World's first baby using controversial three-parent technique born, report says

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World's first baby using controversial three-parent technique born, report says

Postby mr friendly guy » 2016-09-27 09:43pm

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-28/w ... ys/7883386

World's first baby using controversial three-parent technique born, report says
Updated about 2 hours ago

RELATED STORY: Britain gives scientist go-ahead to genetically modify human embryosRELATED STORY: Chinese scientists 'edit' human embryos
MAP: Mexico
The world's first baby using a controversial new technique employed by US scientists to include DNA from three parents in the embryo has been born, a report says.

How the procedure works

'Spindle nuclear transfer' sees mother's nuclear DNA combined with mitochondria from egg donor
Donor egg has nucleus removed, nucleus from mother's egg inserted into donor egg
Resulting egg then fertilised with father's sperm
The baby boy was born five months ago in Mexico to Jordanian parents, and is healthy and doing well, said the report in New Scientist magazine.

The boy's mother carried genes for a disorder known as Leigh Syndrome, a fatal nervous system disorder which she had passed on to her two previous children who both died of the disease.

She had also suffered four miscarriages.

The woman, whose identity was withheld by New Scientist, and her husband sought the help of John Zhang, a doctor from the New Hope Fertility Centre in New York City to have a baby that would be genetically related to them but would not carry the inherited disease.

The United States has not approved any three-parent method for fertility purposes, so Dr Zhang went to Mexico where he was quoted by New Scientist as saying "there are no rules".

One method that has been approved in the United Kingdom, called pronuclear transfer, was deemed unacceptable to the couple because it would involve the destruction of two embryos, said the report.

Since the mother carried the genes for the disease in her mitochondria, or DNA that is passed down from the maternal side, Dr Zhang used her nuclear DNA and combined it with mitochondria from an egg donor, in a technique known as spindle nuclear transfer.

"He removed the nucleus from one of the mother's eggs and inserted it into a donor egg that had had its own nucleus removed," the report said.

"The resulting egg — with nuclear DNA from the mother and mitochondrial DNA from a donor — was then fertilized with the father's sperm."

Medical team criticised for manner of announcement

Dr Zhang and his team are expected to describe their method at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, next month.

An abstract describing the research has been published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, but outside experts said much more remains to be understood about the research.

"As this technology is controversial and a world first, I think the investigators should have submitted a manuscript for full peer review instead of announcing these outcomes in this manner," said Justin St John, professor and Director of the Centre for Genetic Diseases at Monash University.
Attempts began in the 1990s to create a baby by injecting mitochondrial DNA from a donor into the mother's egg, and adding sperm from her partner.

"Some of the babies went on to develop genetic disorders, and the technique was banned," the New Scientist report said.

AFP


So time will tell whether this works, but I would consider it a success if
a. Child does not develop the mitochondrial disease from the mother (seems unlikely given they took the mother's mitochondrial DNA out).
b. Child does not develop some other complication related to the procedure
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Re: World's first baby using controversial three-parent technique born, report says

Postby Zeropoint » 2016-09-27 10:17pm

I don't quite understand why some groups of people are so squeamish about improved methods of starting new human lives. The only reasonable objections that I can see to such techniques would be either "this is foreseeably likely to create a person with medical problems" or "this is likely to create a further gap between the haves and the have-nots."

On a more positive note, I think it's awesome that we (the human race) have the technology to do this and I extend my best wishes and congratulations to all three of the parents, the kid, and the medical staff! :)
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Re: World's first baby using controversial three-parent technique born, report says

Postby Napoleon the Clown » 2016-09-27 11:05pm

This actually came up in cell bio tonight... Several people were confused, despite mitochondrial DNA having been previously mentioned as a thing, and mitochondria being from your mother.

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Re: World's first baby using controversial three-parent technique born, report says

Postby Esquire » 2016-09-27 11:18pm

That's deeply cool, and potentially promising (with proper screening procedures) as a way of addressing genetic diseases generally. Thanks for sharing!
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Re: World's first baby using controversial three-parent technique born, report says

Postby The Romulan Republic » 2016-09-28 01:12am

Zeropoint wrote:I don't quite understand why some groups of people are so squeamish about improved methods of starting new human lives. The only reasonable objections that I can see to such techniques would be either "this is foreseeably likely to create a person with medical problems" or "this is likely to create a further gap between the haves and the have-nots."


