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How Power Felt Works

Author's Note

I'm a big fan of dystopian science fiction, and the 1999 movie "The Matrix," the first in the trilogy made by the Wachowskis, is one of my favorites. But to me, the Matrix is really more of a metaphor for our present every-waking-moment fixation with synthetic entertainment experiences created by video games and streaming video on the Web than it is a blueprint for an actual future. (In that sense, you could draw a parallel to George Orwell's novel, "Nineteen Eighty-Four," which some say really was a warning against totalitarian tendencies that the author saw lurking beneath the constitutional democracy of post-World War II England.) Unless we make some truly astonishing technological breakthroughs that overrule the laws of physics as we now understand them, a computer network powered by siphoning energy from comatose humans is just a fantasy. For a Science Channel story, for example, I once calculated that if it was possible to harvest 1.3 microwatts of energy from each person on the planet, it would only amount to enough juice to run a set of speakers for a high-end home theater system.

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