[Paleopsych] FuturePundit: Should We Fear Transhumanism And Identity Copying?

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Should We Fear Transhumanism And Identity Copying?
March 11, 2005

    On the [9]Marginal Revolution blog Alex Tabarrok and Tyler Cowen are
    debating transhumanism. [10]Tyler discusses how much will people be
    willing to genetically engineer their children when doing so makes the
    children be less like their parents.

      Most people want their children to look like themselves, and to
      some extent to think like themselves.  We invest many thousands of
      dollars and many months of our time to acculturate our children.
      Now let's say your children could be one percent happier throughout
      their lives, but this would mean they were totally unlike you, the
      parent.  In fact your children would be turned into highly
      intelligent [11]velociraptors and flown to another planet to live
      among their own kind.  How many of us would choose this option?  I
      can think of a few responses:

      1. Transhumanism will bring improvements of more than one percent;
      we should forget about identity and let everyone become healthier
      and happier.  What's wrong with [12]uploads?

      2. Governments should not restrict transhumanist innovation.
      [13]Let people and their children choose their degrees of identity
      continuity for themselves.  (Isn't there a collective action
      problem here?  Everyone wants a more competitive kid but at the end
      humanity is very different.)

    As for the idea of making kids 1% happier: It will become trivially
    easier to genetically engineer offspring to feel happier: give them
    genes that make their minds feel happy even in the face of adversity.
    I do not think that large physical changes in shape or in other
    non-cognitive body changes will be needed to make happier people. I do
    not even think that IQ boosting will be needed to do that. My guess is
    that genetic engineering for happiness will be aimed to directly
    enhance the feeling of happiness independent of other characteristics
    that might also be changed in offspring.

    Regarding uploads: the ability to copy one's mind into a synthetic
    brain will cause some severe problems. One can easily imagine a sort
    of arms race between different identities competing for influence.
    Some will try to acquire wealth in order to get the computing capacity
    needed to create many copies of their brains. Competition for
    resources will probably become much greater when copies of sentient
    entities can be made quickly.

    Uploads are also problematic because a person could be copied against
    their will and then the copy could be modified to be more compliant
    and willing to work for some cause that the original mind would reject
    as immoral. Imagine a great weapons scientist kidnapped and copied in
    order that some country or group could have many copies of an
    extremely talented scientist to work for their cause. The world could
    become a much more dangerous place.

    Even without uploads the potential exists to some day infect a person
    (or an entire population) with a virus that changes personality and
    motivation. This could ability would be attracttive to governments,
    business interests, and peoeple in relationships. Not sure if he loves
    you? Genetically reengineer him to make him more committed to long
    term relationships.

    [14]Alex Tabarrok expects the transhumanist change between generations
    be fairly small and unlikely to produce much opposition.

      Transhumanism will never make as large a difference between a
      single generation as does immigration.


      Fortunately, change across a single generation is likely to be
      small so parents will say yes even though 5 or 6 or 10 generations
      down the line the changes will be dramatic.  It's because of this
      wedge effect that Fukuyama is so [15]worried about relatively small
      changes today and it's precisely for this reason that his
      opposition has no hope of success in a free society.

    I disagree with Alex regarding the potential rate of change across
    generations. The rate of biotechnological advance is going to
    accelerate by orders of magnitude because biotechnology will
    increasingly be driven by the same technologies that drive computer
    technology advances. For example, microfluidics devices will be
    fabricated using some of the same technologies used to create
    semiconductors and microfluidics devices in all likelihood will have
    lots of semiconductor gates and analog electronic circuits built into

    We will have all the existing genetic variations in humans to choose
    for offspring. But we will also have the genetic variations for
    similar proteins in thousands of other species to investigate to look
    for variations that yield some desired quality. Plus, as we come to
    understand the genetic signalling system regulating cell growth,
    differentiation, and other functions of the cell lots of obvious ways
    to modify genes to create desired effects will jump out at us.

    My guess is that in 30 or 40 years time a person planning to have an
    offspring will be able to choose from millions and perhaps even tens
    of millions of well understood and functionally significant genetic
    variations. Personality type, assorted behavioral tendencies,
    intelligence, and many physical characteristics that determine
    abilities and esthetic qualities will be selectable. Combinations of
    genetic alleles to code for physical appearances and cognitive
    characteristics that have yet to naturally occur in humans will be
    available to put in offspring. Download "Alligator Boy".

    The ability of people people to introduce huge number of genetic
    changes from one generation to the next is not the biggest reason to
    be worried about what sorts of semihumans or transhumans might be
    created (though that will be problematic). I think the real problem
    with big changes in sentient beings (either through genetic
    enhancement to create transhumans or human-machine interfaces that
    create cyborgs or uplifting other species - see David Brin's science
    fiction novel Startide Rising and the sequels) is the potential to
    create intelligent minds that do not have some of the emotional and
    ethical structures that cause human societies to function.

    For example, [16]the tendency to dole out altruistic punishment could
    some day be genetically engineered out of offspring. Think about
    people who report crimes they witnessed being perpetrated against
    others or who take the time as witnesses to step forward and volunteer
    to testify in a criminal trial. Imagine that the genetic variations
    that code for [17]the rewards brains deliver to themselves for doing
    acts of altruistic punishment were just edited out when some people
    designed the genomes for their offspring. Well, that'd lead to a
    decrease in the rate of criminals being caught and of non-criminal
    abuses of people being punished.

    [18]Tyler wonders whether the rate of change across generations should
    be slowed so that older generations do not lose the way of life
    they've had due to radical differences in their offspring.

      So work backwards to transhumanism. We cannot and should not ban
      it, but to what extent should we regulate/tax/patent/subsidize it?
      We don't know until we determine the value of identity at the
      margin. The Icelanders -- all 279,000 of them -- are not crazy to
      insist on some language skills for their immigrants; they would
      otherwise be overwhelmed and lose their way of life. The fact that
      their customs are changing each generation anyway -- and often
      quite radically -- is beside the point. Nor is it relevant that
      many Icelanders emigrate to the U.S.

    Imagine, for example, the first genetically engineered generation is
    made to be, on average, so averse to killiing animals that they all
    oppose fox hunts. This just happened in England without the use of
    genetic engineering to produce the inter-generational change in
    attitudes. With genetic engineering we can expect successive
    generations to have far greater changes in values than we are
    witnessing in the West due to effects of industrialization.

    [19]Alex discusses whether competition and fear will drive the spread
    of transhumanist changes to ourselves and our offpsring.

      When the demand for a change in personal identity is strong it can
      have important external effects.  You may not want to be a
      velociraptor but if I change [20]what choice do you have?  Or you
      may simply have a preference (atavistic and irrational perhaps but
      still a preference) for human beings as they are now.

      Tyler makes the mistake, however, of jumping from such and such
      preferences are important and real to such and such preferences
      justify regulation/taxation/subsidization etc.

    Certainly some day the awareness of some parents that other parents
    are starting to genetically enhance the intelligence or motivation of
    their offspring will cause many in the first group of parents to
    follow the lead of the second group simply in order to keep their own
    kids competitive.

    Transhumanism is going to present a problem to libertarians: On the
    one hand libertarians will tend to favor a laissez faire approach to
    regulation of offspring genetic engineering. On the other hand genetic
    engineering will easily be able to produce offspring that like to
    follow orders and that dislike those who are not like them in some
    way. If some fraction of society decides to use genetic engineering to
    produce offspring that are more communist or more totalitarian in
    attitude or extremely religious and hostile to non-believers or
    criminal then libertarians are going to have to decide whether highly
    coercive government intervention in the short run is worth tolerating
    in order to prevent far larger rights violations in the longer run.
    By Randall Parker at 2005 March 11 02:31 AM


    Regarding uploads, yes, the introduction of new attractive investment
    opportunities will raise interest rates and the price of capital, as
    these new opportunities will "compete" better with old ones. This is
    what happens in economic booms, and is something widely sought after
    by policy makers. It seems odd to worry about such competition just
    becaus the new investment opportunities take the form of brain copies.
    Are you also worried that in good times parents might invest more in
    creating children?
    Posted by: [23]Robin Hanson on March 11, 2005 06:32 AM

    You worry about "the potential to create intelligent minds that do not
    have some of the emotional and ethical structures that cause human
    societies to function" such as "offspring that like to follow orders
    and that dislike those who are not like them in some way" or "that are
    more communist or more totalitarian in attitude or extremely religious
    and hostile to non-believers."

    The idea that society will collapse unless we actively mold
    preferences has long been popular among communists and socialists, and
    for very different reasons among conservatives and the very religious.
    This is used to justify requirements for "education"/indoctrination,
    and strong punishments against apparently private actions such as
    sodomy and recreational drugs.

    Libertarians should be especially suspicious of arguments of this
    sort, and should want to see a bit more detail about how society would
    collapse without the supposely essential emotional and ethical
    structures. Economists such as myself mostly understand how societies
    function in terms of institutions that channel self-interest, whatever
    that self-interest may be.
    Posted by: [24]Robin Hanson on March 11, 2005 06:57 AM

    ( Trackback seems to be having some problems for me, so I'll post my
    comments here directly. Also at
    phere.htm }

    A lot of this conversation hinges on how possible and likely it is
    that parents make radical personality changes to their offspring.