Those are not small concerns.

The latter, in particular, has absolutely horrifying social implications. These techniques will not be cheap unless covered by public health care. It gets even worse when you get into the concept of genetically engineered "designer babies". You are talking, effectively, about creating a genetically superior, largely hereditary, upper class. That is, frankly, a horrifying prospect, and one that could very well be a bullet through the heart of democracy in the long term.

Not to mention the eugenics issues that can arise around genetic engineering. While I'm going a bit beyond what's of concern in this particular case, you seemed to be addressing the more general question of "improved methods of starting new human lives.", so I think its fair game. For example, I can promise you that before long, if they can figure out how, we will be having people designing their children to be not gay, or their girls to be more submissive and less intelligent, or whatever other backwards, neo medieval horse shit they can cook up.

None of these, of course, are new concerns, but they are still rather pertinent, and becoming more so all the time.

On a more positive note, I think it's awesome that we (the human race) have the technology to do this and I extend my best wishes and congratulations to all three of the parents, the kid, and the medical staff! :)


Oh, there's great potential. But like most technology, it requires carefully thought out regulation to prevent misuse.
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Re: World's first baby using controversial three-parent technique born, report says

Postby mr friendly guy » 2016-09-28 01:57am

Esquire wrote:That's deeply cool, and potentially promising (with proper screening procedures) as a way of addressing genetic diseases generally. Thanks for sharing!

Keep in mind, this is only for mitochondrial disease rather than other genetic diseases where the genes aren't on the mitochondria but on the nucleus, which I would have thought would be more complicated because most genes are on the nucleus.
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Re: World's first baby using controversial three-parent technique born, report says

Postby Joun_Lord » 2016-09-28 04:19am

The Romulan Republic wrote:Not to mention the eugenics issues that can arise around genetic engineering. While I'm going a bit beyond what's of concern in this particular case, you seemed to be addressing the more general question of "improved methods of starting new human lives.", so I think its fair game. For example, I can promise you that before long, if they can figure out how, we will be having people designing their children to be not gay, or their girls to be more submissive and less intelligent, or whatever other backwards, neo medieval horse shit they can cook up.


That is a definite concern I think. Look at all the problems we have today in society with regards to parental rights, as in what rights parents have over their children. There is great debate over how much a parent should be allowed to alter their children. Alter them mentally by brainwashing or teaching them whatever fantasy fucking farts they believe in or backwards ways of thinking. Alter them physically with piercings, tattoos, and other fashionable but permanent bullshit they might do. Alter them medically with shit like circumcision for boys and girls, "fixing" things like ears and noses, and forced gender roles even to the point of medical alteration. Other crap like vaccinations, education, and health.

All are current concerns, now imagine the concerns if a parents could completely genetically program their kids. Program theirs kids to looks a certain way, to have traits conducive towards acting a certain way, program their sexuality, program everything.

Some parents might be doing it to do whats best for their kids. But who decides what is best? Parents think they are doing whats best for their kids when they butcher their genitals, send them to barbaric fundie camps to have the gay beaten out of them, or deny them medical help. I'd no more trust the government to decide what is right either. I'm sure there is more then a few fucking politicians who would try to make it mandatory to erase a "gay" gene or try to force immigrants or minorities to be genetically altered to produce less babies or something equally horrifying.

Allowing genetic engineering or modification or hwatever to keep genetic diseases and disorders is probably a good thing. Creating designer babies and allowing parents to choose their child's very biology not so much.

Not even getting into the long term problems of altered vs unaltered. I know some people think its okay for progress to leave some people behind but I don't think its really progress for society if it morphs into superhuman rich people lording over the poor. Maybe progress for an Ayn Rand society but if Bioshock taught me anything that isn't a society I'd want to live in. Too many creepy little girls and giant dudes with drill arms.

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Re: World's first baby using controversial three-parent technique born, report says

Postby Simon_Jester » 2016-09-28 06:36am

Yes. It's like, there is a LOT of interesting potential in the idea of genetically engineering healthier, smarter, et cetera people...

But implementing this idea is such a huge, dense minefield that I'm not sure there's any way to do it.

