Free Markets, Free People

And now for something completely different–PC’s and embryos

A couple of topics of interest.  Reuters carries a story entitled “Aging PC giants see writing on the wall”.   Seems funny to call the personal computer industry an “aging” industry, but I think the thrust of the article is right – at least regarding the “desktop” computer:

Silicon Valley’s old guard is waking up to the fact that the era of consumer PC may be in its twilight, accelerating the need to invest and adapt to rapidly changing tastes.

This week’s earnings from the giants of technology had one thing in common: they underscored yet again how consumers are increasingly shunning desktop PCs and going mobile.

Intel, which had argued that pessimistic expectations about the market were out of whack, reduced its 2011 PC forecast. Microsoft Windows sales, that reliable indicator of PC market strength, fell short of expectations for the third straight quarter.

And Apple Inc, which single-handedly showed with its iPad that many consumers are more than happy with an unladen, light and mobile computer, obliterated all estimates by selling a whopping 9 million tablets.

"The desktop, at least for consumers, probably doesn’t have a great future, and the iPad and similar tablets can deliver a lot of the functionality of a laptop," said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Asset Management.

Using only my own experience as a guide, I rarely use my desktop computer anymore.  In fact, I think of it as a legacy computer.   Just about everything I do now is on a laptop.   As for the iPad, I use it extensively as well, but not primarily.  In the type work I do, to include blogging, it is more of a supplementary tool.  But I can see that could easily change.   Given the paucity of good apps for blogging that presently exist – especially Word Press -  I’m on the laptop instead.   However, should that change, the iPad could easily become dominant (especially with the bluetooth keyboard).

On the business side of things, I can see the desktop being around for a while longer.   However, again, my experience working for a company in the field had me only operating off of laptops.   I could see beefed up tablets taking that bit of the market – i.e. that part of the business market that relies on laptops.  So yeah, I’d say the “aging giants” are right.  The desktop is likely headed for the museum.  Laptops probably have a longer (leaner and lighter) future.  At some point, I imagine the tablet and laptop will merge and dominate.

Topic two, from the UK:

Scientists have created more than 150 human-animal hybrid embryos in British laboratories.

The hybrids have been produced secretively over the past three years by researchers looking into possible cures for a wide range of diseases.

The revelation comes just a day after a committee of scientists warned of a nightmare ‘Planet of the Apes’ scenario in which work on human-animal creations goes too far.

This is a plot right out of a bad mad scientist SciFi movie.  The question of course is “why”?

That question was asked by this committee of scientists and the answer was apparently less than satisfying:

Last night he said: ‘I argued in Parliament against the creation of human- animal hybrids as a matter of principle. None of the scientists who appeared before us could give us any justification in terms of treatment.

‘Ethically it can never be justifiable – it discredits us as a country. It is dabbling in the grotesque.

‘At every stage the justification from scientists has been: if only you allow us to do this, we will find cures for every illness known to mankind. This is emotional blackmail.


‘Of the 80 treatments and cures which have come about from stem cells, all have come from adult stem cells – not embryonic ones.
‘On moral and ethical grounds this fails; and on scientific and medical ones too.’


All have now stopped creating hybrid embryos due to a lack of funding, but scientists believe that there will be more such work in the future.

To recap – they promise wondrous cures in an area where none have been produced and the marketplace has obviously turned its nose up on the effort of producing embryonic stem cells because funding has dried up one suspects to be placed in the area where there is promise and that’s adult stem cells.   So there’s no apparent market or reason to make embryonic hybrids.

Much discussion in the article about the “ethics” of the effort.  Is it indeed “dabbling in the grotesque”?  Is it “never … justifiable?” 

Your thoughts.


Twitter: @McQandO

19 Responses to And now for something completely different–PC’s and embryos

  • Scientests play god, news at – oh, right, never mind.

    I agree, what could go wrong.    Let’s see where to begin.

  • I just want to note that once again, Pres. Bush was correct on this issue (both this and the embryonic stemm cell issue as well). But when he mentioned human/animal hybrids in one of his speeches, I remember all sorts of mocking and derision about it.
    I’m not a very religious guy but reading that story sickened me. It’s an abomination.

