The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Feb 11, 2015 5:36 pm UTC

I am not even sure where to begin replying to HungryHobo's little strawman rant, sooooo I'm gonna go out on a limb and ignore it until some substance is added. Try responding to what I've actually posted!

leady wrote:I'm sorry but I still don't get your meaning here. Two inteligent people are more likely to have inteligent kids subject to standard regression. If you are claiming that the deviation across a family group (say 10 kids) is higher than the population as a whole, then who cares as the average will be substantially higher ?
I guess I can just repeat my last explanation to you?
" intelligence *is* heritable, but it also accounts for *less* than the variation you see between family members anyway, the variation you see between random members of the population, and variation you see due to environmental factors."

So yes, intelligence is heritable, but the IQ points you'd see gained from heritability of intelligence is LESS than the natural variation you can expect to see in a given family. It is also roughly exactly the same as the amount of IQ you LOSE when someone is raised in poverty. It is ALSO akin to developmental issues linked to lead paint.

You're presuming that these studies were done on starving kids in Africa. They weren't. You're assuming these studies were done on abused kids in a warzone. They weren't.

CorruptUser wrote:Sure, if you were to clone a bunch of Einsteins but starve and torture them, you'll produce probably worse people than if you were to clone a bunch of schmucks but give them adequate food and education. No one is denying that. Health and education will turn those schmucks into truck drivers and welders, which do benefit society, far more than petty criminals, but no amount of medicine or education will turn them into scientists any more than training can make a person with poor reflexes and a small build into a star basketball player.
Well, or those schmucks become doctors and scientists, but whatever, the point is that the gains everyone is talking about from breeding smart humans or genetically engineering smart humans is LESS than or ON PAR WITH the gains to be had from simply taking kids out of poverty or rolling the lucky dice on the intelligence inheritance crapshoot.
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby ucim » Wed Feb 11, 2015 5:45 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Why can't loyalty be developed faster?
Loyalty, real loyalty, takes time. It is the result of taking small risks with a person, finding that you came out well, and then taking successively larger risks, until you have built up enough pseudo-statistical data to have confidence in placing large risks with that person. It is the result of doing this at your own pace, and in your own manner.

Something that resembles loyalty can be created out of dependence, but it's not the same. And in any case, loyalty is not a genetic trait. It is the result of behavioral feedback over the life of the individual.

I suppose it is conceivable that there is a "loyalty gene", which makes people more predisposed to be trusting. If this is the case, it is probably independent of the "intelligence gene" (to oversimplify things). Assuming we could do this in the first place, we would end up with:

smart/trusting | smart/wily
dumb/trusting | dumb/wily

The smart/wily folk would be in charge. They would also be in charge of research.
They would be in a very good position to enslave the dumb/trusting folk and the smart/trusting folk.
The dumb/wily folk will provide entertainment.

We would be in either the dumb/trusting or the dumb/wily category. I'm not convinced this is a Good Thing.

TL-DR: re. creating GE super-intelligent offspring (as a society): Do we want to be pets?

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby Chen » Wed Feb 11, 2015 5:47 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Well, or those schmucks become doctors and scientists, but whatever, the point is that the gains everyone is talking about from breeding smart humans or genetically engineering smart humans is LESS than or ON PAR WITH the gains to be had from simply taking kids out of poverty or rolling the lucky dice on the intelligence inheritance crapshoot.


Why not do both then? Surely that will be better than doing either in isolation?

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Feb 11, 2015 5:48 pm UTC

Chen wrote:
Izawwlgood wrote:Well, or those schmucks become doctors and scientists, but whatever, the point is that the gains everyone is talking about from breeding smart humans or genetically engineering smart humans is LESS than or ON PAR WITH the gains to be had from simply taking kids out of poverty or rolling the lucky dice on the intelligence inheritance crapshoot.


Why not do both then? Surely that will be better than doing either in isolation?
Sure, that's fine, my point wasn't that only one or the other will work, but that one is a much much much lower hanging fruit.
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby HungryHobo » Wed Feb 11, 2015 6:07 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:" intelligence *is* heritable, but it also accounts for *less* than the variation you see between family members anyway, the variation you see between random members of the population, and variation you see due to environmental factors."


you keep repeating that as if you think you're making a meaningful point.

It's also trivially, uselessly true. all your statement says is that it's not everything, you appear to be arguing against nothing but a strawman yourself.

