Re: Lanier essay of 2001.12.04

From: Dossy (
Date: Mon Dec 10 2001 - 14:11:14 MST

On 2001.12.10, Ben Damm <> wrote:
> How can we measure reproductive success solely on the basis of whether
> offspring live long enough to produce offspring? For social
> creatures, whether offspring survive is greatly influenced by the
> social environment in which they are brought up in and survive in.

The recent "cloning scare" that genetic engineering and cloning
techniques will allow us to produce "designer humans" is why
we might measure reproductive success solely on the basis of whether
offspring live long enough to produce offspring -- basically,
pass on their genetic material into the next generation so that
there's representation in the population of their genes.

How are the two ideas relevant?

Currently, you ensure your genes will survive by reproducing.
If you want your genes to become the majority in the gene pool,
you do this in two ways: out-reproducing everyone else, and/or
eliminating others from the gene pool. Cloning/GE introduces
a third option.

The fear is that through cloning/GE, there will be an artificial
imbalance in the way genetic populations evolve and self-regulate.
Population will be over-run by "designer humans", potentially
those who have genetics that are not naturally possible via

One of the things keeping this aspect in check is indeed
social influence: people's resistance to allowing this to
happen. Yes, social influence does contribute to reproductive
success at many levels.

However, in the end, the only thing that matters (or counts)
is whose genes make it into the next generation. The presumption
is that societies where social influence exerts positive forces
on reproductive success will strive and outnumber those that
do not have this property. Then, what of the hypothetical
society that influences its members to "rape" its members in
order to make reproduction a one-sided affair? Why would it
be hard to imagine this society thriving? Or a society that
influences its members to be promiscuous and reproduce ad-hoc
with anyone capable and mature? For the moment, ignore resource
limitation problems (food, space, etc.) -- perhaps someday those
will be "solved" sufficiently for them to no longer even be
a problem, anyhow.

Another (somewhat unrelated) scary thought experiment:

People fear cloning/GE used to produce "designer humans" that
are better than organic/natural humans. Has anyone discussed
the fear of using cloning/GE as a weapon?

(I'm sure there's lots of ethics discussions around weaponizing
of cloning/GE, that I haven't read yet.)

Basically, imagine a wealthy hate organization that wants to
rid the world of black people. They genetically engineer black
males with latent genes that causes infertility and homosexuality
(thanks for mentioning them, Ben). The first generation of
engineered (and possibly more) don't exhibit these traits.
After a number of generations, all of the decendants of this
weaponized population are either infertile, or have no instinctive
desire to reproduce, or both. Effectively, you could wipe out
a large slice of the black (and yes, of course, the other colors
that mated with the weaponized genes) population, and by the
time it was known about, it would be too late (well, without
more cloning/GE to undo the damage, of course).

Similar to the conspiracy theory behind HIV/AIDS, but I think
this one is a lot scarier. Unless, genetic testing becomes
as accessible as HIV testing ...

-- Dossy

Dossy Shiobara                       mail: 
Panoptic Computer Network             web: 
  "He realized the fastest way to change is to laugh at your own
    folly -- then you can let go and quickly move on." (p. 70)

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