    I think it's important to keep three things in mind when thinking
    about that:

    1 - Parents are typically conservative in choices they make for their

    Parents have strong urges to help their children get ahead and to pass
    on their own belief system to them. But the one desire that's even
    stronger is the drive towards safety of their children. In situations
    where parents weigh potential advantage with risk, they seem to
    generally come out opting for the safest (or apparently safest) course
    for their kids. As I said in a previous post, this will slow the rate
    of inter-generational change as compared to the types of changes
    people (especially 20-somethings) will be willing to try out on

    2 - Genetic personality alterations are hard to fine tune.

    While genes play a large role in many behavioral traits, what they
    really code for are predelictions in one direction or another, not an
    exact degree. That means that when genetically pushing behavior in one
    direction or another, it's easy to undershoot or overshoot. Parents
    trying to create children that are more confident and assertive
    increase their odds of producing overbearing brats.

    At the same time, it's possible to select genes highly associated with
    one end of a behavioral spectrum but still not have it manifest to the
    degree expected. An example I use in the boook is IQ. Imagine you
    found thousands of individuals with 160 IQs, cloned them (so that you
    had all of their IQ-affecting genes) and raised the children in
    average homes. What would the average IQ of the kids be? 160? Nope. If
    the genetic correlation with IQ is about 0.5, then the average IQ of
    the kids will be 130, because those individuals with 160 IQs typically
    had exceptional genes AND exceptional environments. The fraction of
    the clones that have a 160 IQ will be exactly the same as the fraction
    that have a 100 (totally average) IQ - with a mean right in the

    On the other hand, a few of these children will have truly freakishly
    high IQs - not many in absolute numbers, but at a much higher rate
    than in the base population.

    Now apply this logic to a trait like religious intensity. Imagine an
    "RQ" - religiousity quotient. Even if RQ had a large genetic component
    (which does not seem to be the case), kids engineered for high RQ
    would still fall on a spectrum. Some of them would be no more
    religious than the norm, while others would be so religious they might
    even apall their parents...

    3 - Any genetic alteration of behavior will have broad ripples and
    side effects

    In some ways, what Randall's arguing reminds me of an argument Bill
    McKibben makes in Enough. McKibben is a nature lover and wants his
    daughter to be too. He spends time with her in the woods around their
    home to try to pass this trait on. But he's frightened of the idea
    that parents might genetically engineer their kids to pass on values
    and preferences like this.

    Well, I don't think he has much to fear. There's no gene - or
    collection of genes - for loving nature. Now, there is a well
    documented genetic contribution to scores on the personality test axis
    that personality psychologists call Openness to Experience. So
    probably we could engineer children to be more open generally. But you
    can't guarantee that this will manifest as a love of the woods. It may
    very well nudge the child towards some other behavior - world travel,
    psychedelic use, role playing games, theatre - who knows?

    The point is that the behaviors we tend to think about are usually
    caused by the interplay of a large number of genes plus the
    environment. And every one of those genes affects a large number of
    other behavioral traits. So using genetic techniques to create
    super-obedient children, even if the motivation were there on the part
    of parents, seems to me unlikely.
    Posted by: [25]Ramez Naam on March 11, 2005 07:15 AM

    Stirling's Draka series of science fiction
    stories addresses some of these issues.
    Posted by: [26]Dennis on March 11, 2005 09:20 AM

    Robin Hanson,

    I am especially suspicious of arguments from libertarians because I
    view their ideology as suffering from the same kind of flaw that
    afflicts communism: It is built on top of a model of human nature that
    is incorrect.

    There is a great deal of difference between socially molded
    preferences and biologically molded ones. Communists thought they
    could mold New Soviet Man out of biological starting material that was
    obviously incompatible with the type of human they were trying to
    shape. Similarly, feminists have failed to turn girls into boys and
    boys into girls. They have managed to inflict a lot of damage on
    children as they try though.

    You speak of "supposely essential emotional and ethical structures".
    Are you serious? Are you a Blank Slater? For example, do you think
    that empathy does not exist? Or that empathy does not get coded to
    exist in the first place by genes? Or that empathy is not needed for a
    free society to exist?

    I want to see how libertarians explain the significance of psychopaths
    in their ideology. A psychopath who feels no empathy toward other
    humans can not be made to respect the rights of others. A psychopath
    is fundamentally incompatible with a free society.

    Similarly, the instinctive desire to dole out altruistic punishment is
    an essential element of a free society.
    Posted by: [27]Randall Parker on March 11, 2005 09:23 AM

    Ramez: I'm not sure that playing down the effect of "only" an average
    IQ of 130 is sensible. The consequences could be discretely
    discontinuous with altered population. What happens when all the kids
    in a city start with an expected mean IQ of 130. Might there be a
    significant amount of positive feedback in the acquisition of
    intellectual capabilities? At any rate, they would probably develop
    better social skills for dealing with people of their own
    intelligence, and would avoid wasting the first 10 years of their
    educations repeating the times tables. Also, traits relating to
    personality would probably be synergetic with traits boosting IQ. At
    any rate, it seems to me that a group of 100 such people who grew up
    together might develop collective competence far greater than any
    small groups we have encountered previously.
    Note though, that in your clone scenario, you are reducing variance by
    eliminating genetic variability. As a result, you don't necessarily
    get any freakishly intelligent people in this manner. I wish that I
    had some sense of how the collective competence of a group changed
    with differences in mean intelligence and variance.
    Randall: This seems to me to be a very sensible analysis, but its not
    clear to me that it relates sensibly to any particular timeframe.
    Posted by: [28]michael vassar on March 11, 2005 09:34 AM

    Ramez Naam,

    Aside: I am going to write a post about your book [29]More Than Human
    once I've finished it.

    As for inheritance of intelligence in identical twins: To quote from
    page 107 of [30]The Bell Curve: "The most modern study of identical
    twins reared in separate homes suggests a heritability of general
    intelligence between .75 and .80, a value near the top of the range
    found in the contemporary technical literature."

    I have argued that [31]in the future children will be more genetically
    determined than they are now. One reason for this is obvious enough:
    Some children now have a mix of alleles for a particular attribute
    (e.g. introversion/extroversion) that put them in a boundary region
    that allows environment to push them one way or the other. But parents
    who want a particular outcome will choose allele combinations that
    will yield a more certain outcome. So children will become less
    susceptible their social environments.

    It is a mistake to think that just because something is not caused by
    genes it will not become more determined by greater technological
    control. Look at homosexuality. While it is politically incorrect to
    say so the vast bulk of parents do not want homosexual children. This
    has implications for the future. Genetic factors may contribute to
    susceptibility to develop into a homosexual but the evidence to date
    argues that genes are not by themselves decisive. Eventually we will
    develop a deep understanding of how a brain develops down paths toward
    homosexual orientation. Regardless of what portion of the contribution
    to homosexuality is genetic we will find ways to tweak early embryonic
    development to nudge a brain down one pathway or another to produce a
    desired sexual orientation. So sexual orientation will become more
    determined and therefore homosexuality will become less common.
    Whether you approve, disapprove, or are indifferent to this future
    change it will happen because technology will enable parents to exert
    more control over events that happen during embryonic development.

    As for genetic alleles that influence the odds of developing
    attraction to nature: Of course such alleles exist. How can you
    imagine otherwise? Every preference humans have has some alleles that
    make the preference more or less likely to happen.
    Posted by: [32]Randall Parker on March 11, 2005 09:57 AM


    Three things:

    1) Correlation between IQ and genetics. I think the Bell Curve
    overstates its case somewhat here. I've never seen two papers that
    compared the heritability of IQ that came up with the same answer, but
    the range of values seems to stretch down to about 0.3 and up to about
    0.75. A good meta-study is in the Nuffield Council on Bioethics's
    report on genetics and human behavior, which finds the mode of other
    studies to be around 0.5. You can get the report from

    2) I think the observation that some things will become more heritable
    is astute. I agree with you.

    3) But the crux of the issue is how precisely it's possible to control
    behavior. Of course, as you say, there will be genetic modifications
    that make it more likely that someone will develop a love of nature.
    My point is that those alleles will have other effects at the same
    time. And the exact nature of the effects will depend on environmental
    factors. There will be no allele that codes for ONLY a love of nature.
    Most likely to get this phenomenon will require a large number of
    subtle changes, each of which have their own ripple effects on
    behavior, and each of which are dependent on the environment in some

    If I try to engineer my children more religious, I may find that
    they're drawn to a more fundamentalist religion than my own. If I try
    to engineer more monagamous behavior, I may find that I've made them
    more jealous. If I try to engineer them to love nature, perhaps fewer
    of them will become computer scientists and engineers.

    I'm not denying that this stuff is powerful - I'm actually on your
    side regarding how quickly I expect to see advances in the field. I'm
    just saying that behavior is not a simple thing. It's not a zero sum
    pie where if genes account for N% then environment must account for (1
    - N). Every genetic change is, in some way, multiplied by
    environmental factors. As Matt Ridley would say, Nature is expressed
    via Nurture. And with that sort of a complex relationship, we should
    expect that any genetic change meant to alter behavior is going to
    come with its share of surprises.
    Posted by: [33]Ramez Naam on March 11, 2005 11:57 AM


    Aside: The Nuffield Council [34]opposes genetic engineering for higher
    IQ and I disagree with their opposition.

    Just as I expect behavior to become genetically more predetermined I
    also expect to see the development of means to more narrowly and
    selectively change behavior. Behavioral tendencies that are linked
    today may not stay linked in the future.