Most of the conservative numbers seem to put it around 0.5 which is still huge.

http://www.livescience.com/47288-twin-s ... etics.html

Another study, commissioned by the editor of the journal Science, looked at genetics and IQ. The Minnesota researchers found that about 70 percent of IQ variation across the twin population was due to genetic differences among people, and 30 percent was due to environmental differences. The finding received both praise and criticism, but an updated study in 2009 containing new sets of twins found a similar correlation between genetics and IQ.


http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB100014240 ... 2432277706

Today, a third of a century after the study began and with other studies of reunited twins having reached the same conclusion, the numbers are striking. Monozygotic twins raised apart are more similar in IQ (74%) than dizygotic (fraternal) twins raised together (60%) and much more than parent-children pairs (42%); half-siblings (31%); adoptive siblings (29%-34%); virtual twins, or similarly aged but unrelated children raised together (28%); adoptive parent-child pairs (19%) and cousins (15%).
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Feb 11, 2015 6:13 pm UTC

I'm repeating it because it's extremely common knowledge.Here's the wiki if you want to start reading up on this.

FYI, the Minnesota Twin study was controversial in it's findings.

I think what you may be struggling with is the assumption that I'm implying heritability has nothing to do with intelligence. I'm claiming no such thing. I'm being quite specific in what I'm actually claiming.
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby HungryHobo » Wed Feb 11, 2015 6:35 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:I think what you may be struggling with is the assumption that I'm implying heritability has nothing to do with intelligence. I'm claiming no such thing. I'm being quite specific in what I'm actually claiming.


Right, you do however keep downplaying it and phrasing things such as to imply that it isn't a massive massive factor. So what exactly are you arguing against?

The links you yourself give choose higher numbers than my 0.5.

Absent starvation, neglect and poisoning(which yes, as people keep tell you and you seem to keep ignoring, we agree can have massive effects) that leaves genetics as pretty much the dominant contributor.

You mentioned the horrible racists earlier but I find the flip in arguments related to intelligence vs most other traits kinda weird.

http://slatestarcodex.com/2015/01/31/th ... e-talents/

There’s a moral gulf here, and I want to throw stories and intuitions at it until enough of them pile up at the bottom to make a passable bridge. But first, a comparison:

Some people think body weight is biologically/genetically determined. Other people think it’s based purely on willpower – how strictly you diet, how much you can bring yourself to exercise. These people get into some pretty acrimonious debates

Overweight people, and especially people who feel unfairly stigmatized for being overweight, tend to cluster on the biologically determined side. And although not all believers in complete voluntary control of weight are mean to fat people, the people who are mean to fat people pretty much all insist that weight is voluntary and easily changeable.

Although there’s a lot of debate over the science here, there seems to be broad agreement on both sides that the more compassionate, sympathetic, progressive position, the position promoted by the kind of people who are really worried about stigma and self-esteem, is that weight is biologically determined.

And the same is true of mental illness. Sometimes I see depressed patients whose families really don’t get it. They say “Sure, my daughter feels down, but she needs to realize that’s no excuse for shirking her responsibilities. She needs to just pick herself up and get on with her life.” On the other hand, most depressed people say that their depression is more fundamental than that, not a thing that can be overcome by willpower, certainly not a thing you can just ‘shake off’.

Once again, the compassionate/sympathetic/progressive side of the debate is that depression is something like biological, and cannot easily be overcome with willpower and hard work.

One more example of this pattern. There are frequent political debates in which conservatives (or straw conservatives) argue that financial success is the result of hard work, so poor people are just too lazy to get out of poverty. Then a liberal (or straw liberal) protests that hard work has nothing to do with it, success is determined by accidents of birth like who your parents are and what your skin color is et cetera, so the poor are blameless in their own predicament.

I’m oversimplifying things, but again the compassionate/sympathetic/progressive side of the debate – and the side endorsed by many of the poor themselves – is supposed to be that success is due to accidents of birth, and the less compassionate side is that success depends on hard work and perseverance and grit and willpower.

The obvious pattern is that attributing outcomes to things like genes, biology, and accidents of birth is kind and sympathetic. Attributing them to who works harder and who’s “really trying” can stigmatize people who end up with bad outcomes and is generally viewed as Not A Nice Thing To Do.

And the weird thing, the thing I’ve never understood, is that intellectual achievement is the one domain that breaks this pattern.

Here it’s would-be hard-headed conservatives arguing that intellectual greatness comes from genetics and the accidents of birth and demanding we “accept” this “unpleasant truth”.

And it’s would-be compassionate progressives who are insisting that no, it depends on who works harder, claiming anybody can be brilliant if they really try, warning us not to “stigmatize” the less intelligent as “genetically inferior”.

I can come up with a few explanations for the sudden switch, but none of them are very principled and none of them, to me, seem to break the fundamental symmetry of the situation. I choose to maintain consistency by preserving the belief that overweight people, depressed people, and poor people aren’t fully to blame for their situation – and neither are unintelligent people. It’s accidents of birth all the way down. Intelligence is mostly genetic and determined at birth – and we’ve already determined in every other sphere that “mostly genetic and determined at birth” means you don’t have to feel bad if you got the short end of the stick.

