14 October 2009 2816 Views

What If: Surrogates

by Iain Welford

We followed the viral campaign for the Bruce Willis film Surrogates for months before it was released. Our first article in February reported the film’s first viral website, ChooseYourSurrogate.com had gone live, and on initial reactions the site looked very promising. In May, we all watched the trailer and the concept seemed pretty promising as well. In August VSI Labs added their own Twitter page and everything seemed to be gearing up for the films launch. A few more trailers, some posters and 2 featurettes were launched in September, but somehow the viral got stuck in neutral and never came to fruition. If you have read Dan’s review of the viral you’ll know how frustrated we were as it showed a very positive start.

Well, we at MovieViral live and breath this stuff, and we thought we would give it a try. So to be slightly different from the “What If”s of the past, we’re going to see how a lackluster viral campaign that we covered could have gone.

Our first issue with the film and indeed the viral was the lack of a back story. Why did the world decide to leave the physical life behind and start using a real life avatar? We’ve tried to cover this in the article. I also wanted to expand on the “choose your surrogate” theme. Next week we will continue this “What If” with a look at the anti-surrogate campaign lead by the prophet.

Twitter Conversation

This twitter account would resemble the real life twitter of an un-named user, who would report news events, scientific discoveries and events from their account on Chooseyoursurrogate.com. The unnamed twitterer would be portrayed as someone who is looking to get away from their real life, an ideal candidate who would embrace this new technology. The twitterer’s postings would build up a picture of human society in the present day of the movie, and would provide an insight into the backstory of Surrogates.

The articles referenced to in the twitter conversation follow underneath through new articles, a technology site called Plugged in and the Movieviral revised “Choose your surrogates” site. the news and technology sites would include stills from the film.

Monday 23rd Nov 18:00:
Great day today! Just started work, everybody seems nice. Think I made the right choice. No problems here hopefully.

Monday 23rd Nov 21:20:
Leveled up on WoW. I rock!

Tuesday 24th Nov 18:30:
Work seems really interesting. Was sitting myself for lunch today, but then it’s really too early to be making friends. It’ll come I’m sure.

Tuesday 24th Nov 18:30:
Joined a new clan tonight, looking forward to some more quests.

Weds 25th Nov 14:12:
Man, that’s scary! Dirty bomb went off in the next town! Can’t believe it. I thought I’d be safe if I didn’t live in a big city. 122 people caught in the attack. My thoughts go out to their families. Hope you are ok wherever you are.

Friday 27th Nov 20:00:
First week of work! Finished! Bit embarrassed today, tried to find a uniform for me today, but couldn’t find one that fits. Will order one in specially!

Monday 30th Nov 19:30:
Felt like a long day today. Been playing a new game, Surrogate life. Kinda cool. Love my avatar! Not enough hours in the day though for that and work, LOL! Try it yourself @ chooseyoursurrogate.com

Saturday 15th Dec 13:12:
How cool is this? RT @Pluggedin Dr Canter reveals first mind controllable prosthetic limb.

Tuesday 22nd Dec 19:12:
Last day of work before Christmas. No one got me a present. No one likes me in work. Well I’ve still got my fellow twitterers and my new Surrogate life buddies!

Thursday 24th Dec 16:34:
Yeah, That’s what your Mom said! RT @Bchapple You suck dude! Big loser. Why do you even bother?

Friday 25th Dec 09:00:
Happy Christmas followers! You are my true friends. Hope to see you on Surrogate life for some Christmas dinner 😀

Tues 17th Aug 18:33:
I want one of these! Dear Santa… RT @Pluggedin U.S. army reveals research into human style predators.  President Freeman vows to keep the U.S. soldier safe.

Thurs 26th aug 21:23:
My Mom was caught in the New York riot today, she’s ok, but she hurt her arm. Riots are still going I hear. They are talking about sending the army in. Crazy!

Mon 15th Nov 17:12:
Got an e-mail from Surrogate life to offer me the chance to beta test! Going to take part in new games and challenges. That’s awesome! Hope I get selected.

Sat 11th Dec 08:00:
WoW, WoW, WoW! I got accepted! I’m getting my own Surrogate. Turns out they will be testing for real Surrogate Robots This is soooooo awesome! Get fitted for it in a couple of weeks.

