accord with Hrithik?

Seems that umbilical cord blood banking in India received some starry recognition recently. There’s also a rather informative general discussion about it on Slashdot.

I haven’t made up my mind about it yet, but I am pretty sure it’s all a waste of money for the following reasons:

  • It smells like a scam … just like ULIPs, endowments, child plans, etc:
    • “Do it for the kids!”
    • “You need it. We know better.”
  • Nobody really knows whether and how long cord cells can remain viable in cryogenic storage.
  • Recent research indicates that it will soon be practical to reprogram somatic cells to do what you need … basically researches have managed to use cells from skin, teeth, bone marrow in rather interesting regeneration procedures, like reconstructing a windpipe using stem cells from the bone marrow.
  • The cord cells have the same genetic defects as the child, so they can’t be used to treat leukemia etc.

Given all this, it makes quite a lot of sense to donate those cord cells, either to a public bank, or to stem cell research, rather than spending money on storing them. In the long term, it seems the preserved cord cells will be mostly unnecessary. But I don’t think either of these alternatives are very interesting in India yet!

deep thought

Currently reading a wonderful article by Marvin Minsky – Why people think computers can’t. Got caught up in one point that he puts forth:

We tend to think of learning as something that just happens to us, like a sponge getting soaked. But learning really is a growing mass of skills: we start with some but have to learn the rest. Most people never get deeply concerned with acquiring increasingly more advanced learning skills. Why not” Because they don’t pay off right away! When a child tries to spoon sand into a pail, the child is mostly concerned with filling pails and things like that. Suppose, though, by some accident, a child got interested in how that pail-filling activity itself improved over time, and how the mind’s inner dispositions affected that improvement. If only once a child became involved (even unconsciously) in how to learn better, then that could lead to exponential learning growth.

Each better way to learn to learn would lead to better ways to build more skills ­ until that little difference had magnified itself into an awesome, qualitative change. In this view, first-rank “creativity” could be just the consequence of childhood accidents in which a person’s learning gets to be a little more “self-applied” than usual.

Pretty insightful concept – learning to learn. But what made me sit up and want to talk about it to someone was this footnote:

Notice that there’s no way a parent could notice ­ and then reward ­ a young child’s reflective concern with learning. If anything, the kid would seem to be doing less rather than more ­ and might be urged to “snap out of it “.

Could this be what happens to most people? Being distracted by overbearing parents when they are just about to hit the zone? Does anyone remember something like this happening to them? Is this what makes a geek out of a child … entering that phase of learning to learn, ever so slightly, not really reaching genius level?

no more kernel traffic …

Discovered today that KT has gone inactive now. I had stopped visiting the site after I noticed it hadn’t been updated for weeks. Zack says he’s taking a break, but the last sentence sounds rather ominous … “Hopefully Kernel Traffic will not be missed too greatly, with these other useful resources available.”

Bye Zack! May the source be with you. You’ve been a great help to ring-side viewers like me who needed to keep an eye on the kernel but didn’t have enough time.

It’s sites like KT run by Zack Brown and Kuro5hin by Rusty that remind me of how lazy I really am.

Irritating English

At the outset, here’s the mandatory disclaimer: “I am not an expert in English. I am not the smartest or the wisest or the most experienced literary critic in the world. I am just a humble engineer, but I believe I have a grasp on English that is good enough for me to recognise a few standard mistakes, especially by the vernie types. I hope that someone out there reads this list, and actually finds it helpful, rather than just deciding I am a snob.
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