Scientists Seek Moratorium on Edits to Human Genome That Could Be Inherited

Dec 8, 2015

Credit Susan Walsh/Associated Press


An international group of scientists meeting in Washington called on Thursday for what would, in effect, be a moratorium on making inheritable changes to the human genome.

The group said it would be “irresponsible to proceed” until the risks could be better assessed and until there was “broad societal consensus about the appropriateness” of any proposed change. The group also held open the possibility for such work to proceed in the future by saying that as knowledge advances, the issue of making permanent changes to the human genome “should be revisited on a regular basis.”

The meeting was convened by the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, the Institute of Medicine, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society of London. The academies have no regulatory power, but their moral authority on this issue seems very likely to be accepted by scientists in most or all countries. Similar restraints proposed in 1975 on an earlier form of gene manipulation by an international scientific meeting in California were observed by the world’s scientists.

“The overriding question is when, if ever, we will want to use gene editing to change human inheritance,” David Baltimore said in opening the conference this week. The participation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences is a notable achievement for the organizers of the meeting, led by Dr. Baltimore, former president of the California Institute of Technology, given that earlier in the year Chinese scientists seemed to be racing ahead independently toward clinical alterations to the human germline.

The meeting was prompted by a new genetic technique, invented three years ago, that enables DNA to be edited with unprecedented ease and precision. The technique, known as Crispr-Cas9 and now widely accessible, would allow physicians to alter the human germline, which includes the eggs and the sperm, to cure genetic disease or even enhance desirable physical or mental traits.

Unlike gene therapy, an accepted medical technique that alters the body’s ordinary tissues, editorial changes made to the human germline would be inherited by the patient’s children and thus contribute permanent changes to the human gene pool. These, if sufficiently extensive, might, in principle, alter the nature of the human species.

For decades, the ability to make changes that could be inherited in the human genome has been viewed as a fateful decision — but one that could be postponed because there was no safe and efficient way to edit the genome. The Crispr-Cas9 technique has suddenly made it possible to cross this Rubicon, and the long theoretical issue now requires practical decisions.

Some biologists think inheritable alterations to the human genome should be indefinitely prohibited. Others believe the science behind the technology should be pursued as vigorously as possible.

Scientists first raised the issue for public discussion in March this year, calling for an international meeting to recommend appropriate policies.

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47 comments on “Scientists Seek Moratorium on Edits to Human Genome That Could Be Inherited

  • This is hugely important. Some fool could cure us of autism of schizophrenia forever more, slightly depressing the upper side of the IQ bell curve or some creativity bell curve. We may drop back below some threshold of generative cultural feedback as we have seen in some of the great civilisations in history, only this time it won’t be temporary. We may be too stupid to put it right after a few generations. We’ve seen the movies…

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  • @OP – Some biologists think inheritable alterations to the human genome should be indefinitely prohibited. Others believe the science behind the technology should be pursued as vigorously as possible.

    Perhaps with more balanced reporting, we could look at a less polarised all or nothing view!

    Such activities should have a code of conduct and some guidance – bases on the science – not imposed religious dogmas.

    Elimination of inherited diseases could be an objective, but care would have to be taken against accidental deletions or large reductions of genetic diversity.

    The case of sickle-cell anaemia giving immunity to Malaria, and gingers suffering from sunburn come to mind.

    I would agree that “fasionista designer babies”, should be avoided.

    There is however considerable scope for removal of genetic flaws causing inherited disease and promotion of genes conferring health and ability traits.

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  • There is however considerable scope for removal of genetic flaws causing inherited disease and promotion of genes conferring health and ability traits.

    This is exactly where the dangers are….

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  • phil rimmer
    Dec 8, 2015 at 3:19 pm

    This is exactly where the dangers are….

    Very much so – particularly with genes linked together on strands of DNA or where genes have more than one function, which may have escaped notice.

    As with other forms of genetic engineering, there are serious risks of unexpected consequences.

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  • Genuine question from me as I really don’t know where to start to answer.

    Can our interference ever be part of the evolutionary process? Can it ever be part of ‘natural’ selection to excellerate and bring it to another level. Almost a direction.

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  • 7
    hisxmark says:

    Well, we won’t be able to “assess the risks” accurately until the research has been done, and someone is going to do it, for power, or fame, or money. Once the box has been discovered, someone is going to open it, and if we don’t, someone else, perhaps not so “nice” will.

