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

From: Mark Walker (
Date: Thu Nov 29 2001 - 22:34:21 MST

----- Original Message -----
> >it is something that
> >we could start right after lunch--at least we have the technology, we
> >need the resources and the political will. Imagine if genetic engineering
> >smarter persons were taken on with the same sort of political enthusiasm
> >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
> 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.
You are certainly right about this. As Bonner notes (The Evolution of
Culture in Animals, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980, p. 50), .
there is a fairly reliable correlation between length of juvenile period and
brain size in primates, suggesting, perhaps, a protracted childhood for Homo

 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.
Well after lunch we should start with rats, pigs and then perhaps the pygmy
chimp. I agree that this may be all in vain if AI comes along in the
near-term. I know some are already packing their bags for the singularity.
(I haven't even done my laundry). Of course the perennial worry is that AI
will take too long, hence, why we should work on a back-up plan. Obviously
the nicer thing would be if we could do something in vivo--avoiding at least
the issue of consent. Maybe all ask for some extra neurons from stem cells
for Christmas.


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