  • Its a politically motivated mission.  The idea is to denigrate the concept of an embryo.  And also give a ‘good’ reason for non life threatening abortions.  In the anti-abortion/pro-abortion debate.  if the anti-abortion side is right, they are saving lives.  If the pro-abortion side is right, they not accomplishing anything quite equally noble.  Embryonic stem cells was their argument to elevate the pro-abortion side.
    It also served as emotional blackmail.  Dangling potential cures like psychics who have a message for you from your recently departed loved one.  Blackmail to pull people over to the pro-abortion side that otherwise would be ambivalent or anti-abortion.  A gateway issue.
    They completely buried the fact that embryonic stem cells have two huge technical hurdles that have had money thrown at them for decades already.  Embryonic cells become tumorous.  If we were able to make them not tumorous we would have a kissing cousin all purpose cure for cancer.  Since cancer has had a ton of money thrown at it and make incremental progress at a snails pace, don’t expect that hurdle to be resolved for embryonic stem cells anytime soon.
    The other problem with them, unless they came from the donor themselves somehow, is tissue rejection.  Anti-rejection drugs are not a happy thing.  Nor is an impaired immune system.
    Compared to those hurdles, coaxing adult stem cells into other types has made incremental improvements.  Its not trivial, but the other side likes to highlight the issue about adult cells and completely ignore or lie about the technical hurdles of embryonic cells.
    With people like that behind the issue, is it any surprise they have zero respect for a boundary of any kind?  Eventually (5, 10, or 20 years who knows) some lab in some country will manage to grow a hybrid far enough along it will be recognizable as part human and part animal and video or pictures will get out.  That will be the end of that and it will probably go overboard.

  • I guess I’m a bit confused by the story.
    Lines of mice and lab rats with human genetic content have been around for years, and are an important part of researching cures for genetic and other diseases in humans.  I am not at all disturbed by that.  Quite the reverse.
    If memory serves, there is a line of pigs growing essentially human skin for use in burn grafts.

    • Quite so. Also, embryonic stem cells are used for very advanced research such as repair of damaged spinal columns, and the super-advanced field of regrowing severed limbs. As such it’s not surprising that “not much” has come of it yet.
      As for “what can go wrong”, what could go wrong with atom smashers and sub-atomic particle research? The hobgoblins, as Mencken put it, are still alive and active.
      Reactionaries have always been hesitant and even hysterical, about research. The mob of villagers with torches and pitchforks storming the mad scientist’s castle comes to mind.

    • They are talking about Chimeras.  Not just genetic Chimeras, but cellular Chimeras.  Accomplished by imbedding human brain cells into animal brains with the human brain cells making up a sizable portion of the Chimera’s resulting brain.
      They aren’t talking about a few or very specific kinds of cells, but sizable quantities of human tissue or genetic material in these creations throughout the entire creation’s body.

      • Jesus, I guess some of that Science Fiction I am reading will be coming non-fiction faster than I thought.

  • reation of human- animal hybrids

    I forget who wrote it, but a few years back some advisor to the President on bio-ethics (who was in the process of being pummelled in the press) wrote about the bio-ethics of cloning and hybrid cloning.
    The biggest problem ethically .. when do you destroy one of these “things” ?
    At what point are you creating pain and suffering to suit your own desires ?  At what point do they pose a risk to the “gene pool” and the health and safety of society ?  The answers were not nearly as straight forward as some might think.

  • There was an article ten years or so ago, the subject was cloning humans with no legs to be workers in space.  The hypothesis was if they were living and working in space they wouldn’t need legs.   I remember thinking who would speak up for these beings.  Wouldn’t that be slavery?   Would they or could they breed?  What about cross breeding with humans.
    I want a Cherry 2000   😉

  • While desktop computers may go away, the large monitors associated with desktops probably will not.  In my office the CAD guys seem to get larger monitors every time systems are upgraded.  I don’t see them going to smaller monitors.  Thinking through it, nor do I see them outputting to a large monitor from a laptop.  So, perhaps for the niche of CAD users in engineering and industrial environments, the desktop system will stick around for a while longer.

    • Considering the severely limited attention span of the modern citizen, a tiny 3″ screen and a 140 character limit, as opposed to a 19-21″ monitor, is understandable. 🙂

    • There will always be a niche that desktop computers will fill, but laptops and tablets will dominate sales.  There are a few things that desktops do singularly well, and laptops won’t be able to displace them.  CAD is one, as you pointed out.
      I use my desktop almost exclusively at home.  I only use my laptop when I’m traveling, and even then I am reluctant to use it.  I have fairly large hands, and the keyboards on laptops are uncomfortably small for me to use.  Also, laptop keyboards are flat, and I’m far too used to using a keyboard with a decent pitch on it.  So, maybe I’ll be one of the dinosaurs.  I don’t really care, as long as my desktop suits my purposes, it will stay.

  • Shades of Dark Angel.

