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
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
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.