Consider for a moment Srinivasa Ramanujan, one of the greatest mathematicians of all time. He grew up in poverty in a one-room house in small-town India. He taught himself mathematics by borrowing books from local college students and working through the problems on his own until he reached the end of the solveable ones and had nowhere else to go but inventing ways to solve the unsolveable ones.

There are a lot of poor people in the United States today whose life circumstances prevented their parents from reading books to them as a child, prevented them from getting into the best schools, prevented them from attending college, et cetera. And pretty much all of those people still got more educational opportunities than Ramanujan did.

And from there we can go in one of two directions. First, we can say that a lot of intelligence is innate, that Ramanujan was a genius, and that we mortals cannot be expected to replicate his accomplishments.

Or second, we can say those poor people are just not trying hard enough.

Take “innate ability” out of the picture, and if you meet a poor person on the street begging for food, saying he never had a chance, your reply must be “Well, if you’d just borrowed a couple of math textbooks from the local library at age 12, you would have been a Fields Medalist by now. I hear that pays pretty well.”

The best reason not to say that is that we view Ramanujan as intellectually gifted. But the very phrase tells us where we should classify that belief. Ramanujan’s genius is a “gift” in much the same way your parents giving you a trust fund on your eighteenth birthday is a “gift”, and it should be weighted accordingly in the moral calculus.
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Feb 11, 2015 6:51 pm UTC

That it isn't a 'massive massive factor'. If you look over the reports, the effect of heritability on IQ ranges from .3-.8, and is completely overwritten by negative socioeconomic influences. So, yes, I'm downplaying it, because the heritability of IQ is difficult to parse and tease out, the field is mixed on the various findings and studies, etc.

E.g.,
A study (1999) by Capron and Duyme of French children adopted between the ages of four and six examined the influence of socioeconomic status (SES). The children's IQs initially averaged 77, putting them near retardation. Most were abused or neglected as infants, then shunted from one foster home or institution to the next. Nine years later after adoption, when they were on average 14 years old, they retook the IQ tests, and all of them did better. The amount they improved was directly related to the adopting family's socioeconomic status. "Children adopted by farmers and laborers had average IQ scores of 85.5; those placed with middle-class families had average scores of 92. The average IQ scores of youngsters placed in well-to-do homes climbed more than 20 points, to 98."


You know what's not tenuous or controversial? The effect environment has on IQ.
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby HungryHobo » Wed Feb 11, 2015 7:00 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:negative socioeconomic influences


AKA lumping together all the other factors.

Izawwlgood wrote:You know what's not tenuous or controversial? The effect environment has on IQ.


Right, so you've made it clear. you're simply arguing against a strawman. Solved. lovely.

Lets make it clear. I utterly utterly agree that if you beat, abuse, starve and poison children then you're going to see some horrible hits to IQ, the more abused the less genetics matters.

I don't think there's anyone here who has disagreed with that though you seem to keep arguing as if there is.

The position I am arguing is that if you take 2 people who weren't beaten, abused, poisoned or starved who still ended up with <80 IQ's and they have kids and another couple with >150 IQ's the kids from the first pairing are very likely to average well bellow 100 while the kids from the second are very likely to average well above (and probably not just 5-10 points above, more likely close to their parents) assuming that in neither case you starve, beat, abuse or poison the children.

To be absolutely crystal clear: I don't believe you're arguing against this position explicitly. can you confirm?
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby morriswalters » Wed Feb 11, 2015 7:18 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:Here it’s would-be hard-headed conservatives arguing that intellectual greatness comes from genetics and the accidents of birth and demanding we “accept” this “unpleasant truth”.

And it’s would-be compassionate progressives who are insisting that no, it depends on who works harder, claiming anybody can be brilliant if they really try, warning us not to “stigmatize” the less intelligent as “genetically inferior”.
Can you guess why people don't like this? It should be obvious. When your genes cause you to have cancer at fifty and you see a fat old man like me with better genes who will outlive you despite doing everything possible not to, would you like it?

One way to look at what Izawwlgood is saying, is to ask yourself how many children who have the genes, but who on the other hand also confront those environmental factors, are we losing because we don't fix those environmental factors first. Chen says why not do both, fine if you can. But what if you can't.

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Feb 11, 2015 7:41 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:
HungryHobo wrote:Here it’s would-be hard-headed conservatives arguing that intellectual greatness comes from genetics and the accidents of birth and demanding we “accept” this “unpleasant truth”.

