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The Vectorian Lounge => The Lounge => Topic started by: Triarius Fidelis on April 08, 2010, 11:11:10 am

Title: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: Triarius Fidelis on April 08, 2010, 11:11:10 am
Anyone familiar with ecology knows that species evolve according to a utility function imposed by their environment, one which compels their genome to achieve maximal or, at least satisfactory, fitness

When I think about the huge problems the world has, it seems reasonable to posit some connection between our ecological past ("evolutionary baggage") and a present in which our efforts at building desirable societies are consistently baffled to some degree and in many cases thwarted entirely

That is to say, we have ideas like "government shouldn't be corrupt" and "people shouldn't be racist" and "retribution is counterproductive" etc., which we value in modern utility functions for whole societies but innate, most likely evolved tendencies get in the way of the same

However, biotechnology has advanced considerably over the past few decades with the products of genetic engineering already in widespread use and the cost of technologies such as DNA sequencing dropping off exponentially

Why not just make sure zygotes who will develop into people with an innate propensity to be greedy, short-sighted or stupid are not carried to term

I accept that achieving a desirable society might be possible without genetic engineering of humans, BUT I don't see how it is preferable

I am still scratching my head looking for downsides in my approach
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: retired1af on April 08, 2010, 11:36:34 am
So who determines which traits are desirable and those that are not?

No thank you............
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: Triarius Fidelis on April 08, 2010, 12:01:46 pm
Well I think it should be the parents' choice initially

But eventually further, practical understanding of the outcome of manipulating human genetics would lead to a broader definition of what qualifies as "harm" (e.g., allowing greedy individuals to be born) than that which the law currently admits

see also

http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~baron/papers/obias.pdf

This paper explains the concept of omission bias nicely, which is central to my case. The idea is that we tend to weigh errors of commission more than errors of omission although normatively there is no distinction between them. Realizing this makes human GE look better
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: w2ibc on April 08, 2010, 05:14:25 pm
a desirable society could mean anything. what is desireable to you may not be to me.

the only real thing any of us really have in common is we are human. we all think dif. act dif. like and dislike dif things.

sure we do find people who like the same things as us. but also we will not like some things they like.

thus a so called "a desirable society" will never happen.
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: Triarius Fidelis on April 08, 2010, 06:18:04 pm
Well you're right that utility is all subjective, in principle

But in some broad sense at least you can say things about an objective morality

This position is well-defended in the following TED Talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hj9oB4zpHww

...and I direct you to it because it's a better argument than I could easily make

Now, I gave greed as an example of an undesirable character trait earlier. I accept your point about relativity in some sense, but I don't think you'd want to be the victim of someone's greed and callousness though would you? Would you want to drink from and bathe in water like this? Water that got this way because someone's money was too precious to clean up after the petroleum byproducts they left behind

(http://www.sanfranciscosentinel.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/ecuador-oil-pollution-1.jpg)

This scene, though very tragic, is not at all exceptional. It's a regular occurrence. It's a fact of life ... it's almost a law of society, in the sense of "a law of physics", that you wouldn't want to be in between someone and a commodity they've got their eyes on. It shouldn't be though. Why is it that way?

I am currently reading Origin of Mind (http://www.amazon.com/Origin-Mind-Evolution-Cognition-Intelligence/dp/1591471818), a book which aims to investigate the evolutionary basis of human intelligence and behavior. And, if correct, it bears out the idea I have that favoritism towards oneself or an in-group has an evolutionary basis. If so, it is at least partly heritable. And if greed is somehow heritable, then at least part of this character defect, among others, could be nipped right in the bud. I've had some success finding out about the genetic / neural bases of personality traits, desirable and undesirable ... not quite as much as I'd like but I'm sure more is out there to be found.

By the way, I'm not claiming something so absurdly reductionist as there being a "gene for [complex behavioral trait]"; genes in themselves only encode RNA and, indirectly, polypeptide products. I am claiming, however, that manipulating genes involved in behavior with due regard to environmental factors and the complexity of neurobiology itself would have a profound effect on society. This point is uncontroversial; whether it should be done isn't

And my overarching point is that I don't think 21st century technology and Pleistocene-era people are at all a safe mixture. If it is reasonable to assume that human genetic engineering could enhance societal welfare considerably (and I think it is), what kind of people would we be to hold back and let society go to ****?
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: retired1af on April 08, 2010, 10:42:35 pm
..... what kind of people would we be to hold back and let society go to ****?

We'd be human.

And I'd fight tooth and nail against any society that decided to make some arbitrary determination that one trait is desirable over another, and would therefore manipulate genetics to achieve it. If society as a whole doesn't have the cajones to step up to the plate and do what's right, it deserves to fail.
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: sledgehammer on April 08, 2010, 11:25:44 pm
And fail they do.  I worry a bit about one of Doden's premises, which for millions of years has been survival of the fittest. Now that we have the ability (and often the inclination) to allow the least fit to live, for how long will that premise be valid?  Further, since it has been operating for so long, perhaps billions of years, are there any of us today who are not largely greedy?  Greed, redefined as self-interest, or even will-to-survive, is that which underlies much of what we call progress. Perhaps we could find one or two folks somewhere in Africa whose ancestors were not greedy and let them populate the earth.  Or has that already been done?  And what to do with the rest of us? Perhaps a flood.

Doden's idea, though, at least conceptually, is something that has been around awhile.  Darwinism forms the basis of a lot of this thinking, good (Doden) and bad (Hitler). What we have learned is that if something is possible, someone will do it. So I suspect we will see Doden's idea implemented by some group, perhaps a church of some kind. If it could be done before conception, abortion could be removed from the picture. Nonetheless, I agree with retired1AF, for reasons well-expressed by him and others in this thread, that any effort to force it on anyone would and should be violently resisted.

Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: bigpaws on April 09, 2010, 01:20:54 am
Provoking thoughts.

People inherently act differently when in a crowd vs alone. The type of DNA modification that you are exploring
would wind up under control of one person or small group. That is where the danger lies.

Even with genetic engineering how would you approach the fact that a persons environment also shapes thier outcome?

A child is engineered. The life style of the child would have to be perfect as well. Where is the beginning and end?

Bigpaws
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: retired1af on April 09, 2010, 05:12:24 am
It comes to mind that there was someone who already attempted something similar, and if genetics had been as well known then as it is now, who knows what he would have done. Who was this person? Adolph Hitler.
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: rbistolfi on April 09, 2010, 08:57:27 am
Bigpaws has a good point. I know very liitle about this, but the plasticity of our brain shouldn't be taken into consideration? If external factors shape our decisions, genetics cant provide a definitive solution. In that case, the modification of the environment is the real problem, something more close to economics or social engineering (I think.) On the other hand, if we can remove the possibility or capability of being evil in each individual, the problem is solved.
Many issues come when we think about this in general. What if we can predict, with help of genetics, that a new Mr Burns or something is arriving? Maybe if we can know this, actions can be taken in specific cases. Is this at all possible?

In a more philosophical spirit, can we remove evilness and still have some fun?

It comes to mind that there was someone who already attempted something similar, and if genetics had been as well known then as it is now, who knows what he would have done. Who was this person? Adolph Hitler.

Is not too soon for that? We will have to investigate modifications for the Godwin's law, probably adding an equation for calculating probablilities given the thread size.
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: retired1af on April 09, 2010, 09:18:10 am
How can one NOT debate the issue without taking into consideration the so called "evil" that would most likely appear with such a policy? Again, letting a group of people decide what is good for society, and then acting on it via genetics and/or termination of the pregnancy isn't exactly the type of society I'd want to be a part of.
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: stretchedthin on April 09, 2010, 09:32:09 am
I agree with rbistolfi and Bigpaws.  Social engineering, especially that which better prepares society for child rearing would a huge positive impact.  The effects on infants not receiving human touch, even just for a number of weeks during early of development has been shown to cripple them emotionally and physiologically for life. See http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/biology/b103/f01/web3/arima.html (http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/biology/b103/f01/web3/arima.html)

A further indication that more can be accomplished with how we nurture rather than tampering with nature can be found here.
http://www.wikisummaries.org/Freakonomics:_A_Rogue_Economist_Explores_the_Hidden_Side_of_Everything#Chapter_4:_Where_Have_All_the_Criminals_Gone.3F (http://www.wikisummaries.org/Freakonomics:_A_Rogue_Economist_Explores_the_Hidden_Side_of_Everything#Chapter_4:_Where_Have_All_the_Criminals_Gone.3F)
Basically, crime dropped 18 years after the legalization of abortion.  After first being introduced to this idea I found it controversial, but I have to agree that a parent forced by law to raise a child they did not want or were not ready for, would not provide the nurturing necessary to raise a stable, happy, socially competent adult.  You could go further and look at the rate at which children raised in foster care enter into lives of crime in adult-hood, and I'm sure there are many more examples.

Really, I think poor nurturing is a far bigger contributor to the ills you seek to cure then genetics by a long shot.  So to counter with my own sci-fi controversial idea... How about mandatory sterilization of everybody until the can prove they are up to the challenges of actually providing a little love for there children.  (Well, of course this is wrong as well, again providing an elite group the ability to make determinations on what should be an individual right.)
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: Triarius Fidelis on April 09, 2010, 09:58:30 am
Well cultural and biological engineering aren't mutually exclusive

To put it in cybernetic terms, we could provide higher quality input and make sure it's transduced into productive behavior more effectively

It comes to mind that there was someone who already attempted something similar, and if genetics had been as well known then as it is now, who knows what he would have done. Who was this person? Adolph Hitler.

Well, see, skin color and facial architecture are normatively irrelevant

So I find analogies between my plan and the NSDAP's (which by the way was laden with a lot of mystical pagan drivel) to be quite untenable

Really, I think poor nurturing is a far bigger contributor to the ills you seek to cure then genetics by a long shot.

A number of undesirable character traits are highly heritable

..... what kind of people would we be to hold back and let society go to ****?

