The other day, I was reading in New Scientist magazine about something called “telempathy”, a term coined by the American science writer Michael Chorost, which is described as “the ability to feel another person’s emotions through a technological connection to their brain”. How would this be achieved? Well, I’m no scientist, but it’s got something to do with fusing the human brain to the Internet…or something.
In short, technology and the human brain will be intimately connected in the future, with the “world wide mind” ultimately supplanting the World Wide Web, providing us all with technologically shared experiences and emotions. Of course, it’s to be hoped that Chorost’s vision of the future is a controlled one. I wouldn’t particularly want my brain to be suddenly flooded with endorphins in the middle of a job interview because a friend was looking at porn online while wanking into a sock. I assume there’ll be on ‘off’ switch or some kind of filter?
The need for us to share more and to know intimate details about each other has become ever more prevalent. It’s been reported this week that, from next season, Tottenham Hotspur’s players will wear shirts embedded with tiny computer sensors that will constantly monitor their physical condition. The technology is designed primarily to help the manager make decisions on substitutions, with coaching staff receiving second-by-second updates about players’ heart rates, core body temperature, breathing rate and acceleration. However, plans are afoot to also share this information with broadcasters so that fans will be able to see a player’s increased heart rate as he steps up to take a potentially match-winning penalty.
I’m sure it’s technology that fans won’t be able to get enough of. By 2012, with increasing demand for data driving the development of the technology, I dare say fans will be able to monitor the extent of Wayne Rooney’s nipple chafing as he tracks back to defend late in the game. Or perhaps fans will be tweeting about how sweaty Frank Lampard’s balls were during the post-match interview with John Motson. We might even get camera footage from players’ snot-rockets as they fly through the air like laser-guided missiles, along with information on speed, consistency and a GPS location of where each one landed, so that we can enjoy watching players venturing unknowingly into the stickier areas of the pitch.
With Chorost’s vision of the future and Spurs’ new kit technology in mind, I’d quite like to see the coin-sized brains of call centre staff wired to the Internet, and for them to wear embedded sensor technology in their Burton suits. Why? Because then I’d be able to feel their condescension when I speak to them on the phone; I’d be able to almost taste their disdain as they inform me, the ranting customer, that I’m basically an idiot that they can’t help.
Of course, in return, with the benefit of sensor technology, I’d also get to enjoy seeing their heart rate and sweat levels increase as I bark down the phone at a cocky twat in a headset.
If you’re wondering why I’m so bitter, it’s because I recently lost my iPhone 4 on a beach in Newquay while on a stag do, which ultimately led to a fractious conversation with a call centre employee at an insurance company.
Amazingly, losing my phone was nothing to do with any stag do antics. It’s not like I’d injected absinthe into my eyeballs and then decided to see how far I could skim my phone across the sea. And I hadn’t buried it in the sand as part of a pissed treasure hunt. It just dropped out of my pocket onto the beach and was then claimed by the rapidly advancing tide.
At one point, I was stood, distraught, knee deep in sea water, with the waves crashing against my cold, aching legs, while I used my friend’s phone to call mine in the hope that it would light up like a beacon underwater. To the casual observer I must have looked like a man in desperate need of the Samaritans, or like a well-dressed spear fisherman patiently waiting for a school of iPhones to swim by.
The last photo I took with my iPhone was of the blindfolded stag waiting to taste a selection of beers. I imagine that if my phone is ever retrieved from the sandy depths of Towan Beach in the distant future, by a technologically advanced race who can miraculously bring the phone to life, they will assume I attended some kind of public execution shortly before the phone was lost.
It was particularly annoying to lose my phone in such unspectacular circumstances on the beach, which was so peaceful and still in the early hours of the morning. Especially when I’d survived a visit to a club only an hour earlier, which recreated the confusion, aggression and physicality of being at the centre of a crowd during a UN aid drop.
In the melee, I saw one bloke trip up and crash to the floor before leaping to his feet and flying into the face of a perfectly innocent bystander. Thankfully, however, his girlfriend managed to grab him by the scruff of the neck and direct him out of the club before a fight ensued. I assume he staggered out onto the street and immediately squared up to his own shoes.
There was such an undercurrent of menace in the club, it was like an immersive, interactive Crimewatch experience. It felt like I should’ve been strapped into a rollercoaster car at the door, before being pushed off with a jolt past an animatronic Kirsty Young. But instead my arm was grabbed by a burly doorman, who stamped a red kiss onto my hand. (I should stress that he did so with a snarl, which I guess is a defence mechanism to prevent anyone thinking that it’s an affectionate act.) To be honest, it was something of a relief to receive the hand stamp as I was fully expecting him to lop off my little finger and post it home.
If I was going to lose my phone or have it swiped from my pocket that night, I would’ve put money on it happening in that club. But no, it was lost on the beach. Lost to the sea.
Anyway, my aforementioned conversation with the call centre employee ended with him telling me that my insurance claim had been declined because I failed to report the loss of my iPhone to the police within 48hrs.
Clearly, this stipulation is nothing whatsoever to do with the phone being retrieved (unless Devon & Cornwall Police were going to send out a team of divers for me), it’s just a flaming hoop the insurance company wanted me to jump through within a time-frame they’d randomly set. They could just as easily have stipulated that I turn up at my local Carphone Warehouse with a Kit Kat Chunky and a Monarch of the Glen box set within 48hrs of losing my phone. It’s equally as meaningless.
Still, my failure to inform the police about a phone [lost to the sea] enabled the insurance company to dodge the claim. My phone: lost and unrecoverable. My hard-earned money paid out for insurance cover: gone.
So yeah, I’m pissed off. And if I could plug my brain into the mainframe right now, the arseholes down at the insurance company would be able to experience just how much. In fact, it’d be like a scene from Scanners down there.
The future can’t get here quick enough.