Al Fin, You Sexy Thing!

28 April 2006

Aphrodisia: Goddess of Love

Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs are selling well, but they are not really what people want. People want potency, yes, but they particularly want desire and pleasure. Longer, more intense, more frequent orgasms.

The recent article here on apomorphine offered a window into a simple type of aphrodisiac, the dopamine agonist drug. But although dopamine boosts desire and pleasure, it is not keyed directly to sexual pleasure. Dopamine agonists would just as happily increase the pleasure of gambling, driving fast, or any other risky activity. People want to zero in on sexual pleasure.

Now science promises something that is closer to the ideal aphrodisiac than anything else up until now. It is called Bremelanotide, and it is a synthetic peptide analogue of alpha MSH. You may be thinking to yourself, "I thought MSH stimulated formation of pigment cells in the skin, melanocytes." And you would be correct. In fact that is what put researchers on the trail of Bremelanotide--research into ideal skin tanning agents. One thing led to another, and before you know it an aphrodisiac was born.

This abstract discusses PT-141, the original name for Bremelanotide. This piece offers a more sensationalized look at the drug. But this article provides the clearest look at PT-141 so far. Here are excerpts from the recent Observer reprinting of the article:

Let us spray

Billed as libido in an atomiser, PT-141 will finally offer women the chance to turn on their sexual desire as and when they need it. Or so the science says. But there are concerns. Will sex in a spray usher in an age of 'McNookie' - quick easy couplings low on emotional nutrition? Julian Dibbell reports

Sunday April 23, 2006
The Observer

Horn of rhinoceros. Penis of tiger. Root of sea holly. Husk of the emerald-green blister beetle known as the Spanish fly. So colourful and exotic is the list of substances that have been claimed to heighten sexual appetite that it is hard not to feel a twinge of disappointment on first beholding the latest entry - a small, white plastic nasal inhaler containing an odourless, colourless synthetic chemical called PT-141. Plain as it is, however, there is one thing that distinguishes PT-141 from the 4,000 years' worth of recorded medicinal aphrodisiacs that precede it: this one actually works.

And it could reach the market in as little as three years. The full range of possible risks and side effects has yet to be determined, but already this much is known: a dose of PT-141 results, in most cases, in a stirring in the loins in as little as 15 minutes. Women, according to one set of results, feel 'genital warmth, tingling and throbbing', not to mention 'a strong desire to have sex'.

Among men who have been tested with the drug more extensively, the data set is richer: 'With PT-141, you feel good,' reported anonymous patient 007: 'not only sexually aroused, you feel younger and more energetic.' According to another patient, 'It helped the libido. So you have the urge and the desire...' Tales of pharmaceutically induced sexual prowess among 58-year-olds are common enough in the age of the Little Blue Pill, but they don't typically involve quite so urgent a repertoire. Or, as patient 128 put it: 'My wife knows. She can tell the difference between Viagra and PT-141.'

The precise mechanisms by which PT-141 does its job remain unclear, but the rough idea is this: where Viagra acts on the circulatory system, helping blood flow into the penis, PT-141 goes to the brain itself. 'It's not merely allowing a sexual response to take place more easily,' explains Michael A Perelman, co-director of the Human Sexuality Program at New York Presbyterian Hospital and a sexual-medicine adviser on the PT-141 trials. 'It may be having an effect, literally, on how we think and feel.'

Palatin Technologies, the New Jersey-based maker of PT-141, has hopes of its own. Once the company gets Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for the drug, Palatin plans to market it to the same people targeted by Viagra: male erectile-dysfunction patients. Approval as a treatment for female sexual dysfunction may follow. In the wake of Pfizer's failed attempts to prove Viagra works for women and amid growing recognition that it also doesn't work for large numbers of men, these two markets alone could make PT-141 a pharmaceutical blockbuster.

But let's face facts: a drug that makes you not only able but eager and willing isn't going to remain the exclusive property of the severely impaired. As with Viagra, there will be extensive off-label use of PT-141. Fast-acting and long-lasting, packaged in an easily concealed, single-use nasal inhaler, unaffected by food or alcohol consumption, PT-141 seems bound to take its place alongside cocaine, poppers and alcohol in the pantheon of club drugs.

But the potential market for PT-141 is all of us. Consider the precedent: a little more than four decades ago, it was another drug's arrival in the marketplace that triggered the sexual revolution. Before the advent of the birth-control pill, sex and procreation had been eternally, inseparably linked. After it, the link was pretty much optional. Momentous things ensued: chiefly women's liberation and the abortion controversy, all of them arguably the pill's indirect consequences, all of them reverberating to this day. And if all that can follow from a drug which simply made pregnancy less a matter of fate than of choice, what then to expect from a drug that does the same thing to passion itself?
More, including skeptical voices, at the Source.

