Re: Amusing anti-cloning arguments

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Wed, 28 Oct 1998 12:49:39 -0600

Hal Finney wrote:
> Okay, but I'm trying to get at the more general issue: when is it OK to
> make modifications to the genome of one's unborn children? How do we
> judge whether the changes will turn out to be acceptable when you can't
> ask in advance?

For obvious reasons, I've been concerned with this question for a number of years, more so since Damien Broderick (!) expressed concern about my plans it in The Spike.

Let's ask the question this way: Most people would say that we don't have the right to modify a genome, or perform neurosurgery, to increase intelligence. Suppose a mutation arises naturally containing that modification. Should he be prevented from having children? Can his genes be inserted artificially? Can an improved version be engineered de novo?

And no, this isn't a theoretical argument. One of the most powerful arguments I intend to wield is that if you're going to prevent me from creating copies of myself neurosurgically, you may as well prevent me from reproducing biologically. And is it such a large step from there to sterilizing the stupid? Jews? Nazism lies not in the concept of a master race, or sterilizing the "inferior", but in *any* denial of the right to exist on the basis of genetics.

Despite such arguments, I still expect all cognitive engineering to be banned in the U.S. The question is not how to prevent this, but how to keep the backlash from destroying the country long enough for the law to be repealed. For myself, I fight by changing the rules of the game, not in big flashy confrontations. I will inform my enemies who they are and that they have lost when the battle is won.

--         Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

Disclaimer:  Unless otherwise specified, I'm not telling you
everything I think I know.