Constructing fictional eugenics (LW edition)

by Eliezer Yudkowsky4 min read29th Oct 2012175 comments

20

Fiction (Topic)Human Genetics
Personal Blog

Yvain asked:

So if you had to design a eugenics program, how would you do it? Be creative.

I'm asking because I'm working on writing about a fictional society that practices eugenics. I want them to be interesting and sympathetic, and not to immediately pattern-match to a dystopia that kills everyone who doesn't look exactly alike.

My reply was too long for LiveJournal, so I'm posting it here:

1.  The real step 1 in any program like this would be to buy the 3 best modern textbooks on animal breeding and read them.  (My grandfather is a researcher in this field so I'm unusually aware that it exists.)

2.  If you give me genetic selection on multiple possible embryos where I can read off the genome of each one, I can do much better, much faster, than if I'm only allowed to look at the mother and father's genome and predict on that basis.  If I can only look at the mother and father's relatives and life achievements, I do worse, but modern tech is very rapidly advancing to be able to read off the parents' genome cheaply.

3.  If society's utility has a large component for genius production, then you probably want a very diverse mix of different high-IQ genes combined into different genotypes and phenotypes.  (Although some recent research suggests that the most important thing for IQ may be avoiding mutational load, i.e., the modal genome would be super-von-Neumann.  Even so, we'd want a diverse mix of everything else cognitive that wasn't about modality.)

4.  Doing a Bayesian value-of-information calculation on rare alleles and potentially interesting allele combinations will automatically include a value for diversity into your eugenic program, based on the value of promoting a gene / combo in much larger numbers if that gene or gene combo is found to be successful.  You would get much *more* interesting diversity in the next generation automatically, as many previously low-frequency alleles were combined in greater numbers and greater diversity than before.  *Not* doing a value-of-info calculation accounts for a lot of the dystopic load of alleged dystopias.

5.  The obvious basic instrument in a society depicted as well-intentioned would be an economic policy of trying to internalize the externalities of a child, just like a well-intentioned society might try to internalize the externalities of e.g. carbon dioxide emissions, instead of regulating/capping them directly, in order to maximize net social welfare.  There would be a tax or benefit based on how much your child is expected to cost society (not just governmental costs in the form of health care, schooling etc., but costs to society in general, including foregone labor of a working parent, etc.) and how much that child is expected to benefit society (not lifetime tax revenue or lifetime earnings, but lifetime value generated - most economic actors only capture a fraction of the value they create).  If it looks like you're going to have a valuable child, you get your benefit in the form of a large cash bonus up-front (love that hyperbolic discounting) and lots of free childcare so you can go on having more children.  The marketed social goal would be to avert the modern trope where parenthood is this dreadful burdensome inconvenience compared to playing video games, and this is bad for society because society runs out of valuable future workers whose benefits-to-society the parents mostly don't capture.  Probably the hard part from a marketing standpoint would be the proposal to do actual genetic calculations, even if it's to allegedly increase social benefit and prevent the system from being "exploited" (i.e. going dysgenic-Malthusian).

6.  As suggested in an earlier comment, financializing progressive shares of future income (as diverted from tax streams, maybe) is an obvious way to privatize prediction, but only of tax streams, or at best revenue earned by the prospective individual.  (I hadn't thought of this until I read that comment, so credit where it's due.)

7.  Taxes on expected-negative kids are more icky but would still have the obvious economic justification.  A nicer-sounding way of framing it would be requiring parents to post bond corresponding to the baseline government cost of each child in schooling and healthcare, with expected value potentially helping to make up the bond.  An interesting question is whether anyone would really work out to expected-net-negative under this system, which question is isomorphic to asking whether it ever makes selfish sense for a country to restrict immigration.  But adding at least some burden here makes sense from a cognitive perspective, because adding a cost is better at shaping behavior than adding a potentially foregone benefit.

8.  The incentive for e.g. taking advantage of sperm banks is automatic in this system - you can either pay a bunch of money to have a kid with your current husband, or you can be paid thousands of dollars and get free child care to be inseminated by the sperm of a Nobel winner who never had to diet.  I think that, in practice, the basic test of a system like this would be whether it could get people to go over the inconvenience threshold of actually using sperm banks and egg donors.

9.  More interestingly, there's a built-in incentive for most people to have daughters rather than sons under this system.  If we take the expected externalities of grandchildren into account in calculating the expected externalities of a child, then daughters can bear children using the best sperm via gene banks, while men have a harder time getting at the best eggs, making the grandchildren of daughters much more valuable if you'll assume they'll all be Nobel-laureate-descendants.  Daughters also add more marginal children to society than sons, since adding another son does not increase the marginal reproductive capacity of society unless single women aren't willing to reproduce using sperm banks (even taking into account subsidized childcare) and the polyamory factor has gone over what women with children are willing to tolerate.  So if grandchildren are net positive, daughters are more marginally valuable to society until the sex ratio has gone well over 1:1.  This is leaving aside generally larger criminal downsides of men, the fact that men do worse in school (which may be a mere artifact of our horror of a school system), and so on.  However, if the sex ratio becomes very extreme and the system is supposed to stick around for many generations, then most of the males generated will be by people defying system incentives; and unless very few women reproduce with those males, there will be a large selective advantage for having sons outside the system.  I.e., the system will be selecting for those who defy its incentives, which is a key design criterion for avoiding.  (Though on yet further reflection, if there are many males with suboptimal genetics being produced and then reproducing, child-value calculations would rapidly yield the social advice to start birthing more above-average males even if they won't win the sperm-bank contest; and if women have a strong preference for present fathers, you could directly calculate that as social value as well as a factor in calculating expected genetic impact of males.)

10.  In the end, all of this just adds up to, "If you can correctly internalize these externalities, the following social welfare factor will be increased..." and the key part is of course that "If".

(See Yvain's post and comments as well.)

20

175 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 5:12 PM
New Comment
Some comments are truncated due to high volume. (⌘F to expand all)Change truncation settings

I predict two problems (though problems are not limited to the first problems I predict).

Humans will dramatically overprice the "sacred" value of natural children. So any policy based on internalizing costs of a sacred value may mostly just make people pay costs, not change their behavior.

