The Summer Of Love
Powers and thoughts within us, that we
Know not, till they rise
Through the stream of conscious action from where the
Self in secret lies.Another Charles Maxwell 1856 In 1831, Michael Faraday made a discovery. When a piece of copper is held near a varying magnetic field an electric current is produced – a process called electromagnetic induction. This, and Orsted’s discovery of the opposite phenomenon, that an electric current produces a magnetic field, formed the basis for what Professor Gordon believes was one of the ‘first order’ revolutions of the 19th century: electrical power.
But then, as now, no one could predict the future. When Faraday was asked what practical use his discovery might have, he responded: “What use is a baby?”
Life goes on. No one is quite sure where it is going…but it is in motion. This is true at both micro and macro levels.
My daughter, Sophia, is not sure her life is going forward. We had a birthday party for her last weekend. She is leaving for the US this week, where she will turn 18 in a few days. She’ll spend the summer in New York, taking care of nieces and nephews. We’ll stay in touch with her by e- mail. But when I passed her room in the evening, I discovered something you can never get from an e-mail.
The digital, Internet Age…proclaimed as a communications revolution is an imposter. It is not a revolution at all – as I pointed out yesterday. What’s more, it may stifle communication.
As I passed Sophia’s room, I heard quiet sobs.
Pater Familias knocked softly, entered and looked at his daughter.
“Were you crying?”
Had this been an e-mail exchange, we could have moved on to other subjects. But I could see from her face that she was upset.
We had a nice talk. Sophia is both frustrated and frightened. Life only begins for teenagers after they leave home. Sophia is ready to begin her life – but still trapped with her family (in a foreign country no less!). Plus, she is afraid of what the future might hold.
“Don’t worry,” said the Father Knows Best imitator with little imagination, “everything will be all right. Life goes on. We just don’t know where it goes. Or how it goes.”
Yesterday, life went on. All the world’s newspapers announced the news today:
The “most wondrous map ever produced by humankind” was how Mr. Clinton described it. It would be “the instruction book for human life,” said James Watson, the American scientist who won a Nobel Prize for helping to discover the double- helix structure of DNA in the human genome.
Both Watson and every other commentator compared the genome project as a revolutionary advance, on a par with the invention of the printing press.
Thus has the ‘summer of love’ begun. With the deepest secrets of life itself mapped out for all the world to see. And its deepest mysteries still yearning to be discovered.
All the world will be able to see the genome. John Sulston, director of the UK’s Sanger Centre, which sequenced a third of the genome, said he had been obliged to make some “pretty stern statements” to prevent the genome being privatized. Unlike the printing press, apparently, the genome is considered so important that it cannot be owned. It must be shared. Kept in the public domain like a latrine in a public park or the air traffic control system at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.
Quick to find a politically correct significance from the project, Craig Venter the head of Celera Genomics, announced that “what we have shown is the concept of race has no scientific basis.” Of course, as the Herald Tribune reports, “scientists have found no known function for 97% of the genome.” Meanwhile, it was also revealed that “we share …98% of our genetic material with chimpanzees and 51% with yeast.” We are all the United Colors of Benetton, after all.
President Clinton, a religious man, attributed God with creating the gene sequences of life. Others were not so sure. One, quoted in a Financial Times article, thought the genome project should put creationism to rest forever – since man seems to have been created in the image of, say, the tree toad or fruit fly, with whom we share most of the basic codes of life.
One of the very interesting things about science – and life itself – is that it takes us in directions we had not intended to go. No one was able to foretell that the printing press would lead to the reformation and generations of religious wars and to the settlement of the New World. Who could have predicted that the invention of the internal combustion engine would have led to the Blitzkrieg and the Battle of Britain? No one now knows what the genome project will yield. We don’t know how it will be used – or to whose benefit. Both Clinton and Blair proclaimed that it could not be used to lower insurance premiums for those with good genes. But surely other uses will emerge.
Scientists themselves often credit forces beyond their rational minds with the discoveries they make. James Clerk Maxwell, who elegantly expressed the known relationships between electricity and magnetism in the 1860s said, awkwardly, on his deathbed: “What is done by what is called myself is, I feel, done by something greater than myself in me.”