    Look at some of the more pathological human compulsions. People can
    have very specific compulsive behaviors. There are many different
    types of compulsions. If this can occur naturally then some day
    narrowly aimed compulsions will be introduceable with engineering.

    For artificial intelligences I certainly expect behavioral tendencies
    to be much more unlinked. Software can be programmed to be highly
    selective in what is responded to and what responses are used.

    However, just because a tendency toward religious fundamentalism could
    end up playing out with attachment to a fundamentalism that is
    different than what the parents believe does not mean the parents will
    refrain from choosing genes for fundamentalism. By making that choice
    the parents will still be increasing the chances that their offspring
    will end up believing the same religion as they believe.

    More generally, just because selecting some genetic variation does not
    guarantee a desired outcome parents will still make that choice for
    the same reason people make decisions like starting up a company that
    may or may not succeed. If you don't try at all your odds of success
    are even worse. Given that people will be selecting genetic variations
    that produce group average differences in outcomes it seems reasonable
    to expect group average behaviors to change over successive

    BTW, I expect monogamy and jealousy to be fairly easily unlinkable.
    Posted by: [35]Randall Parker on March 11, 2005 12:24 PM

    When things really get interesting is when RUN TIME personality
    modifications can be made. This is especially an issue with uploading.
    Say we could choose to modify ourselves to be more/less altruistic,

    As for the concern about sociopaths, I have an interesting data point
    for you. One of my friends was born with fairly severe Aspergers, and
    had real difficulty relating to other people, understanding their
    emotions, etc. Luckily, he also has absurdly high IQ, probably around
    170. What's really remarkable is that he seems to have successfully
    "rewired" his personality, developing the various modules needed to
    relate effectively to people "from scratch." He has developed a
    well-thought out system of philosophy and ethics which guides his

    In his current condition, he's a tremendous asset to the cause of
    liberty. If he had a merely "genius" IQ, he could very easily have
    become a serial killer, a weapons designer, or some other form of
    sociopath. If had normal IQ, he likely would have ended up

    My point is perhaps we'll get lucky and more IQ is the way out: just
    design whatever offspring/AI to have a high enough IQ, and trust that
    IQ to unscramble whatever stupid design flaws/unsustainable
    personality traits we've carelessly designed into them.
    Posted by: [36]T. J. Madison on March 11, 2005 01:12 PM

    If only the powers to be could see that everything is built like a
    house, starting from the foundation going up, ideally with a very
    decent and functional blueprint, and at least accept to give genetic
    engenieering a fair chance, safely one step at a time and I do support
    the use of stem cells and such for obvious reasons to myself. Trouble
    is, not that I have proof or knowledge of it, just judging from the
    stultyfying way history has of relentlessly repeating itself ad
    vomitum, there will allways be rogue factions researching and
    experimenting with any and all potential advantage over others this
    including scientific breakthroughs, regardless of international
    agreements and any other laws. This leaves everybody else in this
    climate of racing against the clock with not enough resources or
    become government or corporation property, even with the best of
    governments, that option means great chances of militarisation of the
    product, in the case of corporations well there are good ones and
    there are bad ones I guess there too, again a salesman will sell
    anything to anyone so one would want to be discriminating, easely
    said, hardly done when one has to feed a family, which is unfortunate
    considering in times like such for the researcher scientist, one is
    like a race driver who heavyly relies on the cohesion, integrity,
    knowledge and effectiveness of his crew and reliability of the parts
    constituting the whole of the machinery involved, penny wise and pound
    foolish, lack of safety precautions, cutting corners, premature
    production and such are all frivolities that cannot be indulged in
    when walking such a tight rope, and neither is self doubt for that
    matter. How many people are happy with their working conditions? the
    public hears very little one way or the other, when it comes to what
    goes on behind the research labs closed doors, I'll go by my father's
    saying " no news is good news "; on this I conclude and thank you for
    the above dialogues it's nicely written for the rest of us who haven't
    studied these fascinating new developpements, making it an enjoyable
    read, and the saga continues...sure could use more intelligent people
    in this world, intelligence does rise the probability of wisdom which
    I see as a mixture of phylosophy and simple Einsteinian relativity (
    for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction...) so sadly
    needed these days, onwards and upwards, keep up the good work: Roxanne
    ( friend member WTA )
    Posted by: [37]Roxanne on March 11, 2005 01:48 PM

    What do parents want for their children? They obviously want the best,
    that their kids do better than they did. This is becoming increasingly
    hard in present Western societies, but it's - to my mind anyway -
    still what parents want. Are parents inherently conservative for what
    they want for their kids? Well, maybe, but so what? Isn't it better to
    say that there exists such things as 1) growing up and ) personal
    responsability? It seems unpopular to claim either, but that's what I
    want for my kids. So what if he or she does something I disagree with?
    It's his life & his happiness. Does a child's message: mom, I'm gay -
    really stop the parent from loving their kid? I do hope this is a
    peculiar trait of American culture. But what if I could make my child
    better by genetic enhancement? I want to know first how much of
    intelligence is inherited? How much value should I attach to
    IQ-scores? I think I'm going to ask myself: can I really be sure that
    what I make of my child, will still be appreciated in twenty years
    time? Wouldn't it be better if I raised him / her the old way and let
    her make her own choices?

    * * *

    Suppose that I make my body anything I want. This will enable me to
    make a centaur, a robot and a mermaid, all in my lifetime.
    I think velociraptors are out, because people recognize the nature of
    humanity. Let's say that humans (and all other living creatures) are
    pure matter. Souls do not exist. Let's assume that 'mind' is a
    pattern, unique to each brain. It turns out that this pattern is
    actively shaped by the eyes and the hands. Humans think different once
    they had hands and eyes are not camera's, but computers. Information
    goes from brain to eye and vice versa. So what if my mind found it's
    body transforming to velociraptorhood?
    Best guess: if you transformed in the morning, you'd BE a velociraptor
    in the evening. Think: every way you experience the world is altered.
    That puts us back at philosophy 101: what's it like to be a bat? You
    certainly wouldn't be a human anymore. Maybe we'd be able to exchange
    messages with velociraptors, through braincircuitry, but that doesn't
    make understanding.
    So I don't think people will become velociraptor because everyone will
    treat such a being as what it is: a dangerous predator you can't
    understand. From communist to anarchist, everyone will accept that
    there are ways (laws) for dealing with predators. Animal predators,
    out in the city, are usually shot. Human predators are jailed or
    sentenced to death. (I expect folks to become much more armed when
    some people do become velociraptors. So what?)
    I think that if you can make your body anything, the people would like
    to be a mermaid, a centaur or anything similar, come out and do it.
    This will face opposition already, but it's much easier to swallow
    than a velociraptor. The latter simply isn't human anymore and will
    therefore be treated as such.
    Posted by: [38]Jamisia on March 11, 2005 03:46 PM

    "Regarding uploads: the ability to copy one's mind into a synthetic
    brain will cause some severe problems. One can easily imagine a sort
    of arms race between different identities competing for influence.
    Some will try to acquire wealth in order to get the computing capacity
    needed to create many copies of their brains. Competition for
    resources will probably become much greater when copies of sentient
    entities can be made quickly."

    Uploading simply ain't gonna satisfy us all. Some of us desire to
    increase capacity as far as possible, to scale-up if you will to the
    limits allowed by the laws of this world. The limitations in the end
    may not be there, it may only be a matter of energy/matter resources
    available, in which case one could accrue resources, and thus increase
    the capacity of the mind indefinitely(or at least for a very very long

    "Not sure if he loves you? Genetically reengineer him to make him more
    committed to long term relationships."

    What's the need? You can physically modify any other partner, I don't
    see the problem, you can also make yourself fall in love with whomever
    you desire. I don't see why one'd tolerate a partner that doesn't want
    to be modded as far as healthily possible for the enjoyment of both
    and consentually agreed by both, same goes for oneself. I see new
    lovers coming to an agreement, each making a few concessions and
    whatnot, into suitable modifications or lack of that they'd like each
    other to have. After all if a particular individual refutes you
    there's an infinity of others, that if you desire can be akin to that
    one physically/personality wise, or you can simply change what you
    Posted by: [39]Divus Masterei on March 11, 2005 04:29 PM

    Fundamental limitations on 21st century biotechnology

    "All important substrate emergences, or phase transitions, appear to
    require both primarily bottom up, and secondarily top down control

    " 'Genetically engineered humans,' redesigned for increased
    performance, now appear to be the 'atomic vacuum cleaners' of the
    1950'sfantasies that will never come to pass, for a host of complex

    "We are stuck with our genetic legacy code, and we won't be able to
    significantly reengineer it until we move to an entirely new
    computational substrate."

    "It appears that the era of genetic exploration in human organisms is
    largely over."

    "In summary, biology, while it will still yield a host of socially
    valuable benefits in coming decades, is essentially a saturated
    substrate. We will gain a host of new knowledge from the biological
    sciences, but we won't use that information to redesign humans, in any
    significant biological sense. There won't be time or reason to do so.

    Infotech, not biotech, now appears to be the constrained developmental
    future for local intelligence."

    Posted by: [40]Dimitar Vesselinov on March 11, 2005 07:50 PM


    I agree with you on just about everything you said in your last
    response. I suspect groups will create hereditable traits that pull
    them farther out of the mainstream. And in many of those cases
    there'll be a self-reinforcing meme-gene complex - a set of beliefs
    that a tribe holds dear and uses technology to further inscribe into
    their offspring. (Interestingly, this make a good rebuttal to those
    who fear that human genetic engineering would lead to homogenization
    of the species.)