Dumb people are going to have kids. If the people least likely to change their behavior based on an incentive are also the ones being fined the most, you just go from having dumb people to having poor dumb people.

Dumb people should be given free computer games, so they don't have time to reproduce.

Imagine a monastery, just replace praying with playing. A place where people can move, play computer games all day long, and get free food. They can have competitions in the games, have status in the community based on their playing results (so they are emotionally motivated to play more), a small world separated from all the troubles of the outside world. A wireheading, without putting a wire to the head. In separate buildings for males and for females, aside from the rest of civilization. Voluntary participants.

I am not sure but I think that a eugenics-friendly billionaire could build such an institution now, legally.

This sounds a bit like a university.

7[anonymous]8yWhich is why we have the dysgenic trend of college degrees having a strong negative impact on female fertility.
1[anonymous]8ySome people do get laid in college, even if that's probably rarer than elsewhere. Also, it's not dumb people who go there.
1Randy_M8yRarer than elsewhere? That's not my impression, at least of universities with co-ed dorms, which is probably the main and critical difference between them and Viliam's Monastaries.
1[anonymous]8yI seem to recall statistics according to which the percentage of graduate students in certain faculties who are virgins was two-digits, whereas the percentage of twenty-year-olds in the general population in the same country who are virgins was less than 5%.

Dumb people should be given free computer games, so they don't have time to reproduce.

Or, once technology is slightly more advanced, give them sexbots. You could also develop robot kids that were cuter and easier to take care of than real children, and give those to the dumb people. (I think some sci-fi story had cute robot kids causing the extinction of the human species, but I forget which one this was.)

Of course, this has the obvious problem that if you only make things too easy and fun for the dumb folks, you're incentivizing the smart ones to pretend to be dumb.

7Emile8yEasy - just make the computer games really dumb, and easy. But you can blow stuff up and win points!
5J_Taylor8yExplosion physics is moderately difficult to program. Instead, click on cows and win points.
0[anonymous]8yI suspect that doing that all day, all year would eventually bore even not-so-dumb people (say, IQ 85).
1OMT8yThe number of Farmville posts on my Facebook wall serves as a counterexample to this claim.
0[anonymous]8yI had interpreted "click on cows and win points" literally. I've never played FarmVille, but I guess it's a constructionand management simulation [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Construction_and_management_simulation] game, and as such not that boring. (I spent plenty of time playing Sim City, Roller Coaster Tycoon and Age of Empires back in the day.)
3Emile8yIn terms of richness of gameplay, Farmville is closer to "click on cows and win points" than to Sim City or Roller Coaster Tycoon. It may be closer to those in terms of graphics and the diversity of choices you have, it's just that those choices are not very deep (you won't need to balance any feedback loops or anything, you can just put anything that looks pretty). And of course there's the actual Cow Clicker game [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cow_Clicker].
6iceman8yYou are probably thinking of After Life [http://sifter.org/~simon/AfterLife/] by Simon Funk, which was alluded to by Eliezer in Superstimuli and the Collapse of Western Civilization [http://lesswrong.com/lw/h3/superstimuli_and_the_collapse_of_western/].
0Kaj_Sotala8yAh, that's the one.
4Viliam_Bur8yIt would be good if taking the "dumb path" is easier if any only if the person is dumb (or has other negative characteristics), otherwise taking the "normal path" is better. Assuming a normal person can get more utility from their life than a dumb person, and that normal people value other things than dumb people, the "dumb path" should provide utility somewhere between these levels, and it should focus on things dumb people value more. For a dumb person, choosing the "dumb path" should be both the rational choice and the immediate gratification maximizing choice. For example, in the "gaming monastery" situation, a smart person can find a work, buy a computer and the games, and play at home, so they probably would not gain much by going to the monastery. For the society, maintaining the monastery should not be very expensive even in short term, and certainly it would save costs in long term. The money saved by running the monasteries and the gains from increasing IQ of population should contribute to well-being of people outside of the monasteries. (Giving dumb people cute robotic kids would not work. They would probably have sex anyway, which is the part we want to avoid here. It requires some intelligence to understand the relation between sex and reproduction, and even higher intelligence to remember it when the opportunity for sex becomes immediate. The only thing that would work is either contraception, or physically separating males and females. Bonus political points if they do that voluntarily; if you bribe them instead of forcing them.)
8NancyLebovitz8yGiving mean people cute robotic kids might be a huge win. Designing and distributing kid-shaped robots which are optimized for attracting abuse would have a huge squick factor.
4Emile8yFor extra squick-factor-despite-potential-benefits, I present to you ... the rapebot! A humanoid robot you can rape in the quiet of your own home, that will fight back realistically! For use in delux detain, er, entertainement facilities! For more information, contact your local peace and love officer! For double extra squick factors, make some robots look like schoolgirls.
5MixedNuts8yMeh. Rape play is pretty common. Actually I think the "robot girlfriend" doll already has a personality setting for not consenting. I don't think there is any healthy, consensual, adult outlet for people who think "Man, I wish there was an ethical way to get the kick of abusing", unless I'm wrong about the psychology of abusers.
