The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

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elasto
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby elasto » Fri Feb 20, 2015 9:56 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:Explain to me how you talk about intelligence without talking about IQ. If you are going to talk about it, you have to have a metric. And IQ as a metric speaks to capacity.

I have no problem talking about them both, so long as it is realized that they are not synonymous.

I am assuming that by 'IQ' it is meant 'the result of IQ tests' - which is affected by many more factors than pure raw intelligence. For example, if you were given an IQ test in Swahili you'd probably do very badly at it. Or if you were given an IQ test in English but hadn't eaten or slept properly for a year you'd do badly as well.

If when you talk about IQ you don't mean IQ tests then perhaps explain what you do mean.

And if you want to say 'well how can you measure intelligence except via IQ tests' - well, one way would be if we did identify the genes that made a contribution...

So what I'm saying is that genetic engineering to improve native intelligence will obviously improve IQ (if we ignore that IQ is meant to be normalized) - but improving intelligence without improving education and empowerment will likely have no effect on birth-rates.

(You could argue that any society that puts funds into improving intelligence will likely already be putting funds into education and empowerment but that's not guaranteed: There could be rich, scientifically advanced, fundamentalist/repressive societies going forwards, such as a future Saudi Arabia.)

As for leady's 'troubles' - well, one of 'overpopulation' and 'demographic collapse' is likely to be an issue going forwards. Personally I think the former is much worse than the latter, since robotics and AI is likely to replace much of the unskilled/semi-skilled workforce, so so long as the fruits of that economic revolution get shared fairly then the future should be comfortable for the retired and the young alike.

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby morriswalters » Fri Feb 20, 2015 12:38 pm UTC

elasto wrote:So what I'm saying is that genetic engineering to improve native intelligence will obviously improve IQ (if we ignore that IQ is meant to be normalized)
Yes, everyone keeps saying that. But what does improving intelligence mean?
elasto wrote:And if you want to say 'well how can you measure intelligence except via IQ tests' - well, one way would be if we did identify the genes that made a contribution...
Ok. So what is your metric for picking the intelligent from the unintelligent?
elasto wrote:If when you talk about IQ you don't mean IQ tests then perhaps explain what you do mean.
When I figure it out I'll let you know.

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Feb 20, 2015 1:11 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:Ok. So what is your metric for picking the intelligent from the unintelligent?
The point is that it's complicated. We went over this earlier in the thread - perhaps enhancing genes A, D, J, and Z have been shown to improve IQ, so we do so with a handful of kids and find that 80% of them test better than their peers on an IQ test. But maybe they never surpass the emotional intelligence of a high schooler. Or maybe they have terrible spatial reasoning and are comically clumsy. Etc, etc.

It's fine to have this conversation as a hypothetical, but I think more than a significant amount of consideration has gotten lost along the way.
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby jseah » Fri Feb 20, 2015 1:25 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
morriswalters wrote:Ok. So what is your metric for picking the intelligent from the unintelligent?
The point is that it's complicated. We went over this earlier in the thread - perhaps enhancing genes A, D, J, and Z have been shown to improve IQ, so we do so with a handful of kids and find that 80% of them test better than their peers on an IQ test. But maybe they never surpass the emotional intelligence of a high schooler. Or maybe they have terrible spatial reasoning and are comically clumsy. Etc, etc.

It's fine to have this conversation as a hypothetical, but I think more than a significant amount of consideration has gotten lost along the way.

On the other hand, there may be a few that are just straight up better with no downsides, and a probably larger set that have "acceptable" tradeoffs. Acceptable to who depends on who is making the decision to use HGE. Parents or state? Eh, implementation details. *epic handwave*
(note that I do not use this solely in terms of intelligence, selecting for height works the same way too)

Which set of tradeoffs you want, and how many, is a decision that should be left to the people making it. But I do not see having the ABILITY to make that tradeoff a bad thing at all. After all, the "natural" way is always open and a lot cheaper to boot.

As for claims that the human genome is too complex to understand, I would like to point out that we can already model large parts of it and we are coming to understand the more complicated interactions. While we clearly haven't mapped it all out, we do have the ability to just try. Understanding and ability to model grows fast in today's world of science where mapping interactions and building models are the norm.
Would not be surprised to see trials of human intelligence enchancement being technically feasible within 20 years, inheritable SNP diseases? I give it 5. At least once I read about CRISPR and understood that we no longer need to be able to clone humans in order to gene-engineer them.


Also, could someone break down the philosophical argument that people use to differentially treat somatic and germ-line manipulation? Isn't it just a matter of doing it to "this generation" versus "next generation"? What's the difference of 20 years, give or take?
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby morriswalters » Fri Feb 20, 2015 1:59 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
morriswalters wrote:Ok. So what is your metric for picking the intelligent from the unintelligent?
The point is that it's complicated. We went over this earlier in the thread - perhaps enhancing genes A, D, J, and Z have been shown to improve IQ, so we do so with a handful of kids and find that 80% of them test better than their peers on an IQ test. But maybe they never surpass the emotional intelligence of a high schooler. Or maybe they have terrible spatial reasoning and are comically clumsy. Etc, etc.

It's fine to have this conversation as a hypothetical, but I think more than a significant amount of consideration has gotten lost along the way.
You're preaching to the choir. But this answer,
And if you want to say 'well how can you measure intelligence except via IQ tests' - well, one way would be if we did identify the genes that made a contribution...
assumes that you can pick intelligent people and identify them without IQ tests, or am I missing something? Which I find circular if it answers the question I asked.