We'd be human.

We'd also be unethical

See the omission bias paper I linked to

And I'd fight tooth and nail against any society that decided to make some arbitrary determination that one trait is desirable over another, and would therefore manipulate genetics to achieve it. If society as a whole doesn't have the cajones to step up to the plate and do what's right, it deserves to fail.

Well I don't see things that way

I feel that the combination of rapid technological development with fundamentally Stone Age people will become (actually ... is) unacceptably dangerous. We could get away with evolutionary baggage when our arrows were tipped with stone and bone but now they've got the fire of the Sun in their point so it's another ball of wax altogether isn't it

Though I am no behaviorist I like how Skinner made the case for determinism: "A small part of the universe is contained within the skin of each of us. There is no reason why it should have any special physical status because it lies within this boundary"

In other words, the human race is a product of evolutionary engineering. You can use social institutions to redirect its behavior to a degree (i.e., use "hacks") but I think we will run into hard limits with this approach

Your line of thinking assumes free will exists when there's no a priori reason to believe that it does and some physiological evidence to deny it as well ... libertarianism is a big bag of empty promises
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: tomh38 on April 11, 2010, 03:33:34 pm
Let's just be clear about what we're talking about here, and quit beating around the bush and hiding behind euphemisms like "utility" and "normative irrelevancy."  We're talking about eugenics.  You know who else liked eugenics?

(http://img442.imageshack.us/img442/3333/wrathofkhanricardomonta.jpg)

That's right, Khan Noonien Singh!  You thought I was going to say Hitler?  Hitler had nothing on this guy.  He was a prince, with power over millions.  Even though he fled Earth in 1996 (in the DY-100 class ship the S.S. Botany Bay), during the Eugenics Wars of the 1990s whole populations were bombed out of existence.  Is that what we want to try again?

No, I don't think this is a good idea.
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: Triarius Fidelis on April 11, 2010, 05:14:16 pm
Let's just be clear about what we're talking about here, and quit beating around the bush and hiding behind euphemisms like "utility" and "normative irrelevancy."

They're not euphemisms

I don't want to get distracted by deontological language

We're talking about eugenics.

So?

You know who else liked eugenics?

(http://img442.imageshack.us/img442/3333/wrathofkhanricardomonta.jpg)

That's right, Khan Noonien Singh!  You thought I was going to say Hitler?  Hitler had nothing on this guy.  He was a prince, with power over millions.  Even though he fled Earth in 1996 (in the DY-100 class ship the S.S. Botany Bay), during the Eugenics Wars of the 1990s whole populations were bombed out of existence.  Is that what we want to try again?

Well I don't remember saying that I wanted to bomb out non-GE humans

I'm just saying they should be prevented from happening in the future

A zygote is no more sentient than an E. coli specimen lurking in my poop chute so you can't really inflict any disutility on them

I don't see how society would suffer from having smarter, more conscientious people in it

If we are to climb the Kardashev scale (or even take care of our own planet) we've got quite a task cut out for ourselves

Since human GE could have huge payoffs while remaining very cost-effective there's no reason not to use it

Biotechnology and biologically-inspired technologies will most likely be to the 21st century what electronics was to the 20th

These are some pretty amazing times to live in
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: tomh38 on April 11, 2010, 05:45:48 pm
Uh ... Döden ... it's a joke.

Main Entry: 1joke
Pronunciation: \ˈjōk\
Function: noun

Etymology: Latin jocus; perhaps akin to Old High German gehan  to say, Sanskrit yācati he asks
Date: 1670

1 a : something said or done to provoke laughter; especially : a brief oral narrative with a climactic humorous twist b (1) : the humorous or ridiculous element in something (2) : an instance of jesting

Somebody who can't recognize a joke might want to reconsider his or her various suggestions about changing our genome.

You might want to study human behavior.  It is quite fascinating.

(http://haldolongwidget.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/spock.jpg)
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: Triarius Fidelis on April 11, 2010, 07:07:42 pm
I know; it just wasn't terribly funny

These are fine examples of funny things for future reference

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7WXoMp8Ews
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfKguokxixk
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cpIJO5U9Ts
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMSHmGBbuLU

More seriously, though, I now intend to make a career out of advocating human GE. Both philosophy and psychology / neuroscience could be neat transitions from linguistics (what I am currently reading). I'm not sure which would serve my purposes best. Perhaps both
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: sledgehammer on April 11, 2010, 08:33:11 pm
Invading Iraq was a joke too, until Iraq was invaded.
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: Triarius Fidelis on April 11, 2010, 09:21:32 pm
Or bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_iKuMVqht4U) ho ho ho ha ha ha hee hee hee amirite?

Anyway getting back to the subject

Would you agree that colonizing space and climbing up the Kardashev scale is a good thing

I mean civilization being wiped out by the Sun's death wouldn't be good right

If we can agree on this much, I'd like to point out the human race as is is not terribly conducive to this goal

In fact, it's not really even conducive to stewardship of the only planet we've got right now

Since I've made a point of reading 50+ pages every day, I've got a lot of food for thought now. Consider this, from the recent Springer book Terraforming: The Creating of Habitable Worlds:

Quote
In the mid-1980s, a University of British Columbia, Canada task force developed an accounting system to evaluate the environmental impact of human beings. The task force found that to feed and deal with the waste produced by each Canadian citizen (and there are currently about 33 million Canadians) requires about 10 acres of land (4.2 hectares = 0.042 km2). Remarkably, if the rest of the 6.6 billion people in the world were able to live to the same standards as the average Canadian, then the total area required to support the entire world's population would be about 66 billion acres, or 2.77 billion square kilometers of land. This ecological footprint is equivalent to the surface area of about five Earths (or, equivalently, about 18 times larger than the Earth's actual land area). Although in Canada, the United States, and most of Europe people have great expectations and can simply assume that there will always be electricity, drinking water, sewage treatment, garbage removal, and food to buy in stores, the vast majority of people in the world have no such expectations or luxuries. This poverty reduces the impact of Homo sapiens' collective footprint upon Earth, but nonetheless there is literally nowhere on Earth where the presence of humanity, either by alteration or habitation, isn't felt.

If the study carried out is even remotely true, then, let's be serious here, the truth sucks big time. If it turned out that human GE could contribute greatly to reversing these ugly trends (I find it strange that none of you have argued that it couldn't), then it should start to be adopted as soon as possible, because little real cost is entailed, aside from insults to our pride. Well ... there are ethical risks, I guess, but I don't see any other (realistic) way forward ... a risky transition is better than incurring a 100% risk of continuing to suck

And so far everyone who's disagreed with me about human GE has reacted with either indignation or fear, with perhaps only shallow defense of their viewpoint

Could we attain, say, type II status with the current population? ... Maybe ... but I sort of doubt it ... the construction of something like a Dyson array seems almost unthinkable under the present circumstances. And the more important question, regardless, is whether we want to cripple ourselves (or, that is, remain crippled, relatively speaking)

What do we value, really?
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: tomh38 on April 12, 2010, 01:02:41 am
All right, I can be serious.

Quote
I mean civilization being wiped out by the Sun's death wouldn't be good right?

Hmmm ...  the Sun is about halfway through its life-cycle on the main sequence.  That gives us about five thousand million years before the Sun expands into a red giant.  Multicellular life on earth has been around for about five hundred million years, just to put these things in perspective.  Current evidence suggests that modern humans have been around for about two hundred thousand years.  In the United States (just to give one example) nobody has any real idea about how to to keep Social Security going for more than about twenty years.

I don't think we need to worry about civilisation ending because of the Sun's death for a while yet.  But yes, on the other hand, you're absolutely right.  The human species as is is not conducive to the stewardship of the only planet that we've got right now.  Nevertheless, I wouldn't worry too much about the planet.  Worry more about the species.  It's more likely that the planet will shake us off like a dog shakes off a bunch of fleas than it is that we'll render the planet uninhabitable.

And, if you're hoping to save the species and climb up the Kardashev scale of levels of technological development of civilisations, I think you'll be dissappointed - not that you're likely to live long enough to find out even given various antisenescence technologies which might come along while you're still alive.

It's really not a question of whether there will be genetically engineered humans; it's more a question of when, by whom, and to what purpose.

Given what we know from recorded history (granted, not much information about a pretty short period of time, but it's all we've got), I don't think we're going to get people who are genetically engineered to be more intelligent and more conscientious.  From what I can tell, we're more likely to get:

1) Reversal of male pattern baldness, 2) Breast augmentation, 3) Increased athletic abilities, 4) Fewer wrinkles and blemishes of the skin, 5) Long, luxurious hair which shines and flows, 6) Whiter, more durable teeth  ... I think you must get my point.

I get that you're the kind of person who wants to improve the human condition and ensure the future of the species.  Just remember that most people don't care at all about the future of the species or space colonization, and have never heard of the Kardashev scale.

Sure, you can go around like Ray Kurzweil, writing books and giving talks.  I just wouldn't get my hopes up too much.

Just so that you know, I never look at Youtube links anymore.  Go ahead and post them, just don't expect me to respond to them.

Finally, as a side note, why do you keep changing your nickname/avatar?  I really am just curious.  It doesn't bother me, though some people might find it confusing.
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: bigpaws on April 12, 2010, 07:07:06 am
The failure of GE would be that unless the world was sterilized
of the those currently living, success would be a crap shoot.

Bigpaws

Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: retired1af on April 12, 2010, 07:15:04 am
We still don't know enough about genetics to create a "super race". As soon as you start playing with single gene mutations, recessive traits become more pronounced. So now, instead of creating something that's better, you may actually wind up with something that's worse.

