Saturday, August 14, 2004

Imagination at Work

fantastic1   fantastic2   fantastic3

For me, one of the highlights of the 2004 Olympics opening ceremony last night was not the flying circus, nor the torching of the phallus, but it was General Electric's new TV ad. Nanotechnology was not mentioned at all, but the film, "Fantastic Voyage," that old reliable nanotech analogy, was a prominent player.

The ad focused on a brain surgeon who, a la Calvin and Spaceman Spiff, was off in his own Walter Mitty world, imagining that all this wonderful GE medical imaging equipment was allowing him to take that fantastic, nanosized voyage into the patient's brain. "We've got to get back to the ship," the surgeon says, to the astonishment of his medical assistants.

General Electric is working on real-life nanotechnology, but somebody in its ad department knows that lectures on the company's R&D in nanocomposites and nanostructured optoelectronics will leave viewers running for the fridge or the remote. Instead, it chose to try for the imagination, using cultural icons and humor.

A few months ago, I wrote:
    To harness human imagination – now, that has the potential to create the kind of popular groundswell of which U.S. policy-makers can only dream. The elements are already there – if only the nanotech political, business and media communities would take a glance beyond their insular worlds and see it.
The voice-over in the GE ad promotes the company's "medical imaging that allows doctors to navigate the brain with precision that until today was pure science fiction. ... GE: Imagination at work."

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