Boob tube to brain drain: TV's long, strange trip

Is watching TV too demanding? Has 'Downton Abbey' drained your life force? Rejoice, for the BBC may have invented the couch potato's dream device

brain mind robot

You had me going there for a second. Headlines like "FCC plans to fine AT&T $100M for data throttling" and "NYC threatens to sue Verizon for failed fiber rollouts" momentarily warmed this cynical heart. The FCC suddenly has a social conscience, and we may have the billion-dollar robber baron telcos on the ropes. Us little 'uns might actually land a few long-deserved punches to the noses of bigwigs who've been sticking it to us for quite some time. Wow, maybe I could drink only water today.

Then I saw this: "BBC explores mind-control TV." That's right. The British are coming, this time for your brain. Suddenly I'm back on scotch, and the world has returned to its path straight to hell's happy handbasket and probably a few fathoms murkier because, yes, I like muddled images.

One of several InterWeb news pieces covering this BBC "breakthrough" begins with: "It's every lazy person's dream …"

Hey, I'm not going to mention your name buddy, but understand that, like you (presumably), I'm a journalist. My ilk has been scientifically proven to be among the absolute laziest of God's creatures -- and that includes Mark Zuckerberg's barber. Even so, I have never dreamed of plugging my TV directly into my brain simply because pressing the buttons on my remote was too damn strenuous. But now it'll probably show up in my dreams, albeit as a bona fide slasher-chasing-me-through-a-spider-farm-naked night terror.

Masters of mind control

If the last few decades have taught us anything (you could argue they haven't), it's that the nefarious corporate sociopathic profit-snarfs of the ad industry (not to be confused with the nefarious corporate sociopathic profit-snarfs of the telcom industry) have done little else besides stroke fluffy white cats adorned with diamond-studded collars while plotting ever more insidious ways for TV to control our minds. In the process, they've given rise to what I already consider to be rampant evil-doing like programmatic TV, subliminal advertising, in-show product branding, and fair and balanced faux news.

But now, disguising its latest bid for brains as -- of all things -- a convenience aid, the TV industry is trying to bypass our thumbs and grab direct hold of our gray matter. We have the Brits to thank for it.

Working with a company carrying the trendily ridiculous name This Place, the BBC unveiled an internal prototype of a headset that lets viewers open its on-demand iPlayer service using what little brainwaves they have left. The BBC's Head of Business Development, Cyrus Saihan (tellingly an anagram for "Liar Say Inch"), justified the device as part of the BBC's ongoing effort to make its content more easily accessible, especially to people with disabilities. But let's face it -- that's not where this is really going.

An inconvenient truth

Sprint is suddenly dropping bandwidth throttling, but that has nothing to do with AT&T's $100M bill from the FCC for the same violation -- er, network management "practice." Sure. Tom Brady had absolutely no idea those balls were underinflated. Sure. Jeb Bush loudly proclaims he's entirely his own man, not at all influenced by his forebears. Sure. And now BBC (Beelzebub Being Cagey)/This Place have opened a direct path between your brain and your TV set, and they only want to use it so that handicapped folks can channel surf. Oh most surest of sure!

The only upside here is that maybe this will eventually do away with viewable commercials entirely and we can all fool ourselves into thinking we're watching an entertaining version of PBS. Quite the contrary -- in all likelihood, we can look forward to our TVs can telepathically commanding us to increase our giant snowball insurance coverage, eat exclusively at McDonald's, and hurry out right now so as not to miss the Toyota Summer Sales Event.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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