Quoted inside spoiler, in case it disappears one day, because thinking ahead.
Everything Not Obligatory Is Forbidden
Posted on February 6, 2015 by Scott Alexander
[seen on the New York Times’ editorial page, February 6 2065, written by one “Dr. Mora LeQuivalence”]
It’s 2065. Not giving your kids super-enhancement designer baby gene therapy isn’t your “choice”. If you don’t super-enhance your kids, you are a bad parent. It’s that simple.
Harsh? Maybe. But consider the latest survey, which found that about five percent of parents fail to super-enhance their children by the time they enter kindergarten. These aren’t poor people who can’t afford super-enhancement designer baby gene therapy. These are mostly rich, highly educated individuals in places like California and Oregon who say they think it’s more “natural” to leave their children defenseless against various undesirable traits. “I just don’t think it’s right to inject retroviral vectors into my baby’s body to change her from the way God made her,” one Portland woman was quoted by the Times as saying earlier this week. Other parents referred to a 2048 study saying the retroviral injections, usually given in the first year of life, increase the risk of various childhood cancers – a study that has since been soundly discredited.
These parents will inevitably bring up notions of “personal freedom”. But even if we accept the dubious premise that parents have a right to sacrifice their children’s health, refusing super-enhancement designer baby gene therapy isn’t just a personal choice. It’s a public health issue that affects everybody in society.
In 2064 there were almost 200 murders nationwide, up from a low of fewer than 50 in 2060. Why is this killer, long believed to be almost eradicated, making a comeback? Criminologists are unanimous in laying the blame on unenhanced children, who lack the improved impulse-control and anger-management genes included in every modern super-enhancement designer baby gene therapy package.
There were over a dozen fatal car accidents on our nation’s roads last year. The problem is drivers who weren’t enhanced as children and who lack the super-reflexes the rest of us take for granted. This is compounded when they drink before getting on the road, since unenhanced people become impaired by alcohol and their already inferior reflexes deteriorate further. Since the promise of self-driving cars continues to be tied up in regulatory hassles, we can expect many more such needless deaths as long as irresponsible parents continue to consider science “optional”.
And finally, there was a recent outbreak of measles at Disneyland Europa – even though we thought this disease had been eradicated decades ago. Scientists traced the problem to unvaccinated tourists. They further found that all of these unvaccinated individuals were unenhanced. Lacking the cognitive optimization that would help them understand psychoneuroimmunology on an intuitive level, they were easy prey for discredited ideas like “vaccines cause autism”.
So no, super-enhancing your kids isn’t a “personal choice”. It’s your basic duty as a parent and a responsible human being. People in places like India and Neo-Songhai and Venus which suffer from crime and disease make great personal sacrifices to get their children to gene therapy clinics and give them the super-enhancement designer baby gene injection that ensures them a better life. And you start off in a privileged position in America, benefitting from the superenhancement of millions of your fellow citizens, and you think you can just say “No thanks”?
So I don’t want to hear another word from the “but my freedom!” crowd. Unenhanced kids shouldn’t be allowed in school. They shouldn’t be allowed to drive. They shouldn’t be allowed in public places where they can cause problems. And parents who refuse to enhance their children should be put in jail, the same as anyone else whose actions lead to death and suffering. Because not super-enhancing your kids isn’t a “choice”. It’s child abuse.
Mora LeQuivalence is an Assistant Professor of Bioethics at Facebook University. Her latest book, “A Flight Too Far”, argues that the recent Danish experiment with giving children wings is a disgusting offense against the natural order and should be banned worldwide and prosecuted in the International Criminal Court. It is available for 0.02Ƀ on Amazon.com
I think a lot of discussion on the ethics of genetic engineering treats it as a sort of monolithic concept, but I'd prefer classifying examples of GE by the goals. The goals described don't necessarily encompass all possible scenarios or classify them cleanly, but it seems like a start. Also, it's probably been done before, but this is a forum, not an academic journal, so whatever. And it makes it easier to discuss what is okay vs what is uncomfortable vs what is fucked up.
Also, no distinction is made with regard to what must be done in vitro vs what can be done whenever.
0. Eliminating serious hereditary disorders, like Huntington's or familial ALS.
1. Attempting to impart disease resistance. Basically, hardcore vaccination.
2. Physical capability enhancement, like strength or reflexes. Colour vision for the colourblind. Mantis shrimp colour vision for all.
3. Cognitive capability enhancement. Making people smarter.
4. Deliberate personality alterations. Sociability, strength of will, et cetera. I specify deliberate because category 3 kinda bleeds into this.
5. Cosmetic choices.
6. Moral choices. Sexuality, gender identity, whatever issues are hot when GE takes off whose causes are partially known, if these are even genetic (as opposed to epigenetic, cultural, or psychological, or other). This might also share common ground with 4, or be a category wholly containing 4.
Thoughts? Do you think it is helpful to make these 7 distinctions? I largely ordered them in terms of social acceptability, from most to least, in the US, though cats 2 and 3 are probably interchangeable. What sort of good arguments can be made against 0-3? What sort of good arguments can be made for 4-6?