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time travellers

Many of you will have seen the remarkable film of what may be a time traveller using a mobile phone in a Charlie Chaplin film. In the YouTube video, we see a strange looking extra walk into shot while apparently holding a mobile to their left ear, chatting.

George Clarke, the filmmaker who noticed it, postulates that this may be someone from the future who has gone back to 1928 and wandered in front of the camera. I have the explanation for this strange piece of film.

Around ten years ago, Stephen Hawkins said that if time travel was a possibility it would be here already. Around twenty years ago, I had made the same remark on a C4 television programme. (Evidence available). Friends said I should be flattered that Hawkins had appropriated my line. I told them that he had, in fact, travelled back to 1990 to give me that line.

For this is what time travellers do: they go back to help us out. Not by giving us ray-guns or personal jet packs, but by providing hints and insights to help us in our life or career.

Now, study the film closely on YouTube. At fifty eight seconds in, the filmmaker very clearly shows us the box set of Charlie Chaplin DVDs and tells us the price: “fifteen or twenty quid for all of his classics”.

So, forget the extra and the mobile phone. Think about time - and timing. As I write this, George Clarke’s video has had over four million views. More than four million people are now aware that you can buy all of Chaplin’s classics for about fifteen quid. And we are only a few weeks away from Christmas. Yes. That’s right: time travellers gave us the concept of viral advertising. And, perhaps, cynicism.


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