Are We There Yet? Are We There Yet? Are We There Yet?
Isn't that always the answer?
Soon. Soon we'll have cures for all diseases, cloning
of replacement organs, non-polluting transportation and
affordable self-sufficient housing for all.
And, of course, flying pigs.
Of course, it makes sense to sell a product by it's
strong points, because, well, that's usually why it
was invented. And it makes sense to keep mum about the
problems for obvious reasons of embarrassment. Why
invite failure and criticism?
Still, this drives a fundamental business model.
Nobody wants to spend alot of money and wait
forever to sell the finished product. Can't argue with
'em. Makes good sense. And nobody wants to have to put
all of their own money into it if they can help it. That also
makes sense. The only way to do it without going into
debt or losing part of the company is to sell something
So, the first priority is to fashion a product out of
any working level of research. Wrap it up, margin it to
the limit and put it on the shelf, hoping sales will pay
for the development of the real product .
There's the ethical quandary. There are three distinct
ways of turning infant technologies into viable products
or services. One way is to brainstorm all the simplest
general areas that the concept could apply to, and choose
most cost-effective option. Secondly, the technology or
idea can be sold to another company doing one of those
That's the classy way. Sadly, we see the third option most.
The last resort is to just call it the real thing and sell
it as is. Advertise what it does, and quietly sweep it's
faults under the rug. Then at each new level of research,
a 'new, improved' and slightly more expensive version
comes out. Things we hoped it did and saw as drawbacks
in the first one are now 'new advanced features' on the
From a strictly business (meaning money) viewpoint,
it's just perfect. From a strictly business ( I do this for
people for a living) side, it's just 'cheatin'n' lyin''.
Yeah, I know. that's harsh. But then, nobody ever
said that business or honesty were easy. They still
happen to go very well together, in my opinion.
Unfortunately, the desire to complete the final product
can be easily sidetracked by the idea that the public
loves it like it is already. This is where our dependancy
on marketing starts to intrude.
You see, marketing's job is to find out what people
want about a product and design the packaging and
advertising. They work exhaustively to calculate the best
way to approach us with their new big thing, touching
on the dreams and freedoms we long to experience,
fitting their wonderful new thing into our lives as the
source of immense satisfaction.
All too often, it seems like just pandering to our
sci-fi images of a perfect future world. I mean, they
know what we really want.
We want it to be like 'Star Trek'.
No, I don't mean we want to live on spaceships and
meet smart guys with pointy ears.
We want to say 'computer- do my taxes.' and sign
them ten seconds later.
We want a replicator in the kitchen, one in the
garage or workshop, and maybe a little one by the
wetbar in the den. A hospital that cures everthing
without ever breaking the skin. Worldwide, instantaneous
travel, communication and entertainment. . And we
really need 'Phasers'. Why? The value in human life of
a gun that only stuns is incalculable.
So, from crash-proof aircraft that fly themselves
to 'tri-corders' and warp drive, we want some 'Star
Trek' reality in our daily life. Technology is moving
quickly, and many of these things aren't so far off as we
Aaah, but they are far off. Maybe not as far as we
used to think, but still, far off. Let's look at a few
things that have been presented to us as 'the
Cloning The big news is, they finally did it!!
Successfully cloned a sheep, they did. A mammal!
Imagine that! A perfect copy of the adult. Wow!
But wait a minute. How did they do it? I, mean, real
cloning, like in the movies? Simple! They fertilized an
egg with cells from the sheep, and, as ewe would guess,
she gave birth to a perfect little copy of herself.
Unbelievable!! (But is it cloning?)
Every Sci-fi nut, and even Woody Allen knows that
cloning is the creation of a full individual, grown
entirely from cells or body parts. (As in 'we're gonna
clone the leader from his nose.') Sci-fi variations aside,
all these guys have really done is artificially inseminate
a sheep without any semen to seminate with, it seems.
Industry/Commerce- I'll grant you, many truly
modern innovations have made their way to the public.
From microwave ovens and trash compactors to
mini-vans and custom RV's, industry was pushing hard
to bring us the future. Every kind of gizmo you could
think of was thrown together and sold to us as the
'greatest thing since sliced bread'. Every new level of
technology brought another spate of labor-saving
wonders, and television and radio made sure we all
knew about them. More importantly, we were more or
less told that everyone else already HAD one, and we're
missing the boat. As they went by the wayside or settled
in, we sighed.
We all thought the future would be here practically
overnight. Or at least by Tuesday.
Computers and the Internet- Truly the king and
queen of 'not really the future yet' products. Computers
are probably the most wonderous, useful, imaginative,
annoying, wallet-breaking pile of space age crap to
enrich our lives. It just screams 'Star Trek' and it gives
us 'Buck Rogers'. The phrase 'all you have to do' has
become frightening to many of us. Has it ever been
followed by less than six steps? God forbid you should
actually have a problem and need tech support. Waiting
on hold alone can frazzle your nerves.