Regardless of the existing state of technology, and the "pure science" involved, you will always have those that twist it for their own demented ideals. Creating utopia via genetics may be popular science fiction reading, but in reality, it's nothing more than a pipe dream.
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: tomh38 on April 12, 2010, 08:02:03 am
retired1af,

I agree.  We've only just begun to understand the human genome.  It's far too early to start tinkering with it.  Even treating certain heritable diseases (e.g. cystic fibrosis) with genetic engineering caries certain risks.  Along similar lines, it so happens that sickle cell anemia, a disorder fairly common among Africans and people of African descent, is linked to a gene which also confers a degree of resistance to malaria.  Do we really want to start altering things?

Also, Triarus Fidelis, some people have responded with fear to your suggestions.  The ability to feel fear is a trait acquired via natural selection.  It's what keeps you from getting run over when a car is about to hit you.  Just because fear is non-rational doesn't mean it's a bad thing.  Perhaps some fear what you're suggesting because it's a fearful thing. 

Also, another thing about your nickname - I was just re-reading this thread and I realized that there were a lot of references to somebody called "Doden" ... who is now no longer a person who posted here, or anywhere in the Vector Linux forums, for that matter.

I take back what I wrote about you changing your nick.  It does bother me.  It's disingenuous.  It's inconsiderate.  It would be a sign of good faith and honesty if you would stop doing it.
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: retired1af on April 12, 2010, 08:11:06 am
Perhaps some fear what you're suggesting because it's a fearful thing. 

Some fear the suggestion because human nature has shown time and time again through the centuries that just because an original idea had noble beginnings, it rarely ends up that way.

Any society that sets forth to use Eugenics as a means to obtain a desirable "race" is no better than those societies from our past that used more barbaric means to obtain the same goal.

I take back what I wrote about you changing your nick.  It does bother me.  It's disingenuous.  It's inconsiderate.  It would be a sign of good faith and honesty if you would stop doing it.

I had a user on my site that did this on a semi-regular basis. After the third time, he was told point blank to cease the practice. He's now permanently banned with his ISP on my server's permanent deny list.
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: Triarius Fidelis on April 12, 2010, 12:41:11 pm
And, if you're hoping to save the species and climb up the Kardashev scale of levels of technological development of civilisations, I think you'll be dissappointed - not that you're likely to live long enough to find out even given various antisenescence technologies which might come along while you're still alive.

So? Who said I would?

I get that you're the kind of person who wants to improve the human condition and ensure the future of the species.  Just remember that most people don't care at all about the future of the species or space colonization, and have never heard of the Kardashev scale.

Why has Idiocracy not taken full hold then? A minority of people do have a disproportionate influence on society

Sure, you can go around like Ray Kurzweil, writing books and giving talks.  I just wouldn't get my hopes up too much.

It sounds like you're trying to deter me. Why is that?

Just so that you know, I never look at Youtube links anymore.  Go ahead and post them, just don't expect me to respond to them.

They were:

Commentary on ICP - Miracles
Brainbombs - Anne Frank
Best of Reverend X Pt. 1
Lady Gaga feat. Dr. Robotnik - Pingasface

Finally, as a side note, why do you keep changing your nickname/avatar?  I really am just curious.  It doesn't bother me, though some people might find it confusing.

Well, why not?

I'm not Death personified anymore, I'm a faithful veteran soldier

The failure of GE would be that unless the world was sterilized of the those currently living, success would be a crap shoot.

People who breed in large numbers don't have much influence though so idk

We still don't know enough about genetics to create a "super race".

That means: try harder

As soon as you start playing with single gene mutations, recessive traits become more pronounced. So now, instead of creating something that's better, you may actually wind up with something that's worse.

Watch that fetus then

And hope it doesn't develop a nervous system before it must be aborted

Regardless of the existing state of technology, and the "pure science" involved, you will always have those that twist it for their own demented ideals. Creating utopia via genetics may be popular science fiction reading, but in reality, it's nothing more than a pipe dream.

http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/appeal-to-ridicule.html

Quote
The Appeal to Ridicule is a fallacy in which ridicule or mockery is substituted for evidence in an "argument." This line of "reasoning" has the following form:

  • X, which is some form of ridicule is presented (typically directed at the claim).
  • Therefore claim C is false.

This sort of "reasoning" is fallacious because mocking a claim does not show that it is false. This is especially clear in the following example: "1+1=2! That's the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard!"

You'll have to do better than this

I agree.  We've only just begun to understand the human genome.  It's far too early to start tinkering with it.  Even treating certain heritable diseases (e.g. cystic fibrosis) with genetic engineering caries certain risks.  Along similar lines, it so happens that sickle cell anemia, a disorder fairly common among Africans and people of African descent, is linked to a gene which also confers a degree of resistance to malaria.  Do we really want to start altering things?

Why should we allow malaria to continue to exist?

I mean if we had a bunch of smart people working on eliminating or providing a vaccine for malaria, sickle cell anemia would not be necessary would it

Also, Triarus Fidelis, some people have responded with fear to your suggestions.  The ability to feel fear is a trait acquired via natural selection.  It's what keeps you from getting run over when a car is about to hit you.  Just because fear is non-rational doesn't mean it's a bad thing.

It's perfectly rational to be fearful if it saves you from getting hit by a car, if your goal is to remain alive

If your goal is to increase societal welfare and you don't use a very useful means to bring about that end, then you are being irrational

Also, another thing about your nickname - I was just re-reading this thread and I realized that there were a lot of references to somebody called "Doden" ... who is now no longer a person who posted here, or anywhere in the Vector Linux forums, for that matter.

I take back what I wrote about you changing your nick.  It does bother me.  It's disingenuous.  It's inconsiderate.  It would be a sign of good faith and honesty if you would stop doing it.

lolwut

You can easily see posts of mine from waaaay back when I was still hanumizzle

http://forum.vectorlinux.com/index.php?action=profile;u=38;sa=showPosts

No one cared when I was changing my display title earlier and suddenly I'm a horrible person

I think you're just pissed off at me ... aw come on bb

Perhaps some fear what you're suggesting because it's a fearful thing. 

Well that's not my fault is it

Some fear the suggestion because human nature has shown time and time again through the centuries that just because an original idea had noble beginnings, it rarely ends up that way.

Do you have hard numbers to support this idea? What is "noble" and what does it mean that it "rarely ends up that way"? Is there evidence that could update our posterior probability that human GE will (not) turn out badly, making it less than the prior probability?

Your argument is very hazy

Any society that sets forth to use Eugenics as a means to obtain a desirable "race" is no better than those societies from our past that used more barbaric means to obtain the same goal.

Why? Isn't being less "barbaric" by definition better?

I had a user on my site that did this on a semi-regular basis. After the third time, he was told point blank to cease the practice. He's now permanently banned with his ISP on my server's permanent deny list.

On another forum where I post, a mod does that all the time. No one bats an eye

If I were in that user's place, it would be time to start using samair
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: tomh38 on April 12, 2010, 01:58:10 pm
Okay, a few things:

Quote
It sounds like you're trying to deter me. Why is that?

I'm not.  Do whatever you like, do whatever makes you happy.  Also, since we have the First Amendment in the US, you have the right to say whatever you want, as long as it it's not something like "Hey Joey, here's $500. Go whack that guy I told you about."  Well, you can say that, as a joke or something.  It's ordering the hit for real that's illegal.  I may disagree with you, but I defend your right to say what you think.

Quote
It's perfectly rational to be fearful if it saves you from getting hit by a car, if your goal is to remain alive
.

That's not precisely true.  Becoming afraid and feeling fear are non-rational (as opposed to irrational, i.e. against reason).  At such times people feel fear and unless they're contemplating suicide, the events in their brains have nothing to do with having rational "goals."

...

You've yet to show to my satisfaction that we know enough about the human genome to start altering it.  Perhaps at some point we will.  In my opinion your time would be better spent understanding genetics first before you "make a career out of promoting genetic engineering," but as I already stated, you have the right to do what you like with your time.

...

Throughout this entire thread you've been making a very old and pretty obvious philosophical mistake known as "ethical intellectualism," the idea that if people are intelligent enough to know the right decision they will make it.  There are plenty of examples to prove this is false.  I'll leave it to you to find them.  I'm sure you can.

Quote
lolwut

You can easily see posts of mine from waaaay back when I was still hanumizzle

You missed the point.  Of course anybody can see any of the posts you have made that haven't been deleted by a moderator.  My point is that in these threads other people have referred to "hanumizzle," and because of the way the site is designed, there is now no such member.  That member is now known as Triarius Fidelis, and has been a dozen or so other people in between.  Next week, when you're Optimus Prime or whatever, the problem will be the same.  If someone were to go back and read a thread in which somebody responded to one of your posts, that person would only see whoever you are at that time, not who you were then.  Context can clarify some of this, but not everything.

I have no idea whether or not you're trying to avoid taking responsibility for how you interact in these forums, but the effect is the same.  If you can't see that it's deceptive and inconsiderate, then I would seriously doubt your qualifications for making decisions about what humanity should be like in the future.
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: Triarius Fidelis on April 12, 2010, 02:22:19 pm
That's not precisely true.  Becoming afraid and feeling fear are non-rational (as opposed to irrational, i.e. against reason).

Antonio Damasio et al. would disagree with you

http://www.amazon.com/Descartes-Error-Emotion-Reason-Human/dp/0380726475

But whatevs

You've yet to show to my satisfaction that we know enough about the human genome to start altering it.  Perhaps at some point we will.  In my opinion your time would be better spent understanding genetics first before you "make a career out of promoting genetic engineering"

So little about the nervous system was known when people first started to model it formally in the 1940s

Digital computing as we know it today eventually emerged from these efforts

Granted these are different things but I think a general case could be made that thinking about something before it is attainable can and in many instances has been productive

So I don't see how the ethical philosophy of human GE is premature

Throughout this entire thread you've been making a very old and pretty obvious philosophical mistake known as "ethical intellectualism," the idea that if people are intelligent enough to know the right decision they will make it.

