13 January 2013

China's Eugenics Program: A Billion Person Experiment to Create Humanity 2.0

China is creating its next generation through eugenics. Geoffrey Miller reports at the Edge that,

The BGI Cognitive Genomics Project is currently doing whole-genome sequencing of 1,000 very-high-IQ people around the world, hunting for sets of sets of IQ-predicting alleles. These IQ gene-sets will be found eventually—but will probably be used mostly in China, for China. Potentially, the results would allow all Chinese couples to maximize the intelligence of their offspring by selecting among their own fertilized eggs for the one or two that include the highest likelihood of the highest intelligence. Given the Mendelian genetic lottery, the kids produced by any one couple typically differ by 5 to 15 IQ points. So this method of "preimplantation embryo selection" might allow IQ within every Chinese family to increase by 5 to 15 IQ points per generation. After a couple of generations, it would be game over for Western global competitiveness.

Is this a matter of parents and society doing what is best for their children? Could this result in some Utopian future in which no one has genetic defects and everyone represents a vast improvement on their parents, the generational equivalent of new product releases - "brighter! harder working! better looking!"? Is it a natural evolution of evolution from something random to something intentional? 

Or are we heading towards a Dystopia in which future people are the product of past ideals? (Imagine trying something like the miracle of Silicon Valley with males genetically engineered by Romans to be the perfect gladiator.) Perhaps random is the only really safe way to prepare for an unknown future.

It is hard to believe that as methods for "choosing" your best off-spring become better known that people throughout the West won't adopt these methods as well. I see no reason why that ought not to make you both very excited and very afraid for the future.

1 comment:

Lifehiker said...

Yes, excited and afraid. No doubt many parents will take advantage of this technology when (not "if")it becomes available, and nations will see it as a means to achieve competitive advantage. This is one cat that can't be kept in the bag.

I confess I believe intelligence is a "good" - the more, the better. But, what if breeding for it decreases the incidence of other "goods", like physical prowess or hearing acuity? My children may learn the answer to this question.