And then there's the Internet. 'Star Trek'
incarnate, they would have us believe. I can't count the
number of people who have told me that it's going to
replace everything from newspapers to telephones.
From brick-and-mortar stores to public libraries. The
internet will reign supreme. Instant visual two way
communication. As one ad I've seen says, 'every
recording of every song ever made'. We can almost see
ourselves, like Capt. Picard, flute in hand, saying
'Computer- 'Mozart's Magic Flute, London Symphony,
omit flute, record performance.'
Then we log on.
Reality sets in quickly. Things are not as they
seem. Even if your system is perfect you are subject to
the quality of the sites you're visiting. Sometimes you
crash, sometime you can't get on, the site or server is
down or, quite often, the site is just plain gone.
Have you ever tried to read a newspaper on the
web? It's not like reading a real one yet, is it? And
reading one a few dozen or so letters at a time on your
cel-phone sounds real convenient, doesn't it? The
internet is rife with new companies selling the future on
a platter. Some work. Lots don't. Unfortunately, many
just exist to cash in on the whole dot-com thing.
You see, things are different now. Making
something cheaper and making it for less money once
were two different things. Now, every product, service
or accessory is profit-margined to the hilt. We pay as
much or more than we ever did, and the car is made of
weaker materials, the new rangetop gets too hot to touch
when the oven is on, and your kid's newest toy lasts for
about 15 minutes- if they take good care of it.
OK, maybe I'm exaggerating about the toy. But you
can't deny that business has adopted a 'profits are king
and the customer is crap' attitude. Everything from
banking to plumbing is now run on this business model.
These days, you are supposed to run your company this
way. Many would say that this is just capitalism at
work, and I should just shut up.
No, seriously. (You didn't really think that was it,
Far be it from me to condemn anyone for wanting
wealth and cool stuff. Guilty as charged. But how do
you plan to get it? If all someone wants is cash now,
and to Hades with everyone else, well, then, how they
get it is probably not an ethical concern. Or any havoc
they might reek in the process. So, pretending to sell the
future by dressing up some old technology is no big
Except to the people left hanging by your product.
That's where the 'Star Trek' thing comes in.
We feel violated when these new gadgets don't
deliver. 'This isn't the future!! This is crap!!' We take
it personally. 'How can a company sell this junk?' we
ask. Why does it bother us so much?
Because the Space-age future we all seem to envision
isn't just about machines. We also like to imagine that
war, hunger, pestilence, disease and crime are all
history as well. (At least for the good guys, ya know,
US.) Selling the 'Enterprises's gadgetry without 'Star
Fleet' integrity just doesn't wash. In their world,
everyone is free to achieve, with equal rights, and safe
from a fall. All of our hopes and dreams are tied up in
this vision of how we wish it was now. When someone
panders to that desire and cheats us, we feel a little
more hurt than just having our pocket picked. We really
wanted what they said they were selling us. We're not
just out the money- WE DON'T HAVE THE THING
So it seems that delivering on our sci-fi dreams is
either a profitless experiment or a flashy scam. One way
or the other. No options. Right?
You know I don't think so.
We are at a point now where we are quite aware of
the problems that we face in every aspect of our lives.
From technology to society, we have many hurdles
ahead. There is much we have done that is not good
for the planet or us. We still continue to cause damage.
Worse yet, there are solutions to many of these
problems that are not being enacted because the profit
margin is still higher on the process that does the
damage. Gimme a break!!!!
Products and processes that have a negative impact
on people or the environment obviously need
re-engineering or replacement. The best example would
be energy. Utilitiy and fuel companies must adopt the
long term reality of alternate and natural sources versus
fossil fuel. I think most of you will agree that energy,
especially oil, is at the forefront of many of our
financial, environmental, political and even military
situations. This hurdle must be cleared.
All that's necessary is a change of the business
mindset. And to me anyway, an obvious one. There are
two types of greed. Short term greed is the one we know
best. This familiar monster seduces us with the false
belief that we're just fending for ourselves, making our
own lives secure. It allows us to be blind to the injury
we cause in our pursuit of wealth and power for it's
What business really needs is ego- the other greed!
What if corporations and manufacturers saw their
long-term impact on society and the planet as an integral
part of the product? (Some do.) Imagine all those resources
pointed at, say, polluted rivers. Imagine a company using their
research and development to solve problems like this as
part of the product's design. Just thinking like 'Star
Trek' is a good start.
So, the companies themselves need to take a
long-term ego attitude towards the world. Being a hero
company that makes the world a better place must
become the focus of business. Don't keep that new
development that we all crave a rumor until the profit
margin is double the old way.
And maybe, while we're at it, put some logos on a
few parks, museums and libraries in someplaces that
don't have them, instead of the ritzy burb where the
Mostly, if you're going to sell us 'Star Trek', then
make sure you've got the whole package, ethics and all.
After all, we're still watching, and we still want to
Everything but the flying pigs, that is.
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