Yes but I'm also talking about engineering personality to help "make the right choice"

We can't pretend that some genetic factors in personality aren't already known

You missed the point.  Of course anybody can see any of the posts you have made that haven't been deleted by a moderator.  My point is that in these threads other people have referred to "hanumizzle," and because of the way the site is designed, there is now no such member.  That member is now known as Triarius Fidelis, and has been a dozen or so other people in between.  Next week, when you're Optimus Prime or whatever, the problem will be the same.  If someone were to go back and read a thread in which somebody responded to one of your posts, that person would only see whoever you are at that time, not who you were then.  Context can clarify some of this, but not everything.

But my UID (34) is invariant

I have no idea whether or not you're trying to avoid taking responsibility for how you interact in these forums, but the effect is the same.  If you can't see that it's deceptive and inconsiderate

Well that's awfully subjective isn't it

For what it's worth, I will include prior usernames of mine that I can still remember from the past year or so

then I would seriously doubt your qualifications for making decisions about what humanity should be like in the future.

http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/ad-hominem.html

Quote
Translated from Latin to English, "Ad Hominem" means "against the man" or "against the person."

An Ad Hominem is a general category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the author of or the person presenting the claim or argument. Typically, this fallacy involves two steps. First, an attack against the character of person making the claim, her circumstances, or her actions is made (or the character, circumstances, or actions of the person reporting the claim). Second, this attack is taken to be evidence against the claim or argument the person in question is making (or presenting). This type of "argument" has the following form:

  • Person A makes claim X.
  • Person B makes an attack on person A.
  • Therefore A's claim is false.

The reason why an Ad Hominem (of any kind) is a fallacy is that the character, circumstances, or actions of a person do not (in most cases) have a bearing on the truth or falsity of the claim being made (or the quality of the argument being made).

See, I've come to expect better arguments than this
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: tomh38 on April 12, 2010, 02:46:36 pm
I'm not saying that you because you've been inconsiderate, therefore your claims are false.  I'm saying that because you didn't see that you had been inconsiderate, I question your judgement and qualifications in general, and more specifically in these matters.  That's not the same as an ad hominem argument.  An ad hominem argument would be something more like "You're a jerk and often very annoying, therefore we shouldn't have genetic engineering."  Just to be clear, I'm not saying that either.

I'm also not saying that we shouldn't be talking about altering the human genome.  We certainly should be talking about it, and even planning for how things will be when somebody actually does it, because somebody will, probably sooner rather than later.

I just think that it's a bad idea to actually start doing it before we really know what we're doing.  Even then there are risks, because of unintended consequences.  This is an area where we need to be very, very careful.
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: Triarius Fidelis on April 12, 2010, 02:54:54 pm
I'm not saying that you because you've been inconsiderate, therefore your claims are false.  I'm saying that because you didn't see that you had been inconsiderate

It's debatable whether I've been inconsiderate

Furthermore it would be a fallacy of composition to assume that, because I've been inconsiderate on a really minor account, that I am inconsiderate in other affairs

I question your judgement and qualifications in general, and more specifically in these matters.

Why?

I'm also not saying that we shouldn't be talking about altering the human genome.  We certainly should be talking about it, and even planning for how things will be when somebody actually does it, because somebody will, probably sooner rather than later.

This will be the aim of my career

I just think that it's a bad idea to actually start doing it before we really know what we're doing.  Even then there are risks, because of unintended consequences.  This is an area where we need to be very, very careful.

Well we have started. Just on other species. But not just simple prokaryotes, even other animals. So we'll already have a lot of practice in before it happens. Of course I see no reason why genetic engineering of humans should not be implemented incrementally

The growth of knowledge and development in this area is nothing short of explosive. There is much to look forward to
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: tomh38 on April 12, 2010, 03:17:38 pm
Quote
It's debatable whether I've been inconsiderate.

Be that as it may, nobody's debating it.  One person even said that if you did it on his site, you would be banned permanently.  And I don't see a whole lot of people jumping in here to defend you.  So you can believe what you like, but you might want to consider what some of the reasons could be for some of the reactions that you get from people.  Your defense of your use of the word "gay" some time ago comes to mind.  If a lot of people get angry about things you write, it may not be only because you're more intelligent than they are and can't see things they way you do.  There might be other reasons.

I question your judgement and qualifications in these matters because it's unwise to hand over large responsibilities to someone who has shown that he can't handle small ones.

Quote
This will be the aim of my career.

That sounds like a good idea.  I'm sure you have a lot to contribute to the discussion.

Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: Triarius Fidelis on April 12, 2010, 04:04:44 pm
Quote
It's debatable whether I've been inconsiderate.

Be that as it may, nobody's debating it.  One person even said that if you did it on his site, you would be banned permanently.

And in some countries I might even be imprisoned or lynched for advocating human GE ... like I imagine in some Islamic countries it would be considered blasphemy or something

And maybe the rule in question is just dumb

So?

And I don't see a whole lot of people jumping in here to defend you.

So?

So you can believe what you like, but you might want to consider what some of the reasons could be for some of the reactions that you get from people.  Your defense of your use of the word "gay" some time ago comes to mind.  If a lot of people get angry about things you write, it may not be only because you're more intelligent than they are and can't see things they way you do.  There might be other reasons.

Well sure

But I really only care about what other people think insofar as it helps me achieve some goal I have in mind

I might hold my tongue if it means it will enable me to do something later but otherwise I don't really care

I question your judgement and qualifications in these matters because it's unwise to hand over large responsibilities to someone who has shown that he can't handle small ones.

Why

A lot of people who handled large responsibilities very well were incredibly petty in some ways

Look at what Newton did to Robert Hooke. He was an utter asswipe as a person, but he managed to invent the calculus and a lot of modern physics and serve as an official competently

That sounds like a good idea.  I'm sure you have a lot to contribute to the discussion.

Cool
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: tomh38 on April 12, 2010, 04:43:55 pm
Quote
But I really only care about what other people think insofar as it helps me achieve some goal I have in mind.

If you are simply stating a fact and not being merely being defensive ... I find this very disturbing.  The clear implication is that your personal goals are more important to you than social norms, or possibly even the people around you except insofar as you can use them to achieve your ends.

I really did not expect that kind of answer.  You claim it doesn't bother you that nobody is taking your side.  You say that what others think doesn't matter except in helping you get what you want.

I suppose sometimes you do find out what people are really like, even on the Internet.

I hope I never meet you in person.
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: stretchedthin on April 12, 2010, 05:05:28 pm
Quote
Look at what Newton did to Robert Hooke. He was an utter asswipe as a person, but he managed to invent the calculus and a lot of modern physics and serve as an official competently

Well at least in your world we could have wiped out Newton before he was even born because he is carrying the 'asswipe' gene.

   I can't believe you can't see the downside.  I'm beginning to think you form an emotionally attachment to your ideas and can not remain impartial and subjective.  

   You will not find a scientist anywhere that will state that any human behavior is 100% hereditary.  Most agree that at best heredity plays a 50% probability in determining future behavior and that is only for a few select behaviors.  For the most part we are creatures of our environment and of our nurturing.  

Is there a practical purpose for such technology, sure.  It is currently being used to help parents help screen for down syndrome. Something that works because of its high probability.  There is some hope that it may be able to determine which zygotes are destined to be psychopaths.  Even in that case I think science would have to prove that the probability of the test would have to be close to 100% before being allowed to terminate on that evidence alone.

Here are where I think you have some false beliefs...
1. You seem to think a genetic disposition to a behavior is 100% conclusive.  It is not. People without the 'greed' gene are 'greedy' and not all men with an extra 'Y' chromosome are in jail or committing crimes.

2. You see this as a way to bring world order.  But, you have to also be able to see that it is a way to make the gap between the have's and the have-nots even wider.  Some classes would even consider themselves evolutionarily superior, this is not a level playing field for mankind.

3. You say we are an imperfect people right now, but don't recognize this as the catch-22 you should fear.  It is the imperfect people of the current of near future that will be administering this program and sure enough they will screw it up.

You may not agree with the above statement and that is fine.  Could you at least reply with some comments that show you are capable of playing devils advocate to your own ideas.  If not, then I find it hard to believe you will be successful within the scientific process.
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: Triarius Fidelis on April 12, 2010, 05:20:24 pm
Quote
But I really only care about what other people think insofar as it helps me achieve some goal I have in mind.

If you are simply stating a fact and not being merely being defensive ... I find this very disturbing.

I pretty much stopped getting butthurt about things a while ago

The actions of other people against me from childhood onwards have taken their toll

So yes I am stating a fact

The clear implication is that your personal goals are more important to you than social norms

Of course

A lot of social norms are really, really dumb

So?

or possibly even the people around you except insofar as you can use them to achieve your ends.

Well, I like a few people

But not many

I really did not expect that kind of answer.  You claim it doesn't bother you that nobody is taking your side.

Of course not ... why should I entertain an argumentum ad populum?

You say that what others think doesn't matter except in helping you get what you want.

How is this different from anyone else? I just have unusual goals

I suppose sometimes you do find out what people are really like, even on the Internet.

I hope I never meet you in person.

Well what do you fear from me? Unlike many other people I come across, I'm really not willing to take a dump on people without real cause. I see no reason to engage in thievery (copyright infringement doesn't count btw), commit acts of gratuitous violence against other sentient animals, or abuse the environment. In fact I mean to work on becoming a vegetarian in the next few years, and join the Peace Corps as soon as I graduate. I am also opposed to the "corrections" system as it is implemented in the US and would probably not call the cops for all but the most dangerous offenses

So, if we met, there is like no chance you would come to harm from me unless you tried to kill me or something. You could probably even get away with ripping off my possessions. How many people do you know where you could say that of them? Imagine, furthermore, we lived in a place and time when, for example, burning witches and other heretics was considered acceptable. Which side of this issue do you think I'd be on?

