. Someone on GripeNet went off on what went on last night. The post has hundreds of comments and almost 500,000 views.

AYM: Really?

JJ: Really. Some of the comments are, jeez. You don’t want to read this.

AYM: I know there are trolls on the Internet. It’s okay.

JJ: They’re calling you a slut and a whore.

AYM: If I was a whore, then we’d be charging for people to log in.

JJ: Don’t joke about that!

AYM: Jam, remember. It’s for SCIENCE.

 

Groupnet-Avatar removes blouse from Anna-Avatar, kisses and fondles breasts. “The bra looks good on you. And the panties.”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “I programmed them myself, specially for you. I thought you’d like them ”

Groupnet-Avatar caresses edge of lingerie bra. “They’re very nice. Will you keep them on while we fuck?”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “Unless you change your mind and tear them off me.”

Groupnet-Avatar tears bra away and sucks nipples of Anna-Avatar.

 

JJ: You instigator. Won’t that ruin your data?

AYM: No. We can correct for that. And maybe I’ll get a subchapter out of it about female empowerment. Did you know that women are still 70% less likely to be the instigator of sexual relations or activities than men with equivalent desires and opportunities? And that some women still never feel empowered to initiate sex?

JJ: Really?

AYM: Really. Although interestingly the numbers improve when it comes to cybersex. It’s unknown how much of that is false gender self-reporting and how much is situation bias.

JJ: I can’t believe you’re lecturing me while you’re getting your nipples sucked.

AYM: *wink* Theory gets me hot, LOL. tl;dr: Feminist Sociology in a nutshell.

 

Private subvocal record:

They’re progressing quickly to fucking now. Penis is even bigger tonight. I mean, scary big if it were real. But it isn’t and everyone knows it. The panties stayed on and he just pulled them aside and stuck it in. She seems to like it. This group, for whatever reason, is fucking her slowly, though. I mean, they didn’t waste a lot of time getting it in, but they’re actually really putting it in slow and pulling it out slow. That’s not my limiter. I guess it just goes to show there’s a difference between everyone just going “fuck fuck fuck” at the same time and giving more nuanced commands. I wonder how sample size affects that.

 

Anna-Avatar speaks. “Oh my God, oh yes, like that, fuck me slow, fuck me slow, that’s amazing. That’s so so amazing.”

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “Thank you.”

 

AYM: Jam, isn’t it amazing? How many people are cooperating on this?

JJ: Over 60% of ten thousand. The group is curious about the system, I think, and trying to make different things happen. Maybe there’s a GN thread about it? I’ll look.

AYM: I probably shouldn’t have said anything, but I want them to keep going like that.

JJ: Well, they started it first, so it’s not like you gave them the idea.

AYM: Yeah. I should make a measure of how responsive the groupmind is to direct and clear expressions from the object of erotic interest. I didn’t expect it to be so positive.

 

* * *

 Experiment Log #4

 

Private subvocal record:

Well, we’ll see what happens tonight. I missed a meeting with my advisor today because after her comment about users self-reporting the “wrong” gender I was working on recoding the login to try to reduce noise in Anna’s data, but really, as the old saying goes, on the Internet no one knows if you’re a dog. Or a god. My idea was if we let people log in with their social media profiles they’re less likely to check the wrong demographics boxes just to mess with us, but I haven’t gotten it working yet.

 

Maybe it’s just as well since some people might not want any possible trace between what’s basically turned into an interactive porno site and their real profiles. Have to talk it over with Anna. On the one hand she told me it’s valuable for people to be accountable to their real selves, but on the other hand she said part of the point of her research is to analyze, calibrate, and codify the sexual behaviors of individuals as revealed through the interaction with the fantasy scenario. I think. At this point I’ll have to read the finished thesis to really know what the hell is actually going on here, though. I feel like the goal posts keep moving and that can’t be good science but maybe I just don’t understand. Well I mean I know I don’t understand her so this is really no different from any other interaction we’ve had.

 

She’s taking a long time to get ready. I better go up and see if there’s a hardware problem.

 

Audio Log:

Anna: Jam, help me with these?

Jam: How’d you get them tangled like that? Too bad we can’t afford the wireless ones.

Anna: There’s still too much cross signal with those even if we could. Sorry, my hair’s still damp.

Jam: That’s okay, it makes it easier to handle. Here, let me put a couple of braids in it to keep it together. Okay, there. Now let me unbraid these damn wires.