  • As far as tablets go, I believe that Android Tablets are finally starting to become competitive.  But we’ll ultimately face four way competition between iPads, Android Tablets, WebOS tablets (an OS which initially seems better managed than Android), and Windows 7 tablets.
    There are W7 tablets to be had for around $400.  I think that the fact there is a library of drivers and software in all shapes and sizes for printers, cameras, etc.  gives W7 an incredible edge despite the potential drawback of Windows bloat.  Not to mention the ability to leverage PC/laptop chipsets for video and other features.  What remains to be seen is if Microsoft ‘gets it’ with Apps.  Apps are simply programs that are relatively easy to make, distribute and install.  And most of all cheap.  Things that Windows/MS opposes at its core.

  • I guess I’m just an old fogey, because I like my desktop.  I don’t trust laptops (maintenance / reliability issues), and I don’t see the need for a tablet, though I admit that they are way cool.  OTOH, I use my smartphone for quite a lot of things, including a book I take everywhere (Kindle rocks!).

    At every stage the justification from scientists has been: if only you allow us to do this, we will find cures for every illness known to mankind. This is emotional blackmail.

    I am conflicted on this.  On the one hand, this is a good point: scientists, whether because they want glory or money, want to be given a free hand (and free money!) to pursue their research in the hope / belief that they are just one experiment away from becoming the next Pasteur, Curie or Fleming, and don’t care to have somebody else tell them, “You oughtn’t do that.”  On the other, if we had a bunch of uneducated busybodies peering over the shoulders of scientists through the ages trying to make value judgements about their work and giving approval for it, then we’d barely be out of the bronze age.  Ayn Rand deals with this in “Anthem”: “You can’t invent an electric light!  Why, you don’t realize the trouble we had going from torches to candles!”

  • It’ll all work down to ‘how human’. won’t it.

    Given the fact that we annihilate millions of real humans every year via abortion without so much as a national blink, someone better get out in front on creatures that are more human than not and decide the simple question of – do they have souls, do they have human rights?

    Those questions are not trivial, arbitrary or intended to stop great scientific progress.   I’m puzzled as to why so many are convinced that pursuit of knowledge is ALWAYS a good thing – I give you any number of human experiments performed by the NAZI’s or the Japanese Unit 731 as demonstrations that us old fuddy duddies aren’t being that way just because we don’t like progress or change.

    For all of you decent progress minded good hearted souls out there, there are an equal number of Ahmydinnerjackets and their scientists who are ready to plunge the world into hell because they view their destination as ‘progress’.

    Simple Caution is warranted.

  • As of six months ago, I do not have a desktop. That’s after twenty five years of owning one, going back to a Zenith I put together myself in 1985.

    I have two Lenovos – W500 and W510, both of which rival desktop performance. The W510, for example, will go to 16 GB memory. With an external SATA connection, I don’t need internal drives. With built-in high perf video hardware, I don’t need a special video card. As others have pointed out, there’s a great space in house for big monitors (I have two 22″ attached to one of the Lenovos) and nice keyboards (ergonomic in my case). But all that works just fine with desktop-replacement class laptops. And when I travel, I just pop the thing out of it’s docking station and put it in a bag.

    My biggest fear of laptop reliability was long the fear of losing a hard drive because of a dropped machine. That fear has mostly dissipated the new solid state drives. No moving parts, and they can take quite a shock and still work fine. The biggest danger now is the laptop’s screen, but one doesn’t lose work and data when a screen breaks.

    Desktops are retreating into a gaming niche. We just put together one for my 16 year old: bought a case, motherboard, video card, etc. and assembled it. It was a good exercise for him, and probably something he’ll tell his grandchildren about, since I bet they won’t be doing anything like that. But right now, it’s the modern equivalent of hot-rodding cars.

  • At the marketing agency I was at previously, there was, so far as I know, one single, solitary desktop in the whole joint.  Everybody else – the company president, salespeople, designers, web marketing geeks, <em>everybody</em> – was on laptops.
    At the <a href=””>electricity company</a> I’m at now, our graphic designer is on an iMac.  I think it’s mostly because she needs the screen real estate (it’s the 27″ monster).  I’ve seen a few of the IT people with towers.  Everybody else is on laptops.
    What both amazes and concerns me is that, a year and a half after the launch of the iPad, nobody else in the industry has a credible tablet strategy.  HP should, given their acquisition of Palm, but I’m told their PalmOS tablet is a joke.  Microsoft is especially a failure here: Bill Gates banged on since 2000 that the tablet was the next big thing, but Redmond still doesn’t have a viable platform, just a bloated Windows retread.  I want to see somebody – <em>anybody</em> – challenge Apple for supremacy.  And I own a ton of Apple’s stuff (iMac, laptop, iPad, etc.).