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Re: World's first baby using controversial three-parent technique born, report says

Postby K. A. Pital » 2016-09-28 08:06am

The idea is such a huge elitist rich overlord Gattaca thing that it stinks even more than our current society with all of its ills.

If such a society is proposed, people who do so must be destroyed politically so that they can never claw to power anywhere.

Wiping out monogenetic diseases, for example, is a noble cause. But once you go further and start creating an overall healthier subset (obviously from richies), this goes beyond the initial noble goal. And there is no way to stop it from going that way.
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Re: World's first baby using controversial three-parent technique born, report says

Postby Lagmonster » 2016-09-28 08:35am

The technology to create healthier people should absolutely exist. I tend to wager that the costs of using this technology will, like many luxuries have, become diluted until they're within reach of many more people than have access initially.

As an aside, privileged groups kind of already have access to "superior" genes. Status tends to afford people the ability to produce children with more attractive, healthy, athletic people. Granted, it's a more primitive and limited means than the kind of genetic technology you're anticipating, but how much easier to solve is the underlying social issue without it?

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Re: World's first baby using controversial three-parent technique born, report says

Postby K. A. Pital » 2016-09-28 08:54am

You say yourself the rich already practice a primitive and crude, and largely inefficient form of eugenics.

Now think of what would happen if this becomes more efficient.

Not only would the financial dimension of inequality rapidly increase, but the health inequality will also deepen.

Moreover, the dilution of this technology might take ages. Ages during which some will enjoy full health and riches, while others will be destined to whither and die simply because they don't have the cash to buy a few extra years. Our society is already having this ugly phenomenon manifesting in the dark corners with illegal transplantology. But this would be worse as the barriers erected would last a lifetime.

One of the great sci-fi writers I've read had foreseen this - the splitting of humanity into shortlives and longlives under an oligarchic order. It just makes the class conflict more horrible. And under no circumstances will I take the side of those who want to move class war to the health dimension by letting rich people not only get better healthcare but "breed better people".
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Re: World's first baby using controversial three-parent technique born, report says

Postby Esquire » 2016-09-28 09:52am

mr friendly guy wrote:
Esquire wrote:That's deeply cool, and potentially promising (with proper screening procedures) as a way of addressing genetic diseases generally. Thanks for sharing!

Keep in mind, this is only for mitochondrial disease rather than other genetic diseases where the genes aren't on the mitochondria but on the nucleus, which I would have thought would be more complicated because most genes are on the nucleus.


Oh, of course - I'm assuming that if this works well it'll spur development of related techniques for differently-located genetic diseases.

K.A. Pital - what would you say to the argument that an inequality isn't necessarily an inequity? If the rich get richer (with respect to health care and its quality) without the poor getting poorer, surely that's a net gain to humanity? Particularly as such complex technologies will never be generally available if they aren't specifically available first; see for example books, telephones, computers, etc.
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Re: World's first baby using controversial three-parent technique born, report says

Postby K. A. Pital » 2016-09-28 11:51am

What matters is my ability to struggle with a rich person as equals. Anything that makes his superiority a birthright is even worse.

If he is a genetic übermensch, the Nazis have truly won historically albeit losing the war.
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Re: World's first baby using controversial three-parent technique born, report says

Postby Esquire » 2016-09-28 12:10pm

Define 'struggle,' please - I want to make sure I respond to the right thing.
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Re: World's first baby using controversial three-parent technique born, report says

Postby Borgholio » 2016-09-28 12:31pm

Zeropoint wrote:I don't quite understand why some groups of people are so squeamish about improved methods of starting new human lives.



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Re: World's first baby using controversial three-parent technique born, report says

Postby Simon_Jester » 2016-09-28 12:39pm

Esquire wrote:K.A. Pital - what would you say to the argument that an inequality isn't necessarily an inequity? If the rich get richer (with respect to health care and its quality) without the poor getting poorer, surely that's a net gain to humanity?
The basic argument is that creating a permanent aristocracy to rule humanity is a net loss for humanity and its future potential, even if no individual human is specifically made worse off in the short run. Because in the long term, it results in a poisoning of future human prospects and development, and it results in enslavement which is bad in and of itself.