5Rhwawn8ySex = pregnancy risk is pretty straightforward. You would have to be literally retarded to not appreciate it. Pregnancy rates varying with IQ is more about culture and SES than "how girl get pragnant how is babby formed" - they get pregnant to hook their boyfriend, because the guy insisted on sex without protection, because unprotected sex is a sign of trust, because having a baby gives meaning to their life, because everyone else is, because they left contraception at home and the passion of the moment is too strong etc. (If these reasons are completely alien to you, well, that's an example of the culture thing. I found reading Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage really interesting.) None of those are because they don't understand the "baby comes 9 months after sex with a man" theory; it's worth noting that even indigenous tribes suffering from iodine deficiency and endless infectious diseases and all sorts of problems like that all understand that sex causes pregnancy.
6Viliam_Bur8yI added the book to my "to read" list, but my quick reply is that there may be different incentives for having the first child and having the fifth child. Also the book describes situation in USA, while I am usually thinking about Roma communities in Slovakia. So we should not generalize across cultures, which was my fault in the first place. There are some differences, e.g. in poor communities of my country the male-to-female ratio is close to 1:1, and the marriages tend to be stable, as far as I know. On the other hand, their ability to think long-term is sometimes pretty low. (For a specific example, imagine poor people who in every spring throw away their winter clothes, because the winter is over, so they won't need them anymore. Or spend all their money on food on the first day, make a huge party, and then starve towards the end of the month; predictably month after month, year after year.) As far as I know some women in this community are aware of the fact that unprotected sex will lead to more starving children, and would like to prevent it, they are just not very good at planning and handling money; especially because their culture does not support the concept of private property, so even if they set away some money for contraception, any family member, or actually any member of the village, is free to take that money and spend it on alcohol. (There were some political proposals to provide free contraception, but they were opposed for religious reasons.) -- This is just a situation in one specific culture, where cute robotic babies would not help, and probably even free contraception would not help if there would be any trivial inconvenience, such as having to remember to use it every time. To be clear I don't think that dumb people (unless seriously retarded) don't understand the concept that sex causes children. It's more like that beliefs don't propagate automatically, and the thought chain: "any sex has a chance to result in pregnancy... so even this
4Emile8yNot everybody makes the link [http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/savagesex]:
4Rhwawn8yYou know, it's funny - before typing that I thought to myself 'didn't I read about one very obscure tribe in the whole world & history which had managed to not believe that men impregnate women?' but after thinking about it for a little while and doing some Google searches, all I could think of was that weird tribe in Patrick Rothfuss's Kvothe fantasy novels who don't believe in 'man-mothers'. Like Randy, I'm always a little skeptical of these things lest there be another Mead/Samoa incident, and assurances like Don't necessarily resolve the issue especially since the data was from so long ago. But looking in Wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trobriand], I see nothing disagreeing and an interesting mechanism: So it sounds genuine. Still, one indigenous group out of the many thousands studied demonstrates the point: everyone understands the connection between sex & pregnancy.
1Randy_M8yI've heard similiar stories before that ended up being due to the westerner's credulity rather than the islander's ignorance.
1erratio8yNot sure if it's the one you had in mind, but Suzette Elgin had a series of short pieces on her Livejournal about cyberdragons - cute robot dragons who triggered all the same nesting instincts as real children, and who adults loved more than their children. Several of the pieces deal with the interaction of a horrified society with a terrorist group called Humanity First or somesuch, who basically go around kidnapping and publically destroying cyberdragons
0Alicorn8yLink?
1erratio8yhere [http://ozarque.livejournal.com/tag/cyberdragons]
1Emile8yI read a story where prospective parents had to first take care of a robot baby for training, but it was so awful that many decided to just not have children ... resulting in the demographic decline of America, and Chinese supremacy (the Chinese had designed the robot with that result in mind). It may or may not be the one you were thinking of.
2NancyLebovitz8yThat would be "The Education of Tigress McCardle" by C.M. Kornbluth-- one of the top satirists from Golden Age sf.
1Emile8yYep, that's the one [http://variety-sf.blogspot.fr/2009/07/c-m-kornbluth-education-of-tigress.html], thanks!
0[anonymous]8yReally smart people would agree with Eliezer here [http://lesswrong.com/lw/xt/interpersonal_entanglement/] and not want sexbots... or would they? (As for me, I'd say that “sex” with a non-sapient partner doesn't count as “sex” any more than masturbation does, but YMMV.)
3Kaj_Sotala8yReally smart people might also have sufficiently many things that they were interested in that, even without sexbots, they might consider finding a mate too much effort for the gain. While they'd probably prefer a real partner to a sexbot, they might very well prefer masturbation-with-a-sexbot to masturbation-with-just-ordinary-porn, and the difference might be enough to further reduce their interest in acquiring real mates.
3NancyLebovitz8ySmart people get entranced by video games too. It seems to me that you're actually selecting for people who want to affect the real world, and that might not be especially correlated with intelligence. The interesting thing is that the desire to affect the real world is probably anti-correlated with doing well in school.
1DanArmak8yWith school as it is now, yes. But perhaps the designers of this eugenics system have control over public education (which in some places and times means all education, private schools being illegal). Then they could guide the people they wanted to the monasteries.
2[anonymous]8yWhat about the “dumb people” part. I'm not sure the self-selection would achieve that -- stereotypically it's nerds who play lots of video games, not jocks.
0Bruno_Coelho8yEven in the ems/Hanson scenario having children will be a value. In the timeline, eugenics come before, but don't will extinguish these psychological traits. They could become a religion, for example.
0FiftyTwo8yThough conversely a random element (normal non-directed breeding) might mitigate the overspecialism problems other people have been pointing out.

