Tag Archives: psychic

Cyclops And Jean Grey Of The X-men: A Prelude To The Future Of Romance?

Admit it. You knew it was going to happen at some point. I start talking about brain-to-brain communication, sharing thoughts, and techno-telepathy and eventually, I was going to relate it to comic books.

If you’ve been reading this blog in any capacity over the last year or so, you know how much I love comic books and superhero movies. I’ve also made clear how much I love X-men in particular. Hell, I even argued that Storm was a better female superhero than Wonder Woman. Make that argument on a comic book message board and you can expect a lot of angry responses, including certain remarks about your mother.

My point is that if I haven’t made my love of comic books and X-men clear now, then there’s not much more I can do that doesn’t involve tattoos. That’s why it really should surprise no one that I’m about to relate my recent discussions about the future of sex and intimacy to the X-men.

Yes, I know the X-men were created in 1963 and using them as a precursor to the future is like using old reruns of “The Simpsons” to predict the future. Then again, given the Simpsons’ track record, that may be a bad example.

Specifically, I’m going to focus on Cyclops and Jean Grey of the X-men in discussing the future of love and intimacy. They’re not just one of my favorite comic book romances of all time. I’ve also cited them before as an strong example of a relationship of equals. I’ve also cited them as a way to highlight just how mind-numbingly awful love triangles can be. Overall, they’re a pretty useful couple is what I’m saying.

Now in talking about them with respect to the future of love and intimacy, I’m not going to focus on the particulars of their relationship. There are plenty out there who despise this romance, just as there are plenty out there who despise every romance that involves vampires. I get that. There are vocal X-men fans who would rather see Cyclops and Jean Grey involved with someone else. I’m not here to argue with those fans.

Like every superhero romance, Cyclops and Jean Grey has been prone to many complications that go beyond bad love triangles. Look at any romance in comics. Without exception, there’s always some amount of uncertainty, drama, death, rebirth, and reboots. It’s just how comics work.

For the purposes of this post, I’m not just going to focus on what makes the Cyclops/Jean romance work. I’m going to focus on one of the unique components about it, namely the fact that Jean Grey is a powerful telepath. She can read, project, and manipulate thoughts and she doesn’t need future technology or hypnosis to do it. As a mutant, it’s just one of those talents she’s born with. In that sense, it’s definitely more useful than sewing.

Now Jean Grey isn’t the only telepath in the X-men or the Marvel universe, for that matter. She’s not even the most powerful. Professor Charles Xavier, who was played by the insanely-charming Patrick Stewart in the X-men movies, is often cited as the most powerful psychic in the X-men comics. However, Jean Grey is often cited as a close second.

I mention that to make clear that Jean’s talent for telepathy isn’t just good by comic book standards. It’s first team all-pro good. Why does that matter? Well, being such a powerful psychic, it’s hard for her to filter out the thoughts of others. She even remarked in “X-men Apocalypse” that she knows what everyone thinks. Not much surprises her.

This makes her relationship with Cyclops all the more intriguing in the sense that she develops such a strong romantic connection with him, despite being able to read his thoughts and sense his emotions. He, in turn, falls in love with her, knowing full-well she has this kind of power. There isn’t a dirty, deviant thought he can hide from her and he doesn’t mind in the slightest.

Think about that for a moment. Cyclops falls in love with a woman from which he can’t readily hide his thoughts. He can’t even hide his emotions from her. She’s even commented in the comics and in the movies on numerous occasions how she can pick up on his emotions.

Lying to her is impossible. Hiding his feelings from her is impossible. Now on many occasions, Jean Grey tries to make clear that she doesn’t read peoples’ thoughts without permission. The keyword there is she tries. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes she can’t help it. Just ask the recently-outed Iceman.

Regardless of how much Jean Grey respects the privacy of others, it doesn’t prevent her and Cyclops from forging a relationship. It also doesn’t stop that relationship from blossoming into one of the most iconic romances in the history of comics, culminating in X-men #30 where they got married. Even if you’re among those X-men fans who despise their relationship, it’s hard to deny that were pretty damn serious about their love.