And it’s would-be compassionate progressives who are insisting that no, it depends on who works harder, claiming anybody can be brilliant if they really try, warning us not to “stigmatize” the less intelligent as “genetically inferior”.
Can you guess why people don't like this? It should be obvious. When your genes cause you to have cancer at fifty and you see a fat old man like me with better genes who will outlive you despite doing everything possible not to, would you like it?

One way to look at what Izawwlgood is saying, is to ask yourself how many children who have the genes, but who on the other hand also confront those environmental factors, are we losing because we don't fix those environmental factors first. Chen says why not do both, fine if you can. But what if you can't.


I find it amusing how the arguments shuffle all around if money is involved. Folks arguing luck vs deterministic outcomes...but I digress.

The biggest reason not to use terminology like "genetically inferior" is because such terms are sloppy. We simply don't know enough to be able to say that person a's genes are strictly superior to person b's in most cases. Sure, there are obvious fringe cases, like things that cause early childhood mortality that we can all agree are bad, but we have measurement issues today, so way too much subjectivity is possible.

However, in theory, it is possible that we might be able to determine such things with a good deal of precision. At that point, using terms like "genetically superior" would be scientifically backable. This might prove uncomfortable for many, even if it's objectively true.

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Feb 11, 2015 8:11 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:The position I am arguing is that if you take 2 people who weren't beaten, abused, poisoned or starved who still ended up with <80 IQ's and they have kids and another couple with >150 IQ's the kids from the first pairing are very likely to average well bellow 100 while the kids from the second are very likely to average well above (and probably not just 5-10 points above, more likely close to their parents) assuming that in neither case you starve, beat, abuse or poison the children.

To be absolutely crystal clear: I don't believe you're arguing against this position explicitly. can you confirm?
The positive correlation works too - children adopted into wealthy homes fare better than children adopted into homes of more moderate wealth. You seem to be having a hard time accepting a 'it's a bit of both influences'. I'm not only suggesting that beating and starving a kid is the only sort of socioeconomic factor that matters.

So, sure, all things being equal, stupid parents are more likely to produce stupid kids, and smart parents are more likely to produce smart kids, with variation being as much as a whole standard deviation from the mean. Again, if you're still confused, the 5-15 IQ pt figure I used was because variability between a given family is found to be as high as 15 pts, and variability from socioeconomic factors was found to be 13 pts. My point is that socioeconomic factors (which are enormously hard to tease apart), have a huge huge role.
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby leady » Wed Feb 11, 2015 8:58 pm UTC

I don't believe anyone here would contest that if you take a modern child that is adopted (the modern is significant) that they will have major environmental gains placed anywhere other than with another child abusing crack whore or equivalent. Whilst that 2% of kids is important, i'm not sure its a problem that can be fixed by practically any means (bar retroviral engineering on top of the environment)


Generalizing the people who give children up for adoption as "abusing crack whores" is entirely unacceptable behavior. Warning issued, and take a break from the thread for 3 days.

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Feb 11, 2015 9:23 pm UTC

I don't understand what you just wrote at all. What do you mean by 'modern' in this context? What is 2%? What do you mean by 'retroviral engineering on top of the environment'?
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby morriswalters » Wed Feb 11, 2015 9:30 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:However, in theory, it is possible that we might be able to determine such things with a good deal of precision. At that point, using terms like "genetically superior" would be scientifically backable. This might prove uncomfortable for many, even if it's objectively true.
Sure it is. And people still wouldn't like it. And people are being told that today. You're told daily that you must vaccinate, you must listen when science talks about global warming, and so on. This is an appeal to superior intellect and knowledge. And it shouldn't surprise you that people don't like it. Hell we don't like it when a cop gives us a ticket. Part of being human is not being compliant. And superior intellect doesn't imply rational behavior. Scientists lie and cheat on their spouses, fudge their research, and generally do what their inferiors do. So intelligence isn't enough.

No one yet has answered the question "What itch are we trying to scratch by attempting to increase IQ by GE?".

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby leady » Wed Feb 11, 2015 9:44 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:I don't understand what you just wrote at all. What do you mean by 'modern' in this context? What is 2%? What do you mean by 'retroviral engineering on top of the environment'?


Ah sorry - the 2% are kids put up for adoption & modern is important because 50 years ago or less, kids were put up for adoption for general accidents in the population (unmarried mothers), now the segment is dominated by the massively disadvantaged. Retroviral engineering is one of those theoretical ways to do gene therapy, I think they were originally viruses that deliberately change the DNA in cells so they aren't seen as a foreign protein, but are trying be used to deliver more useful payloads.

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby CorruptUser » Wed Feb 11, 2015 9:56 pm UTC

There was a rather famous case of a guy refusing to let a man marry his pregnant daughter because he didn't want his daughter marrying an Arab. The kid was given up for adoption (and the couple eventually married anyway), and the adopted kid grew up to create market the iPhone I'm using to type this...