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  • I happen to have the book Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves by George Church and Ed Regis, here on my shelf. I’m thumbing through it and came across this section where Church/Regis are discussing some of the fears we have of genetic tinkering:

    “Indeed the population may implode rather than explode, reversing the conventional wisdom on this topic. The vision of a nearly immortal populace squelching the job prospects of youth is strongly reminiscent of Luddite concerns about machines taking over jobs from humans. Population implosion coupled with increasing numbers of older, healthier citizens, and more women in positions of power, could have huge consequences for child rearing, consumer advocacy, philanthropy, and diplomacy. The assumption of ever expanding numbers of descendants and consequent fighting for their lands is hard to shake. With children a rarer resource, education may go from being among the lowest paying jobs to the highest. We may embrace much greater human diversity, not merely ancestry but vast spectra of personality, age, and intellectual capacities (e.g., an intentional increase in high functioning autistics, bipolars, and ADHDs). This may require very specialized and highly trained parenting- well beyond the current random assignment of child to parent.”

    Chapter 9 – 1 YR, HOLOCENE, From Personal Genomes to Immortal Human Components, page 223

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  • If we could trust old folk to remain as inventive and problem solving as when they were young, then little harm may be done if population control was managed to replacement rates (ever a problem and not new to this.) But we know brains lose plasticity. Though we know more (machines can do that for us BTW) we tend not to invent new problem solving strategies. Feynman had a set of strategies that were special to him at the time (sum of all possibilities, loop integrals and time could go backwards). He stuck with them through his life and others took them up in his fashion. We needed new brains after his to invent new ways of seeing and solving.

    Old folk like me have to sufficiently pay our way for another ten years of blocking the way for new eyes.

    Simon Baron Cohen asked if we could remove the genetic variant that is associated with an increased risk of schizophrenia say, should we correct it forevermore?

    The right answer is no. That genetic variant may result in some of our greatest creative geniuses, a Mozart or Van Gogh (to be cliched). Likewise autism and high IQs, Newton, Einstein. These genetic variants in the population may have been our trick behind our most spectacular achievements. We flourish most in tolerant diverse and nurturing societies where the neurally diverse can themselves flourish. But we need that diversity. The risks are to double gene dosed off-spring (mum and dad both a bit schiz/creative or both aspie/nerd) or a single dose and unlucky confounding other factors.) Testing and gene therapy are the low risk routes to solve this.

    Trisomy 21 is an easier target, but we don’t know what we don’t know of any long term trait alteration in the population. Multi, multi generation populations of superb animal models will need to be tested.

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  • For clarity

    The “double-dosed” off spring is one at risk of the full blow disease, single dosed just some neural diversity with a boon and defecit trading off, nerd but socially duff.

    (Its always many genes involved, just to explain why the scale is quite graduated.)

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  • Is our Cultural Evolution part of the phenotype of our genes?

    Maybe, although, it is the many differences of personal phenotypes that make it.

    If we put our genotype into the hands of cultural evolution, due to our collective phenotypes that results from our genotypes, then we have tomorrows genes in the hands of todays genes.

    The really interesting thing is, is culture a truly new thing, complex enough like an intelligence, to emerge out of the reflexive stew? Is it like having a further cortex over our own corteces sensate and dirigiste on its own behalf? Is this the real entity calling the shots?

    Our genes have already arguably evolved to evolve (e.g. got the mutation rate right to match the rate of change of selective pressure, whilst maximally securing evolutionary wins.) This new thing may be entirely the same but expressed plurally, genes evolving to more rapidly track selection pressures.

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  • Yes, but…

    For every Mozart or Newton, there may be tens of thousands of schizophrenics and autistics (and their families) who may be having a hard time of it, and may be better off “normal”.
    I can’t say for sure; and I’m sure it would vary individual by individual.

    My point is, humanity as a whole might be said to benefit because these conditions throw up geniuses every now and then, but mostly these conditions just lead to unhappy people who find “normality” challenging.
    (And there are plenty of geniuses to go round who do not have schizophrenia or some kind of autism, and just rely on intelligence and hard work.)

    So is it moral to not eliminate these conditions (assuming we could, and assuming multi-generational risk factors are suitably analysed and eliminated)?

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  • I said it more clearly when I didn’t illustrate with just geniuses. I talked of the whole of the top end of the bell curves being a little depressed. This involves a huge number of individuals. The badly affected are very small in number by comparison and testing genetic signatures of parents will soon allow individual amelioration.

    Are you prepared to halve the number of nobel laureates and knock back average IQ 5-10 points by removing the above average IQ only?

    My reminder that cultural generativeness may be a threshold affair. We see nations suddenly losing their mojo, with noting too obvious changing. Want to risk it to reset that genetic mutation affecting the GABA transport mechanism in the pre-frontal cortex that appears to have happened several million years ago, probably caused our line of ape to rush to sapiens, yet confer both autism and schizophrenia risks, uniquely to just us?

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  • It would be irresponsible to not proceed. We need good variations because, as a species, we are just barely sapient. The smartest are sapient, but the average IQ is only 100. People are so stupid in general that George W. Bush got elected twice! Nature makes mistakes more often than we do.

