BROOKE GLADSTONE: A well-known name is generally regarded as the very definition of celebrity. But in the last two weeks we've seen an example of fame that has no name at all! Consider the humble, the ambiguous pronoun: it. IT has steamrolled the media this month, partly because IT's supposed to be cheap and easy to assemble. Partly because big shot IT investors like Apple Computer's Steve Jobs say architects will build cities around it; partly because ITs predicted life-altering impact on the globe has been compared to what cold fusion's impact would have been; but mostly because we, and that includes Good Morning America's Charlie Gibson, don't know what IT is!
CHARLIE GIBSON: ...and I don't know what we're talking about, but this is a segment where I go in admitting that I don't know what I'm talking about. This is a segment that involves a reporter who earlier this week got wind of a very unusual book proposal that had been snapped up by the Harvard Business School press, and the book is about an invention that is supposed to make its creator richer than Bill Gates.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:"Mystery Gadget Has World Guessing. Invention Called Most Important Since the Internet" offered the Times of London. "IT could be big, but what is IT" - asked the Agence France Presse. "Come on! Tell us already!" demanded the Edmonton Sun. What the hell is it? IT is an invention by a certain technical wizard named Dean Kamen, inventor of a portable dialysis machine and a wheelchair that can climb stairs.
Now Kamen has said that IT is not all that. It's nothing of the earth-shattering nature that people are conjuring up, he said. But he did suggest in letter to the author of the book about it, obtained by Inside.com that the technological leap is unlike anything that now exists. The world has never seen anything like this! And that is apparently all we need to know.
Thus the ancient question what's in a name gives way to what's in a not-name? And the answer inevitably is: pots and pots of money.
Look what mystery did for Garbo. Look what it did for Primary Colors which rode the bestseller list on the anonymity of its author. And look at the platinum-plated publicity windfall it's created for IT.
The funny thing is we probably already know what IT is! You can check out the patent, filed last month on the World Intellectual Property Organization International Bureau web site. IT seems to be a device that would facilitate individual transportation. I T. The fact is IT probably is a scooter. A really cool scooter driven by something called a "Sterling Engine" which runs cheaply and cleanly and efficiently and if everyone used one instead of big, noisy, smelly, polluting cars the world would definitely be a better place.
So yeah, maybe it could change the world. But it won't. Disappointed? Those of us looking for redemption in technology -- and face it -that's most of us these days - are bound to feel let down. The fact is, technology is a mighty force - but it's nothing compared to the power of public relations.