As a further sign of how the digitalisation of everyday things are taking over more of our lives, comes news of how the human vices are being transformed.
Somebody calculated that the global pornography industry is worth more than Apple, Google, Microsoft and eBay combined. $8.5 billion per year. Perhaps the only surprise is that it isn’t higher.
But for those caught up in the nicotine addiction, there are new developments on the artificial ciggy front. Substitutes like patches and gum have been around for decades, and sometimes they work, often they don’t. It’s frequently psychological, working on the basis of tricking the mind.
The market for tobacco is in decline, at least in the west, so companies need to find new markets. Ironically, targeting potential quitters may be just what they are looking for.
All the major companies (Imperial Tobacco, Lorillard, Japan Tobacco International and Philip Morris International) are reported to have made recent investments in next generation technology.
While this substitute market is still small ($500 million a year) compared with say the US tobacco market ($88 billion), it is a source of revenue that is growing. Battery operated tubes heat a cartridge of nicotine in water, and at present are not subjected to strict medical device controls anywhere.
Other systems for delivery of the fix include a fag-shaped aerosol delivering a burst of the drug through a breath-operated valve. Critics of all and any devices point out that customers may be swapping one form of addiction with another. But, that is life.
The Living Dead
Meanwhile, those who have shuffled off this mortal coil are set for spectacular returns, or they are if they were famous in life. A Jimi Hendrix hologram is set to star in a ‘live’ performance before an audience.
His sister, Janie, said it was all about ‘making sure that Jimi is authentic and true to himself and his music’. The irony of what she was saying may have escaped her.
The recreation of the guitar icon who died in 1970 aged just 27, in a realistic life-sized illusion of his words and actions is described by John Harlow and James Gillespie in The Sunday Times, as ‘a mix of Victorian and new technology’.
The Victorian part is simple well-placed mirrors to project the illusion. The modern part is the projector beaming the digital images.
It will see Hendrix smashing his Fender Stratocaster and setting fire to it, just as he did in concert four decades ago. Developers believe it will appeal ‘to well-heeled fans’ too young to have seen him in the flesh.
Hendrix can be made to play and interact with living artists, generating some unexpected fusions of music and genres. Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison are other certainties for this type of wizard resurrection.
The concert that pitches all such greats on stage at once will surely be a sell-out, beating anything that a single living artist can generate now.
Critics condemn it as ‘ghoulish’ and unnatural. Artists can be regenerated without the consent of their estates, leading to yet another field day for the lawyers. The estate of Marilyn Monroe have started legal action in Los Angeles against an entrepreneur who wants to project her onstage singing Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend without their permission.
But like most invented things, once it’s caught on, it can only grow.
And the promoters and kingmakers of the entertainment world will see how to make a few quid out of people’s curiosity and art’s ability to reinvent itself. How long before people wand to see Hitler or Bin Laden or Suddam Hussein ‘live’ again?
Sunday Times, 17 June 2012, John Harlow and James Gillespie, ‘Hey Joe, Jimi’s Alive’.
Image: Pawel Ciesla