Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Designer babies will be communism's great comeback?

By the time the scales fell from my eyes in the mid-2000s, veterans of the Steveosphere were regularly referencing a BBC article from 1998 reporting on how 91% of Chinese scientists supported genetic engineering for eugenic purposes. The Han Menace won't be held back by all the egalitarian make believe that is retarding the West, we said! Here I am mentioning the article, by way of an undergraduate philosophy paper, in 2005.

The future has arrived. Assuming it isn't a hoax, the first CRISPR babies have been born. Razib Khan has a good discussion of the details that is accessible to lay people, so there is little point in an inferior second-hand rehashing here. This is probably the biggest story of the year, possibly the decade, conceivably even the millennium! As this post will serve as a personal time capsule, indulge me as I make a record of my reactions.

As a father of three children under five, I wonder if I've screwed them over by bringing them into the world a few years too soon. Have kids now, the breeders said, because you'll always be able to come up with a reason as to why now isn't the right time! That's the glass half-empty reaction.

The glass half-full take is that because genetically engineering the unborn is at this juncture controversial even in China, it was done by way of gene deletion--which is easier than addition--and to a gene that is well-known. The intention in the approach was to avoid pleiotropic effects and limit ethical concerns as much possible given current technology and understanding. Mendellian diseases are the lowest hanging fruit. We're still presumably several years or decades away from more genetically complex traits like height, intelligence, and personality become reliably customizable. It means my grandchildren could conceivably be among the world's first super humans. Half-full? That cup is overflowing!

That's if anything more than simple edits are viable. Maybe pleiotropy really will make it an unworkable mess that exacts an unacceptably high toll in terms of human suffering for an unreliable or even unrealizable desired outcome. I feel like a Luddite positing as much, but I'm just a curious observer so what do I know?

Parenthetically, Western tsk-tsking isn't going to stop this. The Chinese are going balls-to-the-wall on this stuff. The government is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into it.

What are the ideological implications of customizable humans? That blank slatist egalitarianism--and it's associated economic systems such as communism and socialism--may actually correspond to reality in a way that it has up to this point never been the case in all of human history. The general consensus on the HBD-realist right is that the left will never accept biological realities about genetic differences. I disagree. When they realize it serves their ideological interests to do so, they'll turn on a dime. Everything they said yesterday won't mean a thing to them tomorrow.

We'll advance from Final Fantasy IV, where each character was genuinely unique in their traits and attributes, to Final Fantasy VI, where the differences are predominately aesthetic and each meat stick is interchangeable with any other.

One of the least convincing parts of Brave New World is Huxley's rigid class system. It's inefficient and inherently unstable. Huxley presumed control would be centralized. It was a reasonable assumption in the 1950s, but is outmoded in The Current Year. CRISPR is already cheap and it's going to get a lot cheaper. The idea that a national government is going to be able to clamp down on the distribution of certain software and its associated programming code seems risible to me.

As Richard Spencer is fond of saying, we live in interesting times.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

"... to Final Fantasy VI, where the differences are predominately aesthetic and each meat stick is interchangeable with any other."

This assumes that there will only be one breed template. Based on what I've read, I think it's more likely that there will dozens or even hundreds. So I think that the opposite will happen. It will accelerate human differences, not make them uniform.

I also think that CRISP has made egalitarian liberalism (and all its attendant variations) obsolete.

Anonymous said...

How ironic that in 100 years the Chinese will be the blonde ones!

Related: Chinese-scientists-collect-dna-from-smart-people

I foresee such tech to be banned in CA, sort of like aboirtion in AL.

Mr. Rational said...

Given that it's certain to be controlled like China's new social credit system, I suspect they're going to be making certain that conformity is one of the attributes to be emphasized in genes as well as upbringing.

Conformity will be great for creating infantrymen who'll march into anything they're ordered to.  It will be very bad for creating the kind of ferment of ideas and inventions which advances a society.  China will select itself right back toward the cyclic repeats which characterized it for thousands of years, absent a West to steal from.

