Posthuman Enterprises presents...

The Technical Wizardry of Modern Optometry

August 18, 2023 Dr. Alan Marshall Episode 2
Posthuman Enterprises presents...
The Technical Wizardry of Modern Optometry
Show Notes Transcript

Comma and Osta decide to race as far away from the Earth as quicky as possible -- but not before stopping off at a new mall for a spot of shopping.


(This is the script for Episode 2 of the “Posthuman Enterprises presents…” podcast, written by Dr. Alan Marshall)


 Whenever Osta had drunk too much vodka he would usually become driven by an insatiable desire to go off somewhere to steal things. The Neptune Skymall, a huge shopping complex floating in the outer atmosphere of Neptune, was his immediate target this time round.

 Whilst Comma was off looking for a map, Osta was standing in front an eyewear store. In his half-drunken state Osta became mesmerized by the elaborate display. 

 BioMax bionic eyeballs. No batteries needed; the self-charging implant captures and relays the electrical energy produced by the friction between eyelid and eyeball. BioMax! Don’t YOU deserve the best?

 'Why, yes I do,’ said Osta to himself.

 Osta was usually immune to such ego-satisfying marketing techniques but he had stood there before the video with the deadening effect of alcohol flowing through that part of the brain controlling aesthetic judgment. He was also watching the whole scene through such scratched and smudged bionic eyeball lenses of his own that he began to think what a good idea a new pair might be. He pushed his face flat against the window.

 ‘Just beggin’ to be stolen,’ he muttered to himself. He then felt the presence of someone nearby.


‘Too darn itchy,’ said a robot to Osta.


‘Huh?’ queried Osta. 


‘Too darn itchy them eyeballs. And having itchy eyeballs is horrible when you’ve got no fingernails.’


‘Oh. Okay,’ said Osta in a voice conveying that he had no interest in the robot’s plight whatsoever; especially since this particularly rusty robot had mismatched and mal-aligned eyes that were blinking on and off like a Picasso-esque disco-droid.


‘But then I found some of this OcuGel,’ carried on the robot. ‘Wonderful stuff, it is. Just eases the itchiness away.’


Osta wasn’t interested. ‘Why are you telling me this?’ The robots eyes flashed wildly but before it could answer Osta asked it another question. ‘You’re a Tizer, aren’t you?’


‘Errr. Aha, I am a Tizer,’ said the robot in a dejected voice. He stood with Osta and looked into the window. ‘Nice eyeballs, though’.


In these days of widespread scepticism about advertising, few people are ever really convinced by the manufacturers’ claims. There is, it can be stated, a crisis in marketing. How do you get people to buy your stuff when they either know that it’s not as good as you’re making out or they are actually turned off by hearing about it? The answer: Tizers. 


Tizer marketing strategies rely on the old fashioned method of ‘word-of-mouth’ to increase product profile. After years of expensive research it became apparent that the most successful form of marketing was when consumers told each other about the stuff they bought. For instance, no one had ever seen an advertisement on the Rhythm method yet by this technique of contraception, the population of Saturn 7 had steadily increased for nearly fifty years.


Now, in order to take advantage of the understated success of ‘word-of-mouth’, one advertising company decided to invent Tizers--though they didn't call them that of course--they used an acronym: Commerce-Related Android People. Tizers (or C.R.A.P.s) came in all shapes and sizes. Some were long and slender, others squat and fat. They also came in various forms. Sometimes they were real people, usually starving drama students, while at other times they were hologram projections. Most often, however, they were robots sculpted rather clumsily to look like average people.


What Tizers did was this. They mooched around public places, shopping malls, commuter trains, etc, and they struck up impromptu conversations with the people there. Some time into the conversation they would then drop in a plaudit or two for some product.


As you would expect the general public did not, as a whole, respond congenially to just anybody who approached them. Therefore the Tizers were chosen, or made to look like, the sort of desperate lonely people who might well want to strike up a conversation with any passing stranger. 


Unfortunately, governments also began to use Tizers to influence public opinion. What this meant in practical terms was that within a very few years the subways, bars and post office queues of most human colonies were filled with an enormous number of irate agitators trying to strike up conversations with passing strangers about some politically-opportune topic; the disgusting amount of taxes they had to pay, or who was really to blame for the war.


