# [ExI] dna to search

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Sun Nov 9 23:40:59 UTC 2014

```William Flynn Wallace <foozler83 at gmail.com> , 9/11/2014 5:49 PM:
Anders, I am going to give you the greatest challenge of your life.  Explain the following to me in plain English (say that I am the head of the insurance company and don't understand the math.  (from Bill W)
Sir, if one of our customers have a risky gene variant they are slightly more likely to get sick with that condition, and we would have to pay out. However, most diseases are rather rare: even if they have a doubled risk, the risk of them actually getting sick still remains low. The main exceptions are common diseases like cardiovascular problems, and very expensive ones like Huntingdons, where a genetic propensity does move the average cost for us noticeably. Fortunately the common ones tend to be possible to change with lifestyle choices: if we can convince our customers to protect themselves we have a win-win situation.

Anders Sandberg, Future of Humanity Institute Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University

Simple model: Imagine that a condition X will have a cost C it it  occurs, and has a base probability P0. The actual probability  P=P0(1+aL+bG), where L is lifestyle and G is genetic factors (0 means no  effect) and a,b small constants. The expected cost of X is C P0  (1+aL+bG) if we assume independence of L and G. However, the total  expected cost is the sum across all conditions: E[C] = sum_i C_i P0_i  (1+a_i L_i + b_i G_i). Here we are again assuming independence, which is  problematic: if you die of X, you cannot die of Y, but I have not had  breakfast yet, so I will handwave this. The P0s are skew distributed:  there are loads of rare illnesses, and a few common ones. I would guess  that they roughly follow a power-law: let's set P0_i = i^-alpha, where  alpha>1 is a parameter denoting how common rare illnesses are. I  think, based on the fact that hospitals are not treating just a single  dominant disorder, that alpha is likely somewhere around 2.5
So,  assume you figure out that you have increased risk of condition i. Then  your expected costs go up by C_i P0_i b_i. If i is randomly distributed  as i^-2, then the expected i is around 3, and P0=3^-2.5. So the change  in expectation is  0.064*C_i b_i. This tells us that if the general  noise level Std[C] is much larger than this, it is likely not worth  checking. Now, the Std[C] for this example depends on the distributions  of all the different factors which I definitely do not have the mettle  to guess, but I would guess it is pretty big since P0 has infinite  variance (ah, those delightful power-laws!) Even if all P0s were equal,  if we assume b's tend to be relatively small, the sum is dominated by  the C_iP_0 terms and the variance becomes due to the variance in  treatment costs - which I think I remember is another heavy-tailed  distribution. So unless C_i or b_i is *unusually* high - like in  Huntingdon - or you have an effect on a high P0_i condition - then the  insurer will not care much.
And if it can be  offset by a monitorable change in L_i, so much better. In a sense  lifestyle changes are like (usually) low-cost treatments: you can move  that term into the C term.

On Sun, Nov 9, 2014 at 4:28 AM, Anders Sandberg <anders at aleph.se> wrote:
BillK <pharos at gmail.com> , 9/11/2014 10:59 AM:

<http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-29760212>
28 October 2014.     Two genes linked with violent crime.
The problem with those gene variants is that they are very common; about 20% of us have the "dangerous" version. They only seem to become risky when combined with a bad upbringing and other factors.
So if we want to use genetics to reduce violent crime we need to check about a fifth of all children for how they are brought up, and give them nicer upbringings if they are in trouble. In fact, skipping the gene test and just helping kids in trouble seems to be even better, since there are non-genetic social causes of kids to go bad too.

If gene treatments become fashionable and/or compulsory the population
could gradually change into a healthy monoculture nation of tall
handsome people with blue eyes and a very placid disposition.
Would it? I can see strong selective forces for health, intelligence and other general purpose goods, but multifactorial traits are harder to move than single factor traits. Parents generally do not seem to think hair colour merits genetic interventions; in fact, they are surprisingly conservative when it comes to any interventions unless they seem really good. Having a placid disposition doesn't sound like what any parents would go for. And the more blonds there are, the more other hair colors will look cool and exotic - there is a very interesting culture and availability interaction.
In any case, human genetic changes are unlikely to matter unless we stall on nanotech, AI and other radical technologies: the latter category evolves far faster than the human generation time right now. Plus, of course, we are getting way better at gene therapy too. Genetics may cease to be irreversible.
I am more worried about psychological hacks that make populations content than genetic hacks.

Anders Sandberg, Future of Humanity Institute Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University
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