metaidea, somedaymaybe

Why pornography and terrorism lead innovation at all times

Most managers would not talk of pornography / terrorism in the workplace that too in the context of innovation. But my take is they lead innovation on multiple fronts and they are driven by certain perennial trends. Both have ancient origins and have usually led in development of new ideas within constraints (regulatory for example), in adoption of new technologies or ideas, and bringing other uses to technologies that are not meant to be used for the purpose. In this post I give examples of innovation from porn industry (adult video industry rather as a very organized industry with amazing vertical integration) and possibly pick your interest on what can push the needle on innovation in the other service industries.

Enter porn innovation

Most Useful function: Content delivery to a customer

Printing press: Clay Shirky in his famous TED Talk How the Internet will (one day) transform government, makes an important point of how the porn industry was in the forefront not just today, but when printing press  invented some 500 years back,

It did not take long after the rise of the commercial printing press before someone figured out that erotic novels were a good idea. (Laughter) You don’t have to have an economic incentive to sell books very long before someone says, “Hey, you know what I bet people would pay for?” (Laughter) It took people another 150 years to even think of the scientific journal” 

Torrent: History repeats, guess who was one of the earliest adopters of the torrent peer-to-peer protocols, years ahead of the corporate IT function in the knowledge economy sharing large files. PublicBT which reports use of Bit Torrent usage across internet plugs 35.8% use was for pornography, as the largest single category. All this in less than 10 years of the distributed downloading protocol being invented. This sort of rapid innovation diffusion is actually very common to the adult video industry.

On standardizing imaging technologies for content distribution, for most imaging formats/standards be it the erstwhile generations on photography, video cassettes, or the latest Hi Def DVD formats, porn industry has always played a key decision maker role on adoption/setting of new standards.

Other Most Useful function: Getting paid.

Again porn industry is in the forefront with the adoption of payment technologies be it electronic credit cards  from the Richard Gordon creditcards.com era which pioneered non-face to face merchant banking services. I am sure there are porn sites with bit coin support now, or other unusual payment formats that keep coming.

Same is true for terrorism innovation only the most useful function changes to something like

  1. Bypass security / regulation
  2. Improvise arms for greatest damage

The fundamental tenets of leading innovation be it incremental and contextual in this case, is very evident, not just from the improvisations of the attacker but the response by governments and authority to curb terror as well. Only the speed of response from the systems are so slow that there are always ways to operate. This again is a very common trend called “Law of uneven development of system parts”.

PS: Marking this a somedaymaybe project to come back and list further technologies that were born out of porn…it will be fun to do I am sure. I have not even touched on SPAM, network speeds, live tech, cross website feed, scripting, ad technologies, pay per views, …

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2 thoughts on “Why pornography and terrorism lead innovation at all times

  1. anil kumar says:

    Dear Murali. My kudos to you on broaching some taboo topics. However i must say that the main motivation for porn and terrorism has always been ” to beat the system”. I am sure that you accord more meaning to innovation than this need. It is known fact that crime leads in technology adoption thereby continuously chsllenging the ‘legals” to catch up.
    Hope to see more innovation that solves problems than those that compound..,-)

    • I agree with you on the terrorism category, but porn is still legal, and the main driver is not just ‘beat the system’ (which is good as well). My main point is out of many different service industries how can just porn be in the forefront in both creation and adoption of new tech and that too at such a fast pace.
      Definitely purpose of innovation is business, and not problem creation.

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