Daily Archives: December 12, 2003

The Peddlers Strike Back

Remember those peddlers we got rid of in the last post? Well, their more traditional counterparts are working on some new techniques to help us part with our hard earned cash:

A company in Atlanta is scanning people’s brains with MRIs, in an effort to record our subconscious thoughts about products and ads.
The process has been dubbed neuromarketing. It’s being hailed as a giant leap in the science of selling. But the technique is also raising some concerns.

The Emory University School of Medicine is performing some neuromarketing research and a Nader outfit called Commercial Alert is demanding they stop:

Commercial Alert and prominent psychology experts sent a letter today to Emory University President James Wagner, requesting that Emory stop conducting neuromarketing experiments. These medical experiments on human subjects are unethical because they will likely be used to promote disease and human suffering.

Apparently they are using Emory as a trial balloon as this specific type of research is a wordwide phenomena.
Tyler Cowan thinks the concerns are overblown:

Furthermore the worries are overblown. Let’s say we found such a buy button and that corporations could use that knowledge in their ads. Would it really shift the marketing balance of power in favor of sellers? Over time I would expect buyers to compensate, as the knowledge would not stay secret for very long.

And a Forbes article archived by Commercial Alert agrees:

The rational response to the injection of brain waves into Madison Avenue is that it will neither revolutionize marketing nor make us consumer slaves. It will, rather, yield incremental benefits. “The human brain is the most complicated thing in the universe,” says John Van Horn, a research associate professor in psychology and brain sciences at Dartmouth College. “It would be arrogant to say we could stick someone in a machine and understand everything.”

And, really, you and I and everyone else is looking for the same magic button all the time…we just don’t have the money to fund focus groups or use MRI machines.

Warding off door-to-door peddlers

The Age has some suggestions for warding off door-to-door sales folks of all varieties. For instance:

If Witnesses, Mormons, and other evangelists, such as mobile phone salespeople, provided some notice then things would be different. Forewarned, you could answer the door wearing a Charles Manson T-shirt, carrying a copy of Aleister Crowley’s The Book of the Law in one hand and a dead chicken in the other, with Alice Cooper’s Welcome To My Nightmare blaring out of the stereo. Or you could answer the door dressed as a Teletubbie, gently cradling a tissue box full of chopped liver. Either strategy would work.

There more, enjoy.
Via The Pagan Prattle.

More on Patents

Jonathon Krim explores some of the problems with patents and the US Patent Office in this long Washington Post article.
Regular readers already know that I take a very dim view of some of the patents being approved. For instance, see here, here and here.
Krim tells us that

Patents are granted for inventions deemed unique, useful and non-obvious, and the system has periodically yielded curious inventions, such as a diaper for pet birds.

There are some types of patents that have only sprung up in the last 20-30 years:

Software patents, for instance, can protect a single line of code that tells a computer to do a specific task.
Internet method patents, meanwhile, allow companies to protect broad ways of doing business on the Internet, rather than a specific product or its underlying technology. These controversial patents include Amazon.com’s method of “one-click” shopping and the use of online shopping carts.

Most of these types of patents should never have been issued.
Apparently the Patent Office has a huge backlog of applications and argues that they need more money and more staff to get them processed. There is an easy way to reduce the flow of applications and thus get a handle on the backlog: simply stop issuing these types of patents.
Via beSpacific.