    In order to survive, we need to be a lot smarter than we are, on average. We are likely to very likely to go extinct by 2040 anyway. It can’t hurt to try to find a solution. Remember that only one person’s genome is upgraded at a time, not the whole species. At worst, the risk is to one person. Global Warming, overpopulation and resource depletion have doomed almost everybody already anyway.

    Good mutations happen too seldom to leave it up to Nature any longer. Quit dawdling and get on with it.

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  • Continued. We are facing 3 existential problems; Global Warming, overpopulation [7.5 billion people on a planet that is big enough for 3 billion people] and resource depletion. With our present IQs, we are headed for extinction or at least a population crash some time between 2022 and 2040. If we are to survive, we must force our own evolution rapidly and immediately. Once we have determined which genes to alter and what the replacement genes must be, we need to increase our intelligence enormously ASAP.

    We must find the gene that causes religion and eliminate it. We must find out how to give the next generation math IQs of 400 and similar science IQs. With greatly enhanced intelligence, it will be impossible for teachers to prevent the students from learning. Religion, superstition, ignorance and stupidity will become things of the past. The new young people will be able to solve the problems that are currently threats to human existence. Wars over religion will stop as the new people will simply ignore religion.

    To do it we must not only do germ line genetic engineering, we must weaponize the genetic engineering so that we can give the benefits to the whole world. If we don’t, we are not smart enough to save ourselves and we will probably go extinct.

    Nature is not going to solve it for us. We absolutely must direct human evolution from now on because the only other choice is failure.

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  • It is this crass, mechanistic thinking about how civilisation works that is most dangerous. The brilliant inventor of the future Hugo Gernsback the first American Scientifiction writer and publisher imagined many future inventions (brilliant guesses). Like me he was an aspie but of such colossal insensitivity to how people and society worked that his fiction is hilariously bad.

    Society currently works because of the neural diversity it possesses. Gernsback’s created worlds are hideously impoverished, peopled as they are by folk comfortably like him.

    Robert Sapolsky’s famous psychology lectures (on youtube) persuasively argue that religion is rooted in schizotypal behaviours. Art and much scientific hypothesis generation may also depend on this source of creativity. We hobble the capacity to invent if in taking out schizophrenia to thwart religious feelings we take out the much wider proclivity of creativity that exists everywhere on its lower slopes. We may do permanent damage to our cultural evolution. We need the organising systematising Aspie as much as we need the creative hypothesiser Schiz. all supported by a large middle ground of less remarkable workers and consumers tolerant of there weird ways.

    We of course don’t need to take out “religiosity” genetically because stable low religious societies exist and thrive. These, of course, stand testament to the power of culture and education. These are the tools we need and ever have been. Fight for those.

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  • Schizophrenia has nothing to do with creativity.
    Religion has nothing to do with creativity.
    Schizophrenia has nothing to do with variability.
    Religion has nothing to do with variability.
    My proposal has nothing to do with decreasing either creativity or variability.

    I take it that phil rimmer is not creative since phil rimmer makes outlandish assumptions about what it takes to be creative. I am creative and I am neither schizophrenic nor religious. I do vary from the average but my MMPI scores are very average. [Everybody in my class at college took the MMPI as part of a dissertation written by a psychology student.]

    There is no way we could do permanent damage to our cultural evolution with the proposals I made. phil rimmer is making up imaginary problems. phil rimmer, you are just being silly.

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  • Asteroid1Miner
    Dec 14, 2015 at 11:03 am

    There is no way we could do permanent damage to our cultural evolution with the proposals I made.

    There is no way to accurately determine the long term consequences of such experiments.

    I think what Phil is pointing out, is the danger of reducing diversity by selectively picking out particular traits as “desirable”, while failing to see consequential wider aspects of very complex issues in the structure of societies and genetic diversities within populations.

    There are certain lessons which can be learned from human experiments in creating new breeds of dogs which have “desirable” features!

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  • @Asteroid1Miner

    You haver all those things and a whole lot more, on a sliding scale, even if you think you don’t.

    Eating an orange is better than just having a vitaminC tablet otherwise you miss out on all it can offer.

    as I asked somewhere above, our meddling might or might not be part of evolution but to state that we can go ahead and remove this and that without consequence is dangerous to say the least. It will still come down to natural selection and an uncertain future. IMHO

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  • No, quite serious, Asteroid.