Particularly as such complex technologies will never be generally available if they aren't specifically available first; see for example books, telephones, computers, etc.
None of those technologies give advantages that belong specifically to one person. Moreover, all of them can be shared- their benefits apply to people who don't personally own them but nevertheless have access. The existence of books benefits the illiterate by allowing the creation of technical specialists who are literate and can help them. And if literate people are too poor to own many books themselves, they can still create a communal library shared by all. People who don't own telephones can still use someone else's telephone, or twenty people can potentially share one telephone they use in emergencies, or some such. The existence of computers helps people who don't own computers, by making the economy more powerful and coordinating great quantities of information and helping engineers design things.

But the existence of genetic engineering of humans helps only those humans who have received the genetic engineering. There is no way to buy a 1/100 share of "genetically enhanced intelligence" and share the benefits (or some of them) with 100 of your neighbors, the way you can with a library or a public telephone.

Therefore, unlike other technologies, genetic engineering of human has a lot of potential to be used as the exclusive property of an aristocracy to dominate all those who are not members.

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Re: World's first baby using controversial three-parent technique born, report says

Postby Napoleon the Clown » 2016-09-28 01:04pm

This procedure is as likely to create genetic ubermensch as blood transfusions are. Mitochondrial DNA doesn't code for any sort of ultimate physical capacities. It codes for basic, underlying biological functions that happen at the cellular level. Cellular respiration, NO production to control blood pressure... This won't have any capacity to give us an upper class of Captain Americas.

SciShow video on the subject, that goes into a few of the risks involved. tl;dw: It's just mitochondrial DNA, which is only in the mitochondria and codes for a very small number of things. And there's a possibility, though unproven, that donor mitochondrial DNA must be a relatively close match to the replaced mitochondrial DNA, but that's unclear because mouse studies.

There's definitely ethical concerns to be addressed regarding tinkering with nuclear DNA, but mitochondrial DNA is so specialized that it cannot be realistically used to create a superior "breed" as it simply does not code for that sort of thing.
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Re: World's first baby using controversial three-parent technique born, report says

Postby K. A. Pital » 2016-09-28 01:11pm

Napoleon the Clown wrote:There's definitely ethical concerns to be addressed regarding tinkering with nuclear DNA, but mitochondrial DNA is so specialized that it cannot be realistically used to create a superior "breed" as it simply does not code for that sort of thing.

If this type of modification has no potential to create superior humans, then I have no objections to its use. Very well. Although this does not invalidate the questions about the general direction of other research in the field.
Esquire wrote:Define 'struggle,' please - I want to make sure I respond to the right thing.

From the banality of a fist fight to taking exams into a university, I don't want to give rich fuckers even one more inch of an advantage over what they already have due to their inherited wealth. I don't want normal people to compete with übermenschen, and I think most normal people don't want to do that either.

Imagine yourself competing with Einstein. It feels unfair, but it is only nature, right - chance is always cruel and unfair. Now imagine if rich people could slowly turn their children into a hybrid between Einstein and the Hulk. This feels like double plus unfair and ungood, pardon my prolish newspeak.
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Re: World's first baby using controversial three-parent technique born, report says

Postby Simon_Jester » 2016-09-28 02:35pm

Yes.

The issue would still arise if we weren't talking about treatments the rich can buy for their children long before they become generally available. There would still be some awkward questions to ask about genetic engineering in, say, a more functional and longer-lasting Soviet Union. Under such doctrine, would it be morally acceptable to engineer people for greater intelligence, health, and longevity? Because you can't give that to everyone right away... but it would be nice to give it to everyone... but if you never give it to anyone, you'll never learn enough to give it to everyone.

And that takes the money out of the picture, but the ethical problem doesn't entirely go away.

Napoleon the Clown wrote:This procedure is as likely to create genetic ubermensch as blood transfusions are.
This procedure isn't the problematic thing; human genetic engineering in general is.

Mitochondrial DNA doesn't code for any sort of ultimate physical capacities. It codes for basic, underlying biological functions that happen at the cellular level. Cellular respiration, NO production to control blood pressure... This won't have any capacity to give us an upper class of Captain Americas.
It's entirely possible that there might be some way to engineer 'better' mitochondria for humans, which might well result in enhancement- because when you get right down to it, cellular respiration and blood pressure and so on are pretty fundamental to your physical health and capability. However, that's not being done in the context of this treatment, so it's irrelevant.