Anna: I shoved them into my bag when my sister came over to visit and didn’t realize they’d be ten times worse than earbuds.

Jam: Your sister was here today?

Anna: Yeah. She’s getting married next month and was here to harangue me about buying a dress. As if I’m going to be what ruins her wedding by not wearing the right color dress.

Jam: Um…

Anna: What’s going to ruin her wedding is that she’s marrying a total asshole. But I shouldn’t say anything because her getting married is keeping my parents from nagging me to do it. Oooh, that feels good.

Jam: Um, yeah, just making sure the trodes stick well. All done now.

Anna: Twenty minutes til login time. Tell me a story?

Jam: What?

Anna: Tell me a story. I dunno. Tell me about growing up on Saint Gerard after the tech revolution.

Jam: We actually moved to North Carolina when I was five because the island got too expensive.

Anna: But you must’ve had the early tech education? You’re such a good coder. You’re a natural. I guess that’s why Saint Gerard went tech.

Jam: Um, I gotta still check some stuff downstairs, Anna.

 

Private subvocal record:

Okay I’m back and that was hard. What am I supposed to think when I go up there and she’s like Jam, help me with these, and she wants me to touch her to get the electrodes in place. And I know they’re all on her head and not actually on the parts of her body I want to touch most but… god damn those cogsci classes that gave me a map of her body on the side of her head. I may have massaged her scalp a little. I may have bullshitted something about improving the contact of the trodes. I am shit.

 

She doesn’t deserve me copping a feel even if it’s just of the homunculus in her brain.

 

On the other hand what the fuck Anna with the stereotyping, like the only reason I am such a good coder is because I come from one of the Caribbean tech islands? Yeah, Lisp and Javascript are the ancient tongues of my people. Not. If I didn’t know better I’d think she was trying to butter me up and is just utterly inept at giving compliments.

 

Forget all that and concentrate on the project. Four nights to go. Group dynamics and sexual norms and expectations. Here we go. Visuals coming up. Her bedroom. Herself. She’s taken an opening pose today by the window, leaning back against the sill. She’s in the cardigan sweater outfit again but I don’t know if she’s got the red lace underwear on or what. She didn’t tell me anything about what her objective is for tonight, only that we should keep the limit around 5,000 instead of pushing it all the way to 10K. Now that all the bugs are out of the system she can go to town.

 

Groupnet-Avatar enters the room.

Avatar-Anna speaks. “Why hello there. I’ve been waiting for you.”

Groupnet-Avatar approaches her, takes her hand, speaks. “I’ve been waiting for you all my life.”

 

JJ: Whoa, that’s new. Expressing sentiment like that?

AYM: And check out the avatar.

JJ: Long hair, unbuttoned shirt showing his chest. Like a…pirate castaway?

AYM: He looks a lot better than a pirate castaway. A lot cleaner.

 

Avatar-Anna speaks. “Have you?”

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “Yes.”

 

JJ: I thought you weren’t supposed to ask such open ended questions?

AYM: I’m not. But I was surprised and wanted to see what would happen.

 

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “I’ve never met a woman like you before and I can’t hold back.”

Avatar-Anna speaks. “But should we? Can we?”

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “My love for you will not be denied.”

Groupnet-Avatar grips Avatar-Anna by the hips and pulls her close. Speaks. “Can you feel the flames of my lust burning?”

 

JJ: I can hear you laughing all the way down here.

AYM: This is hilarious! But it’s kind of hot, in a way? It’s always hot when they want you this bad.

JJ: Are you playing along?

AYM: I’m going to play along by playing hard-to-get.

 

Avatar-Anna pushes at Groupnet-Avatar’s chest. Speaks. “But now is not the time.”

Groupnet-Avatar maintains grip. “Love knows no bounds such as time.”

Groupnet-Avatar attempts to kiss Avatar-Anna.

Avatar-Anna resists.

Groupnet-Avatar pushes Avatar-Anna back onto the bed and kisses her forcefully.

Avatar-Anna speaks. “We can’t! We mustn’t!”

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “I will have you at any cost. My love will not be denied.”

Avatar-Anna speaks. “You never told me you loved me before.”

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. ” I’m telling you now. With your love I fear nothing and you have nothing to fear except my passion itself.”

 

AYM: Omigod this is hilarious. “Except my passion itself!” This is so different from the other nights. Has there been some kind of offline coordination?

