Friday, March 2, 2012

Swallowable Perfume

Body architect Lucy McRae is taking her extraordinary transhumanist aesthetic from low-tech to high-tech as she is currently collaborating with Harvard scientist Sheref Mansy to create a pill that acts as a perfume. This pill would contain cells that are engineered to be recognized by the human body as fat cells, and absorbed in a similar way. As these cells are broken down then, they could release certain molecules that come out through the skin and act as a perfume.

Lucy has come up with an interesting teaser to wet our appetites, which you can see below.

I'm not so sure that the appetite for these pills will be big though, from a commercial perspective. Of course there are the early adopters who like to show off or provoke the people around them by showing them something new and radical. These are the important people through which a new technology can start evolving, as Kevin Kelly also explains in his book 'What Technology Wants.' But for the larger public, there would probably be more to these pills than just acting like a perfume. One major selling point where a pill may take over from spray-on perfume is that the scent may last for several days, but even then I think the threshold may be too high to start ingesting things.

What is happening here seems to be the same as happened to other major technological breakthroughs like the automobile, movies, and radio. They started off as literal replacements of the previous technology, but in a new embodiment. The first cars were designed like horse carriages, and the first movies were made in the same way as written stories and theater plays. It was only later that the larger inherent potential of the new medium revealed itself, and people started to align themselves with what almost seems like the intention of the technology. The technology then ends up not just a more efficient replacement of the former technology, but bringing about an entire shift of behavior and mindset in its users.

This will probably be the same for these new intimate technologies that enter the human body. The mindshift this will bring about is that the body is just another object that we can manipulate. It is not us, our identification with it that started in early age was too limited a conception, it was an illusion keeping us blinded from the larger whole. Now, this technology opens us up towards this mindset, as we can continually alter our own body to the needs of the situation, or simply to play around with it. The swallowable perfume pill will probably not remain just a perfume, but integrate more functionalities inherent to the capabilities of the pill-form. Maybe it will turn out to become an 'experience-pill', where different pills are created to generate different sensory and mental experiences. Next to fragrance molecules, it might also contain skin and hair colorants, or neurotransmitters to generate a certain subjective experience. Who knows what will happen. But that the next major technological shift is coming is certain.

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