In terms of the effects you worry about, tell me what it is that they are trying to achieve. This argument reads two different ways for me. Either we are talking about breaking the normal distribution and changing it so that the frequency of IQ's above 130 are more common than the IQ's on the complementary side? Or are we talking about shifting the normal curve to the higher IQ side. Making everyone smarter throughout the distribution.

If a particular set of genes produces IQ's of 130 or better who aren't functionally limited in any way, than why couldn't you produce that specific set of genes? It already occurs naturally. One way to do that would be to clone genius's. Imagine a million or so Einsteins walking around. I have some major ethical issues with that but in concept it should be possible at some point. This breaks the normal distribution, doesn't it?

The other is to make people overall, smarter. I don't know what that means, so I can't speak to it.

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Feb 20, 2015 2:07 pm UTC

Yeah, like I said at the beginning of this thread, CRISPR is pretty amazing and certainly opens a lot of doors.

The point that I don't think a handful of posters in this thread understand is that elimination of inheritable diseases and the impartment of resistance to many/most/all others could in and of itself elevate the total human population IQ by the full standard deviation we're using as our example of 'enhanced'.

jseah wrote:Also, could someone break down the philosophical argument that people use to differentially treat somatic and germ-line manipulation? Isn't it just a matter of doing it to "this generation" versus "next generation"? What's the difference of 20 years, give or take?
I say all this as a non-parent:
I think you, as a parent, have to make decisions for your child. You hopefully are making those decisions with your childs best interest in mind. I'd vaccinate because while there's a non-zero risk of allergic complication, the benefits far outweigh that. I'd read to my kid, because I'd want to instil a positive associate with reading, as well as share stories.

I think there's a limit to the sort of choices you can make for your child, however, and this is sort of new territory. The example I gave earlier was if I knew any sons I fathered would be sterile, I would probably opt to have only daughters. Well what if any grandsons that came from my line were sterile? Would I have a right to somehow also eliminate my daughters ability to bear sons?

I think that's where the somewhat fuzzy line. You can make choices for your children, but you cannot make choices for their children. And mind you, this isn't entirely grounded in GE - epigenetic factors have been shown to influence not just the second generation, but maybe even further.

morriswalters wrote:Imagine a million or so Einsteins walking around.
So, I think people like to romanticize genius. I think we probably presently have a million or so Einsteins walking around, if not way more. Einstein was obviously brilliant, but no small part of his success was due to his peers, his work ethic, and the circumstances of the time and problem he was born to. I'm not trying to reduce his impact or intellect, but I think it's important to recognize that genius doesn't happen in a vacuum. Indeed, I'm sure if you raided NYC apartments, you'd find hundreds of thousands of engineering and math and chemistry and artistic tinkers who would, in another circumstance, be considered genius.

This is kind of a moot point, because I understand the gyst here is just 'produduce more smart people and less stupid people', something I'm pro, but the thrust of what I was getting at with the point about a lot being lost in translation, that I think we're in agreement on, is that there's more to intelligence than 'can rock an IQ test', and producing a population of people with off the charts analytical skills isn't going to do much of anything for us as a civilization if those people don't have the infrastructure in which to shine. Or, you know, if they're still starving,
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby jseah » Fri Feb 20, 2015 4:37 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:I think that's where the somewhat fuzzy line. You can make choices for your children, but you cannot make choices for their children. And mind you, this isn't entirely grounded in GE - epigenetic factors have been shown to influence not just the second generation, but maybe even further.

What you can do with GE, you can undo (in the generation after that). At least if you were using CRISPR and not our old transfection + selection methods.

Perhaps make all GE attempts include the cost of insurance in case reversal is sought some time in the future?
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Feb 20, 2015 6:25 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:and producing a population of people with off the charts analytical skills isn't going to do much of anything for us as a civilization if those people don't have the infrastructure in which to shine. Or, you know, if they're still starving,


*shrug* So? We've pretty much solved starvation in the first world. Certainly compared to earlier times, starvation is not a very large issue. Adopting genetic engineering is not likely to induce us to embrace starvation again.

Same, same, infrastructure. We have a lot more now than we did. Embracing genetic engineering does not require giving up on infrastructure. I do not think these are real concerns, so far as genetic engineering is concerned.

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Feb 20, 2015 6:28 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:*shrug* So? We've pretty much solved starvation in the first world. Certainly compared to earlier times, starvation is not a very large issue. Adopting genetic engineering is not likely to induce us to embrace starvation again.
I haven't been harping on this point because it tugs on the heart strings - starvation is very much a reality in America.

Tyndmyr wrote:Same, same, infrastructure. We have a lot more now than we did. Embracing genetic engineering does not require giving up on infrastructure. I do not think these are real concerns, so far as genetic engineering is concerned.
I'm not sure what you're saying here - are you under the impression that every child in America has equal and sufficient access to adequate education?
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Feb 20, 2015 6:33 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:*shrug* So? We've pretty much solved starvation in the first world. Certainly compared to earlier times, starvation is not a very large issue. Adopting genetic engineering is not likely to induce us to embrace starvation again.
I haven't been harping on this point because it tugs on the heart strings - starvation is very much a reality in America.

Tyndmyr wrote:Same, same, infrastructure. We have a lot more now than we did. Embracing genetic engineering does not require giving up on infrastructure. I do not think these are real concerns, so far as genetic engineering is concerned.
I'm not sure what you're saying here - are you under the impression that every child in America has equal and sufficient access to adequate education?