Incidentally, I do find it valuable that my affect deeply disturbs a lot of people. I'm not going to do anything bad to them, so it flummoxes me, but it is useful. If I just give off the impression that I am an inexorable Terminator-esque psychopath (probably only half true), people give me a wide berth and keep their dumb ideas to themselves so that I can get a move on, and have a few cheap lulz to boot. And no one is really worse off because I wouldn't actually bring them to harm

So what you are saying, essentially, is that I'm some kind of sick **** because I don't care whether I hurt someone's feelings when accommodating them would get in the way of doing something useful

I see your accusation and raise you a BAWWWWW bunny

(http://registeringdomainnamesismorefunthandoingrealwork.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/bawwwww.jpg)

Quote
Look at what Newton did to Robert Hooke. He was an utter asswipe as a person, but he managed to invent the calculus and a lot of modern physics and serve as an official competently

Well at least in your world we could have wiped out Newton before he was even born because he is carrying the 'asswipe' gene.

Well how awful would it be to forgo Newton for ten ethically superior Newtonesque people

I can't believe you can't see the downside.

I can. But the expected benefits outweigh the expected costs IMO

I'm beginning to think you form an emotionally attachment to your ideas and can not remain impartial and subjective.

Maybe. I think you meant "objective." But because I'm talking ethics, subjectivity is unavoidable

You will not find a scientist anywhere that will state that any human behavior is 100% hereditary.  Most agree that at best heredity plays a 50% probability in determining future behavior and that is only for a few select behaviors.

Yes

If you can imagine utility achieved for society by a given person as a function of genetics and environment you can imagine that changing both will profoundly affect its value

We probably can't maximize it unless we manipulate both

Furthermore, the good news is that there would be positive feedback. Environmental (cultural / societal) factors are what would enable GE in the first place. But then the human products of GE would affect society later on, and influence the genetics more, and so on back and forth

Is there a practical purpose for such technology, sure.  It is currently being used to help parents help screen for down syndrome. Something that works because of its high probability.  There is some hope that it may be able to determine which zygotes are destined to be psychopaths.  Even in that case I think science would have to prove that the probability of the test would have to be close to 100% before being allowed to terminate on that evidence alone.

It could be much less. The cost of getting rid of a zygote is negligible. It's not like it's hard to generate zygotes

Here are where I think you have some false beliefs...

You've misconstrued them but ...

2. You see this as a way to bring world order.  But, you have to also be able to see that it is a way to make the gap between the have's and the have-nots even wider.

Could genetic manipulation confer superior ability on people or not? You seem to be admitting that it could here, at least tacitly, just after downplaying the importance of the same. Make up your mind

Some classes would even consider themselves evolutionarily superior, this is not a level playing field for mankind.

This is where legal institutions come in

3. You say we are an imperfect people right now, but don't recognize this as the catch-22 you should fear.  It is the imperfect people of the current of near future that will be administering this program and sure enough they will screw it up.

There's the biggest obstacle, I think. For this reason genetic engineering of humans would have be regulated and incremental

You may not agree with the above statement and that is fine.  Could you at least reply with some comments that show you are capable of playing devils advocate to your own ideas.  If not, then I find it hard to believe you will be successful within the scientific process.

There are people who are way more biased in the scientific community than I am lol
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: bigpaws on April 12, 2010, 05:52:36 pm
The question to be correct would be in saving the earth, if not than forgive this thought.

If the earth can not support the current population. Then how is the logical choice being that
we should GE so that we live longer? Of course with the wisdom and longevity, then so
shall the need for even more resources to support them. It would be better to answer the
question of how to make better use of resources vs increasing the demands upon the earth.
Before bestowing a superior human.

It is amazing the current rate of waste is greater than ever expected. In "modern society" we
simply dispose of our waste vs fixing it. Consider our fore fathers where they created what
they needed with a pretense of Longevity, today that does not hold true. We need to change
that mentality.

WHERE DID THE WHITE MAN GO WRONG?  TOUGH TO ARGUE WITH THIS ONE
Indian Chief 'Two Eagles' was asked by a white government official, 'You have observed the white man for 90 years. You've seen his wars and his technological advances. You've seen his progress, and the damage he's done.'
The Chief nodded in agreement.
The official continued, 'Considering all these events, in your opinion, where did the white man go wrong?'

The Chief stared at the government official for over a minute and then calmly replied. 'When white man find land, Indians running it, no taxes, no debt, plenty buffalo, plenty beaver, clean water.
Women did all the work, Medicine man free. Indian man spend all day hunting and fishing; all night having sex.'

Then the chief leaned back and smiled. 'Only white man dumb enough to think he could improve system like that.'

Bigpaws
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: Triarius Fidelis on April 12, 2010, 06:06:01 pm
The question to be correct would be in saving the earth, if not than forgive this thought.

If the earth can not support the current population. Then how is the logical choice being that
we should GE so that we live longer? Of course with the wisdom and longevity, then so
shall the need for even more resources to support them. It would be better to answer the
question of how to make better use of resources vs increasing the demands upon the earth.
Before bestowing a superior human.

It is amazing the current rate of waste is greater than ever expected. In "modern society" we
simply dispose of our waste vs fixing it. Consider our fore fathers where they created what
they needed with a pretense of Longevity, today that does not hold true. We need to change
that mentality.

I have made the importance of environmental stewardship explicitly clear all throughout this thread

Did you not read it?

I don't see how human GE and environmentalism are mutually exclusive; indeed, they may be deeply compatible

WHERE DID THE WHITE MAN GO WRONG?  TOUGH TO ARGUE WITH THIS ONE

Your anecdote, aside from being condescending, is untrue. Aboriginal populations in America and Australia, often juxtaposed to industrial civilizations to point out its flaws, hunted dozens of giant animal species into extinction upon their arrival. The American landscape would look very different without their impact on the environment, being swarmed over by great predatory cats, rhinoceros, and even giant sloths
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: GrannyGeek on April 12, 2010, 07:20:36 pm
Whatever the merits and demerits of human GE in improving the species, politically it's a non-starter.

Consider the huge flap over embryonic stem cell research in the US. These early embryos were not ever going to become babies but were destined for eventual destruction. Yet there are large numbers of citizens who consider a fertilized egg to be fully human from the moment of conception.

There are billions in the world who hold the same opinion. I doubt they and their religions are going to have a mass change of mind over the benefits of human GE. So how could this be implemented on a wide enough scale to make difference? Would we need a dictatorship to force human GE on all those who are opposed? Nor could it be a private decision, any more than opponents are disposed to allow abortion to be a private decision.

Agree or disagree, human GE (especially involving killing a zygote) would face a massive wall of opposition. Since much (most?) of this opposition is religion-based, mustering rational arguments in favor of your proposition would go nowhere.
--GrannyGeek
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: Triarius Fidelis on April 12, 2010, 07:47:10 pm
There are billions in the world who hold the same opinion. I doubt they and their religions are going to have a mass change of mind over the benefits of human GE.

A lot of people don't think neo-Darwinian evolution should be taught either

They have some influence in really crappy states like Alabama and Texas, but even there they haven't had much of an impact on higher education

Being dumb severely limits the recourse that people have, even if they are present in large numbers

So how could this be implemented on a wide enough scale to make difference?

People would notice the benefits if just one small place was able to carry it out

The ideas of one poor rocky Mediterranean backwater of the ancient world are of course widespread in the world today, despite centuries of tremendous bigotry

Good ideas have a way of slowly forcing out bad ones, because bad ideas are, contrary to popular belief, useless

Would we need a dictatorship to force human GE on all those who are opposed?

I hope not

Nor could it be a private decision, any more than opponents are disposed to allow abortion to be a private decision.

Agree or disagree, human GE (especially involving killing a zygote) would face a massive wall of opposition. Since much (most?) of this opposition is religion-based, mustering rational arguments in favor of your proposition would go nowhere.
--GrannyGeek

America =/= the world

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_atheism

I intend to live out the rest of my years in Sweden as soon as possible because it's one of the few parts of the world that's sort of tolerable ... although NZ and Canada, e.g., aren't bad either actually

ps nonreligious is the fastest growing religious demo in the US
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: retired1af on April 12, 2010, 08:05:54 pm

They have some influence in really crappy states like Alabama and Texas, but even there they haven't had much of an impact on higher education

Being dumb severely limits the recourse that people have, even if they are present in large numbers

It's painfully obvious you've never traveled much outside your little sphere if ignorance. Otherwise you wouldn't make such a sweeping statement.

Quote
People would notice the benefits if just one small place was able to carry it out

The ideas of one poor rocky Mediterranean backwater of the ancient world are of course widespread in the world today, despite centuries of tremendous bigotry

Good ideas have a way of slowly forcing out bad ones, because bad ideas are, contrary to popular belief, useless

One person's good idea, may indeed be a bad idea for everyone else. Just because you think Eugenics is mankind's salvation, I submit it would create a rift that would lead to more violence. Especially when those that are genetically engineered start considering themselves better than "non-engineered" individuals.

Quote
America =/= the world

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_atheism

I intend to live out the rest of my years in Sweden as soon as possible because it's one of the few parts of the world that's sort of tolerable ... although NZ and Canada, e.g., aren't bad either actually

ps nonreligious is the fastest growing religious demo in the US

Just because one does not associate with "religion" does not equate to being non-spiritual. I suspect you'll never find a comfortable place to live as your ideas are not what mainstream society would consider "normal". As I stated earlier, thinking Eugenics can solve the world's problems is no different than those societies that used other methods to achieve the same goals.
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: Triarius Fidelis on April 12, 2010, 08:48:26 pm
It's painfully obvious you've never traveled much outside your little sphere if ignorance. Otherwise you wouldn't make such a sweeping statement.

Well

I'm not saying that everyone from these areas sucks. In fact, it isn't true at all

Overall they are crappy states though

For instance, Alabama—like other Deep South states—is a federal tax burden (http://web.archive.org/web/20050204092407/www.taxfoundation.org/taxingspending.html) and the Texas Board of Education is currently embarrassing the whole country (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7qckl3W6W4)

One person's good idea, may indeed be a bad idea for everyone else.