A bigger problem with Tizers however was what happens to them when they are broken or laid off. If human Tizers are injured they often complain about it. And no one likes that. Worse, though, is when an android Tizer is given the sack since they nevertheless continue to wander around spouting nonsense to everyone they meet. You can see them on the streets of Earth nowadays picking garbage out of trash cans or raving on about the bus tickets costing too much. If one bothers you, on no account should you give it money, for they will just spend it on something useless like food.  


‘Mmmmm, BioMax 5s. Lying in a felt-lined case. Beautiful,’ cooed Osta.


‘And they don’t itch really,’ said the robot. 


Osta turned from the window and looked at the robot. 


‘So tell me. How does a lovely robot like you become a Tizer? Did you lose your job as a traffic light or something?’ 


‘Ohh it’s a long story,’ said the robot. ‘Shall I tell you?’


‘Yes,’ said Osta.


‘Many years ago, on Europa, I fell in love with a cappuccino machine. Back then, electronic love was frowned upon. Arrh!’ The robot yelped suddenly. ‘Sir? What are you doing? Sir?’ With an almighty heave, Osta lifted the Tizer off of its feet and hurled it through the shop window he had been gazing into. The robot smashed the glass and crumpled into a metal heap next to the BioMax eyeballs. The Tizer reacted with no more than tentative complaints, none of them heard by Osta due to the loud alarm siren screaming from the store. Osta reached amongst the broken glass, grabbed the eyeballs and started running.


When he had put sufficient distance between himself and the shop he had just stolen from, Osta stopped from running and acted all casual. Because he had been drinking this is was quite an easy thing for him to do. 


He casually walked into a homeware store then casually took the felt-lined case out of his pocket. He opened it to look at the bionic eyes, and then, with a spoon he found in the kitchen utensils section, he casually flipped one of his old eyeballs out of his head. Equally casually but with much inner anticipation, he lifted one of the BioMax eyeballs from the case and attempted to put it into his empty eye socket.


What Osta had not accounted for was the size of the bionic eyeballs; gigantic things they were; size 12 or 13. He pushed them hard with the palm of his hand but they would just not go in. He tried to lever them in with the spoon. No luck.


‘What sort of goggle-eyed freak could wear these?’ he asked himself.


Finally, he grabbed a meat tenderizer from a shelf, held it in front of his face, then thumped it against the stubborn eye. He did this a few times, thumping and cursing, but the bionic eye still did not insert properly into his awaiting socket. 


The whole exercise of hitting the new eyeball as it rested against his face was, of course, quite tricky since he had only one eye to watch the incoming hammer, and it usually closed instinctively when the meat tenderizer was just about to make contact. Thus Osta had a number of large wounds appearing on his forehead and on the bridge of his nose. These complications were just beginning to deter him, when, with one final whack in just the right spot, the BioMax eyeball was squeezed into place.


‘Yes!’ said Osta ecstatically.


Osta twitched his eyelids to get the new bionic eye working. He was disappointed to find that his vision was fractured and broken just as the bionic eye was fractured and broken. He looked beyond the array of kitchen utensils in front of him, and out the shop’s window to the crowd. While his right eye, the old bionic eye, focused upon these people through a few scratches and smudges, his new bionic eye’s vision was much more distorted and seemed to be operating like a fly’s eye, relaying many more thousands of people all arranged into a kaleidoscope of tiny diamond patterns which the meat tenderizer had left on the BioMax lens.


‘Very psychedelic but it’s just not going to work.’ 


He then plunged the spoon back into his left eye socket, trying to get it behind the BioMax eyeball so he could lever it out. The fit was so tight, however, that all he managed to do was lodge the spoon in his eye socket.


‘Oh hell!’


Just then a Neptunian customer came round the corner of the kitchen utensil aisle looking for a wok. Osta spoke up to the Neptunian, suggesting it go to ‘Stocks of Woks’ across the way. The Neptunian looked up to thank Osta for this advice but the words never left its mouth. Instead it stood there staring in fright at the bleeding wounds on Osta’s forehead, the spoon handle sticking prominently out from Osta’s left eyeball and the large meat tenderizer he was waving around towards ‘Stocks of Woks’.


‘Are you okay?’ asked the Neptunian.


‘Yes. I just have something stuck in my eye,’ replied Osta.


