What if there was some type of technology that would allow you to undress any person you desired? Snap a picture, and then see them naked. For four days in June, there was an app for that. DeepNude, created by a developer from Estonia, sought to digitally “undress” images of women using a form of artificial intelligence (AI) to recreate the body without clothes, similar to the concept used to create deepfake videos. While the app did not show the actual nude body of the victim, it created a fake image—compiled from a data set of pornographic images culled from the internet—that gave the allure of an actual naked body.
Thankfully, DeepNude was taken down by its developer soon after its release amidst uproar over this controversial use of AI. While this particular developer’s conscience was pricked by the evil that could be done with his app, deepnudes are another insidious form of the pornification of technology that we be prepared to deal with in our families and churches.
Fading are the days of Playboy magazine on the aisles of gas stations, centerfolds hidden in home closets, and even the videos in the private browser tab on your phone. We live in a world where the scandulous often fails to scandalize, and there is a pursuit of richer and more interactive pornography. The images and videos of men and women are leaving magazine pages and moving into our headsets, screens, and homes.
With the rise of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), we will soon see our fantasies enter our bedrooms in hyper-realistic fantasies that use holograms and 360-degree videos. But just as magazine pages have mostly lost their appeal over time, these newer technological innovations will be replaced with something even more realistic in the future. The age-old desires for sin will remain as we seek new ways to indulge our flesh outside of God’s design.
From the beginning, humanity has sought to twist the good gifts of God in order to satisfy our fleshly desires. We use tools like technology in ways that deviate from loving God and our neighbor (Matt. 22:37-39). For example, Cain took the strength and tools God blessed him with to kill his brother (Gen. 4:8). David took the power God granted him and the weapons of justice to cover his secret sin (2 Sam. 11). The Romans took the authority God gave them and the wood of the cross to crucify the Savior (John 19:17-18).
In more modern times, we have used the printing press, for example, to produce pornography, hate speech, and misinformation. Furthermore, the internet has grown on the back of the muiltibillion dollar pornography industry and VR is gaining prominence through VR porn, which is a first-person pornography experience. Even today, we use AI and robotics to create sex robots with programmed personalities and interchangeable body parts so that we can live out any fantasy we dream up.
Indulging our desires
These sinful and prideful uses of technology are not because technology is evil in itself. We, as sinners, are the problem. Technology is amoral in the sense that it is not morally responsible like we are. It does, however, open the door for us, as humans, to expand the impact of our rebellion.
You might be reading this as one that is repulsed at the idea that someone would enjoy “undressing” women with an app or dumbfounded that someone would choose to have sex with a sex robot. You might even laugh at the idea of holographic porn videos or VR porn that transports you to your neighbor's bedroom. Yet, just as pastor Ray Ortlund recently tweeted, we are each guilty of sexual sin, regardess of if we indulge in pornography or not. Every one of us is broken sexually and needs the good news of the gospel to overcome our misguided sexual desires (Rom. 3:23). Each of us find different ways to fulfill our longings outside of God’s boundaries.
While you may not deal with these specific issues, it’s evident all around us that the pornification of technology is perverting sexuality and leaving many in the depths of despair. Pornography has a deep-seated power over many that we interact with each day, and they are hurt and broken by the failed promises of the sexual revolution.
The future of porn
With the advent of VR, AR, and now deepnudes, the church must be ready to engage and love those that will inevitably be burned by the failed promises of pornography. Porn promises security, fulfillment, companionship, and most importantly that our identity as a human being is reduced to our sexual urges rather than an image-bearer of God. This is one of the biggest lies of the sexual revolution in general. Pornography reinforces the societal lie that our sexual desires are who we really are.
But the church must teach that our sexual identity and desires are not the core of our identity. We must be ready to share the hope of repentance and new life found in Jesus. We are each created in God’s image with our own sinful and broken desires that do not align with God’s design for humanity. But as a people washed by the blood of Christ, we have a new identity that is not found on the pages of magazines, the fake nude images on our cell phones, or even the realistic holograms of naked bodies in our mind’s eye. Our identity is found solely in a man who hung naked on a tree, not to indulge the flesh but to crucify it.