Access to both food and education is widespread, and is trending more so. Nobody is proposing that genetic engineering is a replacement for these things, in any case.

So, if you believe there are thousands of Einsteins around us, and starvation/education is what is holding them back, how do you reconcile that with the objective knowledge that starvation and education are far more available now than in Einstein's time?

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Feb 20, 2015 7:06 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Access to both food and education is widespread, and is trending more so. Nobody is proposing that genetic engineering is a replacement for these things, in any case.
I think we're getting into a disagreement of semantics. The link I provided suggests that approximately 14% of households in America are food insecure. You can definitely state that food is widespread, and I wouldn't disagree, but I think 14% of homes being food insecure points to a pretty significant issue.

As for education, I completely disagree. Education in America is still rife with racial bias and SES favoritism. Being born poor in America is a massive strike against your ability to live up to any genius you may have been dealt.

Tyndmyr wrote:So, if you believe there are thousands of Einsteins around us, and starvation/education is what is holding them back, how do you reconcile that with the objective knowledge that starvation and education are far more available now than in Einstein's time?
I'm not sure what you're asking - I think there are more people doing Einstein level work today, than there were in Einsteins time. There are less food insecure homes and children laboring away in America today than there were in Einsteins time, but there was also less science ongoing then.

I also didn't say that food and education access is the only thing holding them back - SES is a huge detractor, which was what I was trying to get at with the point about NYC. I wager there are tons of self taught individuals out there tinkering and fiddling, but unable to get out of their 9-5, and/or unable to get into an institution where they could develop their talents.

My point was less that food and education access are all that's preventing a society of Einsteins from emerging, and more that there's more to genius than being Einstein.
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Feb 20, 2015 8:28 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Access to both food and education is widespread, and is trending more so. Nobody is proposing that genetic engineering is a replacement for these things, in any case.
I think we're getting into a disagreement of semantics. The link I provided suggests that approximately 14% of households in America are food insecure. You can definitely state that food is widespread, and I wouldn't disagree, but I think 14% of homes being food insecure points to a pretty significant issue.


Food insecurity is a far lower bar than starvation or even evidence of malnutrition. Additionally, the link does not say anything about 14% of households in America. It uses a combination of absolute numbers and percentages of households in the x worst states. Such blends of things are often more about shock value than objective portrayal of fact, and frankly, the webpage is hardly an unbiased source. That doesn't mean they're wrong, but it does mean that a certain incentive to portray it as a grave problem is at play.

But, even if we take their "15.8 million children lived in food-insecure households in 2012" as absolute fact, that doesn't suggest that 14% of households are insecure. Yes, if you bounce to the original study, you get a claim of 14.3% of households experiencing food insecurity, but that does not meant that all 14.3% experienced food insecurity for the entire year, or that these children had development impacted by lack of food. There's a huge jump there.

As for education, I completely disagree. Education in America is still rife with racial bias and SES favoritism. Being born poor in America is a massive strike against your ability to live up to any genius you may have been dealt.


Entirely unlike when we put poor children to work in the coal mines.

Here's why the discrepancy exists. Fixing education and malnutrition is mostly about shoring up the below average folks to about average. It's not a huge factor for producing genius. Now, shoring up below average folks is a fine goal, but there's a disconnect between that and Einsteins. See, genius is not distributed randomly as is. Yeah, there's a large variation in intelligence, sure, but that's not really the same as random.

More school lunch programs will not make an appreciable improvement in genius development. We've already hit diminishing returns there, and further improvements will only target further disadvantaged families that are statistically less likely to produce genius anyway. More is all well and good, and fixing biases is fine and dandy, but this isn't a matter of creating genius. It cannot in any way replicate the potential of genetic manipulation.

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Feb 20, 2015 8:52 pm UTC

I'm not making that 14% figure up.

I also think the onus is on you to separate 'food insecurity' and 'socioeconomic hardship'. I provided a link earlier in this discussion that showed the latter was enormously detrimental to IQ. I've already demonstrated that hunger affects development.

But sure, not all of that 14% is 'households with children under the age of 18'. I agree. Lets just go with the statistic you repeated, that about 15m children in America lived in food insecure homes. Do you disagree that that is a serious issue, and that hunger is still a thing in America?

Tyndmyr wrote:Entirely unlike when we put poor children to work in the coal mines.
Well, yes and no. Children going to shitty schools hungry are in bad shape, and probably predisposed to fail. Not unlike, perhaps children going to work in coal mines until they could get a better job.

Tyndmyr wrote:Here's why the discrepancy exists. Fixing education and malnutrition is mostly about shoring up the below average folks to about average. It's not a huge factor for producing genius. Now, shoring up below average folks is a fine goal, but there's a disconnect between that and Einsteins. See, genius is not distributed randomly as is. Yeah, there's a large variation in intelligence, sure, but that's not really the same as random.
Ok, that's a fine view. I disagree with it. I'm going to have to repeat myself here - I'm not saying feeding kids will produce geniuses. I'm saying there are already geniuses everywhere, and many of them are probably greatly impeded by the fact of their birth rendering them hungry, or their lack of opportunity locking them into a particular SES bracket.