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby ObsessoMom » Wed Feb 11, 2015 11:21 pm UTC

Intelligence is a multifaceted thing, and for that reason is notoriously hard to quantify.

My sister is a brilliant physicist. I personally believe that much of her brilliance is due to the fact that her dyslexic brain processes and organizes information in non-traditional ways. Would a eugenicist regard her dyslexia as a defect, or an asset? Probably as a defect.

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby CorruptUser » Wed Feb 11, 2015 11:44 pm UTC

And thus the problem with genetic engineering.

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby HungryHobo » Thu Feb 12, 2015 10:25 am UTC

ObsessoMom wrote:Intelligence is a multifaceted thing, and for that reason is notoriously hard to quantify.

My sister is a brilliant physicist. I personally believe that much of her brilliance is due to the fact that her dyslexic brain processes and organizes information in non-traditional ways. Would a eugenicist regard her dyslexia as a defect, or an asset? Probably as a defect.


Peoples performance on certain problem solving tasks correlates extremely highly with their success in a wide range of real world problem solving tasks. Not perfectly but very very strongly and it can be quantified. You can call it something else if you have an issue with the term "IQ" but it follows a normal curve and is a quite useful metric.

the more important question is "would she herself".

"Eugenics" covers literally everything from governments forcible sterilizing people to parents choosing embryo that won't lead to a child who's skin falls off, to parents choosing to edit out a mutation that would cause colorblindness to ,indirectly, you personally when you choose a partner who lacks traits that revolt you. Some of these things are obviously bad, some are not, just falling under the definition of "Eugenics" does not automatically make something evil.

Do you think she would choose to edit out the dyslexia from a child she was going to have given a choice? after all she's in a better position to judge it's effects on her life than you, me or a government. If she chooses one way or another or is given the chance to choose is there anything wrong with that?

CorruptUser wrote:There was a rather famous case of a guy refusing to let a man marry his pregnant daughter because he didn't want his daughter marrying an Arab. The kid was given up for adoption (and the couple eventually married anyway), and the adopted kid grew up to create market the iPhone I'm using to type this...


That's a fringe case and you know it perfectly well. highly successful, wealthy people are vastly less likely to put their children up for adoption.
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu Feb 12, 2015 2:53 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:"Eugenics" covers literally everything from governments forcible sterilizing people to parents choosing embryo that won't lead to a child who's skin falls off, to parents choosing to edit out a mutation that would cause colorblindness to ,indirectly, you personally when you choose a partner who lacks traits that revolt you. Some of these things are obviously bad, some are not, just falling under the definition of "Eugenics" does not automatically make something evil.
You're mistaken - an individual being more attracted to blue eyes than brown eyes is not the same thing as a systematic program aimed at eliminating brown eyed people. I hope you aren't actually confused about the difference between 'individual mate selection' and 'eugenics'.
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Feb 12, 2015 3:28 pm UTC

The issue is we should be working for a healthier society. "Prettier" is NOT the same as healthy, even if they are correlated. And a healthy society means genetically varied, which is the biggest problem you'll have if you let everyone just pick the "best" genes for their kids.

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby HungryHobo » Thu Feb 12, 2015 3:33 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
HungryHobo wrote:"Eugenics" covers literally everything from governments forcible sterilizing people to parents choosing embryo that won't lead to a child who's skin falls off, to parents choosing to edit out a mutation that would cause colorblindness to ,indirectly, you personally when you choose a partner who lacks traits that revolt you. Some of these things are obviously bad, some are not, just falling under the definition of "Eugenics" does not automatically make something evil.
You're mistaken - an individual being more attracted to blue eyes than brown eyes is not the same thing as a systematic program aimed at eliminating brown eyed people. I hope you aren't actually confused about the difference between 'individual mate selection' and 'eugenics'.


And there's also a difference between individuals wanting to engineer/select their individual child to have blue eyes (perhaps because they believe them to be more appealing) and a systematic program aimed at eliminating brown eyed people. Both get called Eugenics because people are shameless and like to associate anything they oppose or feel vaguely hostile towards with mass murder.

The latter can also be called "parents making individual choices".
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Feb 12, 2015 3:56 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:However, in theory, it is possible that we might be able to determine such things with a good deal of precision. At that point, using terms like "genetically superior" would be scientifically backable. This might prove uncomfortable for many, even if it's objectively true.
Sure it is. And people still wouldn't like it. And people are being told that today. You're told daily that you must vaccinate, you must listen when science talks about global warming, and so on. This is an appeal to superior intellect and knowledge. And it shouldn't surprise you that people don't like it. Hell we don't like it when a cop gives us a ticket. Part of being human is not being compliant. And superior intellect doesn't imply rational behavior. Scientists lie and cheat on their spouses, fudge their research, and generally do what their inferiors do. So intelligence isn't enough.