JJ: I’m searching now. The GripeNet thread doesn’t say anything about this. Looking at the raw login data, we’ve got far more women tonight. Over half. Almost sixty percent. Where can they be coming from?

AYM: I don’t know but

JJ: I think I found it.

 

Groupnet-Avatar strips out of clothes.

 

AYM: LOL. That’s why I’m supposed to fear his passion. Another huge cock.

JJ: I notice this one’s hairless. Chest, too. White guys are never that hairless.

AYM: Like you would know?

JJ: I’ve dated my share of white guys!

AYM: You did? When? I don’t remember you dating anybody, ever.

JJ: Well none of them were memorable so it’s no wonder.

 

Private subvocal record:

For fucks sake Anna did you really never notice that the guys I brought back to the apartment weren’t “study dates”? No of course you didn’t. If they weren’t attracted to you or you to them you probably didn’t notice them at all. Just like you don’t notice me… Oh hey what’s this?

 

JJ: Found it. Thread on a bulletin board for romance writers. They’re onto us. They’ve figured out if they coordinate their requests they can get the system to

 

Private subvocal record:

I’ll tell her later. She’s getting fucked against every surface in the virtual room by the virtual romance hero right now. I can’t claim to understand this at all. The whole resist-so-it’ll-be-hotter thing. I mean, I guess I understand it within the context of a game situation like this, but in real life? No one really wants that, do they?

 

* * *

Experiment Log #5

 

Private subvocal record:

We’re all over the Internet today. No one’s figured out who we are or where we are and the speculation is kind of hilarious. The usual conspiracy theories. It’s a government mind-control experiment. It’s the latest data-mining tool from ApplGooFace. Not one place wrote they thought it could be a grad student doing research. My favorite ultra-wrong theory is that the Anna-Avatar is being controlled by a second group whose login hasn’t been found yet, though.

 

AYM: Jam?

AYM: Earth to Jam. You there?

JJ: Sorry. Got sucked into reading another blogger concern-trolling about the future of humanity because of your experiment.

AYM: They’re so funny. Anything about women and sex and people freak the fuck out. So sad because that’s 90 percent of what limits women’s erotic freedom right there.

JJ: Sounds like you ought to blog about it yourself.

AYM: After I’m done with my thesis maybe! Find anything about coordinated logins today?

JJ: Not yet, but there’s so much news I haven’t even read it all. Time check: four minutes to login.

AYM: I’m ready.

 

Groupnet-Avatar enters the room, speaks. “Strip. Who told you you could wear clothes? Not me.”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “I… oh. I didn’t realize you’d be home so soon.”

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “Well? I’m waiting. The longer I wait the worse your punishment will be.”

Anna-Avatar removes clothing.

Groupnet-Avatar. “Kneel.”

 

JJ: WTF WTF WTF

AYM: I know!

JJ: This has to be another organized takeover but WTFFFF

AYM: But it’s interesting, isn’t it? This is way more interesting than I expected. Do you think the black shirt and black jeans signify something?

JJ: We didn’t really provide many wardrobe options.

AYM: That reminds me to tell you my idea for commercialization. Um, later.

 

Anna-Avatar kneels.

Groupnet-Avatar sits on the bed, speaks. “You’ve been a naughty girl.”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “Yes, I have.”

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “You deserve a spanking.”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “Oh no, not a spanking. Isn’t there anything else I can do to make it up to you?”

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “Master. Address me as Master or Sir.”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “Yes, Master. Isn’t there anything I can do to make it up to you?”

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “Are you trying to talk your way out of punishment?”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “Um, maybe? Sir?”

 

JJ: The hesitation is definitely a lack of consensus about what they should do. You really threw them a curve.

AYM: Did I really? I guess I don’t understand this dynamic.

JJ: I think maybe they’re not expecting you to be as, don’t take this word the wrong way, slutty? And I think you’re supposed to want to be spanked?

AYM: This is going to have to be a separate dataset calibrated on BDSM community dynamics. Someone else is probably going to get a whole thesis out of this.

 

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “Fine. Please us and perhaps your punishment will be lessened, but fail to please us and it will be increased.”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “Thank you, Master. How may I pleasure you?”

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “A blowjob is never a bad idea.”

 

AYM: Ha! See, they’re just like every other guy in the end.

JJ: Who are?

AYM: Have you looked at where the logins are coming from yet?

JJ: I got the social media API interface working today. They’re from all over. Not finding a coordinated mob. Oh wait. There were some discussion threads going around on BondageMe.