Why does this matter? What does it have to do with the future of romance and relationships? Well, think about the dynamics of such a relationship. Cyclops and Jean Grey don’t just share love, intimacy, and legal obligations. They actually share thoughts, as in real, unfiltered thoughts. That’s a dynamic that doesn’t exist in the real world yet, but as brain-to-brain communication technology matures, it will exist soon enough.

If communication is the key to every relationship, then Cyclops and Jean Grey have a master set. With them, there’s no need to put thoughts and feelings into words. There’s no need to make these elaborate gestures to convey how they feel. They don’t even need to argue about it. Their own thoughts convey whatever sentiment they want, be it love, lust, or a craving for corn dogs.

How many relationships in the real world fail because two people can’t properly communicate certain feelings? It happens all the time. It manifests in all kinds of sitcoms, some more than others. Hell, it happens in my own novels, especially in “Skin Deep.”

In addition to those relationships, how many others form on a foundation of lies because two people don’t know what the other is thinking? Someone might think they really love someone. The other might just fake it to get back at an ex-lover or land some big inheritance. It happens and, because these thoughts can be hidden, they can’t know for sure how genuine the romance really is.

In a future where brain-to-brain communication is available and couples can wield it like Cyclops and Jean Grey, the entire dynamic of love and romance changes. There’s no need to carefully navigate social cues in an effort to figure out what someone it thinking, feeling, and wanting. Everything becomes that transparent.

On one hand, this means the self-obsesses douche-bags who see others as walking masturbation toys that breath can’t hide anymore. The pick-up artist, the ladies man, and the Regina Georges of the world are exposed for all to see.

On the other, it also means that people can be certain that they’ve found a lover who genuinely loves them. It means we can be sure that the thoughts our lovers think are honest and true. We’re not blindsided. We’re not mislead. We know because we can make our thoughts known.

From a practical standpoint, it means that society will have to reshape the way people find love, intimacy, and connection. For some, it’ll be downright scary, having to share intimate thoughts with one another. However, we’ve reshaped those concepts before. Remember, there was once a time when marrying for love seemed like a crazy idea.

As is often the case, though, popular culture tends to be ahead of the curve when it comes to social and technological evolution. Star Trek did it with cell phones. Cyclops and Jean Grey may end up doing the same for romance. With that in mind, I’ll leave you with this iconic panel that highlights everything I’ve come to love about the Cyclops/Jean romance.

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Sex, Lies, And The Future Of Truth

Admit it. You’ve lied before. Maybe it involved drinking in high school. Maybe it involved  strippers at a bachelor party. Maybe it involved a promise to pull out. Whatever the case may be, regardless of whether you got caught or ended up paying child support, you’ve lied at one point in your life. As the great Dr. House once said, “Everybody lies.”

Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with lying. It depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. If you’re lying to tell a story, which is basically what I do as a writer, then it’s not wrong. If done right, it can actually be pretty damn sexy. If you’re lying to deceive a lover, cheat on your taxes, or prevent your children from knowing about condoms, then that’s pushing it.

I bring up lies because, in watching my share of both superhero movies and romantic comedies, there is one common theme that binds many of these conflicts. No, it’s not Robert Downy Jr. or Hugh Jackman’s sex appeal. It’s that a lot of these plots are built on someone lying and working way harder than they need to in order to keep up the lie.

Take “The Proposal” with Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock for example. In addition to being one of my favorite romantic comedies of the past several years, it’s entire plot was built around a lie that Bullock’s character crafted and Reynolds had to help preserve. Sure, it made for a hilariously entertaining story, complete with awkward nude scenes and moments with Betty White, but it was all built on the foundation of a lie.

Why do I bring up lies? Well, to answer that, I’ll have to get a little personal again and this time, it has nothing to do with me sleeping naked.

I’ve gotten a lot of romantic advice over the years from friends and family. Some of it is good. Some of it is bad. Some of it just plain crazy and involves some rather improper uses of food. However, within the good advice I’ve gotten, there was one common theme and it amounted to this.

DON’T KEEP SECRETS.

I write that in all caps and bold because they didn’t just tell me this as a casual aside. They made it a point to really emphasize the importance of being honest with those you love. No relationship can really function in the long run when both sides are keeping secrets. Say what you will about the Bundys or the Simpsons, but they are honest with each other, often brutally so.