No one yet has answered the question "What itch are we trying to scratch by attempting to increase IQ by GE?".


Why is that behavior not rational? I think you're conflating morality with rationality. There can be situations where the rational move does not necessarily match a given set of morals.

Intelligence is amazingly useful, though. Boosting intelligence is something that I generally like. Sure, these are broad, vague terms, but the same is generally true for every subset of intelligence. Our intelligence has allowed us to acheive a great many things, and basically all of my goals for myself/humanity require further advancements, so more intelligence is a useful tool toward those ends. I imagine the same is generally true, and, all other things being equal, we'd mostly prefer to have more smarts around.

In fact, fear of intelligence would be something I'd consider worrying, and likely telling about that individual.

The issue is not that intelligence is undesirable. It's entirely in the difficulty/potential tradeoffs.

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby morriswalters » Thu Feb 12, 2015 4:35 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Why is that behavior not rational? I think you're conflating morality with rationality. There can be situations where the rational move does not necessarily match a given set of morals.
Well maybe. But then again, why get married if you want to play? And if you don't want to play, why cheat? In lot of cases superior intellect comes with superior ego. So you do the human thing and justify your cheating with the rationale that what you want is more important than the fallout it causes.
Tyndmyr wrote:Intelligence is amazingly useful, though. Boosting intelligence is something that I generally like. Sure, these are broad, vague terms, but the same is generally true for every subset of intelligence. Our intelligence has allowed us to acheive a great many things, and basically all of my goals for myself/humanity require further advancements, so more intelligence is a useful tool toward those ends. I imagine the same is generally true, and, all other things being equal, we'd mostly prefer to have more smarts around.
Sure, it would be nice. Can you tell me exactly how greater intelligence might do what you wish to do. Would it for instance improve the rate of innovation? And if so how?
Tyndmyr wrote:In fact, fear of intelligence would be something I'd consider worrying, and likely telling about that individual.
That is an interesting take.

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Feb 12, 2015 8:11 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Why is that behavior not rational? I think you're conflating morality with rationality. There can be situations where the rational move does not necessarily match a given set of morals.
Well maybe. But then again, why get married if you want to play? And if you don't want to play, why cheat? In lot of cases superior intellect comes with superior ego. So you do the human thing and justify your cheating with the rationale that what you want is more important than the fallout it causes.


The most obvious reason given is probably "I probably won't get caught". It might even be true, and the risk of fallout is low. That doesn't make it particularly moral, but from a risk/reward perspective, it can still make sense.

Intelligence does not guarantee morality. It may reduce some kinds of immorality(say, particularly unlikely to be successful kinds of immorality), but it will not necessarily fix morality. However, a smarter person can generally be expected to be able to follow moral arguments and explore options, at least. Not a guarantee, just potential. Morality itself exists solely because of intelligence. We do not speak of morality for chickens.

Tyndmyr wrote:Intelligence is amazingly useful, though. Boosting intelligence is something that I generally like. Sure, these are broad, vague terms, but the same is generally true for every subset of intelligence. Our intelligence has allowed us to acheive a great many things, and basically all of my goals for myself/humanity require further advancements, so more intelligence is a useful tool toward those ends. I imagine the same is generally true, and, all other things being equal, we'd mostly prefer to have more smarts around.
Sure, it would be nice. Can you tell me exactly how greater intelligence might do what you wish to do. Would it for instance improve the rate of innovation? And if so how?


Bluntly, smart people do science, science results in innovation. Innovation is highly concentrated in countries that have a smarter populace due to improved nutrition, education, etc.

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby morriswalters » Thu Feb 12, 2015 9:10 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Bluntly, smart people do science, science results in innovation. Innovation is highly concentrated in countries that have a smarter populace due to improved nutrition, education, etc.
Yes, quite a bit of it. However that wasn't what I asked. How would increased intelligence do it? Can you quantify innovation?

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Feb 12, 2015 9:15 pm UTC

So you are asking if intelligence is linked to innovation? You mean like, would it be possible for a nongenius to derive JC Maxwell's work? Or the average joe could ever come up with Students T?

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Feb 12, 2015 9:54 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Bluntly, smart people do science, science results in innovation. Innovation is highly concentrated in countries that have a smarter populace due to improved nutrition, education, etc.
Yes, quite a bit of it. However that wasn't what I asked. How would increased intelligence do it? Can you quantify innovation?


You can quantify results. For instance, human lifespan is increasing. Generally, advances in technology that promote this are discovered via science. However, not all science is captured within that one metric. If you measured all possible results that humanity pursued, you could indeed measure the results of innovation. However, this is somewhat impractical to do with significant precision in real life.