Empiricism is bad for believers ... and especially priests

So?

A lot of people get all pissed when a true but unsettling finding comes out

So?

Just because you think Eugenics is mankind's salvation, I submit it would create a rift that would lead to more violence. Especially when those that are genetically engineered start considering themselves better than "non-engineered" individuals.

I don't see how considering oneself superior would necessarily be a bar to accepting utilitarianism (i.e., weighing everyone's utility equally)

Obviously people are right to consider themselves superior to other animals in many ways, although we at least claim that humane slaughter is preferable, abhor frivolous animal testing and vivisection ... and some people don't eat animals at all

Just because one does not associate with "religion" does not equate to being non-spiritual.

Eurobarometer accounts for this distinction

(http://i41.tinypic.com/14sl0te.png)

Notice the correlation, quite possibly causal, between lack of religious belief and standards of living

A significant minority of Swedes, for instance, categorically do not believe in a supernatural element

Also, "spirit or life force" is vaguely defined. I wonder whether these terms are clearer in other languages but in English at least I might be tempted to answer that I do believe in, at least, a "life force" even though I am an atheist

I suspect you'll never find a comfortable place to live as your ideas are not what mainstream society would consider "normal".

Perhaps not

But ... that doesn't imply it would be the right thing for me to toe the line

As long as everyone else just gets my fries to me piping hot and doesn't put my bread at the bottom of the bag where it will get crushed we can agree to disagree

As I stated earlier, thinking Eugenics can solve the world's problems is no different than those societies that used other methods to achieve the same goals.

You've said it three times

But not justified it once
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: bigpaws on April 12, 2010, 08:53:41 pm
Quote
I have made the importance of environmental stewardship explicitly clear all throughout this thread

Did you not read it?

I don't see how human GE and environmentalism are mutually exclusive; indeed, they may be deeply compatible

Your responses are becoming adversarial which is what you have accused others of. Your age is now showing.
It is interesting that you make these statements about other parts of the world, when to the best of my knowledge
I can check you have lived your life in Pennsylvania.

Continuing this thread at least for me is like GE futile.

Bigpaws
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: Triarius Fidelis on April 12, 2010, 09:05:47 pm
Your responses are becoming adversarial which is what you have accused others of.

Oh come now, have a sense of humor

Your age is now showing.

Well you didn't read what I said and then condescended to aboriginal Americans

That's not very nice you know

It is interesting that you make these statements about other parts of the world, when to the best of my knowledge
I can check you have lived your life in Pennsylvania.

Well yes but I don't go to school here

I've been around enough to tell I like some places more than others

Plus I know people from a lot of different places

And finally, learning about distant places allows one to reasonable inferences about them

I must admit I have not been to one of Jupiter's major moons, Io, but I can categorically assert that I would not want to live there

Io actually seems worse than the South

Continuing this thread at least for me is like GE futile.

There. I dignified your irrelevant ad hominem attack with a response. You're welcome
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: tomh38 on April 12, 2010, 09:26:19 pm
Incidentally, I do find it valuable that my affect deeply disturbs a lot of people.

Triarius Fidelis:


I imagine you do.  But that word ... "affect."  Lack of affect is what I would expect to find, were I to meet you, at which time I would make sure I was somewhere else very quickly.

Nice rabbit ... it just reinforces what I'm about to write.

You can backpedal all you like, talk about joining the Peace Corps or becoming a vegetarian, but you've already admitted that other people only matter to you insofar as they help you achieve your goals.  You can't unring the bell.  I'm not accusing you of anything.  You've done that yourself.
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: Triarius Fidelis on April 12, 2010, 10:03:59 pm
Incidentally, I do find it valuable that my affect deeply disturbs a lot of people.

Triarius Fidelis:


I imagine you do.  But that word ... "affect."  Lack of affect is what I would expect to find, were I to meet you, at which time I would make sure I was somewhere else very quickly.

To be fair

A psychiatrist diagnosed me as "schizoid"

This is a little known phenomenon; I never even heard of it before my dx, so I will post the Wikipedo summary here

Quote
Schizoid personality disorder (SPD) is a personality disorder characterized by a lack of interest in social relationships, a tendency towards a solitary lifestyle, secretiveness, and emotional coldness.[1] There is increased prevalence of the disorder in families with schizophrenia. SPD is not the same as schizophrenia, although they share some similar characteristics such as detachment or blunted affect.

There is some maternal history of schizophrenia, if I remember correctly. And it could be true that, to some extent, I am actually schizoid. However, it is not that simple. I got more friends when I started to attend uni. I make them laugh with my raunchy jokes. I don't have a stiff personality in that context. My expression of schizoid symptoms is heavily dependent on the immediate environment

I think it is worth noting, on balance, that I grew up in a rather toxic neighborhood and suffered a childhood ... trauma which caused me to be institutionalized, around the age of 11. This is important to know, and I refer you to the following article: http://www.aaets.org/article196.htm

Quote
When a child is threatened, various neurophysiological and neuroendocrine responses are initiated. If they persist, there will be ‘use-dependent’ alterations in the key neural systems involved in the stress response. These include the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. In animal models, chronic activation of the HPA system in response to stress has negative consequences. Chronic activation may "wear out" parts of the body including the hippocampus, a key area involved in memory, cognition and arousal. This may be occurring in traumatized children as well. Dr. Martin Teicher and colleagues have demonstrated hippocampal/limbic abnormalities in a sample of abused children.

Another set of neural systems that become sensitized by repetitive stressful experiences are the catecholamine systems including the dopaminergic and noradrenergic systems. These key neurochemical systems become altered following traumatic stress. The result is a cascade of associated changes in attention, impulse control, sleep, fine motor control and other functions mediated by the catecholamines. As these catecholamines and their target regions (e.g., amygdaloid nuclei) also mediate a variety of other emotional, cognitive and motor functions, sensitization of these systems by repetitive re-experiencing of the trauma leads to dysregulation in many functions. A traumatized child may, therefore, exhibit motor hyperactivity, anxiety, behavioral impulsivity, sleep problems, tachycardia and hypertension.

In other words, trauma incurred early in life tends to gear relevant neural substrates towards filtering everything through the prism of that experience. Along with the psychiatrist's interpretation, I find this to be a tenable, if not certain explanation of my present state of mind. I do have fairly severe sleep problems, often times a sense of alertness or vigilance that I know to be excessive, and occasionally even painful twinges in my chest. More likely than not this is the result of cardiac disturbance brought on by an episode of acute anxiety ... it's the only reasonable explanation, I think, because whenever I get a health exam I'm in not good, but excellent cardiovascular condition. I've even gotten an EKG and it turned out just fine. These cardiac twinges, on the contrary, only come when I have these episodes

The reason I'm schizoid (arguably) is because the strain is immense and I've had to shut down inside to prevent myself from going under completely

But I guess I'm some kind of monster in your eyes

Oh well

I'm doing the best I can

Maybe my mental health is in the toilet, like you said

The cause of many of my problems is that I've had to deal with a lot of muppets and asstards. They've been caustic, caustic influences on my development and I never would have crossed paths with them if I had the choice, but that's in the past and all I can do now is advocate the development of a more rational society. And I don't suffer fools gladly now. I don't like people who don't want to think deeply about ethics and like issues. And that's most of them. I hope you can see just why

You can backpedal all you like, talk about joining the Peace Corps or becoming a vegetarian

This isn't backpedaling. Nothing I have said is inconsistent. I don't like a lot of people; on the same token, I still want to see society prosper. Hopes for the prosperity of society give my life meaning. Furthermore, I am willing to incur considerable pains to myself to see this happen. If this is not ethical, I don't know what is

but you've already admitted that other people only matter to you insofar as they help you achieve your goals

I didn't say that though

I said that I would hold my tongue, perhaps only briefly, if something like an academic promotion depended on it

That's just good sense

You can't unring the bell.  I'm not accusing you of anything.  You've done that yourself.

Well, whatever
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: retired1af on April 12, 2010, 10:28:18 pm
In essence, you wish society to conform to your view of how it should be, not necessarily because society would benefit, but more so you would benefit?
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: Triarius Fidelis on April 12, 2010, 10:32:20 pm
In essence, you wish society to conform to your view of how it should be, not necessarily because society would benefit, but more so you would benefit?

Everyone would benefit from being more rational and cooperative, by definition

Other things being equal, a smart person is better than a dumbass and an agreeable person is better than a hostile one

Furthermore I do not expect to reap the benefits of this society. I will most likely be dead and gone before it is implemented or, at least, fully implemented

And for the record I do think a society should be built around the interests of rational people
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: tomh38 on April 12, 2010, 10:56:02 pm
Okay, Triarius, let's try this one more time.

We've gone off-topic here, but I think there are still relevant points to be made.

Some kind of monster ... no.  I did not say that.  I said that what you wrote about not caring what other people think unless it furthers your ends was disturbing.  I still think it's disturbing.

I also think you're more competitive in these discussions than you might admit.  I think you throw out a topic you know will be controversial, and then watch people react.  Then you jump in and start arguing with them, throwing out graphs, charts, links to articles, etc. to reinforce your original point.  Eventually people get tired and give up.  Then you declare yourself the winner.  If that's your idea of fun, I have no problem with that.  After all this is only the Internet, everyone here is an adult (to my knowledge), and nobody can come to any actual harm from what they see on a monitor (well, except perhaps for the goatse pic).

As for your mental health issues, I just have one suggestion.  I suggest that you work on those things before acting on any of your plans for the future of humanity.  Naturally, discussing things and tossing ideas around is a different story.  I realize that there is no cure for the effects of childhood trauma, but there are treatments and other things which help.  If you're not already availing yourself of those things, you might consider doing so.