 

Private subvocal record:

She’s busy now getting her throat stuffed. Man this is hard to watch. At first the group let her take the lead and like lick gently and whatever but now it’s a full on face-fucking. Thank goodness Anna can’t actually choke although I wonder if I should tone down the sensory inputs or at least filter them or something. I wonder if she actually likes being choked on a cock the size of a baguette.

 

I’ll note here that while that was going on I ran a correlation of the social media logins with the interest meta tags in the profiles and sure enough a whole lot of kinksters logged in tonight. It apparently only takes about a 37% participation in a decision to sway the majority but I don’t know if that’s a function of human nature or the settings in the consensus engine itself. That’s for Anna to figure out in her analysis, I guess.

 

Two more nights of this. I’m hard as a rock but no way am I getting off to this. Holy cats and now he’s spanking her and frigging her at the same time. I’m just going to wait until later. Mob mentality may bring out the most animalistic urges but I am a single human intelligence and I control my urges, my urges do not control me. Repeat. I control my urges, my urges do not control me.

 

* * *

Experiment Log #6

 

Private subvocal record:

I tried to get her to take the night off. I really really did. Last night after I went upstairs to help her get the trodes off she was literally limp, like her muscles didn’t want to contract. She was that overloaded. I wanted to send her to medical but she insisted no, and then she made me help her into the shower. She was super-sweaty, like she’d really been through all the spanking and reverse cowgirl and whatever else the dom groupnet had put her through.

 

I could understand her wanting to wash off. If I’d just sucked the dick of the entire Internet I’d probably want at least the illusion of getting clean.

 

Should’ve seen me trying to hide my boner while helping her into the shower and then towel off afterward. This is about the worst torture I could’ve invented for myself of course but we’re back to the whole thing of when Anna asks me for something I can’t say no. I won’t say no. I’m fucked and I know it but we’ve only got two more nights to go and then I’ll tell her I’m taking a vacation and go away for a couple of weeks and by the time I get back maybe she’ll have a boyfriend again and will stop torturing me.

 

AYM: Did you see the news? The Philippines is going to make some tech islands.

JJ: No, I missed that.

AYM: My whole family is talking about it. I still have relatives there. They’re going to immigrate here instead.

JJ: I thought you liked the early tech education.

AYM: And free pre-adolescent implants, yeah, but.

JJ: But?

AYM: But my uncle says it’s just a new way to create a servile underclass.

 

Private subvocal record:

Took you that long to figure it out? Seriously Anna… what are they teaching in Sociology these days?

 

JJ: Two minutes to login. I’m already seeing an extremely high load on the server.

AYM: My fans, hahaha.

JJ: Or a denial of service attack? But more likely just demand.

AYM: I’m popular.

JJ: One minute.

JJ: WTF this is nuts. Good thing we capped at 5K or the whole thing might’ve crashed trying to handle 10K requests in such a short

AYM: Jam. Look.

 

Private subvocal record:

This can’t be happening. This isn’t one of the options. What are the chances my video feed is hacked but not the actual virtual action? Nil.

 

He’s in a clown suit. He’s in a clown suit and clown makeup and he’s already masturbating through a slit in the suit.

 

JJ: Obviously we’ve been hacked. Abort?

AYM: Well, he’s probably not dangerous. It’s not like they can actually do anything. The response data will still be valid, I think?

JJ: The failsafe routines are ready.

AYM: Okay but a sudden disconnect gives me a terrible hangover. And don’t you dare yank me out if I’m in the middle of something hot.

JJ: A masturbating clown is hot?

AYM: Well no but I’m curious

 

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “You can call me Al.”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “Al?”

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “It’s a joke. Never mind. Take off your clothes before this gets boring.”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “What if I don’t want to take off my clothes?”

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “Then you’re guilty of false advertising. Are you just one chick or are there a team of you?”

Anna-Avatar sits on the bed, speaks. “Why do you want to know?”

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “No reason.” Spits into hand. Resumes masturbating.

Anna-Avatar speaks. “Why do you always make your penis so large?”

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “Why do you think?”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “Cultural norms, delusions of grandeur, and it shows up better on mobile devices are my three main guesses.”

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “It looks better when you’re choking on it. How come you haven’t taken it up the ass?”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “No one’s asked for that yet.”

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “Bend over.”

 

JJ: Shit. They’re from 69chan. They’ve injected their code but I don’t think they’ve been able to pull any of ours.