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Re: World's first baby using controversial three-parent technique born, report says

Postby Esquire » 2016-09-28 04:22pm

Simon_Jester wrote:
Esquire wrote:K.A. Pital - what would you say to the argument that an inequality isn't necessarily an inequity? If the rich get richer (with respect to health care and its quality) without the poor getting poorer, surely that's a net gain to humanity?
The basic argument is that creating a permanent aristocracy to rule humanity is a net loss for humanity and its future potential, even if no individual human is specifically made worse off in the short run. Because in the long term, it results in a poisoning of future human prospects and development, and it results in enslavement which is bad in and of itself.


How, exactly? We've already managed to create a society that doesn't discriminate against frankly insane positions (creationists, climate deniers, trickle-down economists, etc.); why would some vaguely 'smarter' - whatever that ends up meaning in epigenetic terms - set of people automatically do better than they already are? Going 'but Gattaca!' isn't really an argument. Some people are already objectively more intelligent, healthier, and longer lived than others, and they're already overwhelmingly concentrated in the upper classes.

Particularly as such complex technologies will never be generally available if they aren't specifically available first; see for example books, telephones, computers, etc.
None of those technologies give advantages that belong specifically to one person. Moreover, all of them can be shared- their benefits apply to people who don't personally own them but nevertheless have access. The existence of books benefits the illiterate by allowing the creation of technical specialists who are literate and can help them. And if literate people are too poor to own many books themselves, they can still create a communal library shared by all. People who don't own telephones can still use someone else's telephone, or twenty people can potentially share one telephone they use in emergencies, or some such. The existence of computers helps people who don't own computers, by making the economy more powerful and coordinating great quantities of information and helping engineers design things.


I'm not sure I quite buy this argument; it's true enough now that even those not directly benefiting from these technologies get something from them peripherally, and I suspect it was when they were mature but not yet ubiquitous, but when, say, books were as developed as genetic engineering is now - well, how does it help me, a medieval peasant, if some monks can read illuminated copies of the Bible?

But the existence of genetic engineering of humans helps only those humans who have received the genetic engineering. There is no way to buy a 1/100 share of "genetically enhanced intelligence" and share the benefits (or some of them) with 100 of your neighbors, the way you can with a library or a public telephone.

Therefore, unlike other technologies, genetic engineering of human has a lot of potential to be used as the exclusive property of an aristocracy to dominate all those who are not members.


I'm concerned about a no-limits fallacy here, which makes me worry I'm missing something - you're not usually prone to that sort of thing. Genetics aren't magic, there's only so far you can get away from some hypothetical statistically-average human, and we've probably already gotten people about as far out on the bell curve naturally as we're likely to get artificially. Or, we've already seen an Einstein, and he didn't take over the world. Similarly for... I don't know, Lance Armstrong, on the physical side of things. Hell, we've got astronauts who are probably about that far out from the average on both axes. How would this conspiracy even work? And it would have to be a conspiracy to result in an aristocracy in the pejorative sense - otherwise, the mechanics of democracy might very well skew the set of all elections towards the genetically-enhanced set... but that would be an aristocracy in the literal and etymological sense, rule by the objectively-better suited for it. What's the problem with that, exactly?

K. A. Pital wrote:From the banality of a fist fight to taking exams into a university, I don't want to give rich fuckers even one more inch of an advantage over what they already have due to their inherited wealth. I don't want normal people to compete with übermenschen, and I think most normal people don't want to do that either.

Imagine yourself competing with Einstein. It feels unfair, but it is only nature, right - chance is always cruel and unfair. Now imagine if rich people could slowly turn their children into a hybrid between Einstein and the Hulk. This feels like double plus unfair and ungood, pardon my prolish newspeak.


So, just to be clear, you want people to die of horrible, preventable genetic diseases just because their parents were well-off? You seem to be fixated on holding everybody to the lowest common denominator for success, instead of taking steps to raise the worse-off up. If you've got a real argument, I'd very much like to hear it, but going 'but Gattaca!' and 'but dystopian sci-fi!' isn't really enough to have a conversation about.
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Re: World's first baby using controversial three-parent technique born, report says

Postby K. A. Pital » 2016-09-28 04:29pm

Esquire wrote:So, just to be clear, you want people to die of horrible, preventable genetic diseases just because their parents were well-off?