But it's pretty trivial to correlate intelligence and innovation.

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby morriswalters » Thu Feb 12, 2015 11:17 pm UTC

Think of it in these terms. Maxwell was born in 1831 and he first published them in 1862 or thereabouts. What would have happened if Maxwell had been twice as smart. Would he have published in half the time? Had he been born in 1632 instead of 1831 would his 2x intelligence have allowed him to ask the question he answered.

Just for the record I don't fear intelligence, nor am I questioning the value of intelligence, what I am questioning is the idea that intelligence is such that it is the overriding metric of human advancement and thus worth the capital required to increase it..

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Feb 12, 2015 11:25 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:Think of it in these terms. Maxwell was born in 1831 and he first published them in 1862 or thereabouts. What would have happened if Maxwell had been twice as smart. Would he have published in half the time? Had he been born in 1632 instead of 1831 would his 2x intelligence have allowed him to ask the question he answered.

Just for the record I don't fear intelligence, nor am I questioning the value of intelligence, what I am questioning is the idea that intelligence is such that it is the overriding metric of human advancement and thus worth the capital required to increase it..


This requires a rather unusual alternate history that is difficult to postulate with accuracy, as well as generalizing from a single example. I do not think you can accurately answer that with any reliability. Not unless you have spare worlds to test with.

Smarter humanity on average means more folks contributing to research, more people making smarter decisions(even in other fields), and generally less stupidity. Even in the present or future, we can't say for sure that any one single person will be better off...but higher IQ correlates with success for the individual, and smarter populations do perform better on average. So, if you're picking between having a smart child and a not-smart child, it would be rational to prefer intelligence. It's good for the individual AND for society.

As for "how much money intelligence is worth", well...education is quite costly, but very worth the investment. Societies that invest in education outperform those that do not, and education greatly improves individual outcomes as well. That doesn't mean it's ALWAYS worth the cost, but it does indicate that the value of intelligence is very significant indeed.

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby ucim » Thu Feb 12, 2015 11:58 pm UTC

Even if I accept the premise that intelligence is an unmitigated good and should be increased, the problem is we don't really know what it is. We do know (and can measure) some of its side-effects, for example, ability to pick from five answers, ability to publish papers that other people think are important enough to refer to, ability to make more money, stuff like that. But these are just side effects.

Natural selection favors these and other effects in a competitive society, but it works slowly enough that any undesired effects that come along with it get a chance to be selected against before they become problematic. Nature works with the entire genome at once.

Genetic engineering and other methods of artificial selection operate much more quickly, and they select for a much much narrower set of traits. We may end up with people who are (measurably!) better at taking multple choice tests, publishing papers, and making money, but are not really more intelligent overall, and are (for example) arrogant jerks to boot without any emotional capability. We do need some people like that, but I don't think we'd want an entire society to be moved in that direction. I sure wouldn't. But it would be too late.

(If you think intelligence is what is being measured, then pick the next level up of "thing we want to improve that includes intelligence as a side effect")

We measure what we can measure because that is what we can measure, not because it is the important thing we want to know about.

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby morriswalters » Fri Feb 13, 2015 12:18 am UTC

I suppose I should have posed the question as, could Maxwell have developed his equations without Calculus? And the first simply asks the question, if Maxwell had been twice as smart could he have worked twice as fast? While intelligence correlates with any number of good things our society represents intelligence over time. So no matter how intelligent you might be, when may be more important than how much. And no matter how bright you may be, innovation takes time. Experiment, result, refinement, experiment, result, refinement and so on. And at some point knowledge becomes too vast for one man to embrace, and then the social side becomes important. At which point communication becomes the bottleneck. How fast can you share and have data shared with you. My question on cost isn't just about money, it is also about social costs. Anyhow.

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby CorruptUser » Fri Feb 13, 2015 2:10 am UTC

"Twice as much intelligence" isn't a well defined concept, simply because we don't define intelligence in amounts. IQ originally meant Intelligence Quotient, to see how fast a child progressed. That is, if a child had an IQ of 200, that means that at age 5 the child is as smart as the average 10 year old. But if you can get more 10 year olds that are just as smart as typical 20 year olds, how is that a bad thing?

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby elasto » Fri Feb 13, 2015 4:37 am UTC

In discussing intelligence I think we'd be better served splitting it up into some of its core constituents.