Weds 29th Dec 23:12:
Got fitted today. Got to choose eye colour, build, hair etc. Was modest with the truth 😉 Was pretty amazing. So it gets build now and I’ll get to use it next week.  Surrogates in real life 😀

Thurs 6th Jan 10:43:
On my way to try on my Surrogate! I am Iron man!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thurs 6th Jan 20:12:
I am currently writing this twitter using my surrogate to type. This could be the first ever surrogate twitter. Surrogates are the most amazing thing ever. Feels so good.

Thurs 13th Jan 17:15:
Been using my surrogate for a week now. Taken part in some cool tests. Played American football today. I’ve not played since they made me at school. It was amazing.

Fri 25th Feb 12:50:
I was part of this! Rt @Pluggedin Congress votes to allocate every police fire and EMS personnel with a surrogate after successful trials of Canter’s creation!

Sun 17th Apr 18:00:
Got my Surrogate damaged and was kicked out the program. It wasn’t my fault, just sick of all the violence in my neighbourhood! I thought I’d do something about it L

Weds 14th Sept 12:00:
Well, that’s it, congress has voted and we are all getting a Surrogate. Be great to plug back in again!


VSI website – Surrogate Life

The VSI website would be an expansion of the chooseyoursurrogate.com site that was already created. The site would allow the user to create their avatar, similar to the existing site, however where it will differ would be the ability to then use your avatar in a virtual online world called surrogate life.

Surrogate life would be similar to second life, perhaps even tying into it, and events would reflect the events that the user of the twitter account encounters. Everyone who creates an avatar and submits an e-mail address will receive an invitation to take part in several skill based games with their character, allowing their avatar to develop and collect points. The eventual winners would win prizes at the end of the competition.

Emails and articles from the news and fictional technology site Plugged in

Plugged In article – Saturday 15th Dec 13:12:

When Dr Canter was diagnosed with the debilitating disease Osteoporosis, the brilliant mind that had invented essential devices such as the bluestar mind media player made it his life work to create technology that would allow people to continue on their mobile life without slowing down.

Canter lead the way in mech-engineered Prosthetic limbs, delivering nano nuclear powered limbs that would last the length of the hosts life, however, these limbs did have limitations. The Dr found that during his experiments, the limbs benefited the hosts that previously had limbs severed off, interweaving the fibre wires with the nerve headings of the hosts nervous centre, however, people who were born without the limb and did not have the nerves for the limb or those that had experienced severe trauma and burns who had the nerve tissue were damaged were unable to accept the limbs as there was nothing to connect them too.

For the Dr, the solution was simple, but the implication was not. Canter looked at the transition of the telecommunications network from wired to wireless and set about creating a similar set-up for the body. The doctor created junction boxes which would wire in to the nervous system at an earlier point than the “severed end” that existed. The concept worked and Canter was able to overcome a hurdle that had baffled scientists for years. It was this discovery that earned Canter the noble prize.

In February of 2012, Dr Canter found out from his physiotherapist that his nerves were starting to decay which would eventually result in his own mech limbs failing. During his research, Canter had found that a small minority of patients still had issues with the mechs not able to interact. The patients had been victims of the nerve gas bombs of 2011 and their nervous systems were unable to receive messages from the brain, effectively leaving them in a living coma, unable to move any muscles in their body. Dr Canter had researched solutions for this problem, but the investors of the project were unable to justify the expense of research.

Whilst going over his research to find a solution he looked at his past creations and also took inspiration from his son. Dr Canter looked at his bluestar device and wondered if he could transmit information to the brain, would it be possible to transmit information from the brain? Dr Canter backwards engineered his device and developed a tool that was able to convert thoughts from the brain to text on a computer screen. The Dr took this idea to his investors and pitched a mind control Dictaphone that could be remotely controlled through mind control which resulted in the wavewriter that was released last year.

The Dr unveiled his masterpiece mind controlled limb today which was a by-product of this research. This new range of limbs now allows the user to just think of an action that is then interpreted as movement through the artificial limb. The prosthetic is set to revolutionise medicine and has helped several people since the escalation of nerve bomb attacks that is now rife over the world.

Dr Canter is busy working on his next project already, but his inventions continue to revolutionise the world and benefit the population in new ways, providing new opportunities to people who previously had mobility problems.


News article – Weds 25th Nov:

Eden Prairie – Minnesota

The quiet town of Eden Prairie tonight was in shock as 122 people were affected in a suspected “dirty” bomb attack.

At 13:20 central time a radioactive toxin was released through the ventilation shafts of the food court. Shoppers were only alerted by the small explosion and resulting fire alarm that was set off by the smoke generated by the device being set off.