    Try the Sapolsky to get an idea of how we all sit along the schizophrenic spectrum. One current model of schizotypal symptoms is that access to semantic memories (our knowledge of how the world works) is compromised to some degree or another. As Oliver Sacks explains in “Hallucinations” this defecit will prompt the creation of an explanation from our hypothesis forming abilities to fill the gap. We all of us do this all the time in auto-didact mode. It is very likely everyone has at least one such moment classifiable as schizophrenic, but often those with greater creative ability (frequent generators of new hypotheses) access their semantic memory less readily and stand nearer to that risk. They re-solve resolved problems. The religious forever tie unrelated events for which there is no semantic knowledge to be had together through spiritual agency and Godly intention. (I’ve known three schizophrenics in my time, all atheist. Two became very religious when under-medicated. The brain clearly does the least work when struggling for sufficient semantic knowledge and uses what simple epithetical cultural knowledge it still has access to devise an explanatory hypothesis. Vishnu did it…) Sapolsky suggests those sitting a little way along the spectrum may tend to the same confabulations. Religion is easiest, being culturally embedded with the simplest all-purpose explanatory hypothesis generator.

    I’ll not go through the similar behavioural axis of of Autism, but as the senior researcher in the UK into Autism (of which Aspergers is a mild form) Simon Baron Cohen, “Autism is just the extreme end of the male personality type.” It makes uber scientists like Newton and Henry Cavendish and Paul Dirac, probably Einstein.

    Autism and schizophrenia have no known animal analogue (unlike say OCD, depression, anhedionia etc.) Current thinking has it that a mutation 2.5 million years ago created these risks through a mutation that affected the GABA transport process in the pre-frontal cortex. In so doing it created our unique level of neural diversity, ways of seeing and thinking. These differing traits work particularly well at modest rates (which is what usually pertains) but getting a double genetic dose from father and mother (as happens say one in a hundred times) is when things break down badly.

    The MMR vaccine scare (falsely thought of as causing an upsurge in autism) first headed up in Silicon Valley because autism was mostly caused by smart, potentially aspie parents getting together…

    Richly creative individuals often had schizophrenia running in their families. Nerdy scientific types often had autism. Some can be doubly blessed as perhaps Einstein was. Possibly Mozart.

    (Other contingent factors also play into the account of overt displays of symptoms.)

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  • No, quite seriously phil rimmer: Schizophrenia has nothing to do with creativity and Asperger’s syndrome is a good and normal thing, not a mental illness. People without Asperger’s syndrome are the diseased ones. Sapolsky must be nuts. Sapolsky confuses imagination with schizophrenia. Sapolsky is crazy. Or unimaginative.

    Religion is confabulation, all right. And there is no excuse for it.

    The most creative thing human minds ever did was discover modern physics, especially quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics is what makes computers on desktops, lasers, cell phones, TV and digital cameras possible.

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  • You’ll give me the sources for your views I trust….

    Einstein (who started the whole quantum thing with the photo-electric effect) you will note was put by me also in the creative camp. Clearly systematising and rich hypothesis generation is met in the most innovative scientist. Schizophrenia was in his family.

    You need to learn how these predispositions aren’t in anyway like a switch, but being dependent on many genes are expressed with varying characteristics by degree. Learn about the mutability.

    If you are, like me, somewhat aspie you may love Neuro Tribes by Steve Silberman. The sense of recognition is profound. But also the fact that it sits on an nuanced spectrum is also carefully detailed confounding sight of the full extent of the phenomenon to its first discoverers Asperger and Kanner. It had to wait for Lorna Wing to see it as a spectrum.

    For insight into the more autist mind read Professor Temple Grandin’s books (or see her bio-pic) She is a great hero of mine but with far, far more aspie/autist traits of which she makes great use in her job.

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  • phil rimmer: I find your allegation of schizophrenia to be insulting. There is no schizophrenia in my family, but I test high and perform high in creativity. There is no reason to believe that Albert Einstein was schizophrenic.

    Engineering is creativity on demand. Fine artists and humanities types don’t do that. I am proud to be a nerd, so I don’t take that as an insult. I have a BS in physics and I have retired from a career mostly in engineering.

    Where did you get the idea that increasing math IQ would decrease variability? Human math IQ is generally so low that it seriously needs to be brought up to the rest of human level. Did you think that genetic engineering would make everybody the same? It definitely would not. If anything, it would increase variability. As I propose, it would be like adding a math co-processor to a computer, or like adding a graphics board to a computer. You get an overall bigger computer. I would take no intelligence away. Religion must be caused by a defect, not by an ability, unless that “ability” is herd instinct or something else that makes people all act alike. Ever tried herding cats?

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  • I can’t talk knowledgeably about the exact workings of a computer but I do know that adding a co-processor gives other problems to solve with heat being one of them and making sure the rest of the components can handle the traffic is another. A super computer that shuts down after a few minutes because it overheats is not an upgrade.

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  • I made no allegation of schizophrenia at all. I asked if you might consider yourself aspie like me. Apparently you do. Autism spectrum and Schizophrenia spectrum are seemingly quite decoupled.