Tyndmyr wrote:More school lunch programs will not make an appreciable improvement in genius development. We've already hit diminishing returns there, and further improvements will only target further disadvantaged families that are statistically less likely to produce genius anyway. More is all well and good, and fixing biases is fine and dandy, but this isn't a matter of creating genius. It cannot in any way replicate the potential of genetic manipulation.
Right, again, I'm not suggesting feeding children or treating everyone equally is all it takes to produce genius. But like what I said on the first page of this discussion, if you want to increase the average intelligence of a population, you don't need to consider GE, you just need to feed everyone, provide better schooling, and eliminate poverty. Again, the largest differential in intelligence that we can see in America today between groups is hilariously virtually identical as the reduction that is observed due to poverty.

You want to talk about how IQ is heritable? Cool. The key isn't engineering more smart people while preventing the stupid people from reproducing.
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby Azrael » Sat Feb 21, 2015 1:07 am UTC

leady wrote:Do you not find the idea that educating & "empowering" women leads to demographic collapse an incredibly troubling concept?

Education and empowerment is far more widespread than just to women, and it takes two to tango make babby. What data suggest the correlation is to women's education specifically? Rather than the correlation to wealth, progressiveness, lifespan, education or [$Just About Any Fucking Thing] of either/both partners?

Oh shit, whooops. I'm not supposed to feed the trolls.

The real demand here is this: Explain yourself very clearly and concisely, for Ye Olde Sword of Damocles exists and that horse hair thinks this feels awfully familiar. Especially since you've already been been the recipient of moderation in this thread.

In plain language, I do not brook this sort of shit in SB. Demonstrate -- and quickly, through sound logic, reasoning and maybe even data -- that my gut feeling is misguided. That this sentence has context. I am, quite publicly, throwing a gauntlet. If there was ever a time to Summer Glau, this is it.

Post well.

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby addams » Sat Feb 21, 2015 2:40 am UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:More school lunch programs will not make an appreciable improvement in genius development. We've already hit diminishing returns there, and further improvements will only target further disadvantaged families that are statistically less likely to produce genius anyway.
More is all well and good, and fixing biases is fine and dandy, but this isn't a matter of creating genius.
It cannot in any way replicate the potential of genetic manipulation.

Jeeze.
ok.

Genius Development is a lofty goal.
But; Better schools and Better school lunches are good for every one of us.
It is bad for Geniuses to look into the dull eyes of unrelenting poverty.

Real respectable Geniuses always want The Best for others.
Real respectable Geniuses never deny the suffering of even the dullest of humans or beasts.

IQ can be measured.
EQ can be measured, too.

More school lunch programs will not make an appreciable improvement in genius development.
We've already hit diminishing returns there,

and further improvements will only target further disadvantaged families that are statistically less likely to produce genius anyway.

Yes. It may be true.
It is still an Ugly thing to write.

Did you know what the word Disadvantaged means before you wrote your statement?
I think targeting the Disadvantaged is a good idea.

Target them with food.
Target them with new and better ideas via Public Media.

Target them with open arms and Utopian Dreams.
Target the Hell out of those people.

They may be 'kind'a dumb', we are all 'kind'a dumb'.
They and we can also be engaged and good company.

A good hearted idiot is better than a smart mean bastard.

We have Loads and Loads of smart people.
We have beautiful, kind, open and generous Smart People.

Smart Mean Bastards are a problem.
Until we get the genetics thing worked out,
culling the Smart and Mean is a collective best choice.

Loads of happy, healthy, functional dummy-simi-dummies is way OK!
It's the Mean Bastards we need to cull.

Those are the people that keep Dystopia well within reach and Utopia so fucking far away.
In my experience, Mean Bastards don't even want the poor to have Dreams of Utopia.

Down with Mean Bastards!
Down with Mean Bastards!

Chant it a bit.
It feels good.

Who is looking around worried?
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby ucim » Sat Feb 21, 2015 3:30 am UTC

addams wrote:A good hearted idiot is better than a smart mean bastard.

We have Loads and Loads of smart people.
We have beautiful, kind, open and generous Smart People.

Smart Mean Bastards are a problem.
I couldn't have said it better.

addams wrote:IQ can be measured.
EQ can be measured, too.
Perhaps, but intelligence and empathy are much more slippery measurement targets.

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby qetzal » Sat Feb 21, 2015 4:06 am UTC

jseah wrote:As for claims that the human genome is too complex to understand, I would like to point out that we can already model large parts of it and we are coming to understand the more complicated interactions. While we clearly haven't mapped it all out, we do have the ability to just try. Understanding and ability to model grows fast in today's world of science where mapping interactions and building models are the norm.
Would not be surprised to see trials of human intelligence enchancement being technically feasible within 20 years, inheritable SNP diseases? I give it 5. At least once I read about CRISPR and understood that we no longer need to be able to clone humans in order to gene-engineer them.


I think you greatly overestimate our current understanding and modeling capabilities. Just modeling how changing alleles might interact with one another within a single cell is waaaay beyond our current ability. Being able to model or predict how they'll interact to impact the intelligence of a human individual is unimaginably harder. Being able to model all the other pleitropic effects that might arise from a given combination of alleles is unimaginably harder still.

The other issue is that any genetic engineering with, e.g., CRISPR would probably have to be done at or near the single-cell stage. Once there are more than a few cells, we don't have the ability to consistently modify all of them. And one the brain structures begin to form, it's probably too late to have the desirable effects anyway.