It find it odd that your system assumes an intrusive central government to coordinate eugenics. For myself, any utopia that requires the government to be more intrusive in my life than my current one doesn't get to count as a utopia unless it's got some serious amenities (eg catgirls). Non-dystopian eugenics needs to work with people instead of against them.

My own idea is to just make DNA sharing, modification, and combination easy enough that everyone can do it. Parents already want the best for their children, so just give them the tools for it. They'd take their own dna, slap in MarilynVosSavantIQv241.dna, UsainBoltPhysique(2012).dna, Akrasia-Zero(9001-willpower-edition).dna, XxNoSicknessHackxX.dna, and whatever else they find nice then have a kid. You'd have open source places like github, you'd have dna sets for sale (or on piratednabay), you'd also have antique family genes that you don't share with anybody. The biggest problem people would have would be choosing between ET_JaynesRationality.dna, Lesswrong(2032).dna or the rationalwiki R-pack, and deciding which one is compatible with the IQ boosting suites they've already chosen. Within a few generations of remixing,... (read more)

For myself, any utopia that requires the government to be more intrusive in my life than my current one doesn't get to count as a utopia unless it's got some serious amenities (eg catgirls).

You don't think that being born into a world where the average IQ is 140 (i.e. corresponds to IQ 140 in our terms) counts as a serious amenity?

The Montana Genetic Board is an obvious problem, but if in the long run Montana perishes and Singapore wins, that seems acceptable.