    I have more than adequately discounted the need for genetic traits to betray symptoms, that in any way require a medical description, before they become beneficial effects.

    Math IQ is not a formal psychological measure but mathematics ability is strongly correlated with Aspiedom and systematising. This is got (as far as we know) at the expense of social skills. Its good to have a society that supports both. Actual neural maths ability is not really an option. Neurons can only work with co-incidence signals and fuzzy logic. (Though a slug has been found to perform the most exquisite trigonometry with sensor/neurons on its side. Dedicated analogue computing is a thing as sportsmen well know). Maths must remain a co-operative systematising brain /cultural machine function. There will be no gene or set of them apart from those leading to Autism that we can really consider here.

    Now neural prosthetics is entirely doable as a co-processor.

    I think I have still failed to convey a picture of the utterly benign mild proclivity to schizophrenia that has gifted the entire species of naked ape compared to say brother bonobo with greater creativity. Some are more gifted than others a very few over-gifted.

    Neuro-diversity is our thing.

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  • Asteroid,

    I feel I must apologise for how this exchange unfolded. Re-reading it all I see all manner of phrases that seem overly pointed. I started it all wrong by being so combative in my very first response. This is an area I (sadly) think a lot about and have strong opinions on. Alas I often have difficulty in discerning what is in my head and what I assume is in other peoples’ heads.

    Anyway, I suspect (loving Aspiedom as much as I…I hope I’ve got that right) you will love the book NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman. I would very much like to send you a copy. I can be contacted on my gmail dot com account using my name here as a single word.


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  • Phil

    NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman

    Because of this conversation, this book is now on my wish list at Amazon. Since you posted that first comment I’ve been thinking about what we would lose if a genetic homogenization were to take place. I will read that book to better understand the aspie side of things. We don’t have aspies in my family but we do have ADDers and a couple of bipolars thrown in here and there. I now want to know what they would answer if I ask them about the (inevitable?) possibility of genetic editing. Would they be willing to accept the possibility of a life less creative and less social if they could live their lives in a condition that mimics their time spent under the effects of Adderall or Ritalin?

    I started reading Triver’s book last night and got to page 50. Have you started it yet? I read through the part about his breakdown when he was a student at Harvard and I thought of this conversation here and now I would like to know how he feels about the whole issue of genetic editing. It’s clear that he has suffered over this condition and I wonder if given the opportunity to go back in time, would he think it worth it to zap that part of his genome out of existence? Would he even be the same person at all? I can’t help but think about what we might have lost if he said yes to this.

    I don’t think you need to apologize for expressing strongly held opinions. This is an important issue with far reaching consequences. We have George Church on one side saying that this is basically inevitable and will happen whether or not the luddites are on board with it just like all the other genetic and medical advances in general. I’ll post the quote from the book if you would like to read it. But I now think it’s important to present your side of this too. And anyways, who hasn’t come crashing out of the bushes brandishing a club when their pet peeve shows up on the front page of this website?

    ~gazes dreamily at the sun rising over the city of Boston~

    Another day – another internet fight. What’s not to like? 😉

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  • Thanks for your thoughts here, Laurie. Elsewhere I have been commenting on how to better engage with the neurally diverse and it struck me that I was not following my own advice.

    Can’t wait to start the Trivers book. Currently I am on Prof Nicholas Eley’s book Mindwise. (Not as icky as it sounds). This is a good summary of the pertinent last decades research in much to do with empathy, theory of mind and the processes of cognition.

    It puts numbers on a major beef of mine about the accuracy of intuitive mind reading of others (e.g.what they think and feel about us). We have mostly settled views on what people think of us and use that knowledge to plan our interactions. Testing shows for friends and acquaintances this is only a little above chance and that for very close relationships we manage 40% correct in a multiple choice test where 20% is the chance score. We think we’re good mind readers because we get strong readings but the hit rate is poor.

    Its enough to get mutuality to fly with tolerance and help, but it goes a little towards my concerns about the problem of folk high on the empathy scale (the hyper pro social) who intuit enthusiastically harms to others and intentions from me ( to example it adversely to me.)

    I see this lying at the heart of the regressive left. Oxytocin creates the di-polar scenario of harmed in-group and harmfully intentioned out-group. Peoples’ visceral reading is as vivid as any truth, as the religious regularly affirm.

    Fairly far over on the Schiz “spectrum” I know a poet and a playwright. The latter has an astonishing piece that needs a little work to finish. But, at the moment he is reliably medicated having children at important stages in their lives. Soon he will be able to slip the leash a little. We talk often of how we would like to be able to turn these modes of thinking up and down at will depending on the problem facing us. (He can modestly do this by self medicating with nicotine as most with risk of schizophrenic tendencies do). What we have with the wider knowledge of culture is a half owned entirely new cortex that can do to our cortex what it does to our earlier brain…it draws inferences and offers a reflected course correction. We can be reflexive on our behaviours and our cognitions and we have as a species self medicated a lot using our cultural “cortex”. “Fixing” ourselves by rigid transformations maybe much less rewarding and adaptive (and dangerous) than by finding a solution that puts a virtual dashboard of controls at our disposal.

