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Marketing Technology in the Postmodern World


The car-friendly guide to fixing human-made greenhouse emissions.

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Technology in a postmodern world

This week's "Nature Materials" talks up organic semiconductors. The editorial surveys existing applications for low-cost, flexible electronics. Then it highlights coming technology such as "biocompatible" devices for directly hooking into our nervous systems. Some medical professionals are already excited about this. They could, for example, implant an sensor in someone's heart and hook it up to a smartphone app. General practitioners could spot an incipient heart attack. Sports doctors could analyse and optimise an athlete's performance. A direct implant offers far better precision than existing tools, along with the ability to see what's happening any time, anywhere. My children might have smartphone apps that detect incipient heart attacks and stop them happening. No doubt researchers will come up with a whole encyclopedia of useful applications as the technology moves toward commercial reality.

The logical next step is to replace the smartphone with a neural implant that hooks directly into the internet, as used by some of my sci-fi characters. This would make smartphones, tablets, laptop computers, and even TV sets, functionally obsolete.

Organic semiconductors are not the only candidates for a practical cybernetic implant. But they are "organic": They are made of carbon-based molecules.

This will open up new and fascinating possiblities for marketing folk. People mostly see the world subjectively. That's why supermarkets sell "organic" fruit and veges. No supermarket would say their "fruit and vegetables are made of organic chemicals." Just because it is objectively true, doesn't mean it's what people want to think about when they're doing the shopping.

Some folk think anything natural is good, and anything synthetic is bad. Objectively we know that is often irrelevant, and sometimes wrong. For example, natural petrol and diesel cause global warming. Some synthetic petrol and diesel does not. From the marketing perspective that doesn't matter. What matters is the fictional view of the world that each person creates in their imagination. That's what determines the kind of products people will buy. A car designer would be silly to pass up the opportunity to build a battery-powered car, just because battery-powered cars are objectively inferior to conventional cars. Some people want them. Some people think they are essential for fixing global warming.

So, what about organic cybernetics? Will some people prefer organic cybernetic implants because they are "organic"? I have no idea. I do know that cybernetic technology is gathering momentum. It'll open up new opportunities, some of which will suit manufacturers based in countries like New Zealand.

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