Not long ago, the New York Times devoted its Sunday magazine cover story to the “immortal jellyfish,” a species of invertebrate that has the ability, at any stage of its life, to turn back into a polyp and start life anew. Think of a butterfly turning back into a caterpillar, Benjamin Button-like. In theory, Turritopsis dohrnii, as the immortal jellyfish is also known, could live forever.
This possible key to immortality is difficult to observe in a lab (there is exactly one scientist in all the world, a Japanese biologist, studying these jellyfish), so it’s unlikely we’ll see jellyfish-derived fountain-of-youth pills at the pharmacy anytime soon. Nevertheless, and given that this species has spread to all the world’s oceans in the last few decades, it may not be long before we discover just what causes it to reverse-age and make that formula druggable.
What I find fascinating, though, is that these jellyfish weren’t discovered until 1988—just 25 years ago, on the bottom of the ocean floor. And only now, with the rise of genetic medicine, might this biological curiosity attract the scientific attention it deserves—because only now do we have a greater understanding that genetically speaking, humans and jellyfish are actually very similar.
Couple this with the recent news from astronomers that roughly one in six stars has an Earth-sized planet orbiting around it. (That means about 17 billion Earth-sized planets in the Milky Way alone.) Determining how many among them may be Earth-like is the next step.
So, from far below and far above us, in the most modern of times and within weeks of each other, comes news suggesting that before too long we may be able to answer two of the all-time Burning Questions: Can we live forever? And are we alone in the universe?
I take all this as a reminder that there are things we don’t know we don’t know, nor do we know what the answers might look like or even when they might appear. This is why we in the brand activation business often insist on market research. Smart as we may be, experienced as we are, we can never assume we know everything, but we can suspect that the answers are out there. Somewhere.
It’s simple: To get answers, you’ve got to ask questions. To ask questions, you’ve got to admit there are things you don’t know. To admit there are things you don’t know, oddly enough, is the first step to building a brand that just might live forever.