An aphrodisiac that works, and works for both women and men? Consider the market for such a drug. But would the regulatory agencies approve it? Try to consider yourself on the jury of a date rape case. Traces of PT-141 were found in the coed's urine, but did she know she was taking it?

Or imagine a society where there are not enough closed doors and private rooms to contain all the lustful copulating. No work is getting done. The economy is crashing. Hordes of sex-repressed barbarian invaders march over the writhing couples and groupings without having to fire a shot.

Government regulators can imagine those scenarios and more. If PT-141 is safe and effective as an aphrodisiac for men and women, would the governments allow citizens to have it?

27 April 2006

Apomorphine: Very Potent Sex Drug

Apomorphine is an old drug, dating at least back to the 1860s. It has found many uses, including as a treatment for Parkinson's Disease, and a treatment for Erectile Dysfunction. Apomorphine is also an efficient emetic at proper doses. In the context of life extension and longevity, apomorphine has proven to be a good trigger for HGH release. Apomorphine is not an opiate analgesic like morphine, and is not addictive.

I suspect that apomorphine will find many more uses, given its multiple potencies. A good sex life is important for a satisfying life, whatever its length, and apomorphine not only induces penile erection, it also is a dopamine agonist, which suggests that the sex drive itself would be stimulated by apomorphine, and the sex act made more pleasurable.

Given the emetic properties of higher doses of apomorphine, it is not likely to become a drug of abuse. And given the several decades since its initial use in humans, the more lethal and disabling side effects of a drug would have been found. In other words, we have a drug, apomorphine, that likely has a positive effect on longevity via HGH release, and a positive effect on sexual desire, performance, and pleasure. Yet very few people have heard of apomorphine.

One more thing: apomorphine has been found to be protective of mitochondria in the central nervous system. Consider the implications of that.

15 April 2006

Growing Babies Outside the Body--Keeping Your Figure

Birthrates in the western world are low and going lower. Some countries such as Russia and Italy are in danger of losing the critical mass of citizens necessary to keep a robust society and economy operating. Modern women are less likely to sacrifice their girlish figures for the sake of a child--at least not until they are in their forties when the biological clock becomes impossible to ignore. Then it is often too late. The obvious solution is to grow babies outside the woman's body. No loss of figure. No pain of childbirth. No potential health complications to the mother. Voila! Equality for men and women in childbirth risk, discomfort, and (lack of) disfigurement.

Scientists have been on the trail of the artificial uterus for decades. Since Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, science fiction writers have used the device (scroll) frequently. So, we have test-tube babies now, in vitro fertilisation, but no artificial wombs.

It is not for lack of trying. Hung Ching Liu, a fertilisation specialist, has been working on the problem for years, and making genuine progress.

In 2002, Liu stunned the world of reproductive medicine by claiming to have recreated a woman's womb, using uterine cells grown on a biodegradable scaffold bathed in a broth of hormones and nutrients.

When Liu placed fertilised human embryos created during IVF treatment inside, they nestled into the wall of the womb and began to attach themselves to the endometrial cells that make up the lining — just as in the early stages of pregnancy. Liu stopped the experiments after a week because regulations prevent human embryos being developed much further.

No such restrictions apply to animals and, in unpublished work, Liu says she has now grown mouse foetuses in her artificial womb for 17 of their 21—day terms. This is equivalent to about 31 weeks in humans, at which point babies have been viable for more than a month and can routinely be nurtured to normal development if born prematurely.

Just as with the human embryos, the tiny bundles of mouse cells nestled into the artificial womb lining and began to attach themselves. Liu watched as blood vessels formed, then miniature placentas and, eventually, the amniotic sac — an embryo's personal protective bubble.

A different approach has been taken by Yoshinori Kuwabara at Juntendo University in Tokyo. His team has removed foetuses from goats and placed them in clear plastic tanks filled with amniotic fluid stabilised at body temperature. In this way, Kuwabara has kept goat foetuses alive and growing for up to 10 days by connecting their umbilical cords to machines that pump in nutrients and dispose of waste.

While Liu's work is aimed at helping those having difficulty conceiving, Kuwabara's is designed to help women who suffer miscarriages or very premature births. In this way Liu is extending the time an embryo can exist in a laboratory before being placed in a woman's body; Kuwabara is trying to give a foetus a safe home if expelled too early from its natural womb.

Crucially, both believe artificial wombs capable of sustaining a child for nine months will become reality in a few years.

This Slate article looks at artificial wombs as a way of incubating embryonic tissue for use in regenerative medicine, not as a way to create a new person. There must be many uses for working artificial wombs, if you think about it.