EMS vehicles were the first to arrive on site and found they were dealing with people who were being violently sick rather than patients who were exhibiting smoke inhalation. All emergency service personal have recently went through a new biological threat course due to the recent spate of attacks that have been witness in Russia and it was quickly established that they were dealing with a radioactive hazard rather than a normal explosion. It is believed that this quick realisation has prevented further illness as only 122 people were infected for what is believed over 500 visitors to the site at that time.

The group responsible for this atrocity has not came forward yet but it is believed that caesium chloride was used in the attack. Caesium chloride has a notable blue glow to it and this activity has been witnessed by those accessing the site. Highly trained biological officers are still on site, combing the area in Haz-mat suits looking for further evidence of the materials used and clues to the identity of the attackers.

Whilst there has been no deaths today, it is believed that the affected are at a very high risk of losing their life, whilst those that survive face a life of debilitating illness.

The president was not available for comment, it is believed they are formulating a strategy for further attacks, but vice-president Hopper asked the American public to remain calm and vigilant during these times.


Plugged In – Tues 17th aug 18:33:

Today the army revealed plans of the latest innovation to join the soldier on the modern battlefield. The USMC 301 “raptor” has been unveiled as the ultimate soldier, a soldier that never sleeps, never suffer fatigue, and perhaps most important of all, does not require a knock on a mothers door when it falls in combat.

Developed by Dr Canter as an extension of his nuero-prosthetic limbs, the raptor represents an import advance in modern warfare. A Human replacement, being controlled by a trained soldier over 10,000 miles away. Similar to the predator used by the air force in that it is a remote fighting machine that can be used for reconnaissance as well as armed search and rescue as well as infiltration.

President Freeman has vowed to speed development of Canters innovation as quickly as possible, “I believe this is an important step in this nation’s defence, protecting our flesh and blood , preventing another American life ever being lost on the battlefield”.

The artificial surrogate soldier is close to realisation and will be fill several vital role in America’s armed forces. The raptor will be fully controllable and articulated, capable of performing several tasks from driving a big rig truck, to performing keyhole surgery. It was believed that this technology was years away, but with the foresight , skill and inventiveness, Dr Canter has brought this closer to development than ever before.


News article – Thurs 26th Aug 21:23

New York found itself under Martial law tonight as riots broke out across the city. It is believed the riots coincided with the inauguration of New York’s latest mayor , Daniel Cole. The rioters believed that there was foul play due to the unpopular views and manifesto of the successful candidate.

Dubbed as the “doormat” Cole promised that his first action as Mayor would be to open the gates of New York harbour to everyone, Releasing 1 million green cards to foreigners and allowing an influx of workers not born of these shores .

This has sparked anguish amongst native residents, arguing that there are not enough jobs for those born and breed here, however, Cole disagrees, citing the low employment of public sector workers, “Everyone wants to wear a suit and carry a briefcase to work, no one is willing to don thick gloves and clean the dirty streets of New York.”

The figures do not lie, and what Cole reports is true. The municipal service’s have over 100,00 jobs available in 1 of the 5 boroughs and no one to fill them, despite the unemployment figure rising daily.

Cole thinks that foreign immigrants will fill these essential roles and this became the main point of his manifesto.

When the votes were counted it was revealed that Cole was victorious, however, rumours quickly spread that the new online voting polling stations had been rigged, hacked by knowledgeable foreign hackers so that their countrymen could come work in America. Cole himself was a campaigner for online voting and those that started the riots believed that he had been integral part of this “conspiracy”.

Cole himself has attempted to calm the piece stating that he will happily call a re-election but the riots continue. Police forces have been unable to handle the troubles. With reports of officers joining the ranks of the rioters in demonstration of the appointment the national guard have been called in to calm the upset that has plagued New York.

Martial law has been called, and citizens of New York have been advised to stay in their homes while the riots continue. Commander Rico of the national guard has requested citizens do not leave their home for any reason. “I understand the need to protect your personal property, however, I implore you to leave this to my troops on the ground”, Rico continued, “Vigilantes will not be tolerated”.

This widespread disturbance is one of many seen over the united states, as fears grow of more terrorists attacks. Acts of terrorism have reached an all time high, with the threat level being at it’s highest for over 14 months. Suicide bombing alone has claimed the lives of over 14,000, and many of the American public is afraid to step through their front doors, prompting the first “stay-in” online election seen in New York.