AYM: This is really weird.

JJ: I’m yanking you.

AYM: No, don’t. I’ll have such a headache

JJ: Then get up and walk out the door, and the software will transition you out without the effects of cutoff.

 

Private subvocal record:

Mother of light. I’m getting my trodes on in case I need to enter the room myself and so I can’t tell if it’s psychosomatic or if I’m actually picking up the scent of her shampoo. Is she sweating nervously? Or am I just having flashbacks to helping her into the shower last night?

 

Anna-Avatar stands up.

Groupnet-Avatar steps forward, reaches out.

Anna-Avatar dodges, runs for the door.

Groupnet-Avatar blocks door.

 

JJ: Dammit. Even with the limiter it still clocks up faster than you.

AYM: I’ll just go through with it. Give them a show and chalk up tonight as a loss.

JJ: Don’t

 

Anna-Avatar unbuttons sweater.

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “That’s what I’m talking about.”

Anna-Avatar removes shirt.

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “Are those your real tits or did you enhance them?”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “These are the real thing.”

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “I like them bigger.”

 

AYM: What just happened

JJ: Your breasts appear larger. Are you feeling it or is it purely visual?

AYM: It’s just visual but how did they do that?

 

Groupnet-Avatar pulls item from pocket of clown suit. Speaks. “You may think this is only a visual effect, but it’s not.”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “What is that?”

Groupnet-Avatar tosses the object to Anna-Avatar.

 

AYM: WTF

JJ: What’s happening? Is that what I think it is?

AYM: It’s a vibrating dildo.

JJ: Don’t use it. Don’t trust these hackers. If you can feel it

AYM: Too late

 

Groupnet-Avatar gestures at Anna-Avatar, speaks. “As you may have noticed, you don’t have to put the dildo into your twat for the stimulation software to affect you.”

Anna-Avatar crosses legs, speaks. “Stop that! Here!” Anna-Avatar throws object at Groupnet-Avatar.

Groupnet-Avatar laughs. “We figured you were using a basic teledildonics setup. We hacked the manufacturer’s backdoor long ago.”

Anna-Avatar throws head back. “Oh fuck.”

 

AYM: It’s like the world’s strongest vibrator is not just on my clit but all over me.

JJ: I’ve had enough. I’m getting rid of these creeps.

 

Jamile-Avatar enters Virtual Room.

Groupnet-Avatar turns around.

Jamile-Avatar rushes Groupnet-Avatar, dodges, turns.

Groupnet-Avatar speaks. “What the fuck?”

Jamile-Avatar opens door. Anna-Avatar tackles Groupnet-Avatar at thigh level.

Groupnet-Avatar is ejected from Virtual Room.

Jamile-Avatar closes door, speaks. “Yes! Great job, Anna!”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “My hero!” Anna-Avatar embraces Jamile-Avatar.

 

Private subvocal record:

Holy cats what the fuck is this algorithm. Actually it’s probably not even algorithmic, probably just a hammer on the neural net, all ones into the arousal stream, something like that. Now that I touched her we’re both infected with it.

 

Anna-Avatar speaks. “What do we do now?”

Jamile-Avatar speaks. “Assuming they’re triggering the manufacturer’s arousal scripts in the rig, if we come virtually, it stops.”

Anna-Avatar claps, speaks. “Perfect! I mean, Jam, are you okay with that?”

Jamile-Avatar speaks. “You don’t have to watch me jerk off if you don’t want to.”

Anna-Avatar sits on bed, speaks. “Oh. Oh, damn.” Begins crying.

 

Private subvocal record:

What the fucking hell is happening with her now? Oh no, don’t cry don’t cry don’t cry!

 

Jamile-Avatar hugs Anna-Avatar, speaks. “Anna! I knew I should have yanked you at the first sign of trouble. Now you’re traumatized.”

Anna-Avatar slaps Jamile-Avatar, speaks. “Traumatized! You’re an idiot! You’re a total idiot!”

Jamile-Avatar speaks. “Yeah, that’s what I’m saying.”

Anna-Avatar cries, speaks. “I can’t believe after all this you still don’t want me.”

