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  • The other day my wife described seeing this Israeli mentalist on TV, a 30-ish guy named Lior Suchard. He's handsome and glib, and is a hit on the talk show and conference circuits. (He impressed the s**t out of celebrity skeptic Kim Kardashian on the Tonight Show.) What impressed my wife is his apparent ability to tell people from his audience what they are thinking. He frequently asks them to think of their very first love and say how old they were when they had that first crush. Then he announces the first name of the love object, and apparently he is always right. Oh, he also bends metal spoons with his awesome power of concentration, in the tradition of Uri Geller, another Israeli mentalist who was a popular sensation 30 years ago. (Why always spoons, and not forks, knives, scissors or garden rakes?)

    Despite his show-biz glitz, let's suspend disbelief and give Mr. Suchard the benefit of the doubt; accept that he is able to read people's thoughts or emotions. There are lots of others out there who have shown similar talent and have made similar claims, and they can't all be charlatans. We should put this phenomenon in the TBD bucket and let the neuroscientists and psychologists sort it out.

    Forget people. There are plenty of dogs who have demonstrated deep psychic connections with their owners. Like my beloved pooch Sascha, who knew I was coming home from a trip when I was dozens of miles away. If dogs have psychic powers (in his case, for remote viewing), why can't people?

  • Even if you grant that human beings have latent telepathic powers and that some have learned to exercise them, New Age movements notwithstanding, I think that the chances for people to develop them going forward are rapidly getting smaller and smaller, and I'll tell you why.

    Why? It's the technology, stupid. Scientists, engineers and genius inventors are developing neural prosthetics that mimic or amplify telepathic abilities. We hear of devices being implanted in paraplegics to help them move limbs with severed neural connections. Other accessories on the edge of commercialization already enable you to direct your thoughts to control your laptop. This is not science fiction; it's actually happening.

    Such inventions are wonders of the age, no doubt, but consider what they imply. Instead of using your mind to its fullest, you become dependent on gizmos that seem to provide superpowers but in reality drain you of any incentive to develop your own innate capacities. Why bother to train your brain when you can buy a device for $129.98 that interprets brain waves and an app for $9.98 that lets you use that to mentally control your home's thermostat while you roam? Everyone a mentalist! Hipsters take notice.

  • See, technologists love to croon how digital this and Internet that augment our well-being and general efficacy, but such assertions are mostly either hype, lies or self-deception. Actually, much of this stuff substitutes for capabilities we've mostly always had (and some we didn't know we had). We have been taught to confuse convenience with capability. Sure, gadgets do things faster, nicer, and sort of seamlessly, but once we're hooked we soon can't imagine a life without them. And that's the rub. Rather, that's the rope burn.

    Fast-forward yourself five or ten years. By then, you may be using alien technologies that are only geek dreams today, and they will be cheap and plentiful. But to what degree will your personal systems obey you and to what extent will you follow their imperatives? Will you be a better or more capable person for it? Even without knowing you, I predict you will be less of a person and less autonomous the more you embrace what your devices can do for you.

    You will think you're a mentalist, but you will only be a slave to some chips. Lest you succumb totally, are you willing to kill your smartphone? What do you say?


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