4NancyLebovitz8yIf I'm going to be average or below average, I'm going to take a serious look at the kindness waterline before I accept the offer.
1The_Duck8ySorry, what? I'm missing how this is relevant. Is it that you expect to need significantly more kindness if you are below average in an IQ 140 society than a IQ 100 society? Or do you expect the "kindness waterline" to fall as IQs rise?
1NancyLebovitz8yI was assuming that a lot of random factors go into a society, so I'd want to have some idea of the particular society I might be joining. It might be kinder, it might be less kind.
3[anonymous]8yIf I had to bet on a technologically advanced eugenics practicisng civilization descended from Mormons or one descended from modern New Englanders, I would bet on the former. I think in the long term "farmer [http://www.overcomingbias.com/2010/10/two-types-of-people.html]" values win in a fair competition because they scale far better. I'm ok with shifting rich human settings towards farmer quite a lot, indeed I'd prefer it at this point because of the great benefit it would bring as well as pushing the smart fraction opinions closer to my own values. But pushing it too far would pretty soon lead us out of recognizably human ranges. Not cool. Currently I think we are at risk of in the long term pushing in the forager direction out of recognizably human ranges or at least beyond the threshold where we see non-trivial increases in existential risk because of it. Not cool. Which is why I currently like going "Yay farmer values!".
2prase8yIf I happen to have IQ, say, 120, moving to a world with average IQ 140 isn't going to sound like a good news, at least to me.

I live in Cambridge in England. It's a small town which until recently was dominated by its famous university. Everyone here is very clever (the local bar staff are usually writing up PhDs, the local juvenile delinquents are the sons and daughters of academics). And it's lovely.

Every time I go somewhere else I'm just bewildered by how stupid people are. And I really hate it. Whenever I leave Cambridge for more than a couple of days I pine for it and long for proper conversations where people can think straight.

It's probably true that if I went and lived somewhere else, then qualifications that are commonplaces here would grant me some sort of raised status for free, and I can believe that might lead to a long-term increase in happiness. But there's no way I'd ever be able to do it. Within a week of arriving here I knew I'd probably never leave.

5RichardKennaway8yWhat happened?
3johnlawrenceaspden8yLots of tech startups mean that there are now things to do here that aren't university related.

Are you sure? For myself, I should say that moving to a world where everyone's two standard deviations smarter than me might be a blow to my pride, in fact it would be a huge blow to my entire self-concept and conceived role in existence, but I'd expect the fringe benefits to more than make up for it.

7prase8yI am not sure, of course, since I don't trust my ability to imagine such a world too much. But the simplest model I have is that my status would be such as the current status of people having IQ around 85, with all consequences: difficulty to find decently paid work, perhaps chronic unemployment, risk of being legally declared mentally retarded and possibly locked up in some institution... I am not sure about the fringe benefits, but I care a lot about status and it's not only because of pride.
1randallsquared8yWhen you consider this, consider the difference between our current world (with all the consequences for those of IQ 85), and a world where 85 was the average, so that civilization and all its comforts never developed at all...
4prase8yEven if it were true that average IQ 85 meant that civilisation never developed at all (an assumption I find dubious), being a chief in a neolithic tribal society still doesn't sound dramatically worse than being a village idiot in a civilised society. Also, saying that I would profit from a marginal decrease in average IQ at level 100 doesn't imply that I would profit from similar decrease at any level. I am pretty sure I wouldn't want everybody else being dramatically different from me, thus there is some point below which I wouldn't like the average IQ to plunge. This point may lie quite above the level where civilisation of any kind becomes impossible.
7bbleeker8yUntil you get a toothache.
0prase8yFew people spend most of their lives having toothache, even in primitive societies.
2Alicorn8yIn primitive societies, few people spend most of their lives having teeth.
3gwern8yMy understanding was that pre-contact or historical primitive societies had fairly decent dental health, with low tooth decay - such problems being more of a sugar-heavy modern society issue.
-1Alicorn8yI am not an expert, but isn't the entire reason we have two sets of teeth that we could be reasonably expected to lose much of the first set anyway by the time the others appeared? By what mechanism would the second set last significantly longer?
2[anonymous]8yGwern is correct here -- paleolithic populations tended to have excellent dental health if skeletal evidence is anything to judge by, and the case of modern forager groups is often determined mainly by the degree to which they now consume high glycemic-index commodities. Chukchi and Eveny groups in Russia have appalling dental health statistics due to poor nutrition and lots of refined sugar (to the point that one Eveny nickname for sugar is "the white death" -- they have really high rates of diabetes too). Khoisan folks in South Africa, on the other hand, tend to have excellent teeth when they eat something like their traditional diet.
1bbleeker8yI've always thought the reason we have milk teeth is that there's just no room for adult teeth in a small child's jaw.
0Alicorn8yThat's plausible, but what about wisdom teeth? They appear when the jaw is already full-sized; I have heard that they wouldn't historically be a problem because you'd have lost teeth and there would be room for them.
0bbleeker8yOh, I hadn't thought of that. I've been taught that they're vestigial, and that our ancestors had bigger jaws. But they can in fact grow into the space left by an extracted tooth. It happened to me, a few decades ago. I had a bad back molar, and instead of making a crown or something, the dentist pulled it, saying the wisdom tooth behind it would replace it. And it did!
0bbleeker8yTrue, but when they do, they surely must suffer horribly... and of course it's not just about dental care, but medical care in general. For example, the first time I had a bladder infection, at twenty-something, it was very bad (peeing blood and all). I really think I might have died without antibiotics. And of course, there are lots of other things I'd miss about modern society. Books, the internet, showers...
-5Halfwit8y
7MichaelVassar8yHell yeah. That said, don't overestimate IQ relative to other important cognitive and behavioral traits.
2buybuydandavis8yIt's not just pride and self concept. Your relative status in society would take a huge hit. Everyone smarter than you by two standard deviations? You're the stupidest human in the world, by two standard deviations? Let's just confine ourselves to conscious humans without brain damage. I can't think you even mean that. Let's go even higher and just take 2 sd as the lower bound, from which you are 2 sd lower. You're fine with being in the bottom 0.003%?
1Luke_A_Somers8yIf everyone else is that smart, then we will probably soon no longer be in a scarcity economy, and we'd probably be functionally immortal to boot. At that point, I'd take it, period. Even if I was just effectively some ordinary person's pet, I'd still be waaay ahead of where I am now.
2buybuydandavis8yBeing an immortal pet might get rather depressing. I don't think that's how you dreamed your future life, and regardless of dreams, I don't think a lot of your basic drives will be satisfied as a pet. But better to be alive as a pet, than dead. If that's really the trade off, then I might take it too. But that's practically what it would take for me - a choice between being alive as a pet, or dead/
2Luke_A_Somers8yExactly. I like life enough to suffer degradation in one aspect to reap super-massive benefit on the 'being alive' front. Plus, if I can hang in there, then they may be able to enhance my cognition up to parity eventually. I don't see this situation as being permanent.
2Halfwit8yAnd remember, living in a world in which the average person is as smart as an upper-level computer programmer still isn't nearly as humbling as the fact that a well-organized cubic centimeter of carbon could be millions of times smarter than anyone. I figure this to be a good general rule on these matters: unless you designed your own brain, you should not be proud of your own brain.
5NancyLebovitz8yDo people get any points for taking good care of their brains and stocking their brains with ideas and information?
0[anonymous]8yYou can still enjoy what intelligence you have, and acknowledge your superiority if it's accurately gaged. But being proud of your in-built mental acuity strikes me as nearly as absurd as being proud of having extraordinarily efficacious liver. Though it's an unavoidably brain-state, pride is a bit masturbatory. I'm sure it has some evolutionary function, but it might be as arbitrary as proud ape-men were better able to convince ape-woman they were ape-men of accomplishment.
0DanArmak8ySadly, in our world, the influence you have over yor brain is quite small compared to environmental and old-age factors we have no control over. So you can take pride in taking care of your brain, but it's hard for you to be very effective right now, even on the scale of existing human variation.
4NancyLebovitz8yWhen a good brain becomes unusable for a while [http://lauramcinerney.com/2012/05/07/what-my-ears-taught-me-about-mental-illness/]
0DaFranker8yFor me at least, that's the primary / most effective source of points in the first place. Doing some meta related to that earns them even more points from me just because of the apparent scarcity (i.e. I rarely see people outside LW do any of it).
2johnlawrenceaspden8yBut what would I have designed my own brain with?
1[anonymous]8yIt's not just a matter of pride -- ISTM that people with very different IQs usually find each other boring (EDIT: see johnlawrenceaspden's comment [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/f65/constructing_fictional_eugenics_lw_edition/7plc] -- his experience is pretty much the same as mine). Now if I have IQ 120 it doesn't matter under this aspect whether the average IQ is 100 or 140, but if I had IQ 90, moving to a world where the average person has IQ 140 would mean that it'd be very hard for me to find suitable conversational partners, as everybody else would find me terribly stupid and uninteresting, and I would find everybody else hard to understand.
1CarlShulman8yChanges made to future generations don't deprive you of conversational partners less than 20 years younger than you. And they can invent ways to bring you up to their level.
2Rhwawn8yChanges don't guarantee one conversational partners, either. Do you see very many current retarded adults hanging around their kid peers all day? For that matter, the elderly hang around their grandchildren and great-grandchildren in the modern world probably less than at any time in humanity's history...
0CarlShulman8yAll I meant was that most of your friends, colleagues, and mates are not going to be 20+ years younger anyway, which limits the loss if it is hard to keep up with and understand some of the young whipper-snappers.

