In a recent interview in the New York Times Magazine, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner said that he was very proud that he had paved the way for middle-class couples to live together without being married.
Well, thank you Hugh Hefner.
Here the rest of us were thinking that this social change had come about largely because of innovations in birth control technology.*
It is too bad, though, that Hefner missed an opportunity to boast about a genuine contribution that the pornography industry has made to the world—one which is arguably more significant.
The porn industry is massive—we all know that—but did you know that the size of the industry has had a considerable influence on the arrival of new technologies over the past 30 years?
Creating new technology is expensive and innovative individuals only invest in developing them if they think there is going to be a large enough demand for their products. The invention of many of the new technologies that we we'd hate to be without was made profitable by the scale of the pornography industry. In fact many of them were developed within the industry itself.
If you like to use your credit card to make purchases on the Internet, you can thank the porn industry for that.
If you play movies on DVD or Blu-ray, well guess who thought that having the ability to skip through boring scenes would be useful.
Interactive TV (TiVo/DVR) was developed for the porn industry as was pay-per-view and satellite TV.
Streaming video, peer-to-peer file sharing, and even Internet search engines are all technologies that were made profitable by porn.
So when you find yourself live streaming video from your mobile phone, take a moment to think about the industry that spawned this technology.
On the topic of social change and porn, you can be assured that Dollars and Sex will have more to say, and you might not like what you hear.
After all, no one admits to liking porn.
*Greenwood, J., & Guner, N. (2007). Social Change. C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers, CEPRDiscussion Papers: 6125.