Normal power will be restored when the riots have been controlled and Cole will stand again for the mayor position during the upcoming elections, to be held at Cole’s request


Surrogate Life E-mail –  Beta testing Mon 15th Nov 17:12

Dear sir,

You have been participating in out online virtual self arena for several months and we would like to offer you a place on our beta testing program.

Successful applicants will see how the surrogates life world will expand before any other participants. You will participate in several tasks and skill based challenges, with the finest applicants moving onto the third and final stage of our testing.

Your Avatar, McClane has been upgraded as of today on receipt of this letter and you will be able to access the trials soon after.

Congratulations and good luck

Surrogate Life E-mail – Acceptance E-mail  Sat 11th Dec 08:00

Dear sir,

It is with great delight that I write to you from VSI is regards to your activities in our online virtual world, Surrogate life.

You have seen in the news that our head scientist Dr Canter has been working on creating a surrogate for the real world to help our nations army in the protection of our nation. We are very close to completion and require testers to evaluate our Surrogates.

You have excelled in Surrogate life and performed several virtual tasks which we now wish to test in the real world. We would like to invite you to our headquarters at our expense to fit you for integration into our testing program. This invitation is open to you and you only, as you have demonstrated the necessary skills to pilot a surrogate.

Congratulations and please reply to this letter in writing before weds 22nd December.


Plugged in article – Congress votes on adoption of Surrogates Fri 25th feb 12:50:

VSI demonstrated it’s first working surrogate at congress today as members voted on the adoption of surrogates in the military, police, fire and EMS services.

VSI showed videos of  it’s humanoid remote control vehicle, codenamed Raptor, performing several different tasks from veterinary surgery (VSI is still awaiting approval for human subjects) to a full 11 Vs 11 game of American football.

The depth of movement and control is simply astounding and VSI put it to congress that their robots would be able to replace flesh and blood humans in several high risk areas, such as the armed forces.

Plugged in has previously reported on the presidents anxiousness to bring VSI’s creations into service and it appears that congress agrees with leader of the free world. A resounding 85% of congress voted in favour of adoption of surrogates, convinced that the footage shown to them was enough to prove that they were capable of replacing a human.

Dr canter commented that this a huge achievement in his career but revealed that his motives were far more personnel when creating these devices. Dr canter was working on a solution to his mobility problems and found a way to control devices through thoughts interpreted as mechanical movement. There was however no funding available for research, so Canter explored other avenues in which the technology would be useful.

The Dr was aware of the military potential of such a device and compared it directly to the predator aircraft, citing this innovation as responsible for the preservation of several aircraft pilots lives.

The Dr was also aware of the budget available to military projects and was able to get the company interested enough to start development. Canter had also taken an interest in his sons social life as his son was getting older and happened to stumble upon an online game in which the user created an avatar which they could control in a virtual world. He took his ideas to VSI where he proposed a virtual testing ground, now know to be surrogate life, to evaluate the possibility of human users controlling robots, known in the game as avatars.

The top 5% of users were then invited to take part in real world testing of the raptor (Radio advanced primary task organic replacement ) were they took part in such trials as operating machinery, sports, and construction as well as extreme tasks such as fire-fighting, riot control and combat.

President Freeman commented that this was a great day for the advance and preservation of human society.



News article – Congress votes on every U.S. citizen adopting a Surrogate Weds 14th Sept:

Congress today voted overwhelmingly to provide every citizen of the United States Of  America with a surrogate self from VSI labs.

Homeland safety was cited as the prevailing reason for the vote, with terrorism and civil upset growing greater every day. It was strongly felt by the government that surrogates would ensure the safety of  the American people. Army use of surrogates has proven that even in the event of a surrogate being in an event that would end a human life, instead the user is simple able to sit up from the users chair and take control of a replacement without injury. Any events of terrorism that do take place will result in several damaged surrogates but no human casualties.

Not all of Congress was happy with the decision and demonstrations were also held outside the building while voting took place. The demonstrators believe that surrogates will take away the users humanity, but Dr canter, the robots inventor, argues that the surrogate is just an extension of the person.  While not being human the robot is still controlled by a human and is therefore still controlled by the moral virtues instilled in the user.

Surrogate delivery will start at the end of the year, with VSI already in production of the MK1 in anticipation of today’s vote.

* * * * * *

So, we’ve taken our shot at a Surrogates viral but what do you think? Is it better than the original, would you have taken part and more importantly, would you have went to see the movie on the strength of this campaign?

Post your thoughts below. Surrogates is in theaters right now.

Next week – What if: Anti-surrogates, The prophet speaks!


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