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  • I didn’t detail the problems of the rigid and forevermore fix as much as I should. It has at its heart a wrong headed idealism the equivalent of the Roman Catholic certainty of what the Ordered Human does and is for. It is both solipsistic and it assumes a teleology and discernible ideal.

    Many of our recent adaptions have been at a cost (malaria resistance and sickle cell anemia) and gene’s are often, working in concert with others, wide ranging and multi-various in their effects. It is possible the very high IQs achieved amongst Ashkenazy Jews may be achieved at the cost of a susceptibility to Tay Sachs disease. What do we forevermore fix here? Or do we test and ameliorate as needed?

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  • slip the leash

    Yes, that’s interesting because my ADD daughter has been doing just that for years now. She agrees that she needs her meds to function effectively at work but then slips the leash on weekends and holidays for a high stimulus load social blowout. It was a relief to me when she developed a level of communication skills that she could explain this situation adequately to me. She says that on the meds she feels that her brain has been blocked from receiving the barrage of social and environmental input. She says that at that point, she notices the paperwork in front of her on the desk and realizes that she can read through it, focus, and work through the task to completion. In her mid twenties she has now developed some appreciation for the neural diversity all around her. Previously, in her teens she would scoff at those on the aspie end of things but now displays empathy for them and is trying to make sense of where she fits in the scheme of things. We have discussed the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking [Susan Cain], especially the section on how loud chaotic shared open spaces in the workplace can really impede the productivity of introverts. She is now much more empathetic toward the “mumbling computer nerd” that was previously a complete enigma to her and he has no doubt suffered the slings and arrows of his outrageous extrovert, ADD and bipolar coworkers in his three ring circus office environment. I have asked her to advocate for him if she senses that he is incapable of doing so for himself. That she is even aware of this situation is encouraging enough when I hear about the utter cruelty of her other coworkers.

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  • Very interesting, and encouraging.

    It is very important to maximally de-medicalise these modes of cognising unless and until they make people unhappy. The biggest problem (because we can’t help ourselves in mostly liking how our mind works, as our semantic knowledge and heuristics develop around it) is acceptance by others,. Only in more extreme cases should it become a case for medicine.

    The truly troubled by autism, say, often resent the casual assumption of the descriptor aspie thinking it belittles their own condition. My own view is it normalises mental/cognition issues and helps destigmatise the whole area making acceptance, understanding and mutuality far more likely.

    I hold that most (if they are honest…lucky?) are at least slightly bonkers in some way or another.

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  • The human brain weighs 3 times as much as the chimp brain. Some parts simply do not exist or are very small in the chimp brain that are major parts of the human brain. OF COURSE the heat transfer problem had to be solved. So what? Heat is a simple matter of engineering. No, I do not believe that all humans have the same size brain with talents distributed differently, because that is absurd. No, I do not believe that math talent is merely a matter of Asperger syndrome, because that is absurd.

    Some human brains are bigger or more efficient or something than other human brains. Proof: How did we get from the chimp brain that our ancestors had 7 million years ago to the brain we have today? It wasn’t by changing personality. It was by growing bigger brains with more components and by redistribution of emphasis in the weight of parts.

    That psychology stuff is nuts because biology is the more basic and ruling science. It is Darwin’s law, not Darwin’s theory. What needs to be done to the human genome is the ADDITION of brain mass in certain areas and cell types. If more cooling is needed, more cooling should be easy. We engineer cooling devices every day.

    The alternative is to add silicon brain parts, like the Borg on Star Trek. See “The Age of Spiritual Machines” by Raymond Kurzweil. By silicon brain parts I mean computer chips. Most people would probably like an implanted cell phone. I don’t have a cell phone. I want a math co-processor. Knowledge could also be implanted on memory chips.

    The average human is so incredibly stupid that we have a very short time to extinction. 4 degrees C of Global Warming limits the human population to 1 billion. Permanent carrying capacity is presently 3 billion.

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  • I completely concur with adding neural prosthetics as the way to go. Neurons simply don’t have the mechanisms to encode strict logic. We are heuristic by neural nature, based on Hebbian Learning (cells that fire together, wire together) and Bayesian weightings, with the ability to evolve in real-time time delay mechanisms (a sort of clock re-synchronisation) to get the most useful synchronicity of neural events to favour Hebbian learning.

