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Tag: cell

Czeslaw Milosz predicted CRISPR

Sunday, 28 June, 2015 0 Comments

CRISPR is much in the news these days. It’s a revolutionary technique that makes editing the genes of living beings relatively easy. The implications — both frightening and promising — are such that the scientists who discovered CRISPR have recommended a field-wide moratorium on using the method to edit human embryos. They encourage continued work in editing mature human cells, but draw the line at changing DNA prior to birth. They’re a bit late in bolting the lab door, however, because Chinese scientists have already genetically modified human embryos using CRISPR.

Like artificial intelligence, genome editing is outstripping our ability to understand its ethical implications. But while we wait for Pope Francis or President Obama or Chancellor Merkel to take a position on this issue, let’s read Czeslaw Milosz, the Polish poet who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980. Normalization, as translated by Clare Cavanagh, prepares us for the “onset of universal genetic correctness,” which is even more terrifying than political correctness.

Normalization

This happened long ago, before the onset
of universal genetic correctness.

Boys and girls would stand naked before mirrors
studying the defects of their structure.

Nose too long, ears like burdocks,
sunken chin just like a mongoloid.

Breasts too small, too large, lopsided shoulders,
penis too short, hips too broad or else too narrow.

And just an inch or two taller!

Such was the house they inhabited for life.

Hiding, feigning, concealing defects.

But somehow they still had to find a partner.

Following incomprehensible tastes—airy creatures
paired with potbellies, skin and bones enamored of salt pork.

They had a saying then: “Even monsters
have their mates.” So perhaps they learned to tolerate their partners’
flaws, trusting that theirs would be forgiven in turn.

Now every genetic error meets with such
disgust that crowds might spit on them and stone them.

As happened in the city of K., where the town council
voted to exile a girl

So thickset and squat
that no stylish dress could ever suit her,

But let’s not yearn for the days of prenormalization.
Just think of the torments, the anxieties, the sweat,
the wiles needed to entice, in spite of all.

Czeslaw Milosz (1911 – 2004)


Farewell, then, Nokia

Tuesday, 3 September, 2013 0 Comments

At the height of the NSA hysteria, the usual suspects reheated their arguments for a “European Google”, which would, somehow, save us from the big, bad Americans. Nobody fell for it, though, as everyone knows that the “European Google” idea/scam is predicated on sucking billions of euros into “research” in France and Germany, which will never produce a search engine, never mind a European Google. Now that Microsoft has acquired Nokia’s devices and services business, we can expect demands for a European phone maker. But that train has finally left the Finland station and it’s not coming back.

The year Apple launched the iPhone, 2007, was Nokia’s best-ever year: it sold 436 million handsets — nearly 40 percent of the total purchased worldwide. (Its nearest competitor, Motorola, sold 164 million.) That was then. In the first quarter of this year, Nokia shipped 61.9 million handsets, but Samsung shipped 112.8 million and is on track to reach the 500-million milestone. Poor old Motorola shifted a mere 3.9 million units in Q1 2013.

In April last year, Nokia introduced the Lumia 900, which prompted Nicholas Thompson, writing in the New Yorker, to speculate on “The Resurrection Of Nokia?” He declared: “The cell-phone market could use another competitor. It probably won’t be Research in Motion, which appears set on hara-kiri. But Nokia and Microsoft are genuinely trying to recapture the magic of that old N95.” Strike Nokia there. It’s all Microsoft now.

In early 2001, Rainy Day became the proud owner of a vivid red Nokia 3330 and it fended off all competitors until Steve Jobs reimagined the phone business. No one today can say that Nokia didn’t have fair warning of its fate.

Nokia to Apple


Mobile phone moment in Milan

Sunday, 4 August, 2013 0 Comments

“Franco Ferrarotti, a sociologist at the University of Sapienza in Rome, also believes that the Italian overuse of the phones stems from a national passion for verbal communication. But he said it was abetted by a flair for deception. ‘Lying is a Mediterranean art form,’ he told the Rome daily Il Messaggero. The cell phone […]

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