DailyDirt: GATTACA, Here We Come

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

The time to debate the merits and risks of genetically engineering our children is nearly over-ripe. The technology to select physical traits for animals exists for breeding custom single-celled organisms, laboratory rats and desirable farm animals. It wouldn’t be a technological feat to apply gene editing techniques to humans, but it certainly raises some serious ethical questions over whether such activities should be allowed or under what circumstances they would be permitted.

If you’d like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.

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37 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

The Nazis had a plan for making sure that blond haired, blue eyed Aryans would take over and populate the world, replacing those darker-skinned ‘lessor’ human breeds. But that was before the ozone layer crisis was known, giving those humans with the darkest skin a distinct survival advantage, and perhaps even making human evolution reach a full circle.

Sports celebrity Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder had some profound theories on genetic engineering, the expression of which (unsurprisingly) got him banned from television for life.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Blonde-haired blue-eyed aryans

…come from the descriptions of the Aesir, the Norse / Wotanic gods, which stem from the Scandinavians, who suffered from nine months of winter, so they had a lot of time in which to get drunk and make up some fantastic legends.

Hitler’s attachment to it was more of a flight of fancy. He associated with the Thulian secret societies but not to the degree that his cronies did. Himmler, Goebbels and Goering were deeper into the order and were the once who insisted on the Phrenological make-up of the ubermenschen..

On the other hand Hitler did love him some Wagnerian opera. And it’s suggested that although Hitler was politically a secularist it was through his love of Wagner that he learned got into the notion of an Aryan super-race.

Though when you ask what he was smoking, once Hitler was in power, the answer is anything that they could find him. Mostly morphine and cocaine.

But not when his croneys were dreaming up the National Socialist platform.

Anonymous Coward says:

I really don’t think we’re anywhere _near_ mature enough to handle eugenics as a species; we can’t even get the more conservative aspects right where we only correct crippling errors! Instead the system appears to be on track toward exactly the future one would expect given the hyper-corporatist world we live in: give us money or your child will be born into a lifetime of suffering. Your only other option is abortion (if some ultra-religious jackass hasn’t outlawed it within your local governance, sucker).

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Mother Nature

You can’t fool mother nature.

You shouldn’t try to fool mother nature.

Trying to fool mother nature has unintended consequences.

Trying to fool mother nature has intended consequences, but not the ones you intended.

Trying to fool mother nature will cause mother nature to fool you.

Mother nature is a misnomer, arrogance has taken over.

If mother nature is, then every thing we try will be corrected by mother nature. What happens in between will be painful.

One or more of the above are true. How much do we want to trust to the ‘do it-try it-fix it’ process?

MOTHER #*(&ING Nature

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Mother Nature

You mean like how Monsanto’s genetically modified organisms keep being found in the wild? C’mon; they’ve had bigger oopsies even before GMOs.

They’re breeding Roundup Ready Protesters (TM) now. Which will soon wander into nearby regular protest groups, allowing Monsanto to seize the whole lot just like when it happens with crops.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Mother Nature

ha ha ha…

Name a single moment in history our species has ever been mature enough to handle anything.

Not possible and never going to happen. There is a reason the idea of a blanket prohibition is often mulled over.

No matter where you go and what you see, someone is going to get seriously fucked up over it. So the real problem… is not will it or will it not happen, it’s GOING to happen but when it does, just how easy will it be to control the downward spiral when one is found to be occurring.

Consider a few things like the Last Mimzy and the fate of the Asgard on SG-1. Both very possible outcomes if things get out of hand enough. Take the movie Idiocracy, we already are living it to a large degree, people just vote their party lines or anyone else but that guy, and rules all over society are made up by the biggest idiots resulting in everyone being a criminal. You don’t have to do anything wrong to get screwed… you just need to be accused now and people just believe any dumb fucking thing you come up with.

This is why democracy will fail every-time, and why people keep looking for a king. They simply do not trust anyone, and know for a fact they are about to fuck it up and want some nanny do to it for them instead of learning to handle life on their own.

