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Laura's Word 10 October 2013

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On caffeine, Carrie and the very real prospect of telekinesis

Laura's Word 10 October 2013


This week coffee drinkers in New York found their pulses racing and their heads spinning – but, for once, it wasn’t the daily caffeine overdose sending their bodies into overdrive. No, as you’ve probably seen in one of the most shared videos of the week, furious student unleashed her telekinetic powers on a clumsy customer. Well, he did spill his coffee all over her Mac Book. The unsuspecting public, queuing up for a cup of Joe, were given the full Charles Xavier treatment in a stunt to promote the upcoming remake of Carrie.

 

 

With over 16 million hits in two days, the team at Thinkmodo will be forgiven for cracking open the Babycham. The video has been picked up by mainstream news outlets all over the world and anyone who didn’t know there was a new Carrie movie coming out… well they know now.

 

The success of the video can be put down to a number of factors. It’s undeniably well-executed and the team have struck a smart balance. They’ve shown us enough behind the scenes action so we can feel smug when the punters start screaming while still leaving a few surprises.

 

In recent years, pretty much every TV franchise that wasn’t Mad Men, Breaking Bad or The Wire has been a variation on the idea “what if ‘X’ was real?” What if superheroes were real (Heroes, Misfits)? What if vampires and werewolves and ghosts were real, and British, and lived in a houseshare?  What if zombies were real? What if the authority figure in George Orwell’s 1984 was real and had a penchant for D-list celebrities? All of which, I reckon, has left us with some pretty unrealistic expectations of reality. Yes, it is 9am on Monday; no, you’re not about to discover that your mother was an alien who passed on secret powers to you; yes, you do have to go to work.

 

 We’ve always yearned for a bit of escapism, but instead of allowing our minds to run away with the wacky technicolour of 1960s Marvel Comics and Adam West’s Batman or the neo-Gothic melodrama of Stoker and Shelley or surrealist adventures of Gulliver and Alice, the current trope is one in which fantasy gatecrashes the ‘real world’. Which, of course, never happens. So while the bewilderment, fear and panic splatter-gunned across the faces of the bystanders suggests that it was a genuinely heart-stopping experience, I can’t help but envy their moment of magic. 

 

I wonder, though, as technological change charges ahead, will such a stunt prove to be as shocking in ten years’ time? Telekinesis is no longer the reserve of the X-Men and Stephen King characters – the use of special headgear to pick up electrical signals from the brain and control equipment has been filtering into ad campaigns over the past year. Most recently JWT Australia launched ‘attention-powered cars’, for example. But the technology behind that project could be quickly obsolete.. Earlier in the year, io9 reported that engineers at the University of California have developed tiny devices that can be worn on the skin like temporary tattoos and which pick up electrical impulses. Samsung’s ‘Emerging Technology Lab’ revealed in April that it’s been working on a crude method of operating a tablet using EEG.  

 

 

Scarier yet, there have been several reports of brain-to-brain interfaces which have shown humans controlling physical movements of other creatures. In April a team of Korean scientists published a paper which showed a person moving the tail of a rat by sending signals from the human brain to a computer – and in August researchers at the University of Washington one-upped them by demonstrating a human-to-human control.

 

 

Sure it’s all still a bit clunky now, but give it a few years and this technology will be everywhere. As someone who spent a good few hours in a top secret retro arcade club in London this weekend, I’m keenly aware of how little time it has taken to shrink the hardware that houses Pac-Man, Frogger and the Street Fighter crew. OK, we’re unlikely to see any real-life Carries any time soon (that is not an invitation to cover me in pig’s blood, by the way), but our concept of telekinesis has certainly evolved since the original film was released in 1976. It’s not yet possible… but it’s no longer impossible. And that certainly gets my heart racing.

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Genres: Dialogue

LBB Editorial, Wed, 09 Oct 2013 15:33:32 GMT