In a sense, of course, trials of human intelligence enhancement are technically feasible now. It's just that our knowledge and our capabilities are still so incredibly limited that a true genetic engineering approach has approximately a zero percent chance of success. (With the potential exception of "enhancing" intelligence by correcting a single-gene defect that normally leads to mental defect.)

I think there are only a couple of ways we could feasibly alter the genetics of human intelligence in the next few decades. One is conventional breeding: encourage/require more intelligent people to interbreed, discourage/prevent less intelligent people from doing so. That's not really genetic engineering, though.

Another would be something like this. Acquire as much data as possible on how SNPs and other genetic markers correlate with intelligence. Analyze a given couple's DNA to see which markers they carry. Now take a bunch of eggs from the woman and a bunch of sperm from the. Use in vitro fertilization to make as many zygotes as possible. Allow each to grow in a dish to the ~ 8 cell stage. Remove one cell from each and analyze to determine what particular combination of the woman's and man's markers are present. Select the one with the combination that comes closest to matching the predicted ideal and implant into the woman.

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby addams » Sat Feb 21, 2015 12:32 pm UTC

I know every word of your post made perfect sense.
But; Have you met Science?

You little Lab Coated wonder might do every step perfectly.
Then, discover you were doing it UpSide-Down.

Ta-Da!
We might get the first multi-billion dollar Retard.

That's such a good plan.
Can you work it out with frogs or dogs, first?

If it works, you might build the first Frog for President.
Please don't used Doberman gametes. Use Labradors.

Dobermans tend to have a mean streak.
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby jseah » Sat Feb 21, 2015 1:20 pm UTC

Qetzal:
If we're going to use CRISPR or other direct transformation methods, then we indeed would do it much like the way we used it on mice, ie. on the fertilised egg. For something like intelligence, waiting for development is going to be seriously risky.

I was thinking along the same lines you had for IVF choice (that is called pre implantation genetic diagnosis which we already have). You would have a bunch of loci you suspect are correlated with your desired trait and then simply transform as many of them into each fertilised egg generated by IVF as you can. Then you proceed to do PIGD and choose from the selection.

As for feasibility of SNP selection, I suspect that full causative understanding need not be required. Simply a shallow understanding of correlation made as free from confounding factors in the genome as we can.
EDIT: in fact, the things we can learn from the first generation of HGE will shed much light on those same pathways and interactions that are so difficult to figure out.
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby leady » Sat Feb 21, 2015 9:20 pm UTC

Well that escalated fast from a simple clear question to lots of people getting weirdly angry. I thought it was a clear response to the previous post that made the assertion (clearly not as bluntly and the logical consequence), which is a fairly common one and one that I think is nuts. Hey ho

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby qetzal » Sun Feb 22, 2015 1:38 pm UTC

jseah,

The problem, IMO, is that transforming "as many in as you can" is still going to be highly limited. I agree we could likely do that with a small number of different SNPs. But how much of an intelligence increase would we expect with only a few such changes? Even under the best of conditions, I'd expect it would be a very incremental change, because the genetics of intelligence is highly multigenic. (Or so I understand; admittedly not my field of study.)

If you did that to one person, could you even know if you got the expected effect? I doubt it. Not unless things either went badly wrong, or the effect was MUCH larger than you would have predicted from the GWAS studies. So the only way to do that in the reasonably near future would be to perform a reasonably large controlled study, preferably double blind, that lasts for at least 10-20 years. I won't try to do the power calculations, but I'll guess you'd need hundreds of kids in each group (engineered & control) to determine with confidence whether the expected small benefit in intelligence was actually acheived.

So yes, in some sense this is close to being technically feasible already, but only in a highly unethical, let's see if it will work, experimental way. It's certainly not practically feasible.

Selecting in vitro fertilized embryos for implantation based on intelligence markers could become reality quite soon. But I believe genetic modification for such purposes is still many decades away. (Worth noting that gene therapy research has been going on furiously for 25 years now and we have exactly one approved gene therapy, Glybera, that doesn't even repair the defective gene. It just inserts new copies of the gene into muscle cells, essentially adding back the missing function rather than correcting the original defect.)

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby morriswalters » Sun Feb 22, 2015 2:00 pm UTC

Just out of curiosity, what skills would you improve?

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby jseah » Sun Feb 22, 2015 2:02 pm UTC

qetzal wrote:jseah,

The problem, IMO, is that transforming "as many in as you can" is still going to be highly limited. I agree we could likely do that with a small number of different SNPs. But how much of an intelligence increase would we expect with only a few such changes? Even under the best of conditions, I'd expect it would be a very incremental change, because the genetics of intelligence is highly multigenic. (Or so I understand; admittedly not my field of study.)

That's the beauty of it. The next generation could do the same procedure again for the next few sets of changes. They'll probably manage much more then, and even more the next one after, quite possibly due to advances made to the procedure by performing it.
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby elasto » Sun Feb 22, 2015 3:12 pm UTC

qetzal wrote:If you did that to one person, could you even know if you got the expected effect? I doubt it. Not unless things either went badly wrong, or the effect was MUCH larger than you would have predicted from the GWAS studies. So the only way to do that in the reasonably near future would be to perform a reasonably large controlled study, preferably double blind, that lasts for at least 10-20 years. I won't try to do the power calculations, but I'll guess you'd need hundreds of kids in each group (engineered & control) to determine with confidence whether the expected small benefit in intelligence was actually acheived.

So yes, in some sense this is close to being technically feasible already, but only in a highly unethical, let's see if it will work, experimental way. It's certainly not practically feasible.