Monsanto is a perfect example of how terrible Genetics manipulation is going to be… I really feel sorry for the designer babies when someone fucks up and shit gets really terrible. Just wait until someone finds a way to introduce a kill switch in your body. It will be kept secret and you know who will have all of the keys. You may sadly find that your designer baby is suspiciously deadly allergic to something rare, but it will be all by accident of course.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Mother Nature

There are some of us who believe (perhaps naively) that we will have to mature eventually, that relatively soon the cost of one of these “oops” type moments will be the dubious privilege of being some other lifeform’s cautionary tale (ie an extinction figure in their records). If you look at recent historical trends, the costs of making a mistake on a societal level are going up exponentially.

Another thing is the comment about “democracy never working”… We don’t actually have many traditionally defined “democracies” in history (never mind today!). What you’re thinking of is a “republic”. In a republic the people elect representatives to govern on their behalf, and for the most part it’s worked out fine. The classic democracy was disdained because all citizens directly voting on an issue has been found to be untenable; by the time the logistics are all sorted out the crises is on your doorstep and a dictator-like figure has to take charge anyway (so why not just cut out the middleman?).

However, I think with the digital revolution (especially the internet, if the bastards haven’t killed it), it may finally be time to revisit this idea of “democracy”…

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Mother Nature

“This is why democracy will fail every-time, and why people keep looking for a king. They simply do not trust anyone”

If you don’t trust anyone, then how could you possibly look for a king? It would be insanely stupid to give that much power to a single person that can’t be trusted.

Much better to spread the power out over a lot of people who can’t be trusted. Spread the risk, as it were.

New Mexico Mark says:

Great story about genetic engineering

The short story version of “Beggars in Spain” is thoughtful and intriguing — the book is good too, but maybe . Essentially, it explores the social and societal implications of a group of people genetically engineered to never need sleep. (Side effects included generally optimistic/cheerful disposition and high resistance to disease.) The story touches on many of the subjects explored in Techdirt, so it might be particularly interesting to this audience.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

A reminder from Huxley

It’s not parents wanting to prevent birth-defects or create a being that excels that is our greatest concern. It’s a state that wants kids that can’t think well, love to work and don’t complain much.

Pro tip: High-performance human beings tend to be open-architecture and also require a high-performance childhood. If you aren’t looking to devote a substantial amount of time actually raising the kid, he may grow up to be a high-performance disaster.

If you and your partner are working separate jobs and come home tired day after day, you might want to consider an economy package…say, not breeding at all.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: A high-performance disaster.

Ted Kaczynski comes to mind.

I’m reminded of a friend of mine who, when considering getting a dog wanted a smart dog. She got a Labradoodle (Labrador-Poodle mix, in this case an accidental one) who was very bright, but also willful. When we think of smart dogs we think of ones who recognize commands and remember a lot of tricks but are otherwise obedient. We don’t think they’re going to figure out how to open refrigerators and childproof cupboards and eat all our food.

Kids are this to the next magnitude. We can expect our children are going to outsmart us and try to get away with stuff. We can only attempt to prepare them so that by the time they do, their better judgement goes with them (e.g. to find a safe environment to experiment with drugs, or a safe partner and protection when getting sexual). Add someone who is bright and talented to that, and their adventures might get ambitious, especially once they figure out that the schools and society hate our young people and regard them as a subversive factor intent on disrupting the status quo.

Also from Family Snapshot:

All turned quiet-I have been here before
A Lonely boy hiding behind the front door
My friends have all gone home
There’s my toy gun on the floor
Come back Mum and Dad
You’re growing apart
You know that I’m growing up sad
I need some attention
I shoot into the light

— Peter Gabriel

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: A high-performance disaster.

You…Do realize Ted was driven to become what he was….Right? He didn’t just get out of bed one day and decide to be the Unabomber. He was one of the victims of the MKULTRA program, a fact the government was predictably silent on when it turned out he was going to be a bit more than a mentally ill man in wilds for the rest of his life.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 A high-performance disaster.

A single harsh, stressful interview designed to anger the student – which is what Kaczynski experienced under MKUltra – does not turn people into murderers. Plenty of people have been angry, including other students who took part in the experiment, without dropping bombs in the mail targeting people who had nothing to do with angering them.

