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Messing with the genome

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#1 Pess

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Posted 17 June 2013 - 10:58 AM

I got a topic for conversation.

Soon we will have the capacity to mess with the human genome at an individual gene level. We will be able to precisely sequence the exact genome we wish to create.

There is no doubt we are going to do this despite ethical and moral quandaries....

My question is, would you want to assemble your newborn from scratch? That is, go gene by gene and put your kid together?

And, if so, what traits would you order as 'options'?

We already do this in a crude way. For example when chromosomal abormalities are detected (say cystic fibrosis or mental retardation) some couples elect to remove this genetic combination and try again for a better combination of genes.

Even in China there are cases (with the 1-child limit) of women aborting the 'X' chromosome carrying fetus in favor of one with a 'Y' chromosome.

When the power comes to completely define every potential ankle bighter from their eye color down to their IQ, will we get an 'options' sticker during conception to check off what we want?

And what happens when every child born has a 160 IQ? (the new normal?) Or the Basketball courts are flooded with Wilt Chamberlans or, heaven forbid, Dennis Rodman's?

Will there be any limitations? Gills? Wings? Extra middle fingers?

Thoughts?

And if we could extend human lifespan to any arbitrary point, what point would that be?

What about boutique gene shops? Would you give your kid Dolly Parton or John Holmes genes?

The mind boggles at the possibilities.

Pesse (Intriguing) Mist

#2 Qwickdraw

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Posted 17 June 2013 - 11:16 AM

When everybody is perfect from looks to intelligence it will be a very boring world. That is my thoughts.

#3 dyslexic nam

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Posted 17 June 2013 - 11:46 AM

When everybody is perfect from looks to intelligence it will be a very boring world. That is my thoughts.


Be that as it may, there would still be a very strong pressure for parents-to-be not to simply roll the genetic dice if the best they could hope for is for the child to be high-functioning in a couple of respects and only sub-par in a few other areas. Because that is the outcome of the scenario being proposed - the vast majority would likely be genetically optimized according to the preference set of parents.

Take intelligence - if it becomes routine to be able to engineer a 160 IQ into a child, would you really choose to doom your child to being immensely below the new average? Keep in mind that the current average is 100, and high 140s is considered bordeline genius. That means that the differences would not be subtle or minor - someone of average intelligence would be absolutely dwarfed by the new pick-a-kids.

You may not like the outcome, but that kind of pressure would surely cause many, if not most, people to opt for at least a certain baseline of engineered features. Think of the efforts parents currently go to in an effort to ensure the success of their children. Everything from in utero Mozart to Baby Einstein to prep schools to elite colleges. If people are willing to go this far, at great expense and (sometimes) sacrifice, I think relying on natural genetic variation would be the exception, not the rule.

#4 Pess

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Posted 17 June 2013 - 12:23 PM

When everybody is perfect from looks to intelligence it will be a very boring world. That is my thoughts.


Be that as it may, there would still be a very strong pressure for parents-to-be not to simply roll the genetic dice if the best they could hope for is for the child to be high-functioning in a couple of respects and only sub-par in a few other areas. Because that is the outcome of the scenario being proposed - the vast majority would likely be genetically optimized according to the preference set of parents.

Take intelligence - if it becomes routine to be able to engineer a 160 IQ into a child, would you really choose to doom your child to being immensely below the new average? Keep in mind that the current average is 100, and high 140s is considered bordeline genius. That means that the differences would not be subtle or minor - someone of average intelligence would be absolutely dwarfed by the new pick-a-kids.

You may not like the outcome, but that kind of pressure would surely cause many, if not most, people to opt for at least a certain baseline of engineered features. Think of the efforts parents currently go to in an effort to ensure the success of their children. Everything from in utero Mozart to Baby Einstein to prep schools to elite colleges. If people are willing to go this far, at great expense and (sometimes) sacrifice, I think relying on natural genetic variation would be the exception, not the rule.



Perhaps the cost of genetic 'design' would be prohibitive to all but the upper class.

Now you have stratification of humanity as a generation of 'gifted' is forced to live with us Neanderthals.....

..and we remember what happened to the Neanderthals don't we?

Pesse (KHaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!) Mist

#5 Andy Taylor

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Posted 17 June 2013 - 12:49 PM

And so ends the evolution of Man.

No random mutations = stagnation.

Imagine what a virus could do with such a limited gene pool.

