Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Future is Here

I'm about to finish Michael Crichton's latest book Next. The book covers genetic advances that may, at first, seem futuristic, but the scientific basis to achieve them exists today.

It covers corporations taking out patents on individual genes (and by extension owning part of you). Crossbreeds - animals with human genes, able to achieve higher intelligence (these actually do exist today). The effects of triggering or suppressing certain behavior-influencing genes in humans (turning them more docile, or more mature). And of course, cloning - a favorite genetic subject (again, this has been achieved numerous times already with animals)

And like every other Michael Crichton novel, he provides the underlying scientific facts, both in the text and in an extensive bibliography (should you be tempted to research on your own).

I read it as a sort of a precautionary horror story. Yes, the technology exists - but you don't necessarily have to use it. Of course, when BIG money is at stake, everyone loses their conscience and pursue the next big genetic breakthrough.

But writing this book review wasn't high on my list of posts. I intended to write a Montreal trip report, followed by some technical digests. And then I ran across a YouTube movie that proved to me that the future is here.

In one of the scenes in the book, a major advertising company manager discusses his plans to start altering animals to have company logos on them. A shark with an "HSBC" logo; a rhino with "Land Rover" naturally stenciled on his side; fish swimming in a riff, each type carrying its own little ad.

He plans to market it this way: each company will "sponsor" its own animal and contribute to preserving it - thus appeasing those "green guys". In the meantime, the branded species will take over and replace the original species (by being altered, they'll be placed higher in the evolution ladder), so in a few generations, every animal on Earth will be sponsored.

Again, sounds a little far-fetched, until you see how these guys decided to advertise "ZOO York" shoes.

Caution: for the squeamish in the crowd, this involves a lot of logo-tagged cockroaches. And it has a gross finale.


melvynadam said...

I read Next shortly after it came out. I was reminded of it last week when I read this story:

avi said...

The last Crichton I read was Prey (some 4 years ago). Spooky enough :)
Yet, IMHO, "Sphere" was his best creation.

Traveling Tech Guy said...

This is just plain scary.

In hindsight, almost every Crichton book was predictive and ahead of its time:
Andromeda Strain - predicting a falling satellite and an ensuing out break (see my post:;
Airframe - predicting major accidents cover ups;
Jurassic Park - predicting that scientists will start mining amber for ancient DNA (dinosaurs not withstanding :)).

I hope someone gets this guy to attend some science committee somewhere - he seems to know where we're heading.