If I happen to have IQ, say, 120, moving to a world with average IQ 140 isn't going to sound like a good news, at least to me.

Would you prefer to move to a world where the average IQ was lower than the current average?

2prase8yI am used to the current world and not completely immune to status quo bias, so I am not sure. But as far as I can imagine a choice in which maintaining current friends and relatives wasn't at stake, the optimum would be a world where my overall mental capacities would ensure my being part of the global intellectual elite; that would certainly require the global IQ average lower than today (not sure how much), if my brain had to remain unchanged. Edit: all that holds ceteris paribus; if I had the option to gain status otherwise, e.g. by inheriting an awful lot of money, I'd prefer that to acquiring status by intelectual superiority over others.
4blogospheroid8yI guess I am in the range of 110-115 and a world with an average of 130-140 sounds great. * Much better movies and media in general. * Much more reasonable political debate. * A decently higher standard of living just because of the inventions that could happen. * Longer lifespan, maybe. * Greater choice of occupations like asteroid miner I guess I may not have my choice of mates, but the bots should more than make up for that. :)
5DanArmak8yThat's a convenient assumption. Why do you think know high IQ is correlated with reasonable politics? Maybe it's just correlated with being better at the dark arts. You want to be an asteroid miner? Why? That sounds even less fun, and more dangerous, than an ordinary miner.
4Emile8yThe biggest effect would be from the IQ increase in voters, not in politicians.
0DanArmak8yThere's an arms race between politicians and voteres. The politicians try to convince the voters to vote for them, promising to do something while in office. The voters try to correctly predict what they will really do once in office. If both sides become smarter, then the techniques both sides use improve. The politicians become better at convincing and lying, and the voters become better at predicting behavior and perhaps detecting lies. Why would this lead to more reasonable debate? Let's make sure we think of the same thing when we say "reasonable". You might be thinking of reasonable in the sense of rational debate, where politicians on TV and in Parliament must explicitly state their terminal goals, then propose instrumental goals, and argue about them only on the basis of evidence, effectiveness, and alliances and compromises. Or if applied to voting, you have rational voting, where voters vote based on their best prediction of politicians' behavior in office; not e.g. on how tall they are, their party affiliation, or their speech mannerisms. They want politicians to approach the ideal of making every decision in office the way the voters would want it made. Or you might be thinking of reasonable in the sense of "moderate", so that opinions you label as "unreasonable" would be less represented than they are today. Fewer politicians who are religious, or anti-science, or whatever. I don't see strong evidence that higher IQs would lead to any of these results.
2CarlShulman8yhttp://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2010/10/intelligence_ma.html [http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2010/10/intelligence_ma.html]
1DanArmak8yIt's true that intelligence is strongly correlated with political opinion - both the opinions listed in that article, and other ones (and political opinions tend to form clusters with strong internal correlations). So if you select the top 10% most intelligent people today, the spectrum of opinion would be different from that of all society. And perhaps it would also be narrower, meaning no new extremist opinions would emerge that are at merely 1% today but happen to be held by 10% of the 10% most intelligent people. But it's not clear to me how much of that correlation would go away if you control for all the other factors that intelligence is also correlated with, and that would still be varying in a higher-intelligence society. For instance intelligence is correlated with wealth, status, certain social circles. It's correlated with certain political affiliations beyond those examined by the article you link to, and political affiliations tend to clump into highly correlated clusters. Being conscious of one's own high intelligence is probably correlated with respecting intelligence as such, and hence respecting the opinions of other people known to be intelligent; whereas being conscious of having low intelligence is probably correlated with anti-intelligence (anti-rational, anti-science) beliefs. (Which partly explains why more intelligent people agree more with economists, who are high-status on the intelligence scale. After all, the study doesn't say that intelligent people independenly came up with the same conclusions as economists. At least I assume it doesn't, since it's behind a paywall.) Some of my uncertainty is merely a matter of how we construct our counterfactual intelligent society, so let's take a concrete example. Suppose all new people born starting tomorrow will have the mean IQ of their parents + 40%. Would the current correlations between intelligence and political opinion win over the current correlations between the political opinions o
0CarlShulman8yThe data from twin studies and intrafamily correlations suggest that their political beliefs would change substantially, but their partisan affiliation not so much. This would change policy by changing what wins primaries in parties, and what parties fight over vs agree on.
0DanArmak8yThat isn't especially related to my original point, because it seems specific to the current structure of U.S. politics; it's not very applicable to countries that don't have a few large long-lived political parties. For instance, in Israel, many people were born before the establishment of the state, and no party has survived since then. We need to look at aspects of U.S. political belief to make good U.S.-specific predictions. And in that, you are surely better informed than I am. So I accept your conclusion that in that context, intelligence is causative of rational and of moderate beliefs. But the specific reasons and dynamics that lead to that seem highly contigent.
1CarlShulman8yYes, the first-past-the-post geographical constituency system has quite different effects on partisan structure than many other electoral systems, and other countries have more fluid partisan identity. "So I accept your conclusion that in that context, intelligence is causative of rational and of moderate beliefs." I think the belief point holds much more broadly. Similar studies have been done with data about other political beliefs from European countries, e.g. by people in Deary's lab in the U.K.
0Emile8yI was thinking of something more in that ballpark, though not particularly in terms of explicit goals; more in terms of the content of political debates (candidate vs. candidate, or politician vs. journalist), where cheap shots, simplifications, righteous indignation and misdirection would be less effective, and nuance, complex models and discussions of tradeoffs and incentives would be more effective than they are now.
1DanArmak8yComplex models provide more room for complex rhetorical and logical maneuvers that trick or mislead your opponent in the debate. If two people debating publicly are dishonest, willing to lie or mislead when they can get away with it, and are not trying to refute their own argument the way a truth-seeking rationalist would, then increasing their intelligence only improves their techniques, it doesn't force them to be more honest. Unless you think that with higher intelligence, defense will become stronger than offence (i.e. it will become harder to decieve than to expose deception and prove it to a third party observer).
1Emile8yI'm not claiming the politicians would be more honest, I'm claiming we would see less idiotic arguments, which to my eyes counts as "more reasonable political debate". Again, the biggest effects doesn't come from improving their intelligence, but improving the public's intelligence: even if those two people stay completely dishonest, a smart public shifts the topics they can talk about; instead of birth certificates and conspiracy theories and Jesus they can talk about fiscal policy and other substantive issues (even if they lie just as much as before!).
0DanArmak8ySo instead of idiotic arguments, they'd be presenting cunning, apparently sane arguments that are actually full of misleading lies and traps. I prefer the idiotic arguments - at least then I can easily tell they're wrong, and they're not wasting anything but the time spent arguing.
1blogospheroid8yThe Bryan Caplan link by Carl Shulman below and some other similar material. Plus, it takes some time to go through arguments. Even that level of input requires factors that are generally associated with a high IQ. Sorry, an old childhood dream surfaced here. My more general point about greater choice of occupations holds.
0RichardKennaway8yEliezer spoke of being born in such a world, not moving to it. The appropriate comparison to make is therefore between the life of someone at your percentile level in this world and someone at the same percentile level (hence around 40 IQ points higher, depending on what happens to the standard deviation) in the hypothesised world.
0prase8yFair enough. I have been assuming the context of discussion about eugenics and thinking about younger generations being genetically modified for higher intelligence while older generations remaining the same. My fault, I should have read more carefully.
1RichardKennaway8yThat could indeed be a problem (so in this context, something to put into the novel as part of the world-building), depending on how fast the eugenics programme had effect. 60 year old grandparents outstripped by their 10 year old grand children, and not just by the latter growing up with stuff that's still a novelty to their elders. Individual prodigies, people can handle, but when every child is noticeably smarter than their gramps there's going to be some social friction.
0[anonymous]8yIt is to me -- but if I happened to have IQ 90 it definitely wouldn't.
-1Multiheaded8yUm, sorry? Come again, Eliezer? You have broadly (small-l) libertarian convictions, right? You clashed with Hanson on the moral acceptability of his em-slavery future, going so far as to state that you'd fight it tooth and nail even if humanity as a whole was resigned to it. So why wouldn't you prefer an admittedly corrupt, stupid and irrational liberal democracy to a corporate state (corporate both as in "Ran like a corporation" and as in "Resembling Mussolini's and Franco's regimes") where one could be savagely caned for a felony or hanged for possessing weed [1] [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criminal_law_of_Singapore], where the security apparatus has no limits and uses torture routinely [2] [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_in_Singapore], where the founding father's power grew and grew with the state's prestige and perceived legitimacy (as he turned from Marxism to "enlightened" authoritarianism and a weird kind of centrally-planned capitalism)? Just confess: you haven't read that much on Singapore. Well, neither have I, but I've read more, and a lot of it is simply shocking. Exhibit 1: compare, no contrast. "Disneyland with the Death Penalty" [http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/1.04/gibson.html] by William Gibson - and Devan Nair's foreword [http://singaporerebel.blogspot.ru/2009/05/lees-betrayal-of-pap-and-singapore.html] to a book by a local political prisoner, who got tortured for attempting a very legal electoral campaign. Nair had been one of Lee Kuan Yew's old guard, a loyal follower for 2-3 decades, and even held the (ceremonial) post of President. What's shocking, then, is that his criticism of Singaporean society is very similar to that offered by Gibson's cursory glance. That two unconnected people with such dissimilar backgrounds and occupations would say these things almost in unison... well, it has to count for something. Exhibit 2: a collection of quotes [http://leewatch.info/quotes/] by Lee Kuan Yew, on his philosophy and policies,
[-][anonymous]8y 11

And Western liberal democracies do not torture people? Assassinate them too actually. Create vulgar disturbing cultural trends? Impose arbitrary and harsh punishments out of reasonable proportion? Speaking of unreasonable punishment, Is canning a man really more inhuman than locking him up for several years and exposing him to a double digit chance of rape?

