Creative Thinking : Futuristic babies

Updated 18 January 2013
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Creative Thinking : Futuristic babies

I don’t know if you read a recent article in Arab News titled “Technology world: Crawling into the cradle.” I have, and cannot help commenting upon it.
The article, reporting on the Consumer Electronic Show on the newest technological devices being held in Las Vegas, starts by saying: “One is never too young to be connected.” It goes without saying that they are not referring to the importance of “connection” between parents and children, friends or human beings in general. Here they are talking about technology. So ... if each individual is never too young to surf the net, it is natural to ask, “How young”? The article immediately provides the answer: “.. a variety of apps aimed at the youngest audiences, even those unable to walk.” I already imagine babies, just a few months old, propped up in their “cradle,” with their little computers set in front of them, being busy clicking buttons here and there. No more cute little toys, fluffy plush animals or musical overhead merry-go-rounds. A tiny battery operated computer is ready to provide modern electronic entertainment to babies.
But this is not all. I also wonder — why should this kind of connection be desirable? A few lines below comes the answer: “... accessories and apps marketed to parents as tools to help children learn at a very tender age.” Wow! This is really interesting. Children need to be encouraged to learn at a “very tender age.” Learn “what“? What do a few months old babies need to learn besides imitating mom in uttering their first cute words? What else do they “need” beside mom’s love and caring? I don’t know you, but I am already envisioning a little pitiful army of tiny robot-like babies, sitting in their prams or chairs, unaware of the world around them, all concentrated on “being connected” and learning stuff they absolutely do not need at this stage of their life. But such devices make “it possible for a six-month-old to use a smartphone.” What an achievement! The marketing manager of a worldwide toy company said: “We see moms using such devices to occupy babies all the time.” Double wow! So now mothers, besides being busy with their own jobs and chores, need to keep their babies occupied constantly, even during the little time they could spend with them.
A more advanced option is to give 18-months-olds iPads that will allow them to “start a digital lifestyle.” Finally, a particular gadget is designed for four-to-eight-years-old but, as the manufacturers’ sales representative said, “..kids have the ability to use it at the age of two.” Still in a hurry, right...? Faster! Earlier! Sooner! I wonder if mankind is aware of what all this means. I don’t believe I am backward or antiquated if I feel worried about the world that is being created for the next generation, for the babies who have already been born and who are going to be the society of tomorrow.
The second part of the article, which concerns a different but not less preoccupying topic, reports on a new kind of TV that knows exactly what you are viewing, so “... this new interactivity opens up possibilities for advertisers who will be able to develop more targeted pitches.” A kind of Big Brother that also becomes a big marketer. No more privacy whatsoever. You will be watched, checked out, categorized, labeled so that your new TV screen will serve you all the programs you like and advertisers will show — brainwashing you toward buying — just the stuff you appear to be interested in. You will be, more than ever, an “item” that has a value only for its capacity of purchasing, while your mind will be numbed and you will forget that other choices are available.
Is this a real world, “our” world, or is it science fiction in action?

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China clones ‘Sherlock Holmes’ police dog to cut training times

Updated 20 March 2019
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China clones ‘Sherlock Holmes’ police dog to cut training times

  • China is hoping to make it possible to achieve “volume production” of cloned police dogs to reduce training times
  • The dog was cloned from a police sniffer dog

SHANGHAI: Scientists in southwest China’s Yunnan province have cloned what they called the “Sherlock Holmes of police dogs” in a program they hope will help cut training times and costs for police dogs, state media reported on Wednesday.
The dog, named Kunxun, was cloned from a police sniffer dog by the Beijing-based Sinogene Biotechnology Company and the Yunnan Agricultural University, with support from the Ministry of Public Security, the state-owned tabloid Global Times reported.
Sinogene is hoping to make it possible to achieve “volume production” of cloned police dogs in order to significantly reduce training times, the company’s deputy general manager Zhao Jianping told the Global Times, but he added that cloning costs remain a major obstacle.
Kunxun, now three months old, will undergo extensive training in drug detection, crowd control and searching for evidence, and will become a fully fledged police dog when it is about 10 months old, the official China Daily said.
Training usually takes about five years and costs as much as 500,000 yuan, with no guarantee of success, the paper said, citing an animal expert at the Yunnan Agricultural University. The paper did not say how much a cloned dog would cost.
South Korean scientists created the world’s first cloned dog in 2005, and two years later the country began employing cloned Labrador retrievers to sniff out drugs for the customs service, China Daily said.