#6 Pess

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Posted 19 June 2013 - 03:51 PM

And so ends the evolution of Man.

No random mutations = stagnation.

Imagine what a virus could do with such a limited gene pool.



Oh, I imagine our offspring would have a high degree of variability.

I mean, take the automobile for example, I don't believe there is any 'best' model.

I think the same for genetically engineered kids. Some things might be common like high IQ and elimination of 'Fat' genes etc. But overall people vary quite a bit in taste...

Pesse (..although I'd hate to see what 'Moon Unit Zappa' would look like if parents were given total design freedom.) Mist

#7 Andy Taylor

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Posted 19 June 2013 - 05:31 PM

And so ends the evolution of Man.

No random mutations = stagnation.

Imagine what a virus could do with such a limited gene pool.



Oh, I imagine our offspring would have a high degree of variability.

I mean, take the automobile for example, I don't believe there is any 'best' model.

I think the same for genetically engineered kids. Some things might be common like high IQ and elimination of 'Fat' genes etc. But overall people vary quite a bit in taste...

Pesse (..although I'd hate to see what 'Moon Unit Zappa' would look like if parents were given total design freedom.) Mist


Then we should look for the gene that bestows wisdom first... :smirk:

#8 WaterMaster

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Posted 19 June 2013 - 06:25 PM

Genius level IQ does not necessarily equate to genius. Genetic manipulation, in this regard, could only provide potential.

#9 Rick Woods

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Posted 19 June 2013 - 08:10 PM

We wouldn't have Forrest Gump!

#10 llanitedave

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Posted 19 June 2013 - 08:57 PM

Then we should look for the gene that bestows wisdom first... :smirk:


Wisdom is not bestowed. It's forced on you against your will.

#11 UND_astrophysics

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Posted 20 June 2013 - 12:14 AM

And so ends the evolution of Man.

No random mutations = stagnation.

Imagine what a virus could do with such a limited gene pool.


And diversity is an indicator of species fitness. Since we are the last hominid, about a 45% chance of survival.

#12 UND_astrophysics

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Posted 20 June 2013 - 12:31 AM

When everybody is perfect from looks to intelligence it will be a very boring world. That is my thoughts.


Be that as it may, there would still be a very strong pressure for parents-to-be not to simply roll the genetic dice if the best they could hope for is for the child to be high-functioning in a couple of respects and only sub-par in a few other areas. Because that is the outcome of the scenario being proposed - the vast majority would likely be genetically optimized according to the preference set of parents.

Take intelligence - if it becomes routine to be able to engineer a 160 IQ into a child, would you really choose to doom your child to being immensely below the new average? Keep in mind that the current average is 100, and high 140s is considered bordeline genius. That means that the differences would not be subtle or minor - someone of average intelligence would be absolutely dwarfed by the new pick-a-kids.

You may not like the outcome, but that kind of pressure would surely cause many, if not most, people to opt for at least a certain baseline of engineered features. Think of the efforts parents currently go to in an effort to ensure the success of their children. Everything from in utero Mozart to Baby Einstein to prep schools to elite colleges. If people are willing to go this far, at great expense and (sometimes) sacrifice, I think relying on natural genetic variation would be the exception, not the rule.


But remember, Intelligence is a social construct, and our brains do not have much more capacity to develop more efficiently than they already are. Mainly because of the neuron structures, myelin sheathing, and the limits of energy vs. energy budget the human body. In fact, our brains have become 300 CC smaller than our Cro-magnon and H. Sapiens ancestors. We are not getting more intelligent, we are exploiting the intelligence we already are endowed with because of division of labor and niche lifestyle Our brains are physiologically the same as 24,000 years ago. One has to ask if the division of labor and skills we have now might not be good for H. Sapiens. I had to recently do some research for an evolutionary psychology project that involved Cro Magnon AMH and modern AMH, and some of the things i found were, it takes more intelligence to use a fire drill than to flick a bic lighter for example. The division of labor and Niche skills make the lighter possible, but leaves a vulnerability to those depending on it for fire if they do not share the skills to execute every production step. With a fire drill, I can make a fire in about 1 minute 30 seconds. I would not know how to manufacture a Bic lighter. With an Atlatl, I can hit a rabbit from 20 yards ( had to make them for a stone tool making class), but I would not know how to manufacture a firearm from scratch, because that is division of labor and niche skills. So in the end who would really possess skills to survive if need be? This may also be an answer to to the Fermi paradox...There has never been a civilization on Earth that has not eventually collapsed. An that might be what really decides intelligence after all. The difference between adaptability, and too well adapted, as in the case of Paranthropus Boisei, and Homo Neandertalensis.