    I think what we're debating is just the relative likelihood or
    timeline of this scenario vs. others.

    My thesis is that while the scenario above is likely to play out
    eventually, that before we get to the that point we'll have adults
    trying out some of the same modifications on themselves. This will
    happen because both individuals and society have fewer qualms about
    individuals taking risks with themselves. And so there will be more
    such motivated individuals and they'll be more likely to find
    scientists and physicians who will help them.

    For instance, it's fairly likely that there are athletes who are
    currently investigating using gene therapy to permanently upregulate
    something like IGF-1 or EPO levels to get a boost in their athletic
    performance. Yet I doubt that many parents have seriously considered
    it. Same thing for anti-aging techniques. A large number of adults
    might be willing to sign up for parts of Aubrey de Grey's SENS
    program, but they'll probably want to see it tested in themselves
    before they wire it into their kids.

    There are also a couple other barriers here. Genetic engineering of
    the unborn is only technically easier than somatic cell therapy if
    performed at a very early stage. Realistically that means performing
    it as part of an in-vitro fertilization cycle. IVF is physically and
    emotionally painful, usually takes multiple cycles, and costs in the
    neighborhood of $20k in the US.

    IVF isn't a /technical/ hurdle to genetic engineering of the unborn.
    It's just a motivational hurdle. It means that parents have to either
    be already going through IVF for fertility reasons, or they need to
    have planned out the engineering they want to do ahead of time and be
    willing to go through the extra time and expense for it. (Of course
    that hurdle will drop over time too.)

    Of course this isn't black and white. Some minority of parents will be
    willing to put in the time, energy and money to have the child they
    want. They'll be willing to take somewhat larger risks with their
    kids. And technically that will be easier to accomplish. In that
    population, we could see genetic engineering of the unborn start
    happening any time now. Certainly we're already seeing PGD.

    But as far as mainstream adoption goes, I suspect more people are
    willing to take large risks with themselves, especially in their
    apparently-immortal 20s. As a result I suspect self modification - to
    improve appearance, to boost mental capacity, to stave off aging, and
    maybe even to alter personality - will move faster than

    (Last analogy - illicit drugs. A lot of adults are willing to ingest
    various compounds to alter their own mental states. A large portion of
    the population seem to find these experiences rewarding. Only a very
    very small minority of these people would force them onto their infant
    children, though.)

    Posted by: [41]Ramez Naam on March 12, 2005 01:07 AM

    Randall, yes empathy exists and is encoded in part in genes, but no,
    empathy and altruistic punishment are not required for, and pychopaths
    are compatible with, a free society. Our basic mechanisms of social
    organization are general enough to deal with a very wide range of
    individual preferences. While our institutions are often tuned to take
    advantage of altruism and empathy where it exists, such as perhaps
    lowering the costs of formal law enforcement, variations on such
    institutions could also function in the absense of those features. Any
    standard textbook on law and economics, for example, gives many of the
    basic ideas.

    The compatibility with sociopaths is proven by the fact that we have
    always had such creatures and we still function. If there were a
    higher percentage of them, our institutions could adjust to deal with
    them more aggressively.
    Posted by: [42]Robin Hanson on March 12, 2005 07:08 AM


    If a larger fraction of the population becomes psychopaths then there
    will be more victims of psychopaths before each psychopath is caught.
    But the assumption that they'd all be caught eventually is

    There are [43]two kinds of psychopaths detectable as such by brain
    scans and one kind is extremely good at not getting caught. Adrian
    Raine at USC (see the previous link) has showed that unsuccessful
    psychopaths have an enlarged corpus callosum and an asymmetrical
    hippocampus. Whereas successful psychopaths (i.e. psychopaths who have
    never been jailed) have an enlarged corpus callosum but not an
    asymmetrical hippocampus.

    In my view this result points up the very real possibility of future
    vicious genetically engineered criminals who would be extremely
    skilled at not getting caught.

    This result also argues that there is already an element of society
    repeatedly victimizing others (whether legally or illegally) without
    getting caught.
    Posted by: [44]Randall Parker on March 12, 2005 11:03 AM

    Robin Hanson wrote:

    The compatibility with sociopaths is proven by the fact that we have
    always had such creatures and we still function. If there were a
    higher percentage of them, our institutions could adjust to deal with
    them more aggressively.

    Unless "our institutions" become infested with sociopathy themselves.

    What are the chances of a successful "The Boys From Brazil" scenario?
    Or what are the chances of a society becoming like the Ik tribe
    studied by Colin Turnbull, where mothers laugh if their infants crawl
    into a fireplace?

    I'm not contradicting your point, only pointing out that there are
    both fictional or gedanken alternative scenarios, as well as real and
    well documented alternative scenarios.
    Posted by: [45]nemo on March 12, 2005 11:10 AM

    In the comments above, whenever the writer wishes to suggest a trait
    to be instilled in the young that all readers would accept as being
    desirable, they seem to choose "a love of nature." I hope that I am
    not alone in seeing irony in the fact that this entire discussion is
    about the possibility of bizarrely subverting the very essence of

    This strikes me as being an area where we should be careful what we
    wish for. Assume for a moment that a we had access to the technology
    to produce a child entirely according to predetermined specifications.
    Or that we could somehow arrange to produce a mate similarly
    determined. Would we love these predetermined creatures in the same
    way we love the products of chance with whom we currently mate and
    that we currently produce as children? Would we be satisfied, in turn,
    with the love of a creature that has been engineered to love us? The
    situation reminds me of Dostoyevsky's account of the temptation of
    Christ that appears in "The Grand Inquisitor" section of "The Brothers
    Karamazov," where Christ is offered and refuses the power to make all
    men to be as Christ wants them, much in the fashion being discussed
    here. Dostoyevsky seemed to impute wisdom to such a refusal. I wonder
    what he would think of all the above.
    Posted by: [46]toot on March 12, 2005 11:29 AM


    I agree that people will start modifying themselves pretty quickly. As
    for when they start modifying embryos: I think it depends in large
    part on when it becomes safe to do. But the problem is how to prove
    that it is safe? That will be hard to do because it will take many
    years to follow some leading cases to see how they turn out.

    If genetic engineering that uses the intron technique for delivering
    gene modifications to precise destinations is shown to be safe in
    treating diseases then I could imagine it being used on sperm
    progenitor cells (there is a more precise name for that cell type that
    eludes me). Rather than risk toying with a fertilized embryo it will
    probably be safer to intervene at a far earlier stage. So I'm
    expecting to see that sort of genetic engineering in cases where
    particular sequences are known to be purely harmful and a person is
    tested and shown to have such a sequence.

    The other really big thing holding back offspring gene therapy is the
    current lack of knowledge on what most of the genetic variations
    actually do. The ability of a person to know all their deleterious
    genetic variations (and some theoretical estimates put the number of
    purely deleterious genetic variations per person at 500+) will much
    more strongly motivate prospective parents to seek out ways to do
    genetic engineering of their planned offspring. I just expect people
    to be shocked shocked shocked when they learn that they are going to
    give their baby 500 harmful genetic variations and can be told what
    each of those genetic variations do. (and the reason we all have so
    many harmful mutations is that natural selection can't select them out
    as fast as they are generated due to the size of the genome)

    The development of cheap DNA sequencing technology strikes me as a
    necessary precursor to mass genetic engineering of offspring. Though
    Hap Map research will help get us part of the way there. So maybe the
    knowledge that will motivate the desire to want embryo genetic
    engineering will come sooner.
    Posted by: [47]Randall Parker on March 12, 2005 12:24 PM

    Randall and nemo,

    Yes, more phychopaths would probably mean more uncaught phychopaths,
    which is bad for sure, but that is very different from a collapse of
    society, which is what was claimed. When phychopaths are rare, the
    chance that any particular unfortunate action was really caused by a
    phychopath is low enough that we usually ignore it. As the chance gets
    higher, such events become more suspicious, and we would investigate
    them with more energy. This is like the fact that people who live in a
    city trust those they pass on the street less than those who live in a
    small town. So law enforcement is more expensive in the city, and
    pychopaths succeed more there. But society still functions.

    That all said, there would certainly be a case for imposing a tax on
    the creation of creatures which are more likely to impose negative
    externalities on others. If the existence of creatures with less
    altruism makes various social processes more expensive, then it makes
    sense to tax the creation of those creatures to compensate.
    Posted by: [48]Robin Hanson on March 12, 2005 02:44 PM

    There is another reason why I expect adults to transform themselves
    before they start doing the same for their offspring and that is that
    parents tend to be more conservative with their kids than with
    themselves. This is especially true with regards to medical
    treatments. The RK and Lasex eye surgury is a good example. When RK
    first came out in the 80's, many eye doctors themselves underwent the
    treatment, but were much more reluctant to recommend it to their kids.
    Same goes for smoking (do as I say, not as I do).

    In high school, I had a friend whose father took up sky-diving, but
    would not allow his son (my friend) to participate. He was also very
    critical of the fact that we were into mountain climbing and rock

    It is natural for parents to be much more risk averse with their kids
    than with themselves.

    Also, altering one's self is much less politically controversial than
    the genetic design of one's kids.

