MAN’S GOT no place to hide, because technology’s quietly shadowing him everywhere

First there was nothing. Then came the fig leaf that clung on for centuries. And just when man decided not to give a fig about it anymore, technology took a leaf out of Lex Luthor’s creations — and radiation blocking underwear was created.

No, seriously. It’s already available abroad and could soon cover the entire globe. To understand the demand for this product, we need to go back in time to Hollywood, because research has shown that 97.5 per cent of all people understand technology only when it is demonstrated in an English movie, is set in the future, and features either an action hero or Keanu Reeves.

The year was 1990, when a Schwarzenegger-starrer titled Total Recall was released. It showed the future with total body scanners that bombarded the human body with powerful X-ray blasts. People would walk past a screen and their skeletons would be seen from the other side.

Then came the era of biometrics, made popular in films such as Mission Impossible, Gattaca and Minority Report, where an individual’s retina, fingertips, DNA, molars, premolars and canines — in short, everything except his ID Card — were scanned to ascertain his identity. Another system of tracking made popular by Bond movies such as On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Casino Royale, and sci-fi and action movies such as Demolition Man, The Day The Earth Stood Still and Safe House was Radio-frequency identification (RFID).

Things could have stopped there, but since man’s curiosity constantly gets the better of him, he moved on from writing Software For Dummies to writing software for dummies. And the result is available in every major store worldwide, in the form of store mannequins — with a difference. These are as inquisitive as we are, and constantly seek to collect information about the shoppers.

They have a camera for an eye, are installed with facial recognition software and record everything, including the way you looked at the attractive woman in the other corner of the store and walked up to her on the pretext of examining shirts in the nearby rack, and to your utter disappointment, found that the shirts were actually neatly folded aprons and the pretty woman, another mannequin. Thus vital information is gathered about you — the mannequins have noted that you not only have a roving eye, but also myopic vision that can’t see distant objects very clearly. So the next time you visit a mall, a bouncer grabs you at the car park, sets right that glad eye and then whisks you away to the nearest Lawrence & Mayo where your short sight is rectified. Needless to say, you pay for both and the world of retail remains eternally grateful to technology.

Unfortunately for you, the evolution of this peek-a-boo technology is not likely to stop here. The next step could well be a combination of some of the technologies mentioned above. Consider a scenario where these mannequins are fitted with the x-ray scanners seen in Total Recall (Incidentally, this technology actually became a reality when such scanners were installed in airports. Most passengers felt outraged that their skeletons were being ogled at, leading to such full-body scans at airports being appropriately named terminal exposure). Besides laughing all the way to the bank, the retail stores fitted with these mannequins would also be giggling their way to the security room where scantily clad images of customers will be displayed on multiple monitors.

Without an iota of doubt, there will be immense pressure from various bodies (pun not intended) to stop such scans. And if they have it their way, there’s only one thing that various leading innerwear brands can do with their gargantuan piles of radiation blocking underwear in every store — total recall.

(sureshl.india@gmail.com)