#13 dyslexic nam

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Posted 20 June 2013 - 06:39 AM

With a fire drill, I can make a fire in about 1 minute 30 seconds...


Respect. I got serious smoke, but I think I stopped too early and there was no ember. Plus, near the end of my effort, a drop of sweat ran down my nose and dropped right in the middle of the bone-dry tinder bundle I was inspecting for signs of combusion. Very discouraging. I then had a beer. Possibly more than one. Based on my limited results, I think I could do it if I my life was on the line, but man that is a piece of skill. And don't even get me started on those guys who can hand-drill a fire. Geeze.

#14 Andy Taylor

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Posted 20 June 2013 - 03:57 PM


Then we should look for the gene that bestows wisdom first... :smirk:


Wisdom is not bestowed. It's forced on you against your will.


That's a very wise thing to say....

Any chance of a blood & hair sample?

:lol:

#15 shawnhar

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Posted 20 June 2013 - 05:01 PM

Anyone seen the movie Gattica? It will just be a class thing, like people have Mercedes now and look down on the guy with the beater Fiero.
You can have an IQ of 180 and still get worms cause you don't know to not eat rabbits and squirrels before the 1st frost. All the best genes in the world won't stop the wonderfully random ways nature (and ourselves) has come up with to kill you.
Gene therapy for disease and other issues will be just like vaccinations, don't ya think?

#16 UND_astrophysics

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Posted 20 June 2013 - 05:02 PM


That's a very wise thing to say....

Any chance of a blood & hair sample?

:lol:


:roflmao:

#17 llanitedave

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Posted 21 June 2013 - 12:32 AM


Then we should look for the gene that bestows wisdom first... :smirk:


Wisdom is not bestowed. It's forced on you against your will.


That's a very wise thing to say....

Any chance of a blood & hair sample?

:lol:


Well, I just finished shaving, so if you're quick...

#18 moynihan

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 02:20 PM

I am far from being a luddite, but this is an area i think we should be very, very careful about.

1. We cannot experiment properly yet, because we cannot do a control group. For that you need isolation & divergence, not possible realy for our species unless we develop breeding populations separated by wide areas of space.

2. Evolution by natural selection works so well for adaptation since it is not teleological, i.e., it does not have a goal. It just happens in "real time", in a present that rolls forward along time's arrow.

We though, are teleological, we create/have goals, "reasons" for doing things. As the saying goes, today's solutions are tommorow's problems.
Since we cannot know the future, we can never know what is best in the long run.
We seem to act in ways that reduce diversity (look at agricultural genetics).
This is complicated even further by our apparent necessity to measure value via montetary value; hence constricting solution space by a metric that is totally self reflexive, therefore unable to monitor the biogeophysical.

#19 petrus45

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 10:14 PM

I got a topic for conversation.

Soon we will have the capacity to mess with the human genome at an individual gene level. We will be able to precisely sequence the exact genome we wish to create.

There is no doubt we are going to do this despite ethical and moral quandaries....

My question is, would you want to assemble your newborn from scratch? That is, go gene by gene and put your kid together?

And, if so, what traits would you order as 'options'?

We already do this in a crude way. For example when chromosomal abormalities are detected (say cystic fibrosis or mental retardation) some couples elect to remove this genetic combination and try again for a better combination of genes.

Even in China there are cases (with the 1-child limit) of women aborting the 'X' chromosome carrying fetus in favor of one with a 'Y' chromosome.

When the power comes to completely define every potential ankle bighter from their eye color down to their IQ, will we get an 'options' sticker during conception to check off what we want?

And what happens when every child born has a 160 IQ? (the new normal?) Or the Basketball courts are flooded with Wilt Chamberlans or, heaven forbid, Dennis Rodman's?

Will there be any limitations? Gills? Wings? Extra middle fingers?

Thoughts?

And if we could extend human lifespan to any arbitrary point, what point would that be?

What about boutique gene shops? Would you give your kid Dolly Parton or John Holmes genes?

The mind boggles at the possibilities.