Ethicists have lined up on every conceivable side of the issue. Some feminists see the development as an emancipation of women, and some see it as a threat to the existence of all women. Choose your sides. Some religious fundamentalists see artificial wombs as the end of abortion, and some see them as a threat to the idea of "human essence." Like a rorschach blot test, the artificial womb concept has a way of causing people to define themselves in unexpected ways.

Embryos have implanted inside the abdominal cavities of women, on the outer surface of viscera, and developed to a surprising degree. Here is a report of a successful abdominal pregnancy and delivery. This suggests that an artificial womb constructed of living tissue, well perfused with nutrient and oxygenating fluid, should do just as well as this woman's abdominal organs, and create much less risk for the mother. The problem of providing an in utero like environment should be solvable.

It will happen, sooner or later, ethics or no ethics, laws or no laws. What we choose to make of the possibilities created by the artificial womb is up to us.

14 April 2006

Sex Dolls and Robots: Tiger's Future

Lionel Tiger is an anthropologist who has written on the changes that would come in society when sex became divorced from procreation. His popular book, The Decline of Males, has proven to be prescient in that regard. The truth is, in modern developed societies, women are better suited for most types of available emplyment than men.

Back in the days when the man was the breadwinner, men would willingly "marry down"--marry a woman without a job, or with a lower paying job, in order to form a family. The reverse does not often happen. Highly paid women want to marry highly paid men, or go without marriage entirely. Unmarried women are more frequently opting for the "single motherhood" approach to beating the biological clock.

Now that 90% of men suddenly find themselves undesirable, what will they do for sex partners? Technology will generally find a way. If a man can beg, borrow, or steal a few thousand dollars, he can often find what he is looking for.

Here are links to a brief introduction to sex dolls from Salon, and a much longer and more detailed discussion of the topic from Meghan Laslocky. The market is much more developed than I had realised. Sex dolls are poised to grasp an ever larger share of the overall market.

Sex robots are even more advanced, if more expensive. Michael Harriman from Nuremberg has invented female robots who breathe harder during sex, and their hearts beat harder--though their feet are cold--"like a real woman." Harriman's robots go for 4,000 pounds, but would you not pay more for a sex doll that could "wiggle her hips and make other suggestive movements" any time you wanted?


13 April 2006

Virtual Humans--Virtual Sex--Robot Sex

Singularity News (multipolarity memes) reports on the use of virtual humans in movies, games, and now for testing of digital prototypes based on CAD models. From their source in Betterhumans:

The well known company Caterpillar, which manufactures heavy equipment, uses a digital human called Santos for testing:

"They (Caterpillar) have an interest in serviceability and mental ability," said Abdel-Malek. "We can ask Santos to change an oil filter on a dump truck or some similar task. As he goes about doing the job, we can query any part of his body functions, such as heart rate, temperature, muscle load and others. At the same time, we can watch him work onscreen and observe any problems he might encounter." (Wired, Feb. 22, 2006)

The U.S. Army also uses Santos for testing new designs for body armor and other protective gear. When Santos moves in response to commands, information is relayed regarding his heart rate, comfort level, restrictiveness of the outfit, and joint angles.

The rather fetching virtual image at the multipolarity memes site quite naturally got me thinking about the growing popularity of virtual sex. In Canada:

young Canadians are practicing a new style of safe sex and the only touching required involves a keyboard.

Of more than 2,500 university and college students polled across Canada, 87 percent of them are having sex over instant messenger, webcams or the telephone, according to results of a national survey released on Monday.

"We were very surprised," Noah Gurza, a founder of Toronto-based, an online dating community for students, which commissioned a Canadian CampusKiss & Tell Survey.

"We did realize that new technologies are always embraced by younger individuals, but we didn't think it would've reached such a high number."

Gurza said most post-secondary school students grew up using computer technology, and their lives currently revolve around technology, so it makes sense that it would extend to their sex lives.

"It's now extended within their sexual world, whether it be as a social lubricant as a means to then engage in something that's more real, in more real time, or if it's just a means in itself of pleasuring here and there," he said.

Some 2,684 students from more than 150 university and college campuses across Canada took part in the survey. Fifty-one percent of the participates were female and 49 percent were male.

Of those surveyed, 53 percent of students enjoyed sex over instant messenger, while 44 percent did the deed using a webcam and over the phone.

But why stop there? Certainly in this enlightened age we are now ready for sex with . . . . . . robots? For this, the Germans seem to have an advantage:

A German inventor claims to have created the world's most sophisticated robot sex doll.

The sex androids developed by aircraft mechanic Michael Harriman from Nuremberg have 'hearts' that beat harder during sex.

They also breathe harder and have internal heaters to raise the body temperature - but their feet stay cold "just like in real life", according to Harriman.

He said: "They are almost impossible to distinguish from the real thing, but I am still developing improvements and I will only be happy when what I have is better than the real thing."