‘I see,’ said the Neptunian, its wings unfolding nervously.


‘Don’t worry, I'll get it out,’ said Osta.


As the Neptunian flew out of the shop--muttering derogatory comments about the human race--Osta resumed his battle with the eyeball. Picking up an expensive looking silver dessert fork, he jabbed it into the lens of the new eyeball, trying to lodge it far enough in so that it would get some traction when pulled.


Jabbing and gouging both the fork and spoon into the eye’s electronic innards his vision suddenly became blurred and dark, then bright and clear, and then blurred and dark again. Then, after Osta had driven a corkscrew into another part of the recalcitrant eye--and an apple corer into his foot just to see if that would help--the BioMax vision suddenly sparkled into a single, clear, highly-magnified image.


‘Hmm,’ said Osta to himself.


Osta looked out across the window that stood behind the kitchen utensils and his brand new severely utensilised eye focused in upon a distant object. The object was in a pretty felt-lined case, behind the display window of an expensive looking shop. 


‘A TransMax translator,’ said Osta to himself. ‘Now that’s what I really need.’ He then went off to look for another Tizer. 


Out of this drunken afternoon in the sky mall, Osta had acquired a pocket translator, two bionic eyes (somewhat broken), a number of kitchen utensils, and also, after some more imaginative shopping, four litres of Kiwi vodka, five crates of uranium-fired blood biscuits, half a dozen marriage licenses and a pregnant hamster.  


Comma, in turn, had bought a map. The map was the singularly most useful item since it showed where in the galaxy they might like to go. 


When he made it back to the space van, Osta ceremoniously crashed one of his vodka bottles against the hull and christened it the Ladybird. He then climbed on board to find Comma playing with the map. 


‘How ‘bout this planet here?’ she said, pointing to a blue and orange dot.


‘Sure’, said Osta without even looking. As long as it was away from the UniCops he wasn’t all that fussed where they went. ‘Plug the coordinates into the Wormhole drive’. 


The Ladybird soon flittered into life, climbing through Neptune’s rings into Wormhole space.








The planet Kank: a beautiful blue and orange orb floating serenely in the darkness of space. According to most galactic maps, Kank is the farthest inhabited Milky Way planet from Earth. This might be one reason why there had never ever been any messages passed between Earth and Kank, since--given the enormously slow speed of radio waves, which just amble along at the speed of light--it would take seventy thousand years for a ‘hello message’ from Earth to find its way clear across the galaxy to Kank. Faster-than-light spaceships using wormhole speed-stripes have, of course, made radio a rather outdated medium for such long-distance chats but, even so, the Kankers have never really wished to say hello to passing space travellers. They’re just not the chatty type.


Despite this, the philosophical opinions of the Kankers were well-known to all intelligent species in neighbouring star systems. It is clear, for instance, that the Kankers regard themselves as the defenders of photosynthetic life forms; those vegetable members of the universe who make their food from sunlight, rather than through the messy business of stalking, catching and then eating other creatures. 


According to the Kankers, plants are not slow and dimwitted, as most animal creatures believe but actually quite lively and talented. To support these conclusions the Kankers sometimes spoke of the accomplishments of the more advanced plant species, for instance, the Gold algae from the Drozahn Snow Worlds, a species noted for their skilful composition of oboe concertos, and the Qualidian Meebor bush from Alpha Peradni which had once won a refrigerator and two tickets to Phantom of the Opera on a radio quiz show.


‘There it is. Kank,’ said Comma. ‘It’s gorgeous.’


‘Aha,’ said Osta. He motioned to put down his glass of vodka but then, having glimpsed the view screen, decided to take another a swig.


‘So let’s go meet the Kankers,’ said Comma.




‘Have we got gifts?’ Comma asked. ‘Something we can give to show we are friendly.’ 


‘Who said we are friendly?’ said Osta smiling. Comma shot him a disdainful look. ‘Um…okay…maybe we can offload that broken down waffle-maker,’ suggested Osta as he pointed to a battered looking metal box floating around at the back of the van.


‘The one you keep hitting?’ asked Comma.


‘I only hit it ‘cause it doesn’t work,’ answered Osta


‘It only doesn’t work ‘cause you keep hitting it,’ replied Comma.