Pesse (Intriguing) Mist


Seems like the "genome" includes not only blueprints for the body's architecture (height, eye color, intelligence, etc.), but also blueprints for process, including how humans (and other animals) select and recombine, so as to continue adapting to the environment. At some point science is going to figure that good old fashioned courtship, marriage and having babies over generations is the most effective way to evolve the human race, since that is the genetically time-tested and built-in way the human race has made it thus far. Same answer for the disadvantages to the human race of infinite longevity - shorter generations and more recombination produces more aggressive adaptations over a shorter period of time. No supercomputer is going to be able to do it over a single generation. And if it does, it is going to miss things.

Fooling around with the genome is just going to make a big mess, like junior trying to "help" make a cake. It will result in maladaptivity and disease because no single human nor any computer can have the intellectual ability to understand what millions of years of evolution has done, let alone manipulate it toward some imagined "perfect" genetic makeup.

For instance, let's say a million years ago there was a major solar flare that blinded the entire population of humans except those with brown eyes, because of some adaptation associated with brown eye color. No solar flare since. It's been millions of years. We now think of eye color as something aesthetic and fun. And blue is pretty. So the scientists and the consumers all get together and pretty soon 90 percent of the population now has blue eyes because it's fashionable. Then surprise - another solar flare. This is just a made up example, but my point is that traits adapted a million years ago are easy for humans to "forget" when playing God with the ability to manipulate the genome, based on a short-sighted consumeristic view of the human person.

My advice: Keep using science to discovery how it all works, and maybe make a tweak here or there to fix things that are obviously broken, like diseases due to a single generation mutation. But stick with traditional courtship and mating as the best genetically imprinted mechanism for genetic selection - not because its good morality, but because it's good genetics.

#20 llanitedave

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 10:25 PM

It's more fun, too.

#21 petrus45

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 10:33 PM

It's more fun, too.


If it wasn't then no one would be here - except genetic scientists of course. :roflmao:

#22 Mister T

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 06:32 AM

it will be a sad day when some genetic scientist produces a human with no sex drive...

I don't want to become a battery..

#23 scopethis

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Posted 05 July 2013 - 02:55 PM

all is not lost Tony..batteries have both positive and negative poles.... :o

#24 derangedhermit

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Posted 05 July 2013 - 05:45 PM

As the OP said, it's not a question of should we or whether we will or not. Some groups will develop and use the technology.

For example, it's certain that the US military (as by far the best funded in the world) has been working on this for some time, and will continue to pursue the lines it finds of potential future use, regardless of what anyone thinks about it.

As a programmer who liked "clean" code to the point of obsession, I personally find the urge to remove all the dead code of our DNA compelling.

Do we really need all these genetic disorders?

OTOH, we have been messing with the genome of the domestic dog, first to useful purpose, now mainly to try to win trophies at beauty contests of a most artificial and superficial nature, and exacerbated a number of canine health and well-being issues along the way.

And tomatoes can now travel half way around the world without signs of bruising, but don't taste good any more.

As has been mentioned, different strokes for different folks. Here's a pass by country or culture:

US Military: Super Soldier
US citizenry: Dancing with the Stars / American Idol winners
British: people are born different colors (like pink, blue, etc) depending on their social class, so immediately identifiable at great distance
Italy: Everyone looks great (even better than now) in Italian designer clothes
Greece: Split personalities, so people can be both Western and Communist
Sweden: Everyone wakes up each day singing "We are the World" and "I'd like to teach the world to sing..."
Japan: Everyone is and does everything exactly the same, and very well and very politely.
Russia: Russians don't change themselves, they change potatoes, so they grow glass skins and self-ferment into vodka
French (Parisians): they make themselves the universe's best cosmologists, solely so they can change spacetime to make Paris the true center of everything. They only consume light crusty bread and bottled water while doing so.
French (non-Parisians): they don't change themselves at all. They ask the Parisians to please put them further away from Paris.

Amateur astronomers (visual): We hire Roland Christen and Al Nagler to design our eyeballs, and require of them greatly increased scotopic sensitivity at H-alpha. There are two camps, though; one group wants meter-size pupils, even if they have to carry their eyes in wheelbarrows, and the other wants <1mm pupils, so they can make exorbitant claims about what they can see out the back of their heads with such tiny apertures.

etc, etc. :grin:

#25 Mister T

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Posted 05 July 2013 - 07:07 PM

even batteries get a charge now and then?? :shocked:






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