    Adult gene therapies are on their way and so is the stem cell
    regenerative medicine. I do not expect the first "designer babies" to
    be born until 2030 or so. That gives us till 2050 until we have to
    worry about competing with them. Also, I think that gene therapy
    combined with stem cell regenerative medicine will allow for adults to
    modify themselves in any manner that might be applied to designer


    I just got your book.
    Posted by: [49]Kurt on March 12, 2005 02:47 PM


    I'm liking Ramez's book [50]More Than Human so far. He writes very
    well and has done a lot of research to dig up suitable material.
    Posted by: [51]Randall Parker on March 12, 2005 03:32 PM


    My guess is that psychopaths produce high costs and that those costs
    are non-linear as a function of what percentage of the population they
    are. Go from a population of, say, 1% psychopaths to 10% psychopaths
    and society would become extremely worse. My guess is that society
    would break down long before reaching 50% psychopaths.

    As for your position about taxation of irresponsible and hazardous

      That all said, there would certainly be a case for imposing a tax
      on the creation of creatures which are more likely to impose
      negative externalities on others. If the existence of creatures
      with less altruism makes various social processes more expensive,
      then it makes sense to tax the creation of those creatures to

    Okay, suppose some alleles contribute to the risk of having
    psychopathic children. Once DNA sequencing becomes cheap and all the
    alleles that contribute to violence, psychopathy, and other threats to
    the rest of us become known should a taxation scheme apply regardless
    of whether the person with the anti-social offspring used genetic
    engineering to produce their evil spawn?

    In other word, once the technology is developed to allow people to
    avoid having a number of types of pathological children should people
    have a legal obligation to avoid having children who are bad to the

    Also, suppose a couple know they carry genes which, if combined
    randomly using natural mating, could produce psychopathic children.
    Suppose knowing this they have sex, out pops a kid 9 months later, and
    then 20 years later their psychopathic kid kills some people. Should
    the parents be charged with negligent homicide?

    Similarly, should people have an obligation to avoid producing
    retarded offspring? Robert Plomin (a researcher who searches for
    genetic variations that contribute to IQ differences) thinks he has
    findings that show most retardation is not the result of developmental
    accidents. He claims [52]most retardation is just the coming together
    of a lot of naturally occurring alleles that code for sub-normal
    intelligence. In other words, it is inherited.

    More generally, should greater knowledge lead to greater obligations
    (whether enforced by taxes or outright bans) to avoid foisting
    dangerous or retarded or otherwise burdensome offspring on society?
    Posted by: [53]Randall Parker on March 12, 2005 04:30 PM

    More generally, should greater knowledge lead to greater obligations
    (whether enforced by taxes or outright bans) to avoid foisting
    dangerous or retarded or otherwise burdensome offspring on society?

    Hmmm! Doesn't sound like a Libertarian crowd.
    Posted by: [54]toot on March 12, 2005 04:50 PM


    Have you considered the possibility of 20 year old women taking
    treatments that alter the epigenetic environment in the womb? For
    instance, evidence suggests the gestational environment affects the
    onset of homosexuality.

    Would an adventurous young woman take a pill or vaginal suppository if
    she were told it would make her have healthier, smarter children?


    I do not believe Randall suggests that society would break down with
    an increase in sociopathy. I believe he suggests that western liberal
    democracy would and certainly any hope for a libertarian dream world
    would. He seems to suggest that a decrease in altruistic punishment
    would lead to an increase in criminality and victimization, which
    would also drastically alter the western liberal world many of us
    enjoy so much.

    A society of sociopaths is still a society. Not exactly a kinder
    gentler society, however.
    Posted by: [55]Bob Badour on March 12, 2005 05:14 PM

    Randall Parker wrote:

    [Excellent questions on limiting bad outcomes, concluding] More
    generally, should greater knowledge lead to greater obligations
    (whether enforced by taxes or outright bans) to avoid foisting
    dangerous or retarded or otherwise burdensome offspring on society?

    I think these address the visible psychopaths, those that be detected
    even though sometimes with difficulty. Recall that Ted Bundy murdered
    for years before he was caught.

    But consider the less spectacular case of what we ordinarily call
    sociopathy: no empathy for others, complete dedication to getting
    one's way, and respect for law only in the sense of avoiding
    consequences. Couple that with high intelligence, at least high enough
    to usually avoid high profile crimes like murder, and high enough to
    plan carefully, cleverly, and mercilessly.

    If some large enough number of such humans were produced, perhaps even
    by design of one or more such humans, what is to prevent them from
    infiltrating and compromising the very institutions that would be
    responsible for making and enforcing the laws to limit them?

    Recall that even harshly enforced laws rarely prevent any illegal
    activities entirely.

    Imagine a "Boys from Brazil" sort of scenario, in which a cohort of
    evil humans are produced and organized, possibly from birth, to take
    over social and government leadership, quietly and without drawing
    attention to their ultimate purpose.

    What good would laws be agains such an onslaught?

    Might not some strange beast slouch undetected toward Washington,
    London, Moscow, Beijing, etc., to create a world-wide dystopia within
    a generation?
    Posted by: [56]nemo on March 12, 2005 05:14 PM

    Randall: Regardless of what portion of the contribution to
    homosexuality is genetic we will find ways to tweak early embryonic
    development to nudge a brain down one pathway or another to produce a
    desired sexual orientation.

    This is a good point that I believe many who focus only on genetic
    engineering miss.

    Once we understand human development, we should be able to intervene
    and tweak the process. Add a little testosterone here, add a little
    choline there. Add a neural growth enhancer to accelerate language
    acquisition during the babbling stage. Baby formulae will take on new

    Ramez Naam: My thesis is that while the scenario above is likely to
    play out eventually, that before we get to the that point we'll have
    adults trying out some of the same modifications on themselves. This
    will happen because both individuals and society have fewer qualms
    about individuals taking risks with themselves. And so there will be
    more such motivated individuals and they'll be more likely to find
    scientists and physicians who will help them.

    I agree. Also the technology will continue to advance. The only way to
    keep up will be to modify adults.

    Robin Hanson: The compatibility with sociopaths is proven by the fact
    that we have always had such creatures and we still function. If there
    were a higher percentage of them, our institutions could adjust to
    deal with them more aggressively.

    Ever increasing technology empowers individuals to harm ever greater
    numbers of people. A sociopath could engineer a deadly virus and
    threaten to release it upon millions of people if his demands werent

    Our institutions might have to deal with them by making certain
    sociopaths arent born. I believe that is Randalls point. Society may
    have to enforce rules on what personality types will be allowed.

    Randall: But the problem is how to prove that it is safe?

    If the alternative is death or severe diminishment in quality of life
    then the choice is easy. The early adapters will those for whom the
    rewards significantly outweigh the risks.

    With rapidly advancing biotech the early mistakes may be easy to
    correct twenty years later.

    We need good models for predicting phenotype from genes. The models
    dont have to be perfect, only better than the natural system that
    results in many miscarriages and birth defects.

    Randall: natural selection can't select them out as fast as they are
    generated due to the size of the genome

    And the relatively small number of offspring per woman. With their
    large litter sizes rodents keep a cleaner genome. It isnt as bad as it
    might be. Many bad mutations are eliminated during the sperm
    competition phase.
    Posted by: [57]Fly on March 12, 2005 06:25 PM

    "With rapidly advancing biotech the early mistakes may be easy to
    correct twenty years later."

    So if biotechnology creates a Hannibal Lecter, it may be easy to
    correct the mistake twenty years later. Is that twenty years after
    discovering he is a Hannibal Lector or will we be able to recognize it
    in infancy? It is easy to say that every problem arising from
    technology has a technological fix, but it may not be so easy to
    develop the fix before the problem causes a good deal of trouble.

    The gist of this discussion seems to be that biotechnology will
    provide the means to change ourselves in any way that pleases us. The
    question might be asked, will whatever we become upon being so changed
    be pleased with what we have become? Or put another way, if we can
    contrive to make a being such that his or her neurons whose activity
    is perceived as happiness are always stimulated or firing, will that
    individual ever perceive happiness? It seems to me to be a variation
    on the question, can there be good without there being evil, or can
    there be mountains on a planet on which all places are equally high.
    Posted by: [58]toot on March 12, 2005 07:49 PM


    I am half way through your book and it is an excellent read! It hits
    all of the relevant issues in a concise manner. Congradulations! I
    hope that it sells well.

    I had always wanted to write such a book and it appears that you have
    written the book that I was wanting to write. My book would have been
    more like in the "Megatrends" style and it would have focused on the
    economic benefits of post-mortality (I don't like the term
    immortality) and how it can solve the social security crises.

    I am now selling biotech instrumentation and I can tell you, biotech
    is definitely a "tool-driven" technology just like semiconductors. If
    it isn't already, it will follow a "Moore's law" progresssion just
    like electronics did.

    I will also tell you that medical tourism is already a big business.
    If neurological enhancement is banned in the U.S., millions of
    Americans will be flying to Asia every year for such enhancements.
    There is no way the U.S. government could stop this without turning
    ourselves into a fascist dictatorship. A dictatorship that I would do
    everything in my power to destroy. I'm sure that millions of others
    would back my sentiments.


    Your issues may or may not be relevant, but they are purely a matter
    of individual free choice. The relevant issue is not if they are real,
    but does a government have any business to impose them on free
    individuals. The obvious answer is absolutely NOT.