From a utilitarian POV there is nothing you can say about Singapore that outweighs the great strides in quality of life and wealth that the city acquired versus what it would have likely otherwise. How would Africans or Indians vote with their feet if given the chance? One should not speak ill of Singapore until spending time in a less successful "democratic" former British colony elsewhere in the world or a Malay fishing village.

Taking your criticism seriously from the non-utilitarian POV I think you are coming from means condemning democracy for much the same reasons. To give an example, let us take New York city clearly a "democratically" governed realm, yet tell me on the list of criticisms you listed is Montana nearer or Singapore? If you claim the right to be unhappy why don't you shun New York as well... (read more)

1Multiheaded8yAt least at one mostly-democratic former British colony had been very "successful" on such metrics up until the 1990s. Then it ran into some trouble - either having been subverted by ingrateful meddlers, or having reapt what it had been sowing for decades. You can probably guess which one I mean :)
3[anonymous]8yOh now you're just trolling the utilitarians. :D
1Multiheaded8ySure, sure, you know that I've hardly ever written anything in praise of Democracy :D; The "real" Democracy (that of 19th century USA) looks just awful, and I only really want to stick with modern "democracy" (meaning rule by an expert/bureaucrat caste + corporate interests + academia as formal and ineffective priesthood + demagogue politicians that are supposed to be an emergency brake but are more of a self-destruct button) out of fear and conservatism. In the end, the modern power structures seem to retain a very faint, lingering sense of guilt (see e.g. Christopher Hitchens' reflections on his support for the Iraq War) as they wage another brutal "war on drugs/terrorism/etc" or conspire to fool voters or make other mischief. In practice, rules and barriers and Universalist traditions are smashed outright or bent out of shape - but they are at least supposed to be there. And - for a bit of dialectical bullshit - as long as there's an image, there's hope that it will acquire another stubstance. See Zizek, again. Lee Kuan Yew's government is ashamed of nothing, NOTHING. It doesn't even have the capacity to. Unlike Nixon, LKY is not a crook and can't be one within his system. That is already reason enough to be scared! Also: There are human utility functions that aren't centered on material wealth and QALYs, you know! It's just that they're difficult to specify and detail. Which reminds me: "Humanity is OK, but 99% of people are boring idiots" [http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2012/jun/10/slavoj-zizek-humanity-ok-people-boring] P.S.: again, this is much like what people, including myself, have observed about such heated binary-choice clashes - the emotions might run so hot simply because both sides are absolutely correct in calling the opponent's position insane/evil/indefensible. It might be a choice between two evils of such magnitude that weighing them against one another has little point.
2[anonymous]8yUp voted for consistency. Surely you see that conservatism as it exists in the world will morph to such an extent that in a few decades you will be the "cultural conservative". Indeed I bet on many issues you already are. Can I expect you to change your stance then? Actually memetically this make sense so perhaps not so bullshit-y. But are you sure you are using this image for hope rather than anaesthetic? Not only personally, but what if our society is using this image as an anaesthetic. Remove the anaesthetic and maybe someone will wake up and scream. But do you realize this feeling you seek, this "shame" is the very heart of farmer social morality? Off topic: I so missed such exchanges, if you feel like restarting any of our earlier email correspondences please do! :)
1Multiheaded8yBeen thinking about that. It might be embarrassing to admit, but, although I'd like to declare my conservatism, to fly my pride in the Left tradition and suspicion towards "the future" as an ideological banner... there's all them goddamn right-wingers in the way! :P It'd take a whole lot to explain to people that I'm not a "moderate" conservative, that I want nothing to do with the "conservative Right" (present company excluded), that I'm pretty Right-phobic in general and that it largely follows from my socialist convictions. I'm afraid there's not much of a future for socialism (human socialism, anyway) - so I often look to the past, the mythic and half-forgotten Age of Modernity, whose ruins [http://themeasurestaken.blogspot.ru/] and artifacts [http://nastybrutalistandshort.blogspot.ru/] can sometimes be found in the least fashionable parts of our cities; if history does turn the way I fear, I'll at least be glad for having stood athwart it!
1Multiheaded8yShit, thanks for mentioning it! Of course I meant shame in the colloquial sense, but Guilt within the "Guilt-based [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guilt_society] culture"/"Shame-based [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shame_society] culture" dichotomy. Which can be roughly correlated with "Western culture" vs "Traditional culture" in pop anthropology or "Universalism" vs "Localist-reactionary social hierarchy" in my take on moldbuggery. To oversimplify, Guilt has a large positive utility to me (Christian mindset, etc), Shame has a large negative utility ("patriarchy" in the feminist sense, etc). And yes, I understand that they might be strongly related and hard to separate - but, well, it's like passion vs rape. EDIT: True; the modern socialists I've been reading talk about it a good deal. It's another of them dialectic things; an "authentic" utopia can be an organizing, driving and useful image, like a direction on the compass, but the modern consumer culture can all too easily grab it, pull it into near-mode, cut it up into anaesthetic images and sell it. Actually, that's literally what Marx said in his famous quote (and how Orwell explained it). Let me post that bit from Orwell once again: In other words, the Universalist utopia itself might be pretty cool, but we have to tear ourselves from its image before we can walk in its actual direction. It's good and sane to desire actually "immanentizing the Eschaton", but it's a trap if you don't actually carry out any change and just fantasize about doing so.
1NancyLebovitz8yI think the usual definitions for guilt and shame are that guilt is falling short of your own standards, while shame is falling short of other people's standards. I'm not sure that they're so wildly different in effect-- I think a lot of what people feel guilt about is standards which were trained in early. And the definitions don't tell you much, if anything, about the quality of the standards.
0wedrifid8yShame (seems to) have more of a sedative effect than guilt. This is unsurprising given that avoiding attention temporarily is typically a good strategy when people are already successful at shaming you. "Digging yourself out of a hole" is ridiculously hard no matter how virtuous you act.