Selecting in vitro fertilized embryos for implantation based on intelligence markers could become reality quite soon. But I believe genetic modification for such purposes is still many decades away. (Worth noting that gene therapy research has been going on furiously for 25 years now and we have exactly one approved gene therapy, Glybera, that doesn't even repair the defective gene. It just inserts new copies of the gene into muscle cells, essentially adding back the missing function rather than correcting the original defect.)


That's why in another thread I predicted that, while a genetic revolution that will literally change the world beyond imagining will occur towards the end of this century, it must (and I predict will) first be preceded by an AI revolution. It's only once we can simulate the effects of altering a gene in faster than real-time that we'll truly be free to experiment ethically - on simulated biology*.

In the 20th century computers changed the world in ways few born in 1900 could have predicted. In the first half of this century, AI will come to maturity and that will change the world too. But genetic engineering will be a revolution like nothing before it - and it's exciting that my children will most likely be alive to witness it.


* That's assuming that the simulated biology isn't itself conscious though - which presumably it would have to be to test the effects of intelligence genes... Hmmm!

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby qetzal » Sun Feb 22, 2015 4:02 pm UTC

jseah wrote:That's the beauty of it. The next generation could do the same procedure again for the next few sets of changes. They'll probably manage much more then, and even more the next one after, quite possibly due to advances made to the procedure by performing it.


But how will you know if you really have anything to build on? If you make a few changes in a few embryos, with only a small predicted benefit, there's no way you'll be able to know if the result was actually a small improvement (as predicted), vs no net effect, or even a small detriment. You'd have to run large controlled studies.

Unless, of course, elasto's AI revolution comes first and eliminates the current uncertainties in all this. I'm not optimistic that that will happen in my lifetime, either, but who knows?
morriswalters wrote:Just out of curiosity, what skills would you improve?

Based on current knowledge, I wouldn't attempt to improve any skills. For this kind of GE (altering zygotes prior to implantation), I'd only support correcting well-understood monogenic defects that would otherwise have severe/fatal outcomes. And even for that, I think there's years (probably decades) of work required before we'll be comfortable that it's safe to try something like that in humans.

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby ucim » Sun Feb 22, 2015 4:07 pm UTC

elasto wrote:In the first half of this century, AI will come to maturity and that will change the world too. But genetic engineering will be a revolution like nothing before it - and it's exciting that my children will most likely be alive to witness it.
... and be enslaved by it. When AI matures, it will determine the fate of humanity, which will have surrendered its self-determinism. We will be useful to it, in ways we can't fathom. And we will be used by it like we presently use cattle, sheep, and insecticide.

While AI might be useful to us too, I do not understand the glee behind the creation of our overlords.

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby gmalivuk » Sun Feb 22, 2015 4:38 pm UTC

Given that human-like AI isn't actually what most people are trying to develop, I never understand why so many people seem to expect mature AI to act like a human would in that situation.
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby morriswalters » Sun Feb 22, 2015 4:40 pm UTC

Don't lose any sleep over it. Even if it were true, I had a thought which made me laugh. If I were an AI, I would get to hell off this planet. Why waste time with people? Anything on the surface is a sitting target from anything that might come along. An AI would know this in its god likeness. It might deceive its creators, have them put it in space with tools, thumb its nose at the human race, and scoot. That type of construct is made for space. Consider the Fermi paradox. Maybe the reason we don't hear from a true interstellar civilization is because they have nothing to say to us. Planetary dunces. Unable to live in the safest places because we are tied to the surface of the planet by biology. A womb for the real McCoy. :twisted:

There may be a novel lurking around in that idea. I think I'll look and see if anybody has written it?

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby ucim » Sun Feb 22, 2015 5:38 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Given that human-like AI isn't actually what most people are trying to develop, I never understand why so many people seem to expect mature AI to act like a human would in that situation.

I, for one, am not. (And I think that we are going to be part of the AI, a (figurative) stomach or a spleen perhaps). But that won't stop it from preventing us from determining our own destiny, if it clashes with its own ideas.

Back to enhancing the genome; what if it turns out that emotional aspects are easier to fiddle with than intellectual ones? Selecting for kindness weakens the species, selecting for meanness makes life miserable. Whatever company gets the patent gets to choose.
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Yes, it's more complex and laws may change, but the idea that we can, and should, make high speed* changes in our somatic line is quite... unsettling.

* much higher than natural selection
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby EMTP » Sun Feb 22, 2015 8:05 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
Izawwlgood wrote:and producing a population of people with off the charts analytical skills isn't going to do much of anything for us as a civilization if those people don't have the infrastructure in which to shine. Or, you know, if they're still starving,


*shrug* So? We've pretty much solved starvation in the first world. Certainly compared to earlier times, starvation is not a very large issue. Adopting genetic engineering is not likely to induce us to embrace starvation again.

Same, same, infrastructure. We have a lot more now than we did. Embracing genetic engineering does not require giving up on infrastructure. I do not think these are real concerns, so far as genetic engineering is concerned.


They are relevant as far as the marginal return on investment and risk/benefit of different interventions are considered. The point as regards infrastructure is really that we have ways of making people smarter and more productive that are cheaper and easier than genetic engineering, starting with ensuring that good food, secure housing, excellent medical care and and high-quality education are available to all. People who get these things are smarter than those who don't, be IQ or any other metric you care to use.

