Maker videos are just about my favourite YouTube rabbit hole to disappear down. You can start with James Bruton’s Xrobots, Colin Furze, or Simone Giertz, and follow link after link until you end up watching someone building a replica Han Solo blaster from a customised Lego kit.
On a recent odyssey I found myself watching Allen Pan demonstrating a series of Mjolnir models at Tested Live. Pan’s YouTube channel is called ‘Sufficiently Advanced’, from Arthur C. Clarke’s third law:
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Given the film being released as I write this (and the suit I’m wearing right now), this got me thinking about Jedi powers. How realistic might these be in the future? Could we use technology to give us Jedi powers that are indistinguishable from magic?
Let’s ignore the lightning for now and focus on three less destructive powers: telekinesis, influence over weaker minds, and a sixth sense for distant events.
Can you move things with your mind? There’s two parts to this:
— can we read signals from a mind to trigger physical motion?
— can we move items without any physical contact?
The answer to both of these is a very qualified ‘yes’. Though the technology is still in its early stages, there are now multiple research projects taking information from the brain and using it to control robotic systems. In this example, they are even sending feedback to the brain to restore a sense of touch from the robot arm.
How about using a ‘force’ to move objects? Well, at smaller scales, soundwaves have been used to move objects around in three dimensions. Could you scale this up? Sure, but to throw rocks or bits of Death Star around, you’d have to be carrying equipment the scale of a Glastonbury sound rig. Not exactly practical.
Are there other ways we could move objects around remotely? Possibly, but I don’t think they’ve been discovered yet.
Hypnosis is surprisingly well researched and proven, albeit it doesn’t work on everyone. But that’s OK, Obi Wan qualifies the use of the force for influencing people in Episode IV — that doesn’t work on everyone either. Could a hypnotist achieve the same effects as a Jedi? Probably not outside of a more controlled environment, but in principle it’s not far apart.
What isn’t equivalent to the Jedi power is Neuro Linguistic Programming. This technique may have some interesting aspects, but it has just about no basis in science, as far as I can tell.
What is social media but a way to sense what’s going on remotely through a network of connected beings? Twitter is The Force!
OK, it’s not quite. But if you combine social media sentiment data with David Eagleman’s work on sensory substitution, you could have a very subtle sense of what’s happening remotely — just as Obi Wan does when Alderaan is destroyed.
This is perhaps the closest thing we have to a Jedi power right now. Imagine combining various data sets — social sentiment, the condition of your house from sensors, Bitcoin prices — and having a ‘feeling’ about the state of all of them through some form of sensory substitution. That could be very cool.
I’ll add project number 98,348 to the roster…