IoT ruins movies: Withnail and I – order from chaos

By | 3 minute read | April 19, 2017

leadspace image of rain on an umbrella from withnail and i

When I think about IoT in its most idealized form, I picture a world more streamlined, more elegant – where information about our lifestyles is analyzed in order to provide solutions to our various problems, and we all live in well-ordered, nutritionally balanced, mentally harmonious, rhapsody-inducing awesomeness. So naturally I went for a film where the exact opposite scenario exists – pure, unadulterated chaos. This is your challenge, IoT: bring method to the delicious madness of ‘Withnail and I’.

The film: ‘Withnail & I’, chaos personified

Released in 1987, this cult classic follows two out-of-work actors in the ‘60s as they stagger between their grim Camden flat, the pub and the unemployment office. Caustic, witty and alcohol-sodden Withnail (Richard E. Grant) is barely kept in check by his roommate, adorably anxious “I” (Paul McGann), who narrates the film and whose name we never discover.

To get away from it all, the luckless pair take a holiday at the barren country house of Withnail’s uncle Monty (Richard Griffiths), dealing with the mud, rain, and randy bull as only two unprepared Londoners could.

Bringing order to chaos: How IoT could ruin ‘Withnail & I’

One of the things I love about this film is that our two heroes never take the easy way out. They live in a whirlwind or their own making, knee-deep in washing-up and questionable substances. Chronically out of work, they are too cash-strapped to afford either fuel or food and resort to keeping warm by liberal application of Deep Heat (externally) and alcohol (internally). When the wine runs out, Withnail decides that lighter-fluid will do just as well. So could the IoT change turn their bad habits around? Let’s take a look.

Challenge #1: the household chores

In an early, memorable scene, Withnail and “I” attempt to do the washing up (left to fester for eons) without provoking the rats. If only they had had ‘Unfilth your Habitat’, the chore-tackling app that bullies reluctant chore-doers into tackling the housework earlier. It comes with a sweary streak too – perfect for these blue dudes.

Challenge #2: curbing the drinking habit

“I feel dreadful, I feel really dreadful”, says “I” after another binge session, failing to remember what on earth he could have drunk to make him feel this way. So let’s be kind, and bequeath our poor beleaguered friend a little present. Smart cup ‘My Vessyl’ can identify any liquid poured into it and track the nutritional merits (or demerits) therein. With such a tool at his disposal, “I” might have received some pretty shocking revelations about his drinking habits and curbed them forthwith.

Then there’s the smart ice cube that not only tracks how much you’ve been drinking, but will actually text your friends when you’ve overshot your limit. ‘Cheers’ are jellied ice-cubes containing lights that change from green to red when you’ve had more than is good for you.

Challenge #3: finding food in the countryside

Bereft of sustenance and fuel, Withnail (in just trench coat and shirt) wades into a nearby stream and fires a shotgun at random fish. Needless to say, the venture is not a success. Enter ‘Deeper’ – the portable, sonar-compatible device which locates fish underwater and transmits the information to a smartphone to tell you exactly where to catch them. Perfect when all you have to eat is what you can catch.

Challenge #4: surviving the trip home

A telegram summons “I” back to London for an audition recall. Hazy with tiredness, he drives along the rain-soaked motorway until Withnail takes over, and is duly pulled over for drunk driving. Had they been driving a connected car, proximity sensors would have helped avoid obstacles and maintain a safe difference from the vehicle in front or in the next lane. While we’re at it, let’s go the whole hog and give them a self-driving car. “I” could get some sleep, Withnail could have finished his bottle of wine, and no one would be inconvenienced.

This is just a fun way of showing how IoT can and will have an impact on everyday life. IBM has lots of other real-life examples for smart vehicles, including Olli and connected commuting, and another on the development of connected cars.