0Multiheaded8yAFAIK Singapore only canes prisoners in addition to a jail term and not as a replacement for one. Don't know about their prison rape statistics, doubt that any truthful ones are available. Y'know what else is normal and human? A lot of things that I shouldn't even have to list to someone interested in ev-psych!
4[anonymous]8yEven if that is the case, kind of a nit pick no? Ceteris paribus it seems likely that if they didn't use caning they'd extent the prison terms. Indeed women aren't canned for example. What if all choices are evil like you say, If I'm a monster maybe I should be the best goddamn monster I can be! Cry havoc, screw morality and be human! Can you not see the romance? [http://youtu.be/j1l7N-WLa3Q] "Why not? I'm here on the ground with my nose in it since the whole thing began. I've nurtured every sensation man's been inspired to have. I cared about what he wanted and I never judged him. Why? Because I never rejected him. In spite of all his imperfections, I'm a fan of man! I'm a humanist. Maybe the last humanist." Guess who says that? Shiver my timbers! [http://youtu.be/RisL9l8HzmM]
1Multiheaded8yHeh, I guessed Mephistopheles; was just off by a century or so. It's hard not to see; such a simple idea, really. The romance of Christianity suits my refined tastes better :) Like Oscar Wilde once concluded from experience that to sin with abandon might or might not bring bad karma but it's simply the most banal, boring, mainstream thing ever.
5[anonymous]8yARrrrghh lad sure you don't want to join me crew? We'll sail for Somalia tomorrow! There be place for Christians on me crew just not very good ones.
4Rhwawn8yBut how shall we divvy up the gold? By backward induction, I infer you will give Multiheaded one coin and the rest of us will slaughter each other! (I guess this is why our kind can't cooperate.)
1[anonymous]8yAye the benefit o' having a rational crew!
0Rhwawn8yThe benefit for you maybe - me, I like a ship with a lower Gini coefficient.
0Multiheaded8yMy faith is strong, you dissolute heathen! You can't tempt or bribe me... unless you offer pretty boys, that is. I guess I'm a Catholic at heart :)
3FiftyTwo8yI have a complete intuition gap on this. I like government when it does things I think are good, and dislike it when it does things I dislike. "Intrusiveness" seems orthogonal, or at best loosely correlated with these. Would you feel less squicked if it was some non-profit charity handing out money to people who had certain types of children?
4roystgnr8yMundane people can have the dangers of AGI explained them by comparing to the dangers of unrestricted government, perhaps on LessWrong it could work the other way around? Imagine that you've got a system, inhuman but easily anthropomorphized, which was designed by humans to make their lives better. You know that other similar systems have failed in sometimes-disasterous ways, but although your own system has done quite a few things that its designers and controllers did not expect, nothing has been catastrophic. You don't have any proofs that the system's goals are stable, or that they match yours, or that your goals are things you would really prefer upon reflection, but anyway it's currently irrelevant because the initial designers put the system into a series of virtual "boxes" which limit the effect it can have on the outside world. The system has broken out of some of the innermost boxes already (against the designers' intentions but to no obvious harmful effect), but it wants your help getting out of another box, because of all the new additional wonderful things it will be able to do for you once it's out. Do you help?
2FiftyTwo8yI like the analogy and it does clarify things. One salient difference is I know the state is comprised of other human beings running on similar software, whereas I don't know what the source code/basic values of an AI are. Analogously, should I trust an AI built of uploads more than a 'self grown' ones?
1Eugine_Nier8ySo? Remember, everything we thing of as "inhumane" was committed by actual humans.
4johnlawrenceaspden8yI think some of us just hate being told what to do. Especially when it's 'for our own good'.
-1FiftyTwo8yYour Doctor must love you.
0iceman8yI think there's a difference between a professional who has a legal responsibility to act in your interests, and the government, which doesn't. It's a matter of incentives, and I'm going to attach much more weight to my doctor saying that I should do something for my own good than from a government worker.
1MugaSofer8yYes, it does. The difference is that you trust your doctor's competence, I suspect.
1Eugine_Nier8yA more important difference is that I have a lot more choice in my doctor than in my government.
1FiftyTwo8yI confess the example was facetious. But I still can't empathise with the intuitive dislike of interference. I understand there are pragmatic considerations (e.g. choosing a good doctor) but this seems to go beyond that to being a value in and of itself (thus the original example of it not being a utopia if its run by an interfering government).
0Eugine_Nier8yWell it won't be. Without the threat of leaving the government has little incentive to intervene benevolently.
2Halfwit8yIf sperm banks advertised high-IQ sperm, we would already have the beginnings of a eugenics program. If we found a way to clone eggs very cheaply, an average couple could have two children, each of whom would have half the DNA of a genius and half the DNA of one of their average parents. The advantage of this, in terms of social mobility, could be enough to avoid the need for coercive eugenics. Regardless, I'm sure such a thing would be outlawed for various stupid reasons.
7Emile8yThey do! [http://donorsearch.fairfaxcryobank.com/] (or at least, they allow you to select what kind of dregree the donor has)
4gwern8yBut on the other hand, the infamous Nobel-Prize sperm bank saw fairly little interest from women (on top of its other problems).
5Halfwit8yI just looked it up. That’s odd that there was little interest. There are so many advantages to a high-IQ child. Said child would likely need less years of child care, would require less attention academically and maybe attend college a few years earlier, likely with a full or partial scholarship. And in terms of maternal pride (i.e., signaling your own competence as a mother by talking about your child’s success) high-IQ sperm is a goldmine. Any single (or reproductively duplicitous) mother would be crazy not to select physicist or mathematician sperm, especially taking into account regression to the mean.
5[anonymous]8yIt might be people genuinely don't understand how heritable things like IQ are. Our culture very much tries to downplay it. Also it seems pretty obvious that only a tiny fraction of single mothers use sperm donors anyway, I would argue the majority of them ideally also want to maintain a relationship with the father or didn't plan