    Again I’m with you favouring hard neuro-psychology over hand wavy psychology of old. Its just that neuro-psycholgy has a lot of catching up to do. fMRI is stuck at fairly low resolutions. Neurofluorescence is just getting started as too really bio-compatible micro neuro electrodes.

    A completely artificial and implantable hippocampus is planned (currently in animals they are external), but if successful, data in and out and co-processors are entirely feasible. We must remember though that our connected devices are pretty much neural prosthetics already. I work entirely differently and more productively because of MathCAD etc., and a host of FEA simulation products.

    Neuro-tribes is about old school psychology, and you may be pleased to see pretty damning of its terrible lack of rigour.

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  • phil rimmer: Implanted chips in the skull are in addition to genetic engineering to improve math IQ and eliminate religion. It isn’t either/or. What would a stupid person do with an installed computer? Play games?

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  • There is now another step forward in properly regulated scientific investigations into the use of these technologies.
    UK scientists have been given the go-ahead by the fertility regulator to genetically modify human embryos.

    The research will take place at the Francis Crick Institute in London and aims to provide a deeper understanding of the earliest moments of human life.

    The experiments will take place in the first seven days after fertilisation and could explain what goes wrong in miscarriage.

    It will be illegal for the scientists to implant the embryos into a woman.

    Gene editing is the manipulation of our DNA – the blueprint of life.

    In a world-first last year, scientists in China announced that they had carried out gene editing in human embryos to correct a gene that causes a blood disorder.

    “The reason why it is so important is because miscarriages and infertility are extremely common, but they’re not very well understood.”

    Out of every 100 fertilised eggs, fewer than 50 reach the early blastocyst stage, 25 implant into the womb and only 13 develop beyond three months.

    The regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), has given its approval and the experiments could start in the next few months.

    Paul Nurse, the director of the Crick, said: “I am delighted that the HFEA has approved Dr Niakan’s application.

    “Dr Niakan’s proposed research is important for understanding how a healthy human embryo develops and will enhance our understanding of IVF success rates, by looking at the very earliest stage of human development.”

    Dr Niakan, who has spent a decade researching human development, is trying to understand the first seven days.

    During this time we go from a fertilised egg to a structure called a blastocyst, containing 200-300 cells.

    But even at this early blastocyst stage, some cells have been organised to perform specific roles – some go on to form the placenta, others the yolk sac and others ultimately us.

    During this period, parts of our DNA are highly active.

    It is likely these genes are guiding our early development, but it is unclear exactly what they are doing or what goes wrong in miscarriage.

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  • we are headed for extinction or at least a population crash sometime
    between 2022 and 2040. We must find out how to give the next
    generation math IQs of 400 and similar science IQs…we must weaponize
    the genetic engineering… If we don’t, we are not smart enough to
    save ourselves and we will probably go extinct.

    Phil Rimmer has politely asked you twice for your sources A1M, and as I agree with his ideas I’m also curious.

    Schizophrenia has nothing to do with creativity…Sapolsky must be
    nuts. Sapolsky confuses imagination with schizophrenia…Sapolsky is
    crazy. Or unimaginative.

    I recently completed these 24 lectures by Sapolsky and he seems a bit more credible than you do.

    A1M, were your informants the same folks who told you that proponents of renewable energy were scammers just trying to trick us into using more gas? You said then that the cost would be a QUADRILLION dollars for the US.

    You recently claimed in this forum that:

    there is no reason to waste time and money on wind and solar.

    I’ve noticed A1M, that you manage to offer amazing precision with your calculations. You admitted your MMPI score was unremarkable so I’m guessing your not a savant, so where did you glean your ideas from?

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  • ad asteroid

    I’d also be interested for your opinion on what a maths IQ of 400 would mean for us. Is this just some equivalent to FLOPS? Or does it have an impact on creativity and problem solving?

    My real question.

    What is creativity and how does it become (through evolution!) that transformative force in this apes skull?

    and supplementary

    Why wouldn’t forgetting our old answers (at least temporarilly) not be a nifty way of encouraging us to better answers?

    Read elsewhere here about the current discovery of C4 gene linkage to over-aggressive pruning of cortical synapses in the adolescent brain. This may just underlie a less facile retreival of existing semantic memories. The absent minded professor re-building his world from scratch again and again until it is memorable enough…

    I’m sorry you didn’t wish to receive the Silberman. I think his accounts of Hugo Gernsback and his chum Nicola Tesla would have appealed to you.

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  • phil rimmer: Floating point operations per second has nothing to do with human math IQ. I’m not talking about arithmetic. I was talking about math. Yes, I mean creativity and problem solving. I mean the ability to understand everything. Do you watch “Numb3rs?” If a child has a 400 math IQ his parents will be unable to prevent him from learning math and science. It would take only a few minutes of sneaking a read to learn a lot of math and science. So the kid will realize very early that the sermon is word salad. Hopefully, the kid also knows when to keep his mouth shut.

