The Island

Last night I sat down to watch a film with the perma-lovely photographer Cat Lane to watch The Island. A 2005 science fiction film directed by Michael Bay and starring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson. Set in 2019, the movie’s plot revolves around the struggle of Ewan McGregor’s character to fit into the highly structured world he lives in. And it got me thinking: How far do we advance before we start to question why we’ve gone so far? And who decided all of this?

Technical advancements all seem very logical at the time, a personal health advisor at the gym that advises on nutrition, a trainer who advises on routine, articles and tv that advises on career, bringing up children and feeds us news they think we’ll need to know.

They all seem like such great ideas. After all, who’d not want to live longer, happier, healthier and better? The Island shows how Ewan (Lincoln Six Echo) wakes up earlier than he hoped – but it’s no bother – the room says hello, turns the lights on, opens the curtains, and turns his news on for the day ahead. A cool idea hey? He takes a piss, and the LED strip above the toilet greets him, and then flags up that his nutrients are low. This then advises him of his breakfast to eat. As he’s up too early, his personal doctor is informed and calls him in for a check up. Wow, that’s cool too. He takes his prescribed breakfast designed to restore his nutritional balance and make him sleep better.

All good so far? Some of this sounds familiar, the gym experts, the TV alarm, and the doctor I can text message. It’s not far to go to take the extra steps to the above ‘fantasy’ land in The Island film.

There’s one thing which suddenly worried me when I matched up my life with the gym experts and personalised google news, and Lincoln Six Echo’s routine in his prescribed world. How many decisions are we actually making for ourselves each day? How far can we all go before what we set out intending to be a personalised world, actually becomes a controlled one, where we have eliminated the need to think truly independently for ourselves. It all seems so easy, yet a step too far can bring a frighteningly prescribed world within our grasp.

The more we earn and the more ‘comfortable’ and ‘advanced’ our lives become, the closer some of us get to being both Tom Lincoln and Lincoln Six Echo. And it’s not too far away that a world where I can buy a policy which grows cloned body parts for me should I fall ill, and get Apps and gadgets which tell me what I should eat, and provide it all for me. Lincoln Six Echo’s morning seems cool, until you watch the film and realise what it could mean.

For now though, I’ll go ahead and get my new Apple iPhone. I’ll download the app that can breathalyse me and stop me driving the car that tells me how much carbon I’ve emitted and control my gears to make me greener. I’d also love to get a gadget that can analyse my urine and let me know if I’m lacking in Iron before I become ill. It all seems so good.

But I guess the reason I love being a leader in Scouts is that it keeps our runaway world in perspective. A stripped down world free from control, restriction, prescription and news. A world where I can eat my food with dirty hands without a brand telling me it’s worse than licking the toilet bowl, I can play with live fire and burn my fingers and not shower for a day without guilt. I can see the world through a child’s eyes again. And all that makes me quite emotional if  I’m honest. It grounds me and puts everything in perspective.

If we forget this and remove ourselves from our past, we’ll all become Lincoln Six Echo. It’s only a matter of time.