Tag Archives: gene therapy


I had an eye-opening conversation about yellow flight the other day. I bring it up because the main points of the conversation are echoed in Half Sigma prescription for lower materialism:

Half Sigma: Declining population part II: the relative nature of wealth
There may be a lot of educated white people who wouldn’t mind living in a cheap neighborhood if their neighbors were other educated white people with a similar mindset, but the reality is that living in a cheap neighborhood means living with uneducated minorities with anti-social behaviors.

The post also makes me think about gene therapy and gene counseling on the group-level. My previous posts have only emphasized that parents will have the freedom to select the next generation, and that prisoners may one day be cured of their anti-social traits through altering their DNA. However,, it’s also clear that such procedures create positive externalities — public goods — for those around the patients. A student who is brighter and more studious because of genetic counseling has a positive impact on his peers, who are likely to be brighter and more studious in turn. Likewise, a man who no longer is predisposed to crime will likely cause his neighborhood to be less criminal than it otherwise be!

The flipside is also true. Those who are dull and lazy, or those who are violent and criminal, hurt those around them. The importance of fixing broken windows to reduce crime has long been known. Cities will violate landowner’s property rights in order to create an environment that leads to greater economic success and less crime. If gene therapy and gene counseling continue to be legal, to what extent can be extent cities to violate the genetic autonomy of the individual in order to secure peace and economic success?

Our strange fixation on race (where the subject is continually interesting, but most “new dialogs” are actually awful) compounds the problem. If most people in need of such services belong to politically correct minorities, does this make government action less likely (because more such minorities will have their individual rights violated) or more likely (because those minority communities stand the most to gain by improving the population)?

The same questions can be asked on a larger scale, too. As the Responsibility to Protect gains teeth, under what circumstances is the international community entitled to engage on widespread genetic manipulation of a population? What if infecting the pygmie population with a certain retrovirus would raise their IQ 15 points? What if infecting certain Congolese populations with a retrovirus would make pygmie flesh taste awful?

We can ignore these questions, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be answered. The concepts of white flight and yellow flight speak to current examples of changing community equilibria. Our attempts to counteract white flight to the suburbs have backfired, badly. The rise of genetics merely expands these problems and opportunities to new dimensions.

If we can’t kill them, why not cure them?

So because of a few men in robes, we can’t kill those who torture and rape children.

It’s unlikely we can convince them that child rape is a bad idea. Probably as hard as “curing” homosexuality. (I don’t think sexual orientations are easy to change.)

So now that we can create mice with Asian hair, and we know personal DNA samples change over a lifetime anyway, why not direct that change in a way that can cure people and turn criminals into good citizens?

Bonus points if you can give a good reason that doesn’t rely on time travel (believing we can give someone back lost time), analogies to the National-Socialist German Workers Party, or revenge.

Better behavior through chemistry

Imagine there are two men. Both experience an emotionally trauamatic situation. Both suffer the same emotional states as reaction to this trauama — confusion, anger, rager. Both experience the gut-wrenching pain that goes along with this, and both imagine inflicting violence in response to the trauma.

Now imagine one of these men is stentenced to twenty years in prison, where he experiences loss of freedom, rule by gangs, and perhaps rape. The other goes about his day.

Clearly this is injust, but this is how how legal system is set-up. We punish in response to someone’s behavior, which of course is systematic discrimination against those with poor behavioral control. Every day countless people of evil intention, evil hearts, and evil design go free because they happen to possess better behavioral control, while those who suffer the same temporary lapses as everyone else are imprisoned because of a lack of behavioral control.

Clearly, behavior matters to society. We don’t want people to be violent around us. So we create this institutional evil — the prisons — to avoid an even worse evil — anarchy.

In the coming years and decades, pharmacological gene therapy may save us from a lot of this evil. By giving more people an equal playing field — by allowing this who suffer from the illness of poor behavioral control to be cured — we may allow many prisoners to enjoy a normal life and allow more citizens to be secure from criminal violence.

Indeed, the benefits may not end there. We may be able to help those who suffer from thoughts that lead to this sort of trouble to escape from those thoughts, and those who suffer from sick desires to be free of those desires, in the way that those who suffer from other forms of sickness may also be cured.

Some of course will object. They will prefer a world where men are killed in bar fights, where children are sexually abused, and prisoners are raped, to one where people can be cured of illnesses. This may be because they view the technology of cure as morally suspect, through a pagan belief that some people have less virtue than others and thus deserve more punishment than others, through a belief that time in prison is not a loss, or some other reason.

But I believe in building a world with less suffering. I believe in a political philosophy based on love. So I welcome the coming of pharmacological gene therapy.

And as a realist, I am happy I don’t have to rely on such airy beliefs. There’s money to be made in better behavior through chemistry, just as there is inbetter thinking through chemistry.

Isn’t it great when money and love work for the same ends?

Cognitive Function and our Genetic Code

Courtesy of Razib

Developing Intelligence : 99% Genetic? Individual Differences in Executive Function Are Almost Perfectly Heritable
Your ability to control thought and behavior relative to your peers – a set of capacities known as “executive functions” – is almost entirely genetic in origin, according to a newly in-press paper from Friedman et al. Over 560 twins completed tests to measure fundamental components of these executive functions, and the results were analyzed in terms of how similar identical twins performed to one another relative to fraternal twins (all twins in the study were reared together). Astonishingly, the results show that the variance common to all executive functions is correlated roughly twice as much between identical twins as between fraternal twins, and that individual variance in executive function falls directly in line with what would be expected from a perfectly heritable trait.

Furthermore, Friedman et al. integrated measures of general intelligence (“g”, estimated through the WAIS IQ test) and perceptual speed (essentially the speed with which subjects can complete very simple tasks) to show that the genetic contribution to executive function is not completely explained by genetic contributions to those more commonly-studied abilities. This is consistent with previous work showing that IQ is only moderately heritable (with 50-70% of variance explained due to genetic factors, far short of the 99% explained here).

99.9% is huge. The only study I can remember that came close is one of the studies that found working memory is 96% correlated with g. The conclusion that study and others received is that working memory was g. If the 99.9% number holds up for this study, then it will be accurate to say that executive function is genetically determined.

Fun stuff, and doubtless some serious money here for the pharmaceutical industry. True social equality looks like it will have to wait until gene therapy (Eugenics While You Wait(TM)) becomes common.