The dolls sold under the Andy brand name are on offer for £4,000 each for the basic model, with extra charges for adaptations like extra large breasts.

Of course, if you spend that much for a robot doll, you should keep a close eye on him or her. It would not do for your doll to fall for another person--or even another robot. That is quite a lot of money to just walk out the door.

And what would you tell your drinking buddies? "My sex robot left me?" What kind of a sorry slob cannot even hold onto a sex robot? If you have any doubts about your ability to hold the affections of your new £4,000 sex robot, consider buying a cheaper model.

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Economist Newspaper Says Men a Waste of Resources

Many of you have read this article in today's issue of The Economist. The article is slick and provocative, an excellent example of modern journalism. (it may be necessary to view a short advertisement before viewing the premium content)

....Girls get better grades at school than boys, and in most developed countries more women than men go to university. Women will thus be better equipped for the new jobs of the 21st century, in which brains count a lot more than brawn. In Britain far more women than men are now training to become doctors. And women are more likely to provide sound advice on investing their parents' nest egg: surveys show that women consistently achieve higher financial returns than men do.

Furthermore, the increase in female employment in the rich world has been the main driving force of growth in the past couple of decades. Those women have contributed more to global GDP growth than have either new technology or the new giants, China and India.... It used to be said that women must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily that is not so difficult.

It is fascinating to contemplate the continuing need for strong "affirmative action" programs for women in academia and the workplace, in the face of such obvious female superiority of achievement. But I digress.

I doubt if many readers here are privy to the triple ultra premium content of The Economist. Probably few would even know where to find it. Fortunately, we at Al Fin read all, so that you do not have to. Here are excerpts from the 3UPC edition of The Economist:

...In fact, the only reason men are tolerated at all, is that women scientists have not quite perfected cloning. There is still a need for human sperm, and for now, only human male testicles are capable of reliably supplying that need. Currently there are projects supported by UNESCO and the EU, which will allow scientists to create sperm-producing human testicles in the laboratory from male embryos....

....Some male scientists have suggested that male humans are overrepresented on the high end of cognitive ability, particularly in math and spatial abilities. Fortunately, Liz Spelke has totally refuted that bit of obsolete patriarchal folk psychology. Once the effects of millenia of prejudice are allowed to wear off, women will outperform men in math and spatial abilities, just as they have in all the other fields of human endeavor....

....In summary, men are a total waste of resources, if not for sperm. It should be a top priority to, in the short term, create alternate sources of sperm. In the intermediate term, the perfection of cloning will allow the total elimination of any need for men at all--in the long term.

There you have it, the master plan. I would like to be able to provide links, but the triple ultra premium content is quadruple-encoded, preventing the use of ordinary links. I cannot help but think back to Al Fin's fascinating interview with two of the leading members of the movement referred to in the 3UPC article above. Fascinating times, my friends.

12 April 2006

What of Sex?

Soon, the children of the well-educated, professional classes, will be gestated inside artificial wombs. Many of them, if not most, will have been fertilised in vitro, and probably genetically modified--probably augmented. Paternity and maternity will not be a matter of one sperm, one egg.

Children will be designed, and will develop inside a designed womb. The uterine environment will be accessible to monitoring--both physiologic and genetic--throughout the entire "pregnancy". Genetic tweaking will occur throughout gestation, and probably for some time thereafter, depending upon phenotypal contingencies. Gene expression is an ongoing affair, affected by emotions, diet, activities, pharmaceuticals, sleep cycles, and various things.

For many of those who can afford it, sex and procreation will be completely divorced. Men will bank their sperm, women their eggs--best while they are young. Sexual orientation will be more varied, and less a matter of public debate than at present. Only persons with clearly illegal urges will be deviates, and most deviates will satisfy themselves virtually rather than criminally. Genetic fixes will probably be available for some illegal fixations.

Romantic love, the stuff of novels and daydreams, may exist yet be rare and curious. The neurophysiology of romance will be understood. Unrequited love will be curable. No more young Werthers or Capulet/Montagu tragedies.

Consider the existence of a genuine "orgasmitron," like in that Woody Allen movie, or the movie where Sylvester Stallone did needlepointe. In the world where orgasms are available technologically, on demand, and babies are designed and grown outside the body--how would a person's social life coalesce? What would become of sex?

Just a mental exercise. Such as considering a world where people do not need to sleep. Or visualizing a world where even the dullest person would be ten times the genius of Einstein or Gauss. Basic changes have tremendous repercussions. Learning to anticipate changes and being able to get what you need in the face of change, is the mark of maturity and self-sufficiency. Is that what they are teaching in homes and schools? Probably not.

When the next level runs full speed into this complacent society, feathers will fly.


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