The humane genome project is just a baby. A love child from the summer of 2000. It’s self in secret still lies. Who knows what it will be when it grows up?
Paris, France June 27, 2000
**** Is this a wonderful time to be alive, or what? Yesterday, the President of the U.S. and the British Prime Minister joined in announcing the near-completion of human genome project. Now we will be able to find our way around…with the help of this ‘wondrous map’… more below.
*** Buy the rumor, sell the news. Celera Genomics stock fell $13 as the news was announced. The company has a market cap of $6.46 billion. It lost $1.70 per share last year…or about $90 million. Many thanks to the charitable investors who fund this sort of project…
*** Overall, the Dow rose 138 points as this Summer of Love progressed from flirtation to deep kissing. And the Nasdaq rose 66 points.
*** Advancing stocks outnumbered declining ones 1482 to 1341. But there were only 46 new highs, compared to 60 new lows.
*** Stocks and bonds rose, the press informs us, because investors believe Greenspan will not raise rates this month. Also, estimates of the expected budget surplus have doubled.
*** The bigger picture, however, is that we are still in a bear market. Michael Belkin (via William Fleckenstien of SiliconInvestor.com): “[A]s our work suggests, if the bubble peaked in March on a speculative orgy ignited by the misguided Federal Reserve Y2K monetary binge, then investors should consult market history for the level at which declines from bubble peaks usually conclude for a measure of current downside risk. If speculative bubbles are simply excessive deviation from long-term trend – then post-bubble corrections are just reversion to the mean.
“Historical data shows a clear tendency for declines to reach the 200 week average area in the first decline after a speculative bubble peak. Tech and TMT are only about halfway to that support zone. Based on trend deviation/reversion theory, the Nasdaq and global TMT stocks still have 30 percent to 60 percent immediate downside risk. It’s taking longer than usual to get there, but history suggests that it is premature to catch falling knives and a better buying opportunity lies ahead – at a much lower level (Nasdaq 2,200)”
*** The price of gold fell another 70 cents. I had a drink yesterday afternoon with an old friend, Martin Spring, a financial analyst from South Africa, attending the Gold Conference. The conversation never got to gold…but Martin has been covering Asian markets for 30 years.
*** “If you want some excitement,” he said, forgetting that he was suffering from pneumonia, “look at Korea. When the Koreans decide to do something…they go at with astonishing energy and determination. And Korean stocks are cheap. Samsung is one of the world’s leading electronics companies. And you can buy it at 9 times sales.”
*** Jeff Bezos said the reports that Amazon was running out of money were “ridiculous.” The stock rose 1/16th of a point.
*** And here’s an interesting little note about what may come after the ‘summer of love’: “In practical terms,” wrote Charles Maxwell, whose affiliation I do not know, “unless the coming winter approaches the highly-unusual, +13% warmer-than-usual season we have just passed through, US gas storage numbers are accumulating in a potentially disastrous pattern of insufficient gas to take this country through the full span of cold weather to April of 2001.”
*** “Biotech Investors Advised to Beware Hype” warned the headline on Reuters this morning. The Nasdaq biotech index rose 3.5% yesterday. It is up 38% for the year. Innocent investors take note: Biotech Bubbles are notoriously fragile. They swell up quickly…and then, like a summer romance…poof!
*** But what is good for humans – that is, the prospect of genetic tinkering – is apparently not so good for plants. While the human genome project is applauded, the genetic modification of food is thought to be the devil’s own work. Biotech companies in the agricultural industry are shunned…and cheap…reports James Passin.
*** The poor plants! Not only are they denied the benefits of genetic engineering, they are also eaten without mercy. Often live. Even people with the tenderness of heart to spare animals, seem to have no concern whatever for the suffering of plants.
*** A group of International Livingsubscribers arrived in Paris yesterday – despite efforts of French air traffic controllers. The controllers went on strike to protest possible privatization initiatives. Most flights were canceled. Airports were deserted.
*** This followed by a couple of weeks if French pilots’ refusing to speak English. Air France thought it would require the pilots to speak English to controllers – as they must in the rest of the world’s airports. But the experiment lasted on only 15 days.