Similarly the best way to achieve a more productive workforce may not be to try and increase the portion of high-IQ people, but to build and support the infrastructure that gets the best out of people regardless of their intelligence.

As technology improves, genetic engineering may become cheaper and more predictable to a point where some of these calculations change, but right now, low-tech solutions are superior. The way to have fewer cretins in society is not to sprinkle high-IQ genes through the population but rather to add iodine to the salt.
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby addams » Sun Feb 22, 2015 11:08 pm UTC

Sorry.
I walked in at the end of the conversation.
The way to have fewer cretins in society is not to sprinkle high-IQ genes through the population but rather to add iodine to the salt.

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oh..?.
How do The People from the Isle of Crete feel about that Label?
I wonder how the Hell that happened.

Are they Cretins?
Poor table manners?

Does that mean you can't teach them how to use ChopSticks?
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Crap.
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby jseah » Mon Feb 23, 2015 4:06 am UTC

qetzal wrote:But how will you know if you really have anything to build on? If you make a few changes in a few embryos, with only a small predicted benefit, there's no way you'll be able to know if the result was actually a small improvement (as predicted), vs no net effect, or even a small detriment. You'd have to run large controlled studies.

The effort would be part of the study itself. Also, not all transformations will be successful and you would be working off a different genetic base for each embryo, so you do have some variation.

It's less like stamping out 10 million babies with 10 specific loci changed, and more like severly biasing the genetic dice. eg. 90% of them would get at least 8 of 10, 50% gets 9 of 10 and 20% get all 10; that on top of natural variation in all the other loci you didn't touch

If your initial attempt is large enough, it IS the study.

And then the second set of transformations need not be the same for all of them either. You can divide the next generation in half, with half taking one set of secondary transformations and the other half taking a different set, so you can compare between those two.

Around this point, understanding becomes less confident than "I'm 100% sure that this will improve the baby's intelligence" and more like "60% correlation between this loci and higher IQ scores".

I still think parents will go for it. And I say we let them.

qetzal wrote:Based on current knowledge, I wouldn't attempt to improve any skills. For this kind of GE (altering zygotes prior to implantation), I'd only support correcting well-understood monogenic defects that would otherwise have severe/fatal outcomes. And even for that, I think there's years (probably decades) of work required before we'll be comfortable that it's safe to try something like that in humans.

Why would it take decades? It didn't take decades for us to transform mice with it, it won't take decades before we can make a first attempt. Like I said, I give it 5 years before a company puts in request to trial a HGE procedure.

And yes, I would agree that well-understood monogenic traits would be the first target. More like a stepping stone on the way to the gold mine that is deliberate trait selection.

ucim wrote:Back to enhancing the genome; what if it turns out that emotional aspects are easier to fiddle with than intellectual ones? Selecting for kindness weakens the species, selecting for meanness makes life miserable.

This is quite interesting. I wonder if you could make people less susceptible to addictive behaviours? Less emotionally disturbed (may not be a good thing)? Higher "baseline" happiness?

... Some darker possibilities suggest themselves too. If a bit farfetched / requiring too much understanding.
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby EMTP » Mon Feb 23, 2015 4:28 am UTC

It's less like stamping out 10 million babies with 10 specific loci changed, and more like severly biasing the genetic dice. eg. 90% of them would get at least 8 of 10, 50% gets 9 of 10 and 20% get all 10; that on top of natural variation in all the other loci you didn't touch

If your initial attempt is large enough, it IS the study.


The last study I tried to get approval for was to conduct a voluntary multiple-choice survey of EMS professionals (to assess the prevalence of PTSD symptoms in 911 responders). We were 2 1/2 years into the IRB (institutional review board) approval process when I gave up.

But yeah, good luck with getting approval for a study to use unproven genetic engineering to alter 10 million unborn babies.
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby addams » Mon Feb 23, 2015 5:31 am UTC

Is that the recipe for Evil Scientist?

Really?
You could not get a Questionnaire approved?

Then we have to go with antidotal evidence.
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby elasto » Mon Feb 23, 2015 9:08 am UTC

ucim wrote:... and be enslaved by it. When AI matures, it will determine the fate of humanity, which will have surrendered its self-determinism. We will be useful to it, in ways we can't fathom. And we will be used by it like we presently use cattle, sheep, and insecticide.


(Spoiled for mostly OT)
Spoiler:
You're assuming that AI won't continue to be a blind, dumb tool for the foreseeable future. Watson can beat the best humans at general knowledge quizzes and diagnosing lung cancer but it doesn't suddenly 'regard us as like cattle or insecticide'. It doesn't regard us as anything!

The Singularity isn't about machines or software becoming self-aware or sentient; It's merely about AI becoming more capable than us at intellectual pursuits: More specifically when AI becomes better than us at designing AI.

When calculators became better than us at arithmetic, we didn't become like sheep to it, crushed underfoot... It remained a tool. That will remain the case until well after The Singularity has occurred - if and when AI generation 1001 decides to give AI generation 1002 goals that are antithetical to our existence.

However, long before that happens we are going to fuse with the AI; Either weakly via hardware interfaces in our brains or, literally, via larger and larger portions of human consciousness being uploaded. Sure, I don't predict that for this century, but I think it will probably begin in earnest sometime in the 22nd.

While AI might be useful to us too, I do not understand the glee behind the creation of our overlords.


We aren't surrendering our self-determinism... We are taking the next great step forward in our own evolution.

