Monday, July 30, 2018

Some Implications of Designer Babies

This post sparked some speculation, on my part, of the features and bugs that would naturally accompany tweaking with genes to produce 'superior' chldren.

Not stated is a good definition of what would constitute a 'superior' being? Would it include/mandate:

  • Height - generally, most parents in America prefer their offspring to be on the tall side. This is not from a quirky desire to produce NBA-worthy children, but, because, whether the goal is romance or a good job, the taller candidates have a strong edge in the competition.
  • Intelligence - there is some indication that moderately high intelligence (1 - 2 standard deviations from the norm) is a plus in academics, jobs, choice of life partners, and other variable aspects of life in the modern era. Extreme intelligence is less favorable, as anecdotal evidence abounds with tales of geniuses who have limited social skills (and, who, despite their intellect, fail to thrive in either work or romance/friendships). So-called social or emotional intelligence may be even more important in business relationships.
  • Artistic giftedness - the genetic components are not yet known, except for a small subset. Perfect pitch is inherited, yet musical talent is not so easily produced.
  • Temperament - this is one aspect of human beings that can be bred for (just as it can in animals). Easy-going parents produce sunny-tempered children. The anxious and irritable have similar offspring. Studies have pretty well accepted that temperament is inborn, and little changes throughout life. Similar with introversion/extroversion traits.
  • Athleticism/Grace - body type is highly correlated with this - the loose-jointed have a tremendous advantage in those sports/dance types that depend on flexibility. The muscular are best channelled into activities that demand strength. You can improve your skill level, and conditioning can maximize your potential, but - the basic framework determines your limitations.
The article points out something I hadn't thought about - the role of government/corporations in modifying human genetics. If they put the money and time into building these New Humans, would they not naturally want to patent their work? That would make it necessary for them to engineer in incompatibility with other human breedstocks. Wouldn't want that genetic change to enter the public domain.

I'm out of town, so may not be able to post much over the next few days. I've been attending a summer institute for physics teachers - - and will be presiding over a session on Monday for the Women in Physics committee. And attending some committee meetings, some socializing, and some fun sessions (Gravitational Waves is one I'm looking forward to).


sykes.1 said...

Supporters of human engineering like Steve Hsu don't consider the liability issue, viz.

Regardless of the cost (which will be large, many thousands of dollars per procedure, re IVF), the possibility of unintended mutation will make the liability insurance costs very large, perhaps large enough to suppress the procedures.

Chuck said...

"Wouldn't want that genetic change to enter the public domain"

Or they could take the Monsanto model and just sue anyone who inherits their proprietary genes by accident.


You may find this article I read very relevant:

A Quote from Jurassic Park: Life Imitates Art