No. I already said that eliminating monogenetic diseases is most probably the simplest form of theraphy that would quite likely not lead to any "betterment" of humans and can thus be freely allowed to proliferate. A strawman is not helping here. Yes, I am not arguing against technology itself, but against its use in Gattaquesque fashion.

But under no circumstances uber humans must be permitted to arise from the elite.
Esquire wrote:You seem to be fixated on holding everybody to the lowest common denominator for success, instead of taking steps to raise the worse-off up.

Equality matters. If everyone else exists in a state similar to now, but also a race of superhumans or demigods arises, the task would be to prevent their rule over mankind. Such inequality is abominable and should not exist.
Esquire wrote:Some people are already objectively more intelligent, healthier, and longer lived than others, and they're already overwhelmingly concentrated in the upper classes.

Yes. And it is already abominable - like playing cards with a cheater. But now, you can still ram the cheater's face into the table if you see him cheating, given that you're lucky. If there is a hereditary aristocracy, it would be much harder. No need to make an even greater abomination out of humanity.
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Re: World's first baby using controversial three-parent technique born, report says

Postby Esquire » 2016-09-28 05:03pm

K. A. Pital wrote:
Esquire wrote:So, just to be clear, you want people to die of horrible, preventable genetic diseases just because their parents were well-off?

No. I already said that eliminating monogenetic diseases is most probably the simplest form of theraphy that would quite likely not lead to any "betterment" of humans and can thus be freely allowed to proliferate. A strawman is not helping here. Yes, I am not arguing against technology itself, but against its use in Gattaquesque fashion.

But under no circumstances uber humans must be permitted to arise from the elite.


By definition any set of humans that does not suffer from genetic diseases will be better-off than any set which does. What's the limit? Even assuming that we ever manage to isolate the genetic and epigenetic components of intelligence and figure out how to alter them and get anybody to sign on for that kind of genetic manipulation of their children, there's a lot of space between 'the lower limits for my child's intelligence as measured by such-and-such a test are higher' and 'let's take over the world.' What specific consequences do you see arising, and how do you see them doing so?

Esquire wrote:You seem to be fixated on holding everybody to the lowest common denominator for success, instead of taking steps to raise the worse-off up.

Equality matters. If everyone else exists in a state similar to now, but also a race of superhumans or demigods arises, the task would be to prevent their rule over mankind. Such inequality is abominable and should not exist.


I counter with, 'equity matters.' Nobody should starve, nobody should die preventably, and everybody should have a good quality of life, whatever we decide that means a society. Past that, preventing scientific success, personal excellence, and human improvement is not in anybody's best interest.

Esquire wrote:Some people are already objectively more intelligent, healthier, and longer lived than others, and they're already overwhelmingly concentrated in the upper classes.

Yes. And it is already abominable - like playing cards with a cheater. But now, you can still ram the cheater's face into the table if you see him cheating, given that you're lucky. If there is a hereditary aristocracy, it would be much harder. No need to make an even greater abomination out of humanity.


What game do you think we're playing? Your ability to deal with people breaking the law has nothing to do with their physical or mental capacities. If a hypothetical genetically-enhanced rich person screws me over in a business deal, I'd be just as able to sue him an win as I am now if a regular rich person does. I don't get anything out of holding people to the lowest common denominator of health and success, but I get a lot out of raising that lowest common denominator, which will never happen unless we raise the higher ones first thanks to simple economics.

Also, 'abomination?'
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Re: World's first baby using controversial three-parent technique born, report says