It's admirable of you to desire to help create a better society; I have no argument against that.  Still, it might be a good idea to take care of yourself first, even if it's only to be more able to help others in the future.
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: Triarius Fidelis on April 12, 2010, 11:21:14 pm
I also think you're more competitive in these discussions than you might admit.  I think you throw out a topic you know will be controversial, and then watch people react.  Then you jump in and start arguing with them, throwing out graphs, charts, links to articles, etc. to reinforce your original point.  Eventually people get tired and give up.  Then you declare yourself the winner.

Well, perhaps, to some extent

However, because I do not believe in objective morality (I think most current ethical philosophers do not either) I can't really declare victory, in the strictest sense of the word

There are costs to any policy, no matter what gains it brings in. There are, at least, opportunity costs ... for doing anything. And utility itself is subjective. So there are no clear winners

However, I will have to defend a Ph.D. dissertation one day, so practice can't hurt

And I'll PM you for the rest of my response
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: stretchedthin on April 13, 2010, 12:47:06 am
I went to the start of this thread and looked at your responding arguments to the statement you posted when you started this thread.
Quote
I am still scratching my head looking for downsides in my approach

Well here are 8 problems that have been presented to you.

retired1af asked you...
Quote
So who determines which traits are desirable and those that are not?
You responded...
Quote
Well I think it should be the parents' choice initially
Parents are now able to ask for testing to see if there child will be born with down-syndrome.  Many refuse the test, it just doesn't matter to them because of the value they put on a life.  Others get the test and still decide to have the child even when the test concludes their child will have down syndrome for the same reason.  What reasonable person would conclude that expecting parents would terminate a pregnancy because there is a 50%-75% chance their child would be greedy, aggressive, or inconsiderate.  Close to none.

Downside #1...How could you convince a parent to dispel their own beliefs and feelings and terminate the life they created, 100% of the time.

w2ibc stated...
Quote
a desirable society could mean anything. what is desirable to you may not be to me.
To which you agreed.  Then somehow simply ignored with a list of the ills of the world that are all arguably solvable with improvements to laws, education, and properly placed economic incentives.
In short you never over came the argument so.....
Downside #2. Who decides on the criteria and even if decided on who chooses to carry out the termination. (See downside #1.)

Bigpaws, rbistolfi, and myself
In a variety of ways we argued that nurture and environment has a greater or equal effect on individual behavior than genetics.
You said...
Quote
Well cultural and biological engineering aren't mutually exclusive

To put it in cybernetic terms, we could provide higher quality input and make sure it's transduced into productive behavior more effectively
You misunderstand the objection, however.  This is not a matter of exclusivity, but of priority.  Changing economic, political, educational, and health conditions will have a far greater impact, in a much lesser time period, with far less resistance.
Downside #3. Not enough juice for the squeeze.

I thought tomh38 made an excellent point when he said...
Quote
It's really not a question of whether there will be genetically engineered humans; it's more a question of when, by whom, and to what purpose.

Given what we know from recorded history (granted, not much information about a pretty short period of time, but it's all we've got), I don't think we're going to get people who are genetically engineered to be more intelligent and more conscientious.  From what I can tell, we're more likely to get:

1) Reversal of male pattern baldness, 2) Breast augmentation, 3) Increased athletic abilities, 4) Fewer wrinkles and blemishes of the skin, 5) Long, luxurious hair which shines and flows, 6) Whiter, more durable teeth  ... I think you must get my point.

So downside number #4.  Human GE, is more likely to follow the money and be sucked in by consumerism than it is to be used to cure the world of evil.

Retired1af said...
Quote
We still don't know enough about genetics to create a "super race". As soon as you start playing with single gene mutations, recessive traits become more pronounced. So now, instead of creating something that's better, you may actually wind up with something that's worse.
I really couldn't find where you countered this argument. Some where you said try harder, but that means nothing. Until you can overcome this one you are stuck at the research stage, not implementation.
Problem #5.  We are just not there yet.

I said....
Quote
Well at least in your world we could have wiped out Newton before he was even born because he is carrying the 'asswipe' gene.

I was responding to your comment...
Quote
A lot of people who handled large responsibilities very well were incredibly petty in some ways

Look at what Newton did to Robert Hooke. He was an utter asswipe as a person, but he managed to invent the calculus and a lot of modern physics and serve as an official competently

The point of the comment (we don't fully understand what potentials we are wiping out) I don't think was lost on you. Since you responded...
Quote
Well how awful would it be to forgo Newton for ten ethically superior Newtonesque people
Which is just a bad argument, since while you can control whether or not you terminate a life in the womb, you have no control or guaranty of what may or may not come to replace it. Well, the argument was just bad.
So problem #6.  Your human Genome plan makes no attempt to identify what could be positive Genes. One asswipe Gene and your dead, even if you have a physics genius gene in the mix.

Here's another...
Quote
2. You see this as a way to bring world order.  But, you have to also be able to see that it is a way to make the gap between the have's and the have-nots even wider.
Your response...
Quote
Could genetic manipulation confer superior ability on people or not? You seem to be admitting that it could here, at least tacitly, just after downplaying the importance of the same. Make up your mind
This is another non-answer.  It does not overcome the objection.  It is simply a tactic, to side step and ignore this potential downside.
Problem #7.  Further division of the classes, the genetically chosen, versus the mutts.

Finally,
Quote
3. You say we are an imperfect people right now, but don't recognize this as the catch-22 you should fear.  It is the imperfect people of the current of near future that will be administering this program and sure enough they will screw it up.
You responded...
Quote
There's the biggest obstacle, I think. For this reason genetic engineering of humans would have be regulated and incremental
That was actually the first and only time I've read you offering a solution to a proposed problem. Well done. Do you see the difference? You will say no, but just saying you don't agree does not make it so.
Problem #8...Even if the science is ready, we are not ready as a race to implement it.

Here is how I think you should have made the argument.
By 2050 world population is estimated at 9 billion. Even with reduced fertility rates the estimates for 2100 are 11 billion.  Without any great mastery of mathematics it is easy to see that at some point that this growth will no longer be sustainable.  It will become necessary for governments to use the rule of law to limit couples to only one child.  I think in this environment human GE, will almost become inevitable. Government control within hospitals will be necessary to enforce the one child law.  The termination of zygotes just because they are the second child will be so common place as to negate the negative impact of the practice in the minds of the population.  Corporations will capitalize on couples only being able to have one child by promising them a better one through human GE.  The practice will start with screening for hereditary decease.  It will then branch of into cosmetic consumer features, hair color, eye color, how tall, etc. Once that genie is out of the bottle, however, the door to manipulating markers for human behavior will be the next frontier.  The government will use human GE as an incentive to bring people to the hospitals as opposed to giving birth at home under the radar, they will even cover costs. After perhaps a decade of covering the costs for the procedure they will start making stipulations for the coverage.  They will also have some criteria for the zygotes to meet to be allowed to be considered viable.  Criminal and social behavior markers, perhaps.

Really, maybe the question shouldn't be "Should we ?" but "What can we do now to prevent it."
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: Triarius Fidelis on April 13, 2010, 02:04:10 am
Problem #5.  We are just not there yet.

Of course not

So problem #6.  Your human Genome plan makes no attempt to identify what could be positive Genes. One asswipe Gene and your dead, even if you have a physics genius gene in the mix.

Have you considered the possibility that "patching" zygotes might become possible? In much the same way that bacteria have their plasmids engineered to do something useful while the rest of their cellular machinery remains intact

This is another non-answer.  It does not overcome the objection.  It is simply a tactic, to side step and ignore this potential downside.
Problem #7.  Further division of the classes, the genetically chosen, versus the mutts.

I don't have easy answers to a lot of these legislative or societal questions and may end up studying the law to understand what I'm dealing with. However, that's not the issue right now. The more simplified issue I'm dealing with at this juncture is whether genetic engineering could, in principle, give rise to a better society. Let's start with that first, then proceed to more complex challenges ... just like when you study economics you start with basic supply and demand, then you can start to incorporate things like externalities, and then the actual suboptimality of human decision making, etc.

That was actually the first and only time I've read you offering a solution to a proposed problem. Well done. Do you see the difference? You will say no

Yes

Ha, pwned

By 2050 world population is estimated at 9 billion. Even with reduced fertility rates the estimates for 2100 are 11 billion.  Without any great mastery of mathematics it is easy to see that at some point that this growth will no longer be sustainable.  It will become necessary for governments to use the rule of law to limit couples to only one child.  I think in this environment human GE, will almost become inevitable. Government control within hospitals will be necessary to enforce the one child law.  The termination of zygotes just because they are the second child will be so common place as to negate the negative impact of the practice in the minds of the population.  Corporations will capitalize on couples only being able to have one child by promising them a better one through human GE.  The practice will start with screening for hereditary decease.  It will then branch of into cosmetic consumer features, hair color, eye color, how tall, etc. Once that genie is out of the bottle, however, the door to manipulating markers for human behavior will be the next frontier.  The government will use human GE as an incentive to bring people to the hospitals as opposed to giving birth at home under the radar, they will even cover costs. After perhaps a decade of covering the costs for the procedure they will start making stipulations for the coverage.  They will also have some criteria for the zygotes to meet to be allowed to be considered viable.  Criminal and social behavior markers, perhaps.

Really, maybe the question shouldn't be "Should we ?" but "What can we do now to prevent it."

Well I really hope that people don't start selecting for normatively irrelevant traits like hair color. I would hope that society's collective ethical sense is just good enough to give appropriate legislative direction to the project of human GE, in effect to bootstrap its own self-improvement

But ya the terraforming book I mentioned and quoted earlier has put overpopulation in my head recently. When it comes to a head, it could be the eucatastrophe that sets us on the right track

However it seems equally likely that overpopulation will simply lead to a near-perpetual disaster which no one will have any real solution for

I can only hope that people will do the right thing; if not, then our future will be bleak indeed

In fact ... I now remember a New York Times article from the previous year, and a comment on it that stayed with me long after

http://tierneylab.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/03/synthetic-life/?apage=2#comments

Quote
The tension is not between good and evil. It seems rather to be between excellence and mediocrity. Things eventually saturate with mediocrity when they become commercially available. Driven by Adam Smith's invisible hand, Shakespeare and Beethoven inevitably morph into reality TV, soap operas, hate radio., etc. Is synthetic genetics singularly exempt from the coarsening effect of dollars? The technology will be an acid test of our capacity to transcend the mediocre.

