Monday, August 27, 2012

How to promote your invention on the web in a few easy steps

This text describes the pattern I have observed in several cases of scientific hoaxes. The Web has become enormous and people are literally drowning in information. In this chaotic bombardment, sometimes it is hard to separate scams from real science. So, discerning a suspicious pattern may help you to judge. I am not explicitly naming any specific scam here, mainly to avoid giving scammers a resonance they don't deserve. However, if you follow subjects such as free energy, cold fusion, miracle cures, instant-riches financial schemes, and the like, you'll have no problems in linking this text to real life examples.

Step 1. Identify a suitable scientific field. You know that science can do a lot of things but, so far, it has not been able to cure cancer, produce free energy, predict earthquakes, make everyone rich, and things like that. It is here that frustration is building up with the public and it is here that you'll find your chance. You must plan your invention as something that will solve one (or even more than one!) of these great problems.

Step 2. Prepare your invention in such a way that it will look as close as possible to the way the public perceives science. If it is a device, it will have wires and pipes attached. If it is a cure of something, it will be operated by people wearing a white lab coats. If it is software or a financial scheme, it will be embedded in a slick web site. You don't need to be a scientist or an engineer to do that, but if you look like one, it will help a lot. Also, buying a title from a diploma factory may turn out to be a wise investment.

Step 3. Go public on the web, and do that with a bang. That's a step which will cost you some money because you'll have to hire PR professionals to promote your site, your press releases, as well as your person. But it is money well spent. The PR firm will advise you on how to promote your invention on the web using SEO (search engine optimization). They will tell you how to create fake "spontaneous" web sites discussing your invention. They will also tell you that you shouldn't shy away from the most farfetched claims you can think of: cancer cures, rejuvenation, space travel, energy at zero cost; these are just examples. The more outlandish your claims will be, the more likely it is that they will spread.

Step 4. Find your testimonials. Journalists are your primary objective. They are always desperately seeking for news to publish and it takes very little to get them to play to your tune: best of all is to invite them to a demonstration, paying their expenses and offering them dinner. Some of them will remain skeptical, but they will speak of your invention and that's what counts. You may even be able to co-opt university professors and other professionals as testimonials to promote your invention. Many of them are strapped for cash and desperately in search of notoriety. Then, of course, if your invention has something to do with medicine, you'll line up patients extolling the merits of your miracle cure. Here, you'll find that the "placebo effect" works wonders in your favor and it will be easy to find people who will genuinely believe to have been cured by you and who will declare that in public at no cost for you. Finally, if you hint that your invention has been sponsored by the CIA, the FBI or whatever shady agency you can tell of, that will help and it doesn't need to have any factual basis: it is a question of secrecy, you know?

Step 5. Manage the reaction. Now a good number of serious professionals in the field you have chosen, will feel that it is their duty to demonstrate that your invention cannot work and they will endeavor to explain why. They are playing in your hands: journalists and bloggers love controversy and the debate will make the interest in your invention skyrocket. At this point, you'll use the criticism you received as proof that you are the victim of a conspiracy from the powers that be who are attempting to deny to humankind the benefits of your invention. You'll react to all criticism you receive assuming that it is generated by personal hate against you and by the vilest of venal motives and that, of course, justifies your reaction against them. Threats of lawsuits turn out to be very effective in intimidating your critics. But it is cheaper and more effective to use personal insult and threats. Have no fear! What can you lose? Do you really think that university professors will sue you because you said that they are incompetent idiots?

Step 6. Create your group of faithful followers. At this point, your action should have generated so much interest that a group of people sufficiently deluded and desperate will have been turned into true believers. Some of them will be so faithful that they will create web sites, mailing lists, discussion forums and more.  They will be doing for free the job you have been paying professionals to do, so far and that will include the work of insulting and denigrating your critics. Isn't that great?

Step 7. Proceed to reap the monetary benefits of your invention. At this stage,  many of your critics will have been intimidated or simply will have lost interest in the whole story. Now you look like the winner of the debate and you can sell your patent, or maybe you'll sell licenses or maybe you'll have plenty of patients for your miracle cure; whatever. You only have to avoid making any verifiable claim about your invention (you may hint it is because of the need of secrecy) and make sure that it doesn't actually harm people. If you are careful enough, that will make it extremely unlikely that anyone will sue you to get their money back, later on. Besides, nobody wants to let the whole world know that they have been conned by you. 

Step 8. Repeat. Despite the great brouhaha generated by your action of promotion, you'll discover that, if you let some years pass, the public will have completely forgotten about you and your invention. So, you can restart with a different invention or with the same one, just with minor modifications. Go back to step 1.


Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)