Gene-engineer superhumans? (was: Re: Selfish Reason To Preserve Chimps)

From: Damien Broderick (
Date: Thu Nov 29 2001 - 17:36:24 MST

At 09:58 AM 11/29/01 -0800, Mark Walker wrote:

>it is something that
>we could start right after lunch--at least we have the technology, we just
>need the resources and the political will. Imagine if genetic engineering
>smarter persons were taken on with the same sort of political enthusiasm as
>landing men on the moon.

It would also take twice as long, even if we could get it started right
after lunch. (Mmm... lunch.) Assuming you wish to allow your superhumans to
mature, and they take the standard 15-25 years to do so. Neoteny suggests
that they might take *longer* than normal, despite the evidence of Eliezer
and other bright [former] kids. The AI path seems likely to be swifter.
Still, you note:

>it would seem wise not to put all our
>posthuman eggs in one basket.

The bigger problem is that now you *are* running into Kantian objections
immediately, since it's likely that experiments along these lines wouldn't
work right on the first few dozen or maybe hundreds of kids; you'd be
producing unpredictably deformed humans as probes. Morally preferable to
wait for the computational capacity to model complex phenotypic outcomes,
I'd have thought. True, in the meantime the Singapore or Iraqi governments
will do it, but they do all kinds of horrid things we shouldn't recommend.

Damien Broderick

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