Body harvest is a common trope in science fiction. One day we’re walking around minding our own business, the next day our body is lying in some dark, futuristic lair being harvested for everything from memories to organs.
But there’s also a sensual side to harvest — the body as energy. Literally, slinking one’s way into the body of another in order to possess the raw vitality of it.
Scarlett Johansson gives an eerie performance of a person hunting for this energy in "Under the Skin." Her character lures men into a cargo van under the pretense of needing directions. Most end up back at her place, which is more like a dream than a location in space or time.
Scarlett slowly sheds her clothing for the men while walking away across the distance of the dreamscape. As soon as the men try to follow, they are drowned.
Their bodies float in an underwater netherworld that the movie implies is a storage locker for men and women who have been gaffed. Scarlett and her kind hunt the bodies to later wear them as sources of life.
What’s interesting to think about is this notion of body as vehicle for energy. A design student recently debuted a range of "speculative" energy harvesting jewelry that plays with this very idea. What could the body power if we unleash it as an energy source?
Could the body power media screens? Could the body subsidize its own access to digital life or the Internet of Things by shifting the cost of powering connectivity away from an electric company?
It’s no longer sci-fi to think about these things. We know the energy sources in the world are limited. We also know the bloodstream of media is electricity. Nothing flows online or on screens without a power source.
That creates the conditions for a collision between the need for power and a sideswipe by potentially renewable power sources. Will the body be it?
Better yet -- do you want it to be?