    What do you mean by “receive the Silberman”? I started reading that book by Silberman. I got bored with the book. Who is Hugo Gernsback? Nicola Tesla I like. A little bit of Asperger’s syndrome is a good thing because most people are too social. A little bit of Asperger’s syndrome helps you back away from “friends” and think for yourself.

    Len Walsh: Where did I get stuff? First of all, I got a BS in physics from Carnegie-Mellon in 1968. I worked in the army’s lead lab for nuclear weapons effects. I returned to graduate school in physics and engineering. I had a career as a Department of the Army civilian involved with weapons that kill fewer people at a time. I got the Army to put ground robots into the battlefield. [The soldiers had been afraid that robots would get scared and run away. Their exact words were that a robot couldn’t withstand the terror and horror of war. That was a personality hangup on the part of the soldiers.] Since I retired in 2004, I have been involved in mitigation of Global Warming. The real scientists have a web site at If you want to learn climate science, is a good place to start.

    I had plenty of time to read books while working for the army the second time. The engineering was so easy I had a lot of slack time. I read a lot of subjects. Of course, being a natural engineer and having retired from mostly electronics engineering, it is very easy for me to figure out that the wind turbine marketers are full of nonsense.

    Len Walsh: I can and do, do my own calculations. As for sources: Read a good library at a technical university like Iowa State. Sorry I don’t remember all of the references, and there are a great many of them. Overpopulation: Reference “Overshoot” by William Catton, 1980 and “Bottleneck: Humanity’s Impending Impasse” by William Catton, 2009. Catton says that we humans are about to experience a population crash. also:
    Ecological Footprints and Bio-Capacity: Essential Elements in Sustainability Assessment by William E. Rees, PhD University of British Columbia also:
    google “need 2 more Earths” or “need 1.5 more Earths” or something like that. They are all telling us the same thing. Catton puts it in nice numbers.

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  • I know its not FLOPS. That was a goad to get you to answer the what is creativity and especially what is mathematical creativity. What are its neurological correlates, so how then do we get to ramp up maths IQ? What genetic engineering, what implants? And why this particular capacity? Why, say, Feynman’s problem solving loop integrals and not his problem solving diagrams? Is maths here just code for logical thinking, or what?

    Hugo Gernsbach was arguably Tesla’s best friend. He unleashed a world of technological creativity and by his efforts more transformed the US into a technology leader (by galvanising, educating and facilitating its young) than any other single person.

    Chapter 6.

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  • 46
    hisxmark says:

    Alas, a human is not like a car. A genetic change does not just produce one effect. It changes every cell. A baby born with such a brain might go mad with information overload, or even die.
    Do you really want to deal with a world where everyone is a brilliant sociopath?
    It might be a better idea to proceed slowly, examining results at every step before proceeding.

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  • A1M, I’d like to begin by declaring where I do agree with you. I reckon Catton’s insights are pretty good, although I doubt we’ll become extinct within a decade or two. ‘Cosmeticism’ won’t solve our plight (ref Catton).

    And I agree with you that we’re not sufficiently intelligent to resolve our problems in a timely (urgent) fashion. Phil’s country, mine and yours repeatedly elect popular idiots and faith schools are ascendant everywhere.

    Genetic enhancement won’t happen any time soon, according to the OP, and perhaps never. If it does occur I think it will resemble the scheme LaurieB outlined in the second post of this thread. Hence I don’t figure our salvation will derive from genetic engineering, because significant changes wouldn’t become apparent for many generations. Again, agreeing with you, I doubt we have sufficient time. The only practical solution to a brighter species is better education in my opinion, but that would also take a generation (at least) to realize any benefit. Which brings me to my disagreements with your ideas.

    It is fanciful to imagine genetic engineering could enhance intelligence, as we know so little about it. At best some heritable diseases may be amenable to genetic fiddling, but not IQ of any description, much less math or science. We do know that it isn’t a gene or genes which could be simply replaced. See Dean Hamer’s gay and god genes.

    Thank you for explaining how you managed to assemble your views on neurology, psychiatry and psychology. Your affection for Maslow’s hammer, or as the French say déformation professionnelle, is apparent both here and also on the other thread about renewable energy. Unfortunately (for you) the brain isn’t as mechanistic as you imagine, and is instead more like hisxmark has explained just below.

    Sincerely I think you would benefit from Phil’s advice to watch some of Sapolsky’s youtube, to correct your law-of-the-instrument “outlandish assumptions” acquired from a lifetime of nuclear adulation.

    I would be happy to argue with your “outlandish assumptions” about the lack of value in renewable energy plans, but on the appropriate thread.

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