We'll see
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: tomh38 on April 13, 2010, 11:49:29 am
I'm going to change my nick on Fark.com to "Adam Smith's Invisible Hand."  I'll have to set up a new account.  For anybody who isn't familiar with the site, the comments threads are filled with three main groups:  1)  Yammering idiots, 2) Yammering pseudo-intellectuals, and 3) Various. "Various" can be subdivided a number of different ways, but here's my classification system: a) Intelligent, thoughtful people, b) Trolls, c) Conspiracy theorists, d) Religious extremists, e) Anti-religious extremists, f) Cats walking across the keyboard, and g) Bots (hard to tell for sure with that one).

I've never posted much there.  It's kind of a waste of time.

On a more serious note ... overpopulation.  I've been thinking about this somewhat myself lately.  It seems that when education increases, population growth decreases.  I should look this up, but I'm pretty sure that here in the US if it weren't for illegal immigration we would have "negative population growth."  I also think that at least some European countries already have this.  Anybody correct me if I'm wrong about this.  I'm not saying that it's not still a problem;  I'm more wondering how serious it might become in the next century or so.  Also, a lot of the problems due to "overpopulation" are actually caused by bad management of resources, e.g. whenever wealthy nations send aid to poor countries, there's a good chance that the local government will make sure that the people who actually need it don't get it.

One thing I can say for sure; I don't want to end up in a situation where the government has to step in and limit the number of children people can have.  Still, it may come to that.

Also, we've been discussing altering the human genome to make people smarter and more conscientious.  Other than raising children to be more conscientious, nobody has suggested other means to achieve the same ends.

Just to throw out some possibities, here are a few things which occurred to me (please feel free to shoot any of them down):

1)  Neural implants - is it possible to increase intelligence by this means?  We already have some rudimentary implant technology.  Should we be thinking about developing this further?  Is somebody already working on it?

2)  Pharmaceuticals - can intelligence be increased this way?  Various drugs have come a long way toward alleviating the effects of mental illness and affective disorders.  Could a similar method be used to help people think more clearly and make better decisions?  Would this be desirable?

3)  Taxation (yeah, I know this isn't a popular idea) - this is already being done, but could it be tweaked in such a way which would encourage certain behaviours and discourage others, even moreso than is being done now?  We (in the US and I'm pretty sure Canada) heavily tax tobacco products, which has decreased the amount of tobacco consumed.  What other goals could we achieve through similar means?

I realize there are problems with these ideas.  Please point out the ones you see.

Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: Triarius Fidelis on April 14, 2010, 12:23:29 am
1)  Neural implants - is it possible to increase intelligence by this means?  We already have some rudimentary implant technology.  Should we be thinking about developing this further?  Is somebody already working on it?

Definitely now there is both theoretical and practical work on this front

A guy in Sweden Robin af Ekenstam was among the first to receive a feeling, neurally-commanded prosthetic arm (i.e., it's got both afferent and efferent pathways) and while this is a peripheral rather than central modification it's a step in that direction since a lot of the engineering principles are probably held in common

I have a book in my pirated ebook stash called Neuroengineering the Future which is all about the same

2)  Pharmaceuticals - can intelligence be increased this way?  Various drugs have come a long way toward alleviating the effects of mental illness and affective disorders.  Could a similar method be used to help people think more clearly and make better decisions?

Well Erdős Pál needed dexedrine in order to be productive, and many artists have said to have been influenced significantly by drugs ranging from opium (Coleridge) to LSD (Jimi Hendrix)

However individual differences in what we call intelligence appear to have to do with learning and morphological differences present from fetal development onwards

So I'm not entirely sure how pharmaceuticals could increase intelligence

But they could modulate affect favorably

3)  Taxation (yeah, I know this isn't a popular idea) - this is already being done, but could it be tweaked in such a way which would encourage certain behaviours and discourage others, even moreso than is being done now?  We (in the US and I'm pretty sure Canada) heavily tax tobacco products, which has decreased the amount of tobacco consumed.  What other goals could we achieve through similar means?

You might want to see Jonathan Baron's book on public policy, Judgment Misguided

also look into "evidence-based policy"

Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: tomh38 on April 14, 2010, 06:17:35 am
Well, I remember Erdős Pál (I'll always think of him as "Paulie") popping a lot of pills the week that he crashed on my couch, but I figured that it was probably, y'know, high blood pressure medicine or something.  Once he figured out that I wasn't who he thought I was, he packed up his two suitcases, got in a cab and was gone.  I didn't hear anything about him again until I read of his death.  I think he should be posthumously awarded the Fields Medal.

I still have a napkin that he scibbled on:

(http://img291.imageshack.us/img291/5721/piciq.png)

I really don't have anything to add to what Triarius wrote, except a little anecdote about stewardship of resources by means of recycling.

The city in which I live has changed its recycling policy in a way intended to make recycling more efficient, but which will almost certainly have different effect completely, i.e. strongly discourage recylcing except among those who are strongly committed to it.  Apparently a lot of people were putting various things in their recycle bins which didn't belong there, or which somebody thought didn't belong there (who would have thought that you're not supposed to put plastic grocery bags in there?).  So, instead of just having people on the sorting end sort things out (their job, after all), the city passed a new ordinance.  Now we all have these gigantic green recycling containers (bigger than garbage cans) which have two lists plastered on the lid:  1)  What you can recycle, 2) What you can't recycle.  Some of the things make perfect sense (e.g. no food) but other things have people scratching their heads (e.g. no plastic except for bottles with necks).  Quite a few people I know around here who were perfectly willing to recycle before are now just saying, "Screw it, I'll just throw it all in the garbabe."

And so the landfills grow.
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: Triarius Fidelis on April 20, 2010, 09:14:03 am
Well

Now is the time to try to effect cultural change

We'll see how it pans out

And if it doesn't work then there probably is something wrong with the human genome after all
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: argon99 on May 23, 2010, 04:41:44 pm
And fail they do.  I worry a bit about one of Doden's premises, which for millions of years has been survival of the fittest. Now that we have the ability (and often the inclination) to allow the least fit to live, for how long will that premise be valid?  Further, since it has been operating for so long, perhaps billions of years, are there any of us today who are not largely greedy?  Greed, redefined as self-interest, or even will-to-survive, is that which underlies much of what we call progress. Perhaps we could find one or two folks somewhere in Africa whose ancestors were not greedy and let them populate the earth.  Or has that already been done?  And what to do with the rest of us? Perhaps a flood.

Doden's idea, though, at least conceptually, is something that has been around awhile.  Darwinism forms the basis of a lot of this thinking, good (Doden) and bad (Hitler). What we have learned is that if something is possible, someone will do it. So I suspect we will see Doden's idea implemented by some group, perhaps a church of some kind. If it could be done before conception, abortion could be removed from the picture. Nonetheless, I agree with retired1AF, for reasons well-expressed by him and others in this thread, that any effort to force it on anyone would and should be violently resisted.



Why wait until it is a fact??  It's well on it's way to becoming the norm so why not fight it now??  Something like we kill all the lawyers first, they are the root of the problem.  Then folks like the guy that started the thread, they are the ones that promote it?  Then we can send all those people that oppress the masses, everybody that charges rent to live in houses they own, to pig farms for "reeducation."   Or has all of this already been done and it was an obvious failure.

Many years ago I lived in China, the place where they sent land owners to pig farms to be reeducated.  It was a huge failure and many people literally starved to death because of it ( the people that knew anything were on pig farms or being tortured in prisons).  When I was there the pictures on the money was changed.  You had the traditional images of factory workers and farmers, the hammer and sickle types, but one was added.  That was am image of a guy in a suit and tie wearing glasses.  He was the worker that worked with his mind. This gives me hope.  If it was just the idiot that posted this we would be in real trouble but some have learned from their mistakes.  To bad so many others haven't learned anything at all.
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: retired1af on May 23, 2010, 04:48:36 pm
While we may or may not agree with the views of the membership here, going around and calling them idiots isn't tolerated.
Title: Re: Ecological utility vs. modern utility
Post by: Triarius Fidelis on June 03, 2010, 10:05:53 pm
Alright

Everyone know that Charles Sykes guy? The one who wrote the list of rules kids won't learn in school. I just sent him an email:

Quote
Subject: Hi, I'm a nerd who read your 50 rules

No really. I am. You can get an idea of just how much of a nerd I am by checking out the dated log of my reading that I've kept since late February:

http://pastehtml.com/view/19kzy57.html

Bearing this in mind, the advice in your book came across as rather narrow-minded and selfish compared to better ethical texts, like Thinking and Deciding. One of your rules was less glib than the rest though:

"Rule No. 11: Be nice to nerds. You may end up working for them. We all could."

This is actually a pretty capital idea. You will notice that things like neuroscience, genetics, and transhumanism have made their way into my reading. As a nerd, my proposal is this: we find genetic traits that can reliably be associated with growing up to be an utter asswipe, and make sure that zygotes that carry them are revised before being allowed to come to term. In this way, less books like yours will be written in the future.

You can take credit for that idea if you like. Seriously. If you can spin it into another awesome book, I will consider myself more than compensated for it.

All the best from me to you, your nerdy pal,
Chris

<3

It goes ever so nicely with my new facebook profile pic:

(http://profile.ak.fbcdn.net/hprofile-ak-snc4/hs267.snc3/23095_100000692598253_4428_n.jpg)

Hope he acts on my idea. I'd love to have a great intellectual *lol* like Charles Sykes speak on my behalf.