Postby Simon_Jester » 2016-09-28 06:45pm

Esquire wrote:
Simon_Jester wrote:
Esquire wrote:K.A. Pital - what would you say to the argument that an inequality isn't necessarily an inequity? If the rich get richer (with respect to health care and its quality) without the poor getting poorer, surely that's a net gain to humanity?
The basic argument is that creating a permanent aristocracy to rule humanity is a net loss for humanity and its future potential, even if no individual human is specifically made worse off in the short run. Because in the long term, it results in a poisoning of future human prospects and development, and it results in enslavement which is bad in and of itself.
How, exactly? We've already managed to create a society that doesn't discriminate against frankly insane positions (creationists, climate deniers, trickle-down economists, etc.); why would some vaguely 'smarter' - whatever that ends up meaning in epigenetic terms - set of people automatically do better than they already are? Going 'but Gattaca!' isn't really an argument. Some people are already objectively more intelligent, healthier, and longer lived than others, and they're already overwhelmingly concentrated in the upper classes.
The big issue is that so far, people with middle and lower class upbringings can compete with the children of the elite, in meaningful terms. And while there are tremendous advantages to inheriting wealth, automatically being one of the most skilled people in the world isn't one of them- for every successful third or fourth generation member of a very powerful family, there are a swarm of trust fund babies and Paris Hiltons.

I'm not sure I quite buy this argument; it's true enough now that even those not directly benefiting from these technologies get something from them peripherally, and I suspect it was when they were mature but not yet ubiquitous, but when, say, books were as developed as genetic engineering is now - well, how does it help me, a medieval peasant, if some monks can read illuminated copies of the Bible?
The illuminated Bibles maybe don't help you- except insofar as they help keep your culture's art alive through what is otherwise a dark age. But the preservation of other books does help you- architecture that designs fortifications which shelter you from invaders, philosophy that eventually results in a renaissance for your great-grandchildren and a chance to get off the farm, stored knowledge in general.

Likewise, telephones were used in a lot of ways that benefited the public even when they were very expensive, such as enabling government to be better coordinated. Computers, likewise.

The benefits of being an amazingly talented person tend to be a lot more concentrated in the hands of the talented person, compared to the benefits of a powerful tool that just anyone can use, or that a group of people can share.

But the existence of genetic engineering of humans helps only those humans who have received the genetic engineering. There is no way to buy a 1/100 share of "genetically enhanced intelligence" and share the benefits (or some of them) with 100 of your neighbors, the way you can with a library or a public telephone.

Therefore, unlike other technologies, genetic engineering of human has a lot of potential to be used as the exclusive property of an aristocracy to dominate all those who are not members.
I'm concerned about a no-limits fallacy here, which makes me worry I'm missing something - you're not usually prone to that sort of thing. Genetics aren't magic, there's only so far you can get away from some hypothetical statistically-average human, and we've probably already gotten people about as far out on the bell curve naturally as we're likely to get artificially. Or, we've already seen an Einstein, and he didn't take over the world. Similarly for... I don't know, Lance Armstrong, on the physical side of things. Hell, we've got astronauts who are probably about that far out from the average on both axes.
But these are not also people who inherited vast wealth. They won a genetic lottery, but not the lottery of having the 'best' socioeconomic position. Others win the lottery of socioeconomic status but not the genetic lottery. Winning both is very rare.

If winning the socioeconomic lottery enables you to buy a winning genetic lottery tickets, the existing tendency of socioeconomic success to become inherited is reinforced.

How would this conspiracy even work? And it would have to be a conspiracy to result in an aristocracy in the pejorative sense - otherwise, the mechanics of democracy might very well skew the set of all elections towards the genetically-enhanced set... but that would be an aristocracy in the literal and etymological sense, rule by the objectively-better suited for it. What's the problem with that, exactly?
The fundamental problem is that it results in the speciation of humanity into two groups, one of which is overwhelmingly fated to be slaves, and the other of which is overwhelmingly fated to be masters. This is undesirable in and of itself if one values equality of opportunity or anything resembling social justice.

The problem isn't "but Gattaca!" In Gattaca, the issue is that most humans are genetically enhanced. The problem is a world where 5% of the population, having 5% of the children, can afford to boost their children into the top 99.999th percentile of human ability... and nobody else can.

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Re: World's first baby using controversial three-parent technique born, report says

Postby Esquire » 2016-09-28 07:24pm

Simon_Jester wrote:The big issue is that so far, people with middle and lower class upbringings can compete with the children of the elite, in meaningful terms. And while there are tremendous advantages to inheriting wealth, automatically being one of the most skilled people in the world isn't one of them- for every successful third or fourth generation member of a very powerful family, there are a swarm of trust fund babies and Paris Hiltons.


Okay, if we're going to have a proper evidence-driven discussion, we need to define what '[sucessfully] compete with the children of the elite' means. Do you mean 'ascend to a higher socioeconomic status?'

