Miniature People Big Holiday Seller

Oct. 16, 2152
LUND, SWEDEN–Cutting-edge bioengineering and 20th century nostalgia are equally represented in a new line of products from Toyboy Factories. Humites(TM) and Humites Environs(TM), both new for the holiday season, include cadres of miniature, human-like creatures, each about the size of a fingernail. Consumers can keep their Humites in one of the elegant bookshelf or coffee table Environs Toyboy markets, and care for them with a range of Humite Foods and accessories.

“We worked hard to be sure that Humites naturally form co-operative, social groups,” notes Toyboy Marketing Director Bird Smollet. “Marketing research told us that there was a lot of interest out there in terrariums and miniature environments. Ant farms have enjoyed residual popularity for generations. We realized that, with recent developments in organism design, we could offer an ant farm with a modern twist.”

Humite genealogy, it turns out, owes as much to ants and other social insects as to the humans they so closely resemble. “Humites look like people, but their physiology and psychology have deep roots in the genetics of social insects,” explains Engineering Director Pfifle Jubilee. “As the name suggests, much of the Humite genome comes from drone castes of social, mound-termites. The challenge, really, wasn’t to engineer tiny humans–we ruled that out fairly quickly as, physiologically, too difficult–but to genetically modify insects to very closely approximate human appearance, and to extend their encoded instincts to include human-like behaviors.”

The resemblance to humans is sometimes quite eerie. Not only do Humites look like miniature people, right down to their fine, micro-filament hairs, but they do some very human things, including wearing clothes. A variety of Humite wardrobes are available, typically coming in packages of a dozen matching coveralls which the consumer simply drops into the environment. Once the Humites discover the clothes, they put them on and spread the word to the rest of the group using chemical and pheromone signals and markers.

The Humite Environs Toyboy offers rival in elegance the ingenuity of the creatures themselves. The gracefully cut, grown-crystal Panoptifarm environment, which serves both as an attractive display case and a coffee table, is designed for large populations. Those with relatively small groups might favor one of the bookshelf cases, more reminiscent of the iconic ant farms of the past, and outfitted with detailed, brushed-aluminum cityscapes.

Unlike traditional ant farms, Humite Environs are dynamically expanded and re-designed by their residents. When supplied with a wedge of special, crystal building-resin (sold separately), Humites modify their environments, constructing transparent buildings, compounds, and, depending upon the size of the population and environment, villages and towns. By setting switches on Environs Access Points, consumers can enable their Humites to expand their environment as needed. One shelf unit filled with industrious and well-supplied Humites can be extended to adjoining shelves overnight through inter-connecting crawl-tubes and miniature, surface-tension elevators.

In order to ensure that Humite populations not spread in unwanted or inappropriate ways, Toyboy fixes the life span for individual Humites at about 36 months, and constrains their ability to reproduce. “In order to reproduce, Humites must receive a particular chemical signal that no Humite can, itself, produce, and that doesn’t occur in the natural environment,” explains Jubilee. “For those who want to expand their populations, we sell a special, proprietary breeding box treated with the appropriate chemical signal. By controlling access to and use of the breeding box, consumers can maintain or expand populations as they choose.”

“We’re anticipating a block-buster holiday selling season,” indicates Marketer Smollet. “Our first-run pre-sold in a little less than an hour. Everybody is going to want these cute little guys.”

An Ecosystem of Your Very Own

March 7, 2151
PORTLAND–Genetic customization has been taken to new heights with Fenster Corp.’s introduction of the Personal Ecological Terraderm or PET. The service provides clients with two hypodermics of primordial bio-ooze “encrypted” with a key based on clients’ individual Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (“SNiPs”). Once injected, the “ooze” goes to work forming a rudimentary nano-scale ecology just beneath the skin of the torso and arms.

“The whole thing sort of tickles at first,” reports a satisfied client from Redwood City. “But, it’s worth it. Once your PET gets up into senior evo-cycles, you’ll start to get some cool things. Last week I spawned a crimson bottle-nosed moth. Ever since I’ve had a peaceful cloud of ’em following me around.”

Though Fenster makes every effort to ensure an evolutionary trajectory that is both aesthetically pleasing and compatible with the client’s lifestyle, a PET is a freely developing evolutionary ecosystem and specific results cannot be guaranteed. “We do everything we can, particularly at the initial conditions stage,” explains Fenster spokesman Marcheno Davis. “The qualities of the PET substrate can have the most impact on the client’s appearance, so we do what we can to keep a low profile. I can’t reveal exactly what’s in the substrate, but we did begin our design from all-natural micro-algaes and worked towards colorlessness, which turned out to be trickier than we thought.”

The PET substrate interacts with the client’s skin, renewing itself through a complex exfoliating interaction between the skin, the substrate, and the lowest tier of PET organisms that typically emerge within hours of injection. The substrate, and each new PET organism that evolves, is “locked” by the client’s SNiP key, preventing one client’s PET from interacting with another’s. “Interaction between PETs introduces a new level of uncertainty to the whole process,” explains Davis. “We’ve got interacting PETs in the works, though, so couples, close friends, even whole families can have cross-evolving PETs. We see that coming to market maybe 18 months down the road.”

Surprisingly few of Fenster’s early clients have experienced any adverse reaction to their PETs. Some have described an uncomfortable “crawling” feeling during the first month or so when the first generations of biots and biomites tend to reproduce at unsustainable levels before higher-level predators evolve, but most praise the eventual outcome. Though no serious reactions have been reported, Fenster always supplies clients with an “eco-cide” hypo in case of complications. “The eco-cide is keyed to the client’s PET and immediately kills off the substrate and all derivative organisms,” Davis points out. “We got accelerated FDA review and approval because we take careful measures, like providing an eco-cide.”