    One man's belief system is another man's gibberish.
    Posted by: [59]Kurt on March 12, 2005 11:43 PM

    Madison, Randall:

    Comments about "wouldn't waste ten years repeating multiplication
    tables", "IQ enabled him to compensate", or "compulsions can be
    treated" raises an interesting point. One problem of technology is
    that it can mask weaknesses which otherwise would have to be treated.
    Even without biotech advances, it's already a problem for our age.
    Mental problems, anxiety disorders, etc. seem to proliferate in
    societies where treatment options are most available (you could argue
    that it's genetic, as these people wouldn't be medicated for long
    enough to breed in other societies, but that's too simplistic IMO)
    When most kids don't need as much time to learn multiplication, what
    happens to the kids who still need the time? Or when most people can
    use IQ to mask schizophrenia, perhaps the genes for schizophrenia
    spread more widely, and the cases which are not masked are much worse.
    In short, I am arguing that genetic meddling will lead to even greater
    volatility than we see with normal medical advances. It's not at all
    clear that the greater volatility will lead to an upward trend.
    Posted by: [60]Joshua Allen on March 13, 2005 12:44 AM

    Joshua Allen,

    Certainly medical advances are allowing many more people with genetic
    defects and weaknesses to survive and reproduce. But I expect the
    ability to do genetic engineering on the germ line (i.e. eggs, sperm,
    and embryos) to allow the elimination of most genetic defects. So the
    genetic variations that contribute to schizophrenia will become rarer.

    Then there is the separate issue you raise about differences in
    intellectual ability. Will the worldwide standard deviation in IQ
    become larger? Certainly some populations will be able to avail
    themselves of germ line genetic engineering many years before other
    populations are able to do so. Some governments will place greater
    limits on IQ enhancement genetic engineering. In some countries the
    bulk of the population will be too poor to afford germ line genetic
    engineering or ignorant about it.

    I expect to see a gap between generations. Today I'm well above
    average in IQ. But I'll probably be well below the average IQ of the
    average American born in 2040.
    Posted by: [61]Randall Parker on March 13, 2005 01:13 AM


    One could argue that laws which depend on the goodness of heart of the
    citizens are no good at all. A possible outcome of a less remorseful,
    less empathic society is that the powers-that-be design laws to
    protect against people like themselves. Sociopath rulers likely would
    have no incentive to make your stuff easy to steal (although
    inequities are more likely to happen). Less sociopathic people are
    more likely to trust the intentions of others, and therefore build
    much weaker systems, IMO. OTOH, more paranoid leaders could mean more
    totalitarian government, and a need for higher IQ among the citizens
    just to be able to game the system enough to survive. However, on net
    balance, I have to agree with Randall. You want smart sociopaths
    probing the system to make it stronger (hopefully from a safe jail
    cell) and you want citizens with a genetic bias toward being social.


    I wonder about IQ in 2040 though. Stats showing that higher IQ
    negatively correlates with marriage in western women, for example. The
    breeding patterns of westerners do not show much section for IQ at all
    (the bottom half of IQ breed at much higher rate, smart people usually
    don't, and smart men marry stupid women). China, on the other hand,
    seems to be positively selecting. One child policy chops off the surge
    of low-IQ breeding, and shortage of women means that even the smart
    women get mates, and only the smartest men do -- and of course where
    there is no concept of politically correct, the system is rigged to
    select the brightest, and it's very difficult for stupid children to
    gain social status. I totally agree that biotech will quickly
    accelerate the differentials, but it will probably be sometime after
    2040. And with the way economic, demographic, and technology transfer
    trends are going, it might not be a western revolution. Things get
    really interesting from a demographic perspective. Suppose
    hypothetically that Han Chinese are the most fervent adoptees of the
    early technology to boost children's IQ, have the most access, and get
    a 1 or 2 generation jump -- this would alter global culture and DNA
    permanently, since even as other cultures caught up in IQ, it's a
    numbers game after that (and depends on rates of intermarriage, for
    Posted by: [62]Joshua Allen on March 13, 2005 02:10 AM

    Joshua Allen: Suppose hypothetically that Han Chinese are the most
    fervent adoptees of the early technology to boost children's IQ, have
    the most access, and get a 1 or 2 generation jump -- this would alter
    global culture and DNA permanently, since even as other cultures
    caught up in IQ, it's a numbers game after that (and depends on rates
    of intermarriage, for example).

    In the long run, it may not matter which race or which society first
    boosts its populations IQ.
    A gene allele might be beneficial and contribute to an ethnic
    appearance, e.g., small nose. If so, all groups would tend to favor
    the small nose allele. (Either that or forego the advantage.)

    If a gene allele that contributes to an ethnic appearance has no
    special benefit, then it shouldnt matter which gene allele

    Genes would no longer be linked to parentage. So it shouldnt matter
    whether your parents were Chinese or American.

    The first culture to boost IQ might dominate the world for a short
    time. However, the culture for a population whos average IQ is 30
    points higher is likely to be very different regardless of cultural
    heritage. Such a society might find pre-boost cultures equally
    unsuitable whether they are Chinese or American.

    (High IQ people already share a global culture that is largely
    independent of national origin and different from the common culture
    of their nation.)

    I am less concerned that a nation such as China or Japan would
    dominate than I am that a failed nation such as North Korea would
    aggressively use such technology.

    Advancing science and technology expands the available pool of
    economic resources. With boosted IQs, more people would be doing more
    research and engineering and that should lead to more resources for
    everyone. Fully utilizing the whole world populace should make every
    nation wealthier. (It would also lower the danger posed by failed
    states.) So there could be selfish reasons to make certain that all
    nations advanced.
    Posted by: [63]Fly on March 13, 2005 08:45 AM

    There is another economic argument in favor of genetic enhancement
    that is rarely mentioned yet deserves to be mentioned. That is the
    economic principle of comparative advantage. If some people enhance
    themselves (higher IQ, no aging) and others, for whatever reason do
    not, even the unenhanced will derive a net benefit from the enhanced
    because of the increase of total economic productivity of the system.
    This is because the enhanced will specialize in economic activities
    that places a great demand on their intellectual capabilites, leaving
    the other fields for everyone else. There is net increase in creation
    of wealth and the wealth does dessiminate throughout the system. An
    example of this is the enhanced guy who makes a killing from
    developing a new tchnology who then hires a contractor to build a new

    The concept of comparative advantage is one of the most fundamental
    concepts of economics and is taught in every economics and business
    school in the U.S. (and much of the world).
    Posted by: [64]Kurt on March 13, 2005 11:20 AM


    As the economic value of the cognitively most able has soared the
    ability of the least able to hire the most able has plummeted. We see
    this in health care for example. How can middle aged poor people
    afford to spend $200 each month for medical insurance (and that with a
    $5000 yearly deductible)? How can they also afford to buy medical
    insurance for their kids?

    Comparative advantage? Yeah, I get Ricardo. But are you sure that
    always works? Look at graphs showing wage trends broken out by decile
    over the last 40 years. Sorry I do not have a URL for this but the
    bottom 10% have suffered declines in inflation-adjusted wages. What I
    see happening is that the smart people are developing machines that
    are cheaper to use than unskilled labor. There are still unskilled
    labor jobs but only because salaries have fallen.

    Are you aware that in inflation-adjusted terms the current US minimum
    wage is about half what it was in the late 1960s?

    I guess economists look at all this and see rising living standards in
    China and India and therefore the situation looks rosy to them. But
    speaking as a nationalist who is worried about trends within our own
    borders I'm increasingly concerned with the present and future ability
    of the dumber segments of our society to have anything of value to
    offer the labor market.
    Posted by: [65]Randall Parker on March 13, 2005 12:16 PM


    What you say is indeed true. The comparative advantage theory does not
    aways work. However, do you think that these people be better off if
    there were less smart people in the world?

    My point is that if people are able to increase their IQs (and EQ as
    well), there would be a net total increase in wealth production and
    this is never a bad thing. This wealth will trickle into the system
    one way or another, in the form of new jobs and new business
    opportunities. Growth begets growth.

    The bio-luddites (whether rightwing or leftwing) suggest that if some
    people are able to make themselves smarter, that this will somehow
    cause other people to become poorer in real terms. I see no reason to
    believe this at all.

    Indeed, this bio-luddite economic argument can be turned against them.
    Consider the possibility if neurological enhancement technology is
    banned in the U.S. It is doubtful that it would be banned in places
    like India and China and, if banned there, it is doubtful that such a
    ban could be enforced, considering the chaotic nature of these
    economies and societies. If Chinese and Indians can boost their IQs
    and EQs and Americans cannot, what do you think that will do to the
    American economy, particularly technology manufacturing?
    Posted by: [66]Kurt on March 13, 2005 01:34 PM


    You might want to consider the possibility that the reduced economic
    returns to low skill people (starting in the early 70's) does coincide
    with the explosive growth of government regulation and control over
    the economy (not to mention the inflation of the 70's and the
    unreported inflation we have now). It goes like this: increased
    regulation increases the cost of doing business. This increases the
    "hurtle rate" that businesses must clear in order to remain profitable
    so that they remain in business, which shifts the opportunities
    towards the high-skill, high value people. Hense, the people on the
    bottom get squeezed. I know many "blue-collar" people who have lost
    jobs because the plant closed or downsized due to new government

    The high cost of medical insurance and medical treatment itself in the
    U.S. is largely due to excessive regulation and the oligopolistic
    nature of doctor licensure. It is not a marketplace failure per se.