Beyond the advice, there are a lot of romantic stories that involve secrets, lies, and deception. It’s not always in the smooth, sophisticated ways of James Bond either. Stories about lies, affairs, and elaborate deceptions are basically the bread and butter of these stories.

I’ve certainly used those themes. In “Skin Deep” and “The Escort and the Gigolo,” a big chunk of the plot is built around certain lies and deception. Not all of them are intentional either. Sometimes, the characters just don’t have a reason to believe someone is telling the truth.

This brings me to another thought experiment of sorts. Granted, it’s not exactly the sexy kind, but it has the potential to be. It involves the ways in which we expose lies. At the moment, we really can’t be 100 percent sure if anyone is telling the truth. We can’t even be 80 percent sure. People who lie, cheat, and manipulate others still operate and thrive in this world. Just ask Bernie Madoff.

Our entire justice system is built on the understanding that we can’t exactly know for sure whether someone is guilty or innocent. We can put them under oath all we want. People can and will still lie. That’s why we have principles that presume innocence and require that we prove guilt, and the lies by default, beyond all reasonable doubt.

As good as our justice system has served us, to a point, it still struggles to uncover lies. It can interrogate and intimidate all it wants. It won’t always be able to get out the truth. In fact, it can even create even more lies in the process.

This is where the thought experiment comes in. What if we had a device that could, with nearly 100 percent accuracy, tell whether someone was lying? What would that do to our justice system? What would that do to our relationships with others? Would it effectively force us to be more honest with our friends, family, and intimate lovers?

This is another one of those thought experiments that isn’t overly fanciful. Creating devices to detect lies is not a new idea. In fact, it’s been in development for over a century.

Contrary to popular belief, however, there is no functioning “lie detector” yet. Those who claim there is are probably referring to a polygraph. A polygraph is not a lie detector. If anything, it’s a stress detector. It doesn’t detect lies. It detects the stresses on your body. I’m sorry if this completely changes how you see “Meet The Parents,” but that’s the hard truth.

For that reason, the National Academy of Sciences has concluded that the vast majority of research on the use of a polygraph for lie detection is unreliable, bias, and unscientific. It’s also why polygraph tests aren’t considered a reliable form of evidence in a court of law.

This is because it is possible to fool a polygraph. It’s been done before. There are even entire YouTube videos dedicated to helping people beat a polygraph. As a lie detector, it’s not much better than flipping a coin.

Beyond the polygraph, which only measures physiological responses, there is another emerging technology called fMRI, or Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. This technology is more functional in principle because it measures the very source of all lies, namely the human brain. However, our limited understanding of how the brain forms lies prevents it from being a full-fledged lie detector.

Even so, the use of fMRI has been shown to be an effective way at detecting lies. It’s still not perfect. In an episode of Mythbusters, one of the hosts was able to beat an fMRI. If it can be done on a TV show, then what hope does it have in a court of law with people who lie for a living?

Despite this flaw, research has shown that an fMRI was able to detect lies with 24 percent more accuracy than a polygraph. Overall, it’s accuracy is about 78 percent. That’s pretty good. If it were a winning percentage in baseball, it would be a playoff team. However, when you’re dealing with law and relationships, 78 percent just isn’t enough.

At the very least, the technology is improving. As the science of brain imaging continues to improve, it will eventually be possible to detect lies within someone’s brain with a degree of accuracy that would make every court drama much more boring.

There may even come a day where detecting lies is as easy as talking into a smartphone. Remember that smart blood I mentioned a while back? Well if someone had that in their system, then their brains could be scanned in real time. That means people could know whether they’re lying in an instant. That would basically destroy the entire pick-up artist community.

Now that kind of lie detection is a long way off. However, and I know I say this a lot, there may come a day within our life time when this technology is functional. Given the ongoing development into fMRIs, it may only be a matter of time before someone creates a system that can detect lies with 99 percent accuracy.

What will this mean for criminal justice? What will this mean for divorce proceedings? What will this mean for relationships in general when people know there’s a way for their lies to be exposed? It’s a strange and ominous idea to imagine, but the cold hard truth is that we may have to deal with sooner than we think.

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