This doesn't mean that Africa won't become New China.  There's no originality required to replace Bantus; expansionism and ethnocentrism will do the job just fine.

Mr. Rational said...

Forgot to add:  the CRISPR modification for CCR5 deletion for HIV resistance suggests that Africa is squarely in China's crosshairs at the outset.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe any of this. So many hoaxes come from China. What makes you think this case is real?

In one post, you have managed to believe 3 things: a Chinese scientist, a Pakistani Muslim guy, and a Japanese video game. And you call yourself alt-right? Just ignore the Coloreds, as I do most of the time. It's not worth hyperventilating over this story.

sykes.1 said...

CRISPR babies are likely to be a Han-only thing. In the US, liability insurance and tort attorneys will keep the cost per procedure well above $100,000, making it an occasional purchase by the super wealthy.

CK said...

Medical tourism today, CRISPR tourism tomorrow.

J.S. said...

https://bloodyshovel.wordpress.com/2018/11/27/chinas-crispr-babies-might-have-wasted-our-last-chance/

vok3 said...

"The general consensus on the HBD-realist right is that the left will never accept biological realities about genetic differences. I disagree. When they realize it serves their ideological interests to do so, they'll turn on a dime. "

There's this NPC forum I read. Yesterday, the following discussion took place.

First, someone linked an article including the following text:

"Last week, the Ohio state house passed a bill that would ban abortions at six weeks. [...] Republican state Rep. Christina Hagan brought her infant twins onto the floor to shame women who aren't mothers about their alleged selfishness."

A child-free female responds:

"Yeah, using one's own kids as a political prop, totally selfless."

"oh god I just read her reasoning for no rape-or-incest exceptions
fuck you forever"

To which a child-free male chimes in:

"Let's not forget how she made sure that it would be her own DNA propagating through the next generation, instead of adopting children in need. But obviously becoming pregnant is the ultimate, selfless sacrifice..."

AE, I think you are overlooking the very critical fact that to the left, ideology trumps reality. It even trumps existence. The left does not believe in heritable traits. The left believes the mind is entirely supernatural and unconnected in any way to physical substrate - that's why heredity cannot possibly have any effect on behavior, and any inclination to the contrary is Hitlerracist. The left doesn't worry at all about creating new little leftists, they take it for granted that everybody's children will turn leftward if they just get Educated. So they have absolutely no qualms about not propagating their own DNA or worrying about the quality thereof.

(Tangential note: Rep. Hagan's views on no-rape-or-incest exception is precisely the sort of thing that WILL make China dominant. Abortion in cases of rape or incest not only should be allowed, it is a moral and eugenic requirement.)

Anonymous said...

I would spend $50K to increase my childs IQ by 15 points rather than pay for a private school. The statistics are pretty clear on life outcomes for having a higher IQ (life expectancy, wealth, crime) verses attending the right school for signaling purposes.

Neal Stephenson’s “Seveneves” comes to mind. The seven “eves” edit their genes and their subsequent progeny diverge to be distinct populations. I think that is just as likely as a convergence.

216 said...

O/T

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1068294634160287744

No, just no. As if they are trying to lose. If you fail you get fired, which is what should have been done to Reince Priebus after losing in 2012, and losing his and Ryan's home state. We were thrashed in Michigan, thus she must go.

Even Richard Spencer would do a better job as RNC Chairman, and that's not a joke.

Sid said...

Some thoughts...

1. It sounds like the Chinese government is shutting down the genetic engineering program. It looks like the man was a rogue scientist who could do it because of holes in China's nascent scientific culture.

2. Unlike a lot of people, I don't believe that the CCP consists of a bunch of crypto-race realists who are happy to pick up genetic engineering and eugenics because the West has discarded those ideas. They're Communists through and through, and Communists as a political culture like steel, rockets, computers, and other tangible, hard STEM things.

It's commonly assumed that the CCP dumped Communism, but they still go back and forth between Marxist ideological rigidity and pragmatism. Under Xi Jinping, they've swerved back to rigidity.