Jamile-Avatar speaks. “What? Want you! Anna, I’ve wanted you for years! But I’m not what you…I mean, I’m not your—”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “I’ve been trying to seduce you forever. But you won’t take the hint! After all this you still don’t get it? Jamile, come work on my super-secret sex project. Jamile, do you like my avatar? No, she’s too porny for you? Okay, how about the girl-next-door look? I laid it all out for you! About the women who can’t initiate sex except maybe sometimes through cybersex…”

 

Private subvocal record:

Oh shit oh shit when she puts it like that I really look like an idiot but I’m too aroused and hammered on by the vibrator code to be able to completely think straight and mother of light I have had it up to here

 

Jamile-Avatar speaks. “This is not my fault! Me not understanding you is not my fault! You’re the one who just proved that direct and clear communication about desire works better than trying to predict societal norms about sexual needs!”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “Is that your observation from the experiment?”

Jamile-Avatar speaks. “Yes.”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “Then I’ll be as direct and clear as I can. Jam, I’ve been waiting for you to jump my bones ever since we moved in together.”

Jamile-Avatars speaks. “Why didn’t you just say so?”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “Because that doesn’t work for me! What works for me is a lot of guessing and hoping for a big payoff.”

Jamile-Avatar speaks. “Like in this experiment, you mean.”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “Exactly. Now please please please, Jam, make me come before I get a migraine from this!”

 

Private subvocal record:

Thank goodness I programmed my own avatar to full specs. Letting go of her to get my clothes off is hard, but she scoots back on the bed like a sensible girl, like a smart girl, so smart and yet so frustratingly noncommunicative but now’s not the time to be thinking about that. Now’s also not the time to be thinking about how she’s been waiting for me to make a move for so long that she’s essentially dragged me into this research specifically… the mind boggles. Well, before this I didn’t know she had such an exhibitionist streak. Or that she would like it when a lover takes charge.

 

Jamile-Avatar speaks. “Come use your mouth on me.”

Anna-Avatar crawls across bed. “Ooh, is this enhanced? Or are you really this large?”

Jamile-Avatar speaks. “If you really want to find out, you’ll have to promise to suck me off in real life.”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “Promise.”

 

Private subvocal record:

Holy cats her mouth

 

Anna-Avatar speaks. “I really want that in a different orifice though. And I don’t mean my right nostril.”

Jamile-Avatar speaks. “Lie back.”

 

Private subvocal record:

Oral for oral seems only fair but wow I had not realized that the taste and flavor algorithms needed so much work. Everything tastes basically like water—and like the inside of my own mouth—but that’s all right I guess, given how loud she’s getting. I can hear it in the real world, my ears are hearing the sounds at the same time in the virtual world the generated input is similar.

 

I’m going to fuck her now oh yes I am. Tease her first, though, tease her with the head, with my thumb slipping past her clit and then the head of my cock up and down in her wet folds.

 

Anna-Avatar speaks. “Oh please Jamile, please, please?”

Jamile-Avatar speaks. “I don’t know, Anna. This is pretty serious. I take sex pretty seriously, you know?”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “I take you pretty seriously! Jam, please! Please please!”

Jamile-Avatar speaks. “You promise this isn’t just something you’re saying? Are we lovers now?”

Anna-Avatar speaks. “We’re about to be!”

 

Private subvocal record:

Can’t hold back any longer, not for my own sake or hers. Every nerve ending in my entire body feels like it’s being squeezed, as if all the way from my head down to my knees is being squeezed inside her body. As I start to thrust the feeling intensifies, like a cat being petted, every inch of skin like a giant cock, vibrating and on the verge of explosion.

 

She starts screaming when she comes and in the Virtual Room I’ve got my mouth clamped over hers but in the real world I can hear the actual moans and cries of delight as each thrust pushes her higher and higher.

 

I want to make it last but I also want to get us out of there, so I push hard to my own climax, marveling at the way the software ultimately doesn’t feel like sex at all, the pleasure is too pure, too generalized, nowhere near as good as the throbbing flesh in my actual hand feels when I realize I haven’t actually come yet. But my eyes are open and I’m staring at the high def monitor, at the empty Virtual Room. Which means Anna’s out, too.

 

JJ: I’m coming up there to take your trodes off.

AYM: You better be taking everything else off, too.

 

End Log

About the Author

Cecilia Tan

Cecilia Tan is “our genre’s premier pornographer” (says Walter Jon Williams)—the founder of Circlet Press and winner of the RT Pioneer Award and Career Achievement Award in Erotic Fiction. Her stories have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Strange Horizons, Best American Erotica, Best Women’s Erotica, and many many other places. Her 15th novel, The Initiates of the Blood, is forthcoming from Tor Books in 2017.

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