What you describe is a “not my fault” defense argument from his trial. On par with the Twinkie defense, the PMS defense, the John Yoo said it was OK defense, etc.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 A high-performance disaster.

From what I hear, it was not “a single harsh interview designed to anger the student”. It was more like “an unauthorized (without informed consent) social experiment designed to investigate how people who have been deemed to possess ‘above average’ intelligence respond to having their social identity torn down by attacks from multiple levels of the academic strata by authority figures and fellow peers”.

You trying to tell me something like that isn’t going to leave a mark?

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 A high-performance disaster.

His Wikipedia article covers it.

Somehow I doubt that anyone else who took part in the experiment turned into a mad bomber decades later. Likewise few others attacked in similar way – say, in a toxic work environment – start murdering random people because of it a generation later.

“If you do bad things in the vicinity of a rock and roll record, chances are you were sick before you got there.”
– Frank Zappa

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Real people are not the end result of a single factor.

Whether we’re discussing Kaczynski or Bundy or Oswald or Harris or even Hitler, it is commonplace but oversimplifying to credit a single incident or factor to a person’s personality and ultimate choices. It’s convenient for stories of fiction meant to be relatable to the laity, but even then, the notion of a single issue fails to explain Hannibal Lecter, or Batman. (Heck even the Phantom of the Opera serves as a deconstruction)

This is also to say that no single factor can be excluded as insignificant or even minor. In the case of Kaczynski’s MKULTRA experience, even if it was a single experience, it could have triggered an epiphany or just another brick in the wall.

Figuring out retroactively why people do crazy things is like trying to trace from a hurricane back to the butterflies that were pivotal in its inception. We can determine common risk factors which increase probability, but not to a useful degree.

And yes, that is terrifying because it means we don’t know who will spark off.

But getting back to the original point, if you’re looking to raise a wise king, a stable environment with consistent routine and conscious caregivers can go a long way.

StateExempt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Real people are not the end result of a single factor.

You seem to think the evidence for genetic roles in personality and intelligence isn’t as clear cut as it really is:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160289613001682

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160289614000178

http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2014/140708/ncomms5204/full/ncomms5204.html

https://youtu.be/TgDGqi1MbOc?t=16m8s

Anonymous Coward says:

Maybe we should try breeding humans who are just a little bit dumber. Research is now showing that serious, crippling neurological defects like autism and schizophrenia are the curse that our species suffers for having increased cognitive capacity versus our “lesser” primate cousins:

http://www.salon.com/2015/03/29/why_animals_dont_get_schizophrenia_and_people_do_partner/

I see nothing wrong with eliminating whatever genes are responsible for serious defects that cause unnecessary suffering. I also don’t buy into the feel-good nonsense (cf. Kay Jamison) that mental illness is a “gift” or a “cross to bear” that gave us the achievements of Beethoven, Einstein, and Van Gogh. Does anyone ever consider the possibility that all three of these men would be glad to trade their “gifts” at music, science, and art if they could be “normal” and not hear voices, be made fun of, or be gripped by maddening obsessions or fears? Or that the majority of even “normal” people never become Beethoven, Einstein, or Van Gogh, let alone the majority of autistic children who grow up to be unemployable adults collecting public subsidies and languishing in their burned-out parents’ basements still reciting the evolutionary track of every single Pokemon?

Eugenics is sound science with a PR problem that’s blocking our advancement as a species. The more recent clusterf–k is that of the everyone-is-special “neurodiversity” movement that wants us to think of autism as a “difference” rather than a defect (the equally radical flipside to the anti-vax movement), and thus autistics as “unique” rather than broken from the start and in need of a “cure” or outright barring from contributions to the gene pool. That in and of itself emanates from the unfortunate fact that the poster child for genetic modification and the weeding out of undesirable traits was a certain German guy with a toothbrush mustache who ended up contributing to a universal law of Internet discourse. Mental illness will never go away because of the Godwinization of genetic selection and the perceived “right” for even the worst defectives to reproduce with impunity.

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