    Also, consider the posibility that high-skill labor is valued more
    than low-skill labor because it is rarer. Perhaps when we all have IQs
    in the 140-150 range, high-skill labor will be much more plentiful
    and, consequently, have less premium value associated with it. The
    recent bubble and decline in IT skills is indicative of this?
    Posted by: [67]Kurt on March 13, 2005 01:46 PM

    While particular modifications might produce pyschopaths, I see no
    particular reason to expect a much greater tendency in that direction.
    After all, the selection pressures that created the current mix of
    altruism, psychopathology, etc. are likely to remain relevant - I see
    no reason to think that the new equilibrium would have many orders of
    magnitude more psychopaths.
    Posted by: [68]Robin Hanson on March 13, 2005 02:38 PM


    I agree that a greater supply of upper IQ people will have a wage
    depressing effect on their labor relative to the labor of the less
    intelligent. Though my guess is that an expansion of the ranks of the
    high IQ will not depress labor prices so much because the smarter
    people will spread out to engage in more kinds of innovating to
    develop more kinds of products and services. I see this all the time
    in software development. There are so many kinds of productivity
    enhancing software that could be developed but there is shortage of
    people smart enough to innovate.

    I also agree that a larger quantity of higher IQ people will
    accelerate the growth in productivity of the society as a whole both
    because the smart people will be more productive and also because they
    will invent more productivity enhancing devices and processes.

    Also, a larger economy will mean more money available to help the less
    fortunate. That is very important. Also, lots of people will be
    IQ-enhanced out of the ranks of the maladaptive poor. Greater smarts
    allow people to be more adaptive.

    However, if the productivity enhancing devices reduce the need for
    less skilled labor more than the devices decrease the need for more
    skilled labor then that will reduce the extent to which the higher
    productivity economy benefits the cognitively less able.

    As for which countries adopt IQ enhancement first: I see this as an
    incredibly important issue. One of the factions that will be arguing
    for early legalized and subsidized IQ enhancement in the United States
    will be the national security types. There are more smart brains in
    China. This puts us at an economic and military disadvantage.
    Posted by: [69]Randall Parker on March 13, 2005 02:58 PM


    Once genetic engineering of offspring becomes possible the selective
    pressures that produced the current ratio of "successfu" psychopaths
    to "unsuccessful" psychopaths to conventional criminals to "normal"
    people will no longer have much effect. The environmental selective
    forces (for lack of a better term) will become far less important than
    the conscious decisions of people who decide to reproduce.

    Here is what is key in my mind: Given the introduction of new and
    rapidly acting (by evolutionary standards) selective forces there will
    be big shifts in what gets selected for and against. It is difficult
    to predict in advance what will be selected for or against. But I
    think I can be on firm ground when I predict that conscious minds
    empowered to make a great many separate decisions about the genetic
    attributes of their offspring will produce very different results than
    standard old fashioned mating produced.

    To get an idea of the scale of what is coming look at the effects of
    the introduction of cheap ultrasound equipment into the environment in
    China and India. The changes in sex ratios have been dramatic,
    reaching as high as 150+ males to 100 males in some areas of India.
    That will produce follow-on effects in terms of which males manage to
    produce, likely selecting for higher IQ and more motivated males among
    other things.

    As for whether a higher incidence of psychopathy is in our future due
    to genetic engineering: Hopefully not. However, I find it more
    plausible that some people could want to reduce the altruistic
    punishment instinct or the empathy instinct or perhaps increase the
    aggressivity or assertiveness of their children. Extroversion is my
    prime candidate for trait that I expect people will consciously choose
    for their children at much higher rates than the parents are

    An increased incidence of extroversion alone would increase the
    incidence of government corruption. The super-shy introverted Finnish
    have an incredibly low incidence of corruption in part because they
    are embarrassed at the thought of getting caught and partly because
    they do not form relationships easily with strangers to be able to
    plot bribery and other corruption schemes.
    Posted by: [70]Randall Parker on March 13, 2005 03:15 PM

    Regarding your comment, "After all, the selection pressures that
    created the current mix of altruism, psychopathology, etc. are likely
    to remain relevant."

    If all the genetic tampering I've seen advocated here were practiced,
    I see no reason for your optimism regarding selection. Unless you
    regard taking anyone who steps too far out of line and slamming them
    in prison to be "selection."
    Posted by: [71]toot on March 13, 2005 03:19 PM

    Kurt, the economists view of "a rising tide lifts all boats" is a
    rationalization. In pure economics terms, it may be almost true, but
    you can (for example) post a gain in the GDP of a third world nation
    by making just a few of its richest even richer and the rest poorer --
    it frequently happens. And the big thing the economist ignore is
    demographic impact. Economists smugly point out that we had a
    "peaceful" end to the cold war, and one which led to greater economic
    liberty for the whole world. No atom bombs required. However, did you
    know that the population of Russia has declined 33% since 1987? The
    atom bomb killed 200,000 people -- the "peaceful" end of the cold war
    killed several million, and eliminated the births of several million
    more who certainly would have been born otherwise. In demographic
    terms -- in terms of spread of culture and DNA, it was a mass
    genocide. Some of this was due to emigration, but the bulk of
    population decline was caused by a 30-year drop in life expectancy,
    higher infant mortality, and lower birth rates.

    Now, some people might argue that "it's OK if my children never
    survive, and my whole race dies out, because race is obsolete and it's
    better for the greater good of the human race anyway". But such people
    are a slim minority, and destined to be wiped out by the demographic
    surges of people like the Han, who actually care greatly about the
    survival of their children, families, race, and culture. One imagines
    that most of the demographic changes will be just as "peaceful" as the
    end of the cold war. Is that really the kind of world we want for our
    children? I don't know...
    Posted by: [72]Joshua Allen on March 13, 2005 06:58 PM


    I cannot believe your comment about the end of the cold war. I am one
    of those who rejoyce in the peaceful resolution of the cold war. Would
    you rather have us had a nuclear war to get rid of communism? I am
    looking forward to a peaceful solution to the issue of political Islam
    as well.

    The Russians spent the past century turning what could have been one
    of the wealthiest countries in the world into a junk heap, and they
    are now reaping what they sowed.

    Your arguments about demography and the Chinese can be interpeted as a
    call for massive genetic enhancement of the U.S. population in order
    to keep up with the han. I will assume that this is your intent.
    Posted by: [73]Kurt on March 13, 2005 08:38 PM

    Joshua; your point is sensible, but your facts are absurd. 33% Not
    even remotely close. 30 Years? So the USSR had a life expectancy in
    the high 80s? Not a chance?
    Randall; Comparative advantage is totally correct, but doesn't
    typically imply what it is commonly asserted to. Also, it only applies
    within certain constraints. If it was universally valid, natural
    selection would have created universal inter-organismal trade, and
    while symbiosis is an important part of the story, it is not the whole
    Posted by: [74]michael vassar on March 13, 2005 11:11 PM

    Isn't this the first draft of the Matrix and the Terminators?

    Saraha Conner is beginning to look around very nerviously.
    Posted by: [75]Scott G. F. on March 14, 2005 08:17 AM

    I think of it as being like kids in the biotechnology candy store.
    Very little concern for the stomach ache that might ensue.
    Posted by: [76]toot on March 14, 2005 09:30 AM

    Nah, there won't be any matrix or terminators. Both are based on SF
    extrapolations of artificial intelligence, which is not the subject of
    discussion here. Such AI is unlikely to be realized in the near future
    (50 years) for a variety of technical reasons too long to go into
    here. I think its going to be just us (enhanced) biological humans for
    a long time to come. I would not worry about this.

    The biotechnological "candy store" is necessary in that death by aging
    is a certainty if we don't get the biotechnological goodies, and some
    of us here may not have a lot of time to waste. If you look around,
    much of the work in human biotechnology is being driven by people who
    have a strong desire to stay alive (Michael West, Hazaltine, De grey,
    and Saul Kent). Staying alive is a very powerful motivator. When one's
    back is against the wall, one has a tendency to kick butt first, then
    ask questions later.

    Word has it that there is serious money looking into the SENS research
    Posted by: [77]Kurt on March 14, 2005 03:10 PM

    michael, the facts are pretty clear. Life expectancy is now around 40.
    AIDS is rampant; Russia fudges the numbers, but it's getting worse
    every day. There is no reason to expect that Russia will not have
    worse rates than Zaire within 20 years. Russian culture is to assume
    that all of the heroin junkies and aids patients "deserve it" because
    they brought it on themselves; hardly a recipe for a turnaround in the
    spread of these scourges anytime soon. Conservative estimates show 25%
    population decline; 33% may be high end. However, even 25% represents
    millions dead. Russia economy is now comparable to Brazil; their entry
    to G8 is a charity case. You are burying your head in the sand and
    have no facts to back you up if you cannot see the mass genocide which
    was perpetrated.

