Re: REPRODUCTION: choosing embryos

From: Phil Osborn (
Date: Sun Feb 17 2002 - 16:37:41 MST

An excellent historical example of this very problem is John Stuart Mill. Check out his mind-blowing autobiography. In brief, J.S. Mill's father James - co-founder of utilitarianism decided to use a method of enhancing intelligence that had been devised by a French mathematician around 1800, all of whose children were recognized as mathematical geniuses. (And if someone reading this can point me to a source of that original document, I will be ever thankful, as I've never found a traceable reference to it.)

Mill had the equivalent of a good college bachelors degree by the age of six (his first conscious memories being memorizing Greek verbs at the age of three), and was winning debates at Oxford at age nine.

I don't think that James Mill ever used brute force to make J.S. toe his ideological line, but he clearly hoped that he would be the shining star that would carry on and fulfill his philosophical ambitions. A good portion of J.S. Mill's work in his later life consists of undermining that very philosophy of utilitarianism, which is what so often happens in these cases.

A more recent case of which I am personally very familiar involved a young person who was top of the field - or a contender - in six or eight different disciplines. The child was born virtually brain dead from strangulation in the womb. The mother had used methods from Glen Doman and Robert Doman from earliest infancy, she herself having a Masters in Education. In fact, she retired from a successful career in order to work with her damaged child.

Unfortunately, as was obvious to everyone except the mother, as she made that child her entire life, it left no life for the child. I recall, after meeting the kid as a teenager, with closets full of academic awards, and nationwide aclaim, giving this prodigy a science fiction novel which I thought would have a positive impact. The mother took it away from the kid because it was subtracting minutes from orchestral practice. In fact, this kid was not allowed to read ANYTHING not provided and authorized by the mother.

At one point, the father had purchased the LEGO Mindstorms Robotics Kit for the kid, who proceeded to stay up all night for days writing complex LOGO control programs for the robots constructed. The mother took it away. When the mother discovered that instead of concentrating all energy on musical performance, the kid was composing reams of original music, she put an end to that.

The father felt as I did, and anyone else who had extensive contact with the situation, that this was a disaster in the making. The kid had become a pure "performer," having had every creative capacity stifled by the mother. Where that creative energy will now erupt - now that the kid is finally free away at college - and how is a question that keeps me awake at night.

... Not that I have any problem with super learning environments. My opinion is that we could effectively double human intelligence if we provided more optimal early childhood feedback. But this is so often intimately tied to parental ambition that the negative effects of one are confused with positive effects of the other.

>> wrote (16.2.2002/11:08) :
>> As for the anti-Extropianism of giving birth to a conscious entity with the intention of making him into a little slave who never frees himself from his mother's apron strings, I hope that speaks for itself.

>In fact, I think it is pretty much the worst thing that parents can do with their children, and it does happen a lot and does generate a lot of suffering, as I have very often observed around me to various
degrees. It is the essence of parental abuse, and I am thankful for my own parents to have deliberately and carefuly avoided anything like that.

>Jacques Du Pasquier ( said on Sat Feb 16 2002 - 19:11:24 MST:
>In the serene independence from them that they actively helped me to build, I ended up realizing that they are great folks and deep friends, and -- getting back to the original point -- that I am willing to help them. Had I been disrespected and used to their ends, I might be dependent as intended and love them in a dependent sort of way, but I would most probably hate them, too, and look forward to the relief of their disparition (instead of pondering cryo arrangements).

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