Whether or not PETs will find a broad market remains to be seen. The company has ramped-up its marketing efforts in anticipation of the spring season, but may run into a healthy amount of skepticism among consumers. “I don’t know, what if something gross evolved, some kind of ugly spider or cockroach rather than the butterflies they keep talking about,” worries a New York resident participating in a PET focus group. It turns out that concerns about what sort of PET organisms might evolve, and how those organisms might reflect on the host-client, are six times more common than questions about possible health side-effects. Vanity, it seems, is more than skin deep.

Human Jerky: Taboo-Busting Snack Defines Breakthrough Market

Feb. 6, 2098
MINNEAPOLIS, MN–Monsanto Mills today announced that its recently introduced Human Jerky(TM) has surpassed the company’s most ambitious sales projections. “We were able to communicate well with the consumer on this one,” notes marketing VP Wilmer Pret. “It’s a tasty, uniquely nutritious snack food with a modern, avant cachet that others can’t match.”

Monsanto first introduced Human Jerky(TM) six months ago in a few bleeding-edge urban markets that research suggested would be the most likely to adopt the snack as a form of taboo-breaking cultural statement. As seems to have been the case quite often recently, demographic projections missed the mark. Within weeks of its introduction, news of the vacuum-packed snack reached the American mid-west, despite an advertising campaign narrowly focused on costal urban centers. “The demand was overwhelming,” exclaims Pret. “Our servers were flooded with inquiries, people wanting to know when they could buy HumJerk in their local markets. Just to keep the buzz going we sent out literally millions of free samples to customers making the most enthusiastic requests.”

Human Jerky(TM) was conceived to test the consumer market for re-purposed medical technologies that had exhausted their product-cycle in medical markets. Originally developed to grow integrated tissue-and-muscle grafts, and marketed under the name FleshGeneraTor, the technology behind Human Jerky(TM) grows human flesh on a bio-degradable protein-mesh substrate, in a bath of growth-catalyzing enzymes. Sheets of flesh are then jerked in large dehydrators. Some of the more exotic, smoked flavors, including Hickory, and Applewood, are express-smoked under pressure in a controlled combustion smoke chamber.

Monsanto promotional materials tout the nutritional value of Human Jerky(TM), pointing out that human flesh, of all possible sources of natural proteins, supplies the proteins and nutrients most needed by the body. “What better source of the nutrition you need than healthy, carefully-grown human flesh?” asks a popular Monsanto banner.

Medical experts disagree about the nutritional advisability of eating Human Jerky(TM), and FDA officials are keeping a close eye on the claims Monsanto makes publicly about the snack’s nutritional completeness. More than misconceptions about its nutritional value, experts worry about the possibility of the spread of prions. CDC Director of Food Vectors Anton Spright cautions that “public safety depends upon [Monsanto’s] ability to maintain sufficient genetic diversity in its stock. If the line from which they’re working becomes too narrow and degraded, the possibility of prion contamination multiplies exponentially.”

Monsanto is responding to worries like those aired by the CDC by marketing a new, genetically-customized version of the product. “We were always very careful about the diversity of our stock. We routinely replenished the line with grafts from a cross-section of world populations. But, now, we’re going one step further. Next week we’ll start offering My Jerky(TM): Human Jerky(TM) made from flesh grown matching the genetic profile of individual consumers. People can send us in a drop of their blood on a convenient hemo-absorbent card, and, within two weeks, we’ll be able to send them Jerky of their own flesh.”

Some worry, though, about the impact of the everyday violation of one of the oldest and most widespread of cultural taboos. “This may be another case of technology defining what should be done by defining what can be done,” cautions MIT Professor Kermit Jays. “The fact that it is technologically possible to cannibalize human flesh without killing people does not necessarily mean that the taboo should be discarded. Culture is more complex than that. It may be generations before the consequences symptomize themselves in social dysfunctions.”

New Soap for Cleaning Soap

June 24, 2004
CINCINNATI — Consumer giant Procter & Gamble today announced a new product enabling consumers to maintain the cleanliness of traditional bar soaps.

“For years our customers have complained that the stickiness of in-use bar soaps attracts un-appealing hair and dust adhesions” notes P&G spokesman Ron Neufchatel. “Our own researchers have discovered in the lab that these bar soaps may also be among the most pathogenic objects in the household. They act like fly-traps for the very bathroom and kitchen germs they are meant to wash off. Sure, they get the germs off your hands, but, on subsequent washings, can reintroduce the same germs. Bathtubs into which in-use soaps fall can fill with rapidly-replicating germs in a matter of minutes.”

Until recently, dispenser-based liquid soaps were the only solution for the germ-aware. But P&G’s new Metasoap enables consumers to again enjoy traditional bar soaps worry-free. Handsoap Industry Association of America spokeswoman Maude Freed welcomed the new product, declaring it a “boon to a much-maligned industry.” “Most people don’t realize that the traditional craft of soapmaking has fallen on hard times. Metasoap may revive a nearly lost art.”

“The simple pleasures of a rich, scented bar of soap need no longer be stigmatized by the risk of serious, debilitating bacterial infection. To enhance your soap’s safety, simply wash it after each use with Metasoap” declares P&G’s promotional material.

Metasoap comes in three handy, unscented forms: liquid pump, spray, and, yes, bar. It seems that the peculiar germ and lint-retardant properties of Metasoap make it possible to wash your bar of soap with a bar of Metasoap.

Consumer watchdog group Poison Soap Watch cautioned that Metasoap has not yet been tested in independent labs, but welcomed the product as a first step in reconciling the public-health concerns presented by the “omnipresent threat of germ-soaked soap” with the “important business interests of soapmakers and the soap industry.”