The illuminated Bibles maybe don't help you- except insofar as they help keep your culture's art alive through what is otherwise a dark age. But the preservation of other books does help you- architecture that designs fortifications which shelter you from invaders, philosophy that eventually results in a renaissance for your great-grandchildren and a chance to get off the farm, stored knowledge in general.

Likewise, telephones were used in a lot of ways that benefited the public even when they were very expensive, such as enabling government to be better coordinated. Computers, likewise.

The benefits of being an amazingly talented person tend to be a lot more concentrated in the hands of the talented person, compared to the benefits of a powerful tool that just anyone can use, or that a group of people can share.


A prior draft of the argument the above quotation responded to included something along the lines of 'you're taking an historical perspective for prior technologies, but not giving the same benefit-of-the-doubt to this one.' Who's to say genetic enhancement of intelligence - assuming that's even possible, etc., etc., - wouldn't lead to a set of world leaders who could actually solve global warming, for example? All those powerful tools were created by intellectually-powerful people, and we're just now reaching the stage where further advancement will be difficult at best for the average man. I say this as a profoundly average man.

But these are not also people who inherited vast wealth. They won a genetic lottery, but not the lottery of having the 'best' socioeconomic position. Others win the lottery of socioeconomic status but not the genetic lottery. Winning both is very rare.

If winning the socioeconomic lottery enables you to buy a winning genetic lottery tickets, the existing tendency of socioeconomic success to become inherited is reinforced.


Well, what if it is? Or rather, will it be significantly increase - the trust fund and its close cousin the entail make inheriting wealth and power effectively foolproof as it is; I'm not convinced that even if genetic supermen took over the world - which I'm far from convinced is plausible, again even if such beings ever become possible - things would be any more lopsided than they are.

Again: the problem is not the lopsided distribution of socioeconomic success, it's the existence of socioeconomic failure. Quote-unquote 'simply' raise the low bar for outcomes to a decent quality of life, and who cares how high the high one goes? That will, I think, be a lot easier than preventing people who by your and K.A. Pital's thesis already control most of the wealth and power from literally buying more life for themselves and their children.

The problem isn't "but Gattaca!" In Gattaca, the issue is [n.b. 'isn't?'] that most humans are genetically enhanced. The problem is a world where 5% of the population, having 5% of the children, can afford to boost their children into the top 99.999th percentile of human ability... and nobody else can.


Granting that such would be the result - which I maintain is a large concession - why would it a) stay that way forever, and b) matter all that much? The children of the wealthy already outperform the children of the poor, on average, in every metric* by significant margins.

*Except depression rates, I think, but that's subject to so many confounding factors I don't think it has any practical use.
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Re: World's first baby using controversial three-parent technique born, report says

Postby Ziggy Stardust » 2016-09-28 08:22pm

Can we stop throwing around this hyperbolic "ubermench" and "demigod" gibberish? That's not how genetics work. Honestly, the only real benefits of this kind of technology ARE in preventing various genetic conditions and random cosmetic changes. There is no supergene that if you turn on will make someone with Einstein's intelligence and Shaquille O'Neall's body. Even if we distill things down completely to genetic factors and ignore the vast array of exposures that impact intelligence, fitness, etc. that have nothing to do with genetics (which is already an idiotic approach to begin with, because there's no evidence that genetic factors are the sole determinants anyhow). Genes work within a highly complex environment of constraints and, most importantly, trade-offs. "Optimizing" some genetic trait (however you choose to define the term optimize, which is of course subjective for most traits we're talking about) will come at the opportunity cost of optimizing another, and that's only even in the simple case where it's possible to isolate it down to a handful of genes. Things like intelligence are just far more complex than that.

Creating the kind of ubermensch and demigods you seem to be imagining requires technology that is still far-off sci-fi, even with current genetic research at the stage it is in. Barring unprecedented changes in the way we understand genetics, that sort of capability involves levels of technology and knowledge that would only be feasible in a world where we also probably have AI and other sorts of technology that makes the situation a singularity.

The fact is, there's no evidence that this kind of technology can be for many applications beyond comparatively simple elimination of genetic disorders and manipulating arbitrary cosmetic factors like penis size or whatever.


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