Chinese Communists often speak of their political economic model and believe it can be successfully exported to Africa. That's some hardcore blank slatism right there, though it's nowhere near as cucked as what you find in the West today.

3. I'll be interested to see if India gets into genetic engineering. David Reich in his book said that they're setting up genetics labs in both China and India. Indian culture over the millenia has been all about in-born differences, and they have enough smart people to be able to set up labs. Of course, this is just speculation on my part.

4. I think now is the time for mainstream scientists and geneticists to look at genetic engineering as a way to counteract diseases. Pre-natal vaccination, if you will. It should be thoroughly tested with animals first and done in an ethical way, but if genetic changes can protect people from horrendous diseases, then that's an unalloyed good.

5. We'll need to be careful about engineering higher intelligence, athleticism, height, good looks, etc. There are innumerable it could go egregiously wrong. I don't think we have the societal experience or the medical ethics to properly navigate those waters, so we should cross through them carefully.

Last note... I can't help but think that genetic engineering could create generational conflicts like we've never seen. Imagine things like GIs vs Boomers, Boomers vs Millennials, etc., but with the younger generation having an IQ advantage of 15 points!

snorlax said...

216 -

She's DJT's best insurance against her uncle challenging him in the primary or worse the general.

vok3 said...

Sid -
"Anvil of the Heart" by Bruce T. Holmes (ISBN 0-812-54063-8) is about exactly the situation you mention in your final line.

It starts with this:

"The right of a child to be born to its full potential shall take precedence over all other considerations. It is the state's responsibility to safeguard the legal rights of an intended embryo. -- Thirty Ninth Amendment to the Constitution"

Deter Naturalist said...

First, it's obvious that people would try this.
Second, I consider it absurdly unlikely that it will work.

FFS, folks, a guy who was in charge of genetically-modifying PLANTS now wrote a book about how much it fucked up outcomes. PLANTS!! For those who think genetically modifying humans via gene manipulation is assured, I have a nice bridge for sale. I'll make you a deal.

Memories are short; recall that Japan invested BILLIONS of dollars (trillions and trillions of yen) in development of a digital HD TV standard. A minute fraction of that investment produced the analog system that beat the living crap out of Japan's government-supported approach.

East Asians are fantastic at reverse engineering others' innovations. They are genetically predisposed to be too conformist to have their own. If China's government gets behind this (and you can be sure that the PLA will be on it like white-on-rice), all they'll do is piss away astronomical amounts of capital on the biggest nothingburger ever.

I do so tire of people who don't notice that China had 5000 years of civilization that was for all practical purposes utterly stagnant.

Audacious Epigone said...

Anon,

Aesthetic and other less consequential attributes wwill be customizable, but if there is a pleiotropy-free high-IQ/high-athleticism/high-X CRISPR upgrade, who isn't going to get it?

Mr. Rational,

Or they'll go for the innovative cultural conformist. They do exist (or are they all thieves who pass themselves off as innovators?).

Anon,

It could be a hoax though one that will obviously be discovered if it is so. JRPGs from the 90s were pretty based. Razib's Bangladeshi and atheist--and his whole family spent a few hours at our house the summer before last, so I'm really BTFO!

sykes/CK,

What CK said.

JS,

There could conceivably be instances where I'd not want Anatoly to speak for me, but I haven't found one yet, including that comment thread.

vok3,

There are the mindless SJW virtual foot soldiers like those people and then there are real upper middle class SWPLs who spend a bazillion dollars to send their children to the preschool they've been angling for. Just like they love the idea of black friends without having any blacks friends, they like the idea of education solving everything without believing it does. They know, the chosen and the goyim alike.

Anon,

See my reaction to the first anon. What's your take?

216,

How much different would Trump's presidency have been if he'd brought Pat Buchanan on as chief of staff right out of the gate? Personnel is policy, as they say. It's why Trump is a transitional figure rather than a transformative one.

