RE: Eugenics / children

From: Robert Bradbury (
Date: Sun Jun 11 2000 - 07:23:09 MDT

On Sat, 10 Jun 2000, altamira wrote:

> Sarah, I'm sure someone else will be better qualified to say what the
> Extropian line is on human genetic engineering. Using the Extropian
> principles as a guideline, I would expect Extropians to be as totally
> against any sort of government regulation as you are. Of course certain
> people will try to control the course of human genetic research--it's too
> valuable a tool to escape that. My greatest hope is that there are people
> who are obsessed enough with their research that they'll quietly continue
> doing it, regardless of the masses and their political leaders.

Careful! The problem with knowledge in general (as Joy attempts to
point out) is that it can be used for good and evil. Part of the
Foresight guidelines on nanotechnology is that "though shalt not
release self-replicating machines" (at least not until they are
much better understood). Now, it goes without saying that many
current agbio products and any genetically "enhanced" children
(in which the germ cells are engineered as well) violate these
principles. Now, the Foresight associated people aren't running
around screaming for government intervention (obviously), so
the problem of balancing risks and benefits must be discussed.

In particular, I believe wise individuals (libertarian or not)
*would* argue for government investigation and regulation, and even
preventative or defensive preparative activities, in situations where
the perceived risks are high. Two examples of this come to mind --
outcast regimes (or known sociopaths) purchasing quantities of
equipment required for genetic engineering or an individual
going into his doctor and arguing for hyper-testosterone/adrenaline
genetic add-ons. Those are cases where the possible risks to
society seem great enough that relatively high hurdles should be
required to protect the "public good". Now, the problem arises
when people extend the "public good" to be "white, blond, german"
or "human insofar as all genes are from 'original' human stock",
as there are individuals who would aruge the "public" may easily
include individuals that don't match those filters.

The problem arises because people are afraid of getting on the
slippery slope. But we have made the transition from societies
where individuals have 1 mother to cases where rare individuals
have 3 mothers. I suspect we will make similar transitions with
regard to self-engineering as well. The real problem with determining
the "unacceptable" self-mods will be that it falls into the same
definitional realm as pornography (you know it when you see it) --
but we all have somewhat different filters as to what we can
accept and as the sociologists point out, even those are likely
to change with personal exposure.

How much you "slow" progress to allow the majority to catch-up
to the technology (to prevent backlashes) or promote/require government
regulation (or industry self-oversight) are issues we should continue
to examine. Obviously there is a conflict with industry profit
motives and goals of keeping technologies out of the hands of
international evil doers, so it is probably undesirable that
governments be left out of the equation entirely.

I have no doubts that the research will continue. The toolboxes
and knowledge bases are being constructed. Using them so that the
net good substantially outweighs the net evil remains the challenge.


This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Jul 27 2000 - 14:13:06 MDT