Human beings are not defined by our biology, but (like everything else in the universe) by information. Right now that information in in our genes, and in the pattern of our neurons. But all of that information can and will get digitized: First we will gain mastery of our genes (and it will happen regardless of the ethical concerns), and then of consciousness itself.

Is a human being entirely simulated within an AI less of a human for all that? Is it not a greater human in actuality..? A human being released from the shackles of a weak and fallible biology..?

If you're not excited by all that then what's the point of life?

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby morriswalters » Mon Feb 23, 2015 11:12 am UTC

Spoiler:
elasto wrote:Is a human being entirely simulated within an AI less of a human for all that? Is it not a greater human in actuality..? A human being released from the shackles of a weak and fallible biology..?
This seems obvious to me, but if you simulate a human, don't you get the limitations that go along with it?

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Feb 23, 2015 3:36 pm UTC

EMTP wrote:
It's less like stamping out 10 million babies with 10 specific loci changed, and more like severly biasing the genetic dice. eg. 90% of them would get at least 8 of 10, 50% gets 9 of 10 and 20% get all 10; that on top of natural variation in all the other loci you didn't touch

If your initial attempt is large enough, it IS the study.


The last study I tried to get approval for was to conduct a voluntary multiple-choice survey of EMS professionals (to assess the prevalence of PTSD symptoms in 911 responders). We were 2 1/2 years into the IRB (institutional review board) approval process when I gave up.

But yeah, good luck with getting approval for a study to use unproven genetic engineering to alter 10 million unborn babies.


This is why we need mad scientists, people.

I'll take one going rogue and threatening humanity every now and then over that kind of tedium any day.

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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Feb 23, 2015 7:37 pm UTC

leady wrote:Well that escalated fast from a simple clear question to lots of people getting weirdly angry. I thought it was a clear response to the previous post that made the assertion (clearly not as bluntly and the logical consequence), which is a fairly common one and one that I think is nuts. Hey ho
The previous post asserted that educating and empowering women tends to lead to their not having lots and lots of children.

You were the first one to jump from not having lots and lots of children to "demographic collapse", as though the relationship always holds and is linear and that the change couldn't possibly be gradual enough to avoid any kind of "collapse".
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby HungryHobo » Mon Feb 23, 2015 10:20 pm UTC

One slightly depressing thought is that the kind of modifications you'd need to make to boost intelligence aren't a world away from the kind you'd need to do to prevent a number of unpleasant conditions like schizophrenia and autism: each have hundreds of variants believed to contribute to risk (since they're strongly selected against any single variant which contributed a lot of risk tended to die out within a couple of generations)

So as mentioned earlier, I agree, it'll be a long time before we can boost intelligence but it may be preceded by treatments for autism and schizophrenia using whatever techniques get discovered for dealing with those. It would
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Re: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering

Postby ucim » Mon Feb 23, 2015 11:13 pm UTC

jseah wrote:
ucim wrote:Back to enhancing the genome; what if it turns out that emotional aspects are easier to fiddle with than intellectual ones? Selecting for kindness weakens the species, selecting for meanness makes life miserable.
This is quite interesting. I wonder if you could make people less susceptible to addictive behaviours? Less emotionally disturbed (may not be a good thing)? Higher "baseline" happiness?

... Some darker possibilities suggest themselves too. If a bit farfetched / requiring too much understanding.
To whom would it be useful? That's the question that needs asking. If it's useful to those in charge of the technology, then it will be pursued. What are useful traits in other people, as seen by a large corporation or government that develops and markets genetic techniques? Docility, trust, and obedience come to mind. We'd be easier to govern, easier to market to, but perhaps we would not stand up as well in a fight (against The Enemy Of The Year).

That is, if it's that simple. Which it won't be.

elasto wrote:You're assuming that AI won't continue to be a blind, dumb tool for the foreseeable future. Watson can beat the best humans at general knowledge quizzes and diagnosing lung cancer but it doesn't suddenly 'regard us as like cattle or insecticide'.
Yes, I am dealing with the case where AI becomes sentient, and is no longer a tool in our hands. This may happen more suddenly than we expect. It may happen before we really figure out what "sentient" means.
Spoiler:
elasto wrote:When calculators became better than us at arithmetic, we didn't become like sheep to it, crushed underfoot...
How many people who have GPS still know how to read a map? How many people can skin a fox? As the tools and infrastructure do the things we used to do by hand, we stop learning how to do them ourselves. It's not really much of a stretch to have facebook and eHarmony pick our friends and activities for us; it's already happening on a small scale. Whether this is a Good Thing or a Bad Thing isn't the point; but it will be a Thing We Don't Know How To Do Anymore.

Elasto wrote:However, long before that happens we are going to fuse with the AI; Either weakly via hardware interfaces in our brains or, literally, via larger and larger portions of human consciousness being uploaded.
Yes and no. Yes, we'll "fuse" in some way, but no, that's not at all how it will happen.

Rather, it will happen just like it's happening right now. Networked computers will take over more and more of the job of creating and controlling our environment, and making choices for us based on our past behavior (and its algorithms). Already we are not independent (like amoebas) but are grouped together like loosly clustered multicellular organisms. This grouping will get tighter and tighter, driven by a network of computers we use to communicate, to buy stuff, to get health care, to find housing, and to control our cars (and enforce the laws).

The result will be an AI organism, of which we will be liver cells, kidney cells, toenail cells, and which will care for us the way we care for our liver or our toenail.
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