Sid,

1. Should we believe that?

4. That's basically how this was spun, with a funny video to boot. DNA surgery!

5. Pleiotropy seems to be the biggest concern. Maybe if the Chinese could find some expendable guinea pigs, ones from say, Guinea Bissau?

snorlax,

The conventional wisdom is that a primary challenge would be bad for Trump. I think it could be the opposite, or at least inconsequential, and it would put to rest the idea that Trump's a passing fad. As an executive it looks like he'll be inconsequential, but in terms of how he's remade (or maybe just exposed) the concerns of the Republican electorate is inarguable. A GOPe puppet like Yabe or Romney simply cannot win the nomination without the system being rigged 10x worse than the DNC was.

Deter Naturalist,

Are you referring to Pandora's Picnic Basket, or something more recent?

Because that's the rub--looking at genomics ten years ago and looking at genomics today is like looking at an abacus and comparing it to a smartphone.

You've grabbed the great Heartiste's attention, by the way. Well done!

Ja D said...

How is this considered more of an abomination than abortion?

Anonymous said...

"a pleiotropy-free high-IQ/high-athleticism/high-X CRISPR upgrade, who isn't going to get it?"

Oh, I don't think it will end there. I think that there will be other upgrades, ones that would border on science-fiction, will be introduced in the future.

Imagine CRISPRs that could extend telomeres, insert nanites or create denser muscles/bones! Based on what I have learned from the data, it seems that the human DNA can only take so much editing before it begins to break down, so there are opportunity costs to gene editing. In other words, people will have to choose which of their genes can edited, which means that we can expect more divergence in the future, not less

Jokah Macpherson said...

Final Fantasy VI is probably not the best example of a world where shared environmentalism matters. It's not as realistic as IV or X but innate traits do matter some. No one would confuse Sabin for Relm, and even though you could engineer Relm to be comparable using crispers, er, I mean espers, why would you bother when you could just engineer Sabin to be even stronger instead? [See stats here.]

V, VII, and (other than Squall's trigger bonus and ridiculous limit break) are probably the worst for blank slate-ism. Even worse, XIII has innate traits and growth for characters but they are unrelated to reality. The lesbian with a spear is far stronger than the muscle head white guy, and the brother packing heat has the weakest attack power of all.

Audacious Epigone said...

Jokah,

Having played through VI several times as a kid and then once more around 2010, it seemed to me that the stats made no difference at all except for HP and MP. Leveling up characters with crisper--oops, me too--bonuses like strength +2 or whatever didn't make a difference, every character just gets slightly better with each level up. Even their HP is virtually identical by level. There are the special abilities though. Quick + Swordtech to 8 seemed long the strongest play in the game the last time I played through, appreciably more than any other character could pull off.

I only played VII once and never VIII or XIII, but I agree VII is arguably the best example of all.

Great to hear from you again!

Martinian said...

I think it’s a fair assumption that any genetic mind-targeted alteration (e.g., IQ, personality, emotions, etc.) will be far more complex than body-targeted alteration. You can probably expect the latter to take off well in advance of the former.

Given that, assuming the tech becomes reasonably safe and generally available, we’re probably going to end up drowning in T & A and massive muscles and dongs well before anything comes along to make us smarter. Add to that mix the current virtue signaling fascination with gender-bending one’s own progeny, and one might even wonder what vile trends may emerge among the self-congratulatory elite...

But perhaps that last bit is too nightmarishly pessimistic. In any case, make the analogy with current tech: We have all the knowledge in the world at our fingertips, but most people use it to watch porn and be bitchy busybodies to one another. Even now, parents let their kids get nose jobs, boob jobs, gender modification surgery...how many are so far gone that they won’t think twice about giving their kids in utero an extra cup size or an extra inch...hey, maybe it’ll make them more popular/successful/happy...(cf. that recent post about desirability of monogamous fidelity...).

I dunno...we may eventually get to the high-IQ utopia, but if we do, I think it will have been only by passing through a monumentally hellish phase of animalistic experimentation gone awry...

Audacious Epigone said...

Martinian,

There is a lot of room for conjecture. Your comment about the dong brings to mind the opening sequence in Idiocracy, heh.

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