Bruce Sterling on 30 Oct 2000 00:15:33 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Miniature People Big Holiday Seller

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Subject: Miniature People Big Holiday Seller
Date: Sun, Oct 29, 2000, 11:20 AM

October 16, 2152

Miniature People Big Holiday Seller

by Robspear (

LUND, SWEDEN--Cutting-edge bioengineering and 20th century nostalgia are
equally represented in a new line of products from Toyboy Factories.
Humites(TM) and Humites Environs(TM), both new for the holiday season,
include cadres of miniature, human-like creatures, each about the size of a
fingernail.  Consumers can keep their Humites in one of the elegant
bookshelf or coffee table Environs Toyboy markets, and care for them with a
range of Humite Foods and accessories.

 "We worked hard to be sure that Humites naturally form co-operative,
social groups," notes Toyboy Marketing Director Bird Smollet.  "Marketing
research told us that there was a lot of interest out there in terrariums
and miniature environments. Ant farms have enjoyed residual popularity for
generations.  We realized that, with recent developments in organism
design, we could offer an ant farm with a modern twist."

 Humite genealogy, it turns out, owes as much to ants and other social
insects as to the humans they so closely resemble.  "Humites look like
people, but their physiology and psychology have deep roots in the genetics
of social insects," explains Engineering Director Pfifle Jubilee.  "As the
name suggests, much of the Humite genome comes from drone castes of social,
mound-termites.  The challenge, really, wasn't to engineer tiny humans--we
ruled that out fairly quickly as, physiologically, too difficult--but to
genetically modify insects to very closely approximate human appearance,
and to extend their encoded instincts to include human-like behaviors."

 The resemblance to humans is sometimes quite eerie.  Not only do Humites
look like miniature people, right down to their fine, micro-filament hairs,
but they do some very human things, including wearing clothes.  A variety
of Humite wardrobes are available, typically coming in packages of a dozen
matching coveralls which the consumer simply drops into the environment.
Once the Humites discover the clothes, they put them on and spread the word
to the rest of the group using chemical and pheromone signals and markers.

 The Humite Environs Toyboy offers rival in elegance the ingenuity of the
creatures themselves.  The gracefully cut, grown-crystal Panoptifarm
environment, which serves both as an attractive display case and a coffee
table, is designed for large populations.  Those with relatively small
groups might favor one of the bookshelf cases, more reminiscent of the
iconic ant farms of the past, and outfitted with detailed, brushed-aluminum

 Unlike traditional ant farms, Humite Environs are dynamically expanded and
re-designed by their residents.  When supplied with a wedge of special,
crystal building-resin (sold separately), Humites modify their
environments, constructing transparent buildings, compounds, and, depending
upon the size of the population and environment, villages and towns.  By
setting switches on Environs Access Points, consumers can enable their
Humites to expand their environment as needed.  One shelf unit filled with
industrious and well-supplied Humites can be extended to adjoining shelves
overnight through inter-connecting crawl-tubes and miniature,
surface-tension elevators.

 In order to ensure that Humite populations not spread in unwanted or
inappropriate ways, Toyboy fixes the life span for individual Humites at
about 36 months, and constrains their ability to reproduce.  "In order to
reproduce, Humites must receive a particular chemical signal that no Humite
can, itself, produce, and that doesn't occur in the natural environment,"
explains Jubilee.  "For those who want to expand their populations, we sell
a special, proprietary breeding box treated with the appropriate chemical
signal.  By controlling access to and use of the breeding box, consumers
can maintain or expand populations as they choose."

 "We're anticipating a block-buster holiday selling season," indicates
Marketer Smollet.  "Our first-run pre-sold in a little less than an hour.
Everybody is going to want these cute little guys."


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