    Kurt, saying that "they brought it on themselves" is how we
    rationalize all wars. We claimed that the Japanese "deserved" to be
    nuked, and we stopped nuking them after the gave up. On the other
    hand, the genocide of Russians is being visted on the childrens
    children of the generals who "sowed the seeds". I'm not making any
    value judgment whatsoever, just pointing out that the "peaceful"
    demographic shifts can be even more brutal than a nuclear war, and a
    brutal demographic shift is exactly what the secular and
    liberty-obsessed west has sown for itself. I see little opportunity to
    reverse these trends, and I'm not advocating any particular course of
    action. I'm just predicting that western values and phenotypes will
    not be very prevalent in 300 years, and it will be by erasing, not by
    Posted by: [78]Joshua Allen on March 15, 2005 01:12 PM

    Josh, I gave you the benefit of the doubt and assumed that you were
    claiming life expectancy in the mid 50s, actual data seems to be 66.
    40s? Where do you get your data. Mean age is 37! BTW, I've lived there
    post USSR.
    Brazil is not Zaire.
    Posted by: [79]michael vassar on March 15, 2005 01:42 PM


    Did we start the war with Japan (hint: pearl harbor)? Until the attack
    on pearl harbor, fully 80% of the American public was furvently
    apposed to entry into another "European tribal" conflict. Did we start
    the cold war with the USSR? Was not communism an expansionist meme
    that needed to be countered? The fact that we successfully destroyed
    this meme without a war involving nuclear weapons is a credit to us
    all. With luck, we can do the same to Islam. Today, Japan and germany
    are prosperous societies. I have lived in one for nearly a decade and
    visited the other.

    You talk of a "brutal demographic shift" in the West. Is this
    something that tranhumanism cannot resolve? Is not the discussion of
    transhumanism the point of this thread? Is not one objective of
    transhumanism the elimination of the aging process? If successful,
    aging will be as rare in future society as polio is in today's. Why
    then, would the West or its value system disappear?
    Posted by: [80]Kurt on March 15, 2005 10:15 PM

    michael: The stats I was looking at were actually projections through
    2025. Between 2000 and 2025, US Census predicts 19 million reduction,
    while UN predicts 22 million reduction. Both show a decline of at
    least 5 million already. I screwed up the mortality figure, though.
    Male life expectancy is 59 -- I had read "a 20 year-old man has only a
    40% chance of reaching 65" and mixed it up in my memory. So I hope my
    laziness in fact-checking hasn't detracted from what I think is still
    an extremely important point -- Russia has been totally screwed by the
    collapse of communism, to a degree much greater than Japan or Germany
    in WWII. It is a demographic disaster that is unparalleled in modern
    times. Please don't dismiss the comparisons to Zaire. Look at
    mortality rates in children, HIV, distribution of most GDP is in hands
    of the few, homicide rates, cancer, etc -- Russia does not rank
    anywhere with the western nations, and ranks below many african
    nations on these measures. I didn't say Brazil and Zaire compare --
    but it is quite possible that Russia's HIV rate will match Zaire and
    GDP will match Brazil. The point is that Russia is dying a slow death,
    and this is a fate that America and Europe so far have avoided only
    through indiscriminate immigration. It's a matter of time until the
    embers fade.

    Kurt: I agree. The winner writes history. If America gets wiped out,
    I'm sure the winner will be able to explain why we "deserved it". It
    is hopelessly naive to think that the world is going to let Americans
    thrive and spread as long as we play nice and don't provoke them. Most
    demographics can come up with plently of excuses to explain why
    Americans should lay down and die. And it doesn't matter, since
    Americans are willingly committing demographic suicide anyway.
    Americans do not have the will to have babies, let alone aggressively
    use biotech to breed superior babies. We are already in a demographic
    slide *without* biotech, and the instant a more aggressive demographic
    group adopts biotech, it's game over. Extending lifespan makes zero
    difference. Think about it. Would you rather have a population which
    increases 50 IQ points average and stays the same average age (same
    age distribution), or a population which has the same IQ distribution,
    but increases 50 years in age on average? Hmmm, a population which is
    dumb, old, and shrinking; or one that is smart, young, and growing --
    which one will have greatest influence on the culture and DNA of the
    Posted by: [81]Joshua Allen on March 17, 2005 10:59 PM

    OK, in the case of Russia the problem is serious, but it's a complex
    pathology interlinked with communist history and a culture that has
    always been pathological. I would focus on the abysmal "self-reported
    happyness" numbers more than even on the deaths. I don't think there
    is much the US can do, but we could have softened the fall 15 years
    I agree that transhumanism is potentially very valuable, but don't
    really think that the US has any competition other than China. It's
    not obvious that biotech need be applied only to babies rather than to
    adults. It's also not obvious that it's worth planning for the distant
    future. That said, I always encourage the capable to reproduce more.
    Annoying how Galton and the like bitch but don't reproduce themselves.
    Posted by: [82]michael vassar on March 18, 2005 12:35 AM

    There is no other competitor for the U.S. than China, and China has a
    falling birthrate as well. Unless we are talking about massive genetic
    engineering of populations, no one else has the combination of brains
    and population to really compete with the U.S. This is simply no other
    potential competitor.

    In the long run (50-100 years) aging will be cured anyways and this
    birth rate stuff won't matter any longer.
    Posted by: [83]Kurt on March 18, 2005 08:51 AM

    "Annoying how Galton and the like bitch but don't reproduce

    Annoying? How so? They've made their contributions. I fail recognize
    this need for clones.

    "In the long run (50-100 years) aging will be cured anyways and this
    birth rate stuff won't matter any longer."

    My-oh-my, love the declarations of certainty! I especially love the
    above use of the word "cured". What exactly does this "cured" imply?
    ... ... that we extend life by another fifty years(plausible) or
    nonsense like five-hundred, five-thousand or fifty-thousand years? Who
    knows; maybe you'll make it to see the year A.D. *22,005*. Good
    Posted by: [84]GENEarchy on March 18, 2005 08:16 PM


    7. http://www.futurepundit.com/
    8. http://www.futurepundit.com/archives/002659.html
    9. http://www.marginalrevolution.com/
   10. http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2005/03/transhumanism_a.html
   11. http://www.digital-images.net/Images/Universal/Velociraptor_6001.jpg
   12. http://hanson.gmu.edu/uploads.html
   13. http://www.nickbostrom.com/papers/dangerous.html
   14. http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2005/03/more_transhuman.html
   15. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0374236437/ref=ase_reasonmagazine/102-4397649-3226509?v=glance&s=books/marginalrevol-20
   16. http://www.futurepundit.com/archives/001344.html
   17. http://www.futurepundit.com/archives/002324.html
   18. http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2005/03/how_much_does_a.html
   19. http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2005/03/identity_and_tr.html
   20. http://www.cosmopolis.ch/jurassic14.jpg
   23. http://hanson.gmu.edu/
   24. http://hanson.gmu.edu/
   25. http://www.morethanhuman.org/
   26. mailto:dennis.heimbigner at colorado.edu
   27. http://www.futurepundit.com/
   28. mailto:mev25 at drexel.edu
   29. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0767918436/parapunditcom-20/002-3858801-0417638?%5Fencoding=UTF8&camp=2025&link%5Fcode=xm2
   30. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0029146739/parapunditcom-20/002-3858801-0417638?%5Fencoding=UTF8&camp=2025&link%5Fcode=xm2
   31. http://www.futurepundit.com/archives/002141.html
   32. http://www.futurepundit.com/
   33. http://www.morethanhuman.org/
   34. http://www.futurepundit.com/archives/000218.html
   35. http://www.futurepundit.com/
   36. mailto:yogsothoth875 at hotmail.com
   37. mailto:moondust at uniserve.com
   38. mailto:Jamisia at yahoo.com
   39. mailto:divus_masterei at yahoo.com
   40. http://divedi.blogspot.com/
   41. http://www.morethanhuman.org/
   42. http://hanson.gmu.edu/
   43. http://www.futurepundit.com/archives/001998.html
   44. http://www.futurepundit.com/
   45. mailto:nobody at nowhere.com
   46. mailto:rdewitt at umbc.edu
   47. http://www.futurepundit.com/
   48. http://hanson.gmu.edu/
   49. mailto:kurt2100kimo at yahoo.com.tw
   50. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0767918436/parapunditcom-20/002-3858801-0417638?%5Fencoding=UTF8&camp=2025&link%5Fcode=xm2
   51. http://www.futurepundit.com/
   52. http://www.futurepundit.com/archives/001634.html
   53. http://www.futurepundit.com/
   54. mailto:rdewitt at umbc.edu
   55. mailto:bbadour at golden.net
   56. mailto:nobody at nowhere.com
   57. mailto:OnThe at wall.com
   58. mailto:rdewitt1 at umbc.edu
   59. mailto:kurt2100kimo at yahoo.com.tw
   60. http://www.netcrucible.com/blog
   61. http://www.futurepundit.com/
   62. http://www.netcrucible.com/blog
   63. mailto:OnThe at wall.com
   64. mailto:kurt2100kimo at yahoo.com.tw
   65. http://www.futurepundit.com/
   66. mailto:kurt2100kimo at yahoo.com.tw
   67. mailto:kurt2100kimo at yahoo.com.tw
   68. http://hanson.gmu.edu/
   69. http://www.futurepundit.com/
   70. http://www.futurepundit.com/
   71. mailto:rdewitt1 at umbc.edu
   72. http://www.netcrucible.com/blog
   73. mailto:kurt2100kimo at yahoo.com.tw
   74. mailto:mev25 at drexel.edu
   75. mailto:nycubbie at yahoo.com
   76. mailto:rdewitt1 at umbc.edu
   77. mailto:kurt2100kimo at yahoo.com.tw
   78. http://www.netcrucible.com/blog
   79. mailto:mev25 at drexel.edu
   80. mailto:kurt2100kimo at yahoo.com.tw
   81. http://www.netcrucible.com/blog
   82. mailto:mev25 at drexel.edu
   83. mailto:kurt2100kimo at yahoo.com.tw
   84. mailto:jbh at hal.net

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