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Author Topic: Ecological utility vs. modern utility  (Read 6990 times)
Triarius Fidelis
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« Reply #45 on: April 12, 2010, 09:32:20 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
« Last Edit: April 12, 2010, 09:36:36 pm by Triarius Fidelis » Logged

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tomh38
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« Reply #46 on: April 12, 2010, 09:56:02 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.
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Triarius Fidelis
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« Reply #47 on: April 12, 2010, 10:21:14 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
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« Reply #48 on: April 12, 2010, 11:47:06 pm »

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."
« Last Edit: April 13, 2010, 12:07:04 am by stretchedthin » Logged

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Triarius Fidelis
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« Reply #49 on: April 13, 2010, 01:04:10 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
« Last Edit: April 13, 2010, 01:31:49 am by Triarius Fidelis » Logged

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tomh38
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« Reply #50 on: April 13, 2010, 10:49:29 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.

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Triarius Fidelis
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« Reply #51 on: April 13, 2010, 11:23:29 pm »

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"

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tomh38
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« Reply #52 on: April 14, 2010, 05:17:35 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:



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.
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Triarius Fidelis
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« Reply #53 on: April 20, 2010, 08:14:03 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
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argon99
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« Reply #54 on: May 23, 2010, 03:41:44 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.
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retired1af
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« Reply #55 on: May 23, 2010, 03:48:36 pm »

While we may or may not agree with the views of the membership here, going around and calling them idiots isn't tolerated.
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Triarius Fidelis
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« Reply #56 on: June 03, 2010, 09:05:53 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:



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