‘You’d hit it too if all it served you was grey slop that tasted like earwax,’ said Osta. ‘Hey! Talking of which, maybe we can give them this napkin.’ Osta held up a bedraggled dirt-soaked napkin. 


‘You just used that to clean the waffle-maker!’ cried Comma. 


‘It’s quite cute, though, don’t ya think?’ asked Osta. ‘Nice floral pattern.’


Comma grabbed the cloth to see what Osta was talking about. Her attention was drawn to a little tag. ‘Property of the Duxtonia Hotel. Did you steel this too?’


Osta shook his head. ‘It came with the hamster. Where is that little thing? It’s having babies, you know?’ Osta looked under his seat and in the overhead compartments but he didn’t find the hamster.


‘I really don’t think this napkin will make a good gift,’ said Comma. ‘There are too many suspicious stains on it.’  Osta suggested the stains were just part of the pattern. ‘Not with that smell,’ said Comma. She tossed the disgusting napkin back at Osta. ‘The Kankers might feel insulted and blast our heads off. Ugh, Osta? What are you doing with it now? Oh, don’t use that disgusting napkin to wipe down your vodka mug.’


‘Why not?’


‘Because the germ transfer ratio is 5 to 1 from the cloth towards the mug.’


Osta held the glass against the light. ‘At least the mug looks a bit cleaner now,’ he said. Comma screwed up her face.


‘Why don’t you just go lick that rodent’s butt?’


‘I’ll just get rid of that crusty bit right there’ said Osta as he dug his fingernail into a crusty mass on the inside.






With the Ladybird's view screen turned on, they decided to descend from orbit to a height of about a mile over the planet. They looked at the Kank landscape from this height and remarked on its beauty. From this point they could see the surface features of the planet very clearly; lovely rolling crimson-capped waves washed up from a wide orange sea onto golden-red beaches.


Inland, and off into the distance from the Ladybird's perspective, great blue swathes of lush forest seemed to be growing and shrinking in size with unnerving rapidity; a curious visual phenomenon since, at one moment, the land was covered with shining blue vegetation, and at another, the orange ground was laid bare. Then another moment later the blue forest re-appeared again. 


This peculiar effect so attracted Comma’s interest that she piloted the Ladybird down to hover just above the forest. Or more accurately, just above where she reckoned the forest would be when it returned again.


As they waited for the forest to reappear from whatever was temporarily obscuring it, Osta spotted what seemed like a collection of dwellings on the surface; beautiful conical shell-shaped buildings. 


With the thrusters buzzing, Comma guided the Ladybird even lower. When they got to within one hundred metres of the orange surface, their line of vision was suddenly broken by a stark blue column.


‘Where the heck did that come from?!’ yelled Comma.


‘What the heck is that?!’ yelled Osta.


A second later another blue column ascended suddenly in front of them. ‘Whoah!’ they both yelled. Then another second later a third column thrust upwards from below, this one appearing only a few metres in front of the space van. ‘Let’s get outta here!’ cried Comma. But she was too late; a fourth column clipped the stern of the Ladybird and a fifth its nose. Whilst more blue columns shot up around them, the space van went spiralling towards the ground.  ‘We’re completely out of control!’ 


‘Yep,’ muttered Osta.


‘We’re tumbling to the ground!’ yelled Comma.


‘Aha,’ muttered Osta.


‘So, this is it?’ gasped Comma. ‘We are going to crash. Ugh. My life is flashing before my eyes.’


‘That’s just the view out the window,’ said Osta. The space van tumbled and span lower and lower but as it did so it swiped itself against the long blue columns. The lower it tumbled, the denser became the forest of columns and the more times the Ladybird sideswiped them. The columns were rather fleshy and soft but incredible strong, absorbing the kinetic energy of the spinning space van. Through shear freaky luck the contact between the edge of the Ladybird and the fleshy columns slowed down the rotation and descent of the space van just enough so that it hit the ground as gently as a child’s spinning top. Soon the spinning stopped and the Ladybird rested on the surface, upside down. 


Dangling awkwardly from their flight seats, Comma and Osta opened their eyes to see vodka bottles all over the ceiling glugging out their contents. ‘Oh. Look what you’ve done!’ moaned Osta.


‘Don’t blame me,’ Comma replied. ‘Blame gravity.’