Memory
- It seems likely factual memory can be improved without meaningful downsides. eg. A photographic memory doesn't preclude painful emotions still fading over time

Language
- Some people seem to have the ability to absorb new concepts, words and languages effortlessly without obvious downsides

Creativity
- There does seem to be a slippery slope from increased creativity into madness, so care would seem to be needed here

Attention span
- Having the ability to concentrate hard for long periods seems to be a very positive trait (though single-mindedness could potentially make you boring or a bit of an asshole to those around you)

Then there are 'meta-traits' that could have a multiplicative effect, like how much sleep you need, and whether you can fall asleep and wake up virtually at will or whether you toss and turn for hours before dropping off. One of my children is an owl and one a lark, and there's no doubt in my mind that, academically, being a lark is a big advantage, and it's just blind luck she has that trait.

Overall though, I do recall there being a negative correlation between intelligence and happiness - probably through the increased introspection/self-awareness that greater intelligence brings - and I think if you asked most parents what they most wished for for their children it would be for happiness. Of course by that metric the rational choice might be to all have Down Syndrome babies...

So long as we can amplify the 'happiness gene' along with the 'intelligence gene' all will be well...

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby morriswalters » Fri Feb 13, 2015 9:24 am UTC

CorruptUser wrote:"Twice as much intelligence" isn't a well defined concept, simply because we don't define intelligence in amounts. IQ originally meant Intelligence Quotient, to see how fast a child progressed. That is, if a child had an IQ of 200, that means that at age 5 the child is as smart as the average 10 year old. But if you can get more 10 year olds that are just as smart as typical 20 year olds, how is that a bad thing?
I haven't suggested it is as such. I have asked if the utility is worth the possible moral hazard. To begin with you can't model it, you don't understand it well enough. So the only way to get there and test it is to tinker and make babies. So I have questioned that utility. Your percentile ranking for intelligence represent the skills being tested for. So when you say a child of ten is as intelligent as a man at 20 what you are saying in effect is that for the skills being tested the child scores as well as the man. What I have suggested is that that is an incomplete picture. Given that you have to do to create ten year old's to test a facility that you can't quantify, can you justify what it is that you want to do? That is my point as to the ethics.
elasto wrote:So long as we can amplify the 'happiness gene' along with the 'intelligence gene' all will be well...
That is a particularly rosy outlook. :D

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby CorruptUser » Fri Feb 13, 2015 1:23 pm UTC

Yes.

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby HungryHobo » Fri Feb 13, 2015 1:50 pm UTC

We don't have units of ingenuity but some people are demonstrably better at coming up with novel practical ideas, better at solving real world technical problems, better at understanding complex systems, faster at learning new material and those people tend to be what people would call highly intelligent.

Even a small increase in the number of such people in an organization can dramatically improve things.
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Feb 13, 2015 3:38 pm UTC

ucim wrote:Even if I accept the premise that intelligence is an unmitigated good and should be increased, the problem is we don't really know what it is. We do know (and can measure) some of its side-effects, for example, ability to pick from five answers, ability to publish papers that other people think are important enough to refer to, ability to make more money, stuff like that. But these are just side effects.


It's a generic term, like "healthy". We improve health not by finding some breakthrough that makes everyone no longer suffer disease of any sort, but by incrementally working on some aspect of it.

Genetic research here is more like "this gene results in a significantly elevated risk of this unfavorable outcome", and thus, screening for that becomes valid and relevant. One such example probably will not have a significant effect on the health of society as a whole, but doing so as a matter of course, and continually researching more ways to do so would.

As for happiness, well, there's always the happiness box thought experiment. But more relevantly, I suspect a great deal of unhappiness for those of far above average intellect is simply being stuck in a system designed for much less intelligent people(and probably run by much less intelligent people). A person of average intelligence would probably also dislike living in an institution for the mentally handicapped. Selecting so that people are smarter in general will result in a system that is more oriented to this higher intelligence level, eventually.

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby morriswalters » Fri Feb 13, 2015 7:19 pm UTC

ucim wrote:Even if I accept the premise that intelligence is an unmitigated good and should be increased, the problem is we don't really know what it is.
It's what we test for. We test for spatial skills, reading comprehension, and problem solving, and maybe memory, if it didn't correlate well with a college education and success it would be noteworthy.
CorruptUser wrote:Yes.
Succinct, I like it.
HungryHobo wrote:We don't have units of ingenuity but some people are demonstrably better at coming up with novel practical ideas, better at solving real world technical problems, better at understanding complex systems, faster at learning new material and those people tend to be what people would call highly intelligent.

Even a small increase in the number of such people in an organization can dramatically improve things.
Yes! I'm all about Apple Pie, Motherhood and The American way of life.
Tyndmyr wrote:I suspect a great deal of unhappiness for those of far above average intellect is simply being stuck in a system designed for much less intelligent people(and probably run by much less intelligent people). A person of average intelligence would probably also dislike living in an institution for the mentally handicapped.
Seriously, is that why I'm unhappy? I never thought about it in quite that way.


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