I suppose a lot of you have seen the astonishing video of the Intellectual Ventures Mosquito Death Ray. It’s a can’t-believe-your-eyes proof-of-concept so irresistible that the time to it being monetized as a mass-market product that sits on your porch must surely be a matter of months. Remember how quickly Apple went from being a computer manufacturer to being a music company that happened to have a sideline in computers? You think the same thing could happen with Microsoft and pest control?
Devised for malaria eradication in Africa, the Mosquito Death Ray seems like promising ground for the One Laptop Per Child business model (which has failed, so far, to get very many laptops to very many children); use Western punters to cross-subsidize humanitarian uses for a cool technology.
But I’m a morbid pessimist. What I think of when I see a Mosquito Death Ray built with cheap parts from eBay isn’t malaria: I think “Gee, seems like guidance systems for ground-to-air rockets would be well within the financial range and design abilities of a clever hobbyist now.” Then I think, “Hey, haven’t we seen rather a lot of news stories over the past few years about pilots being mysteriously scanned with green laser pointers?” Then I just kind of curl up into a fetal position.
(But let’s not let that stop us from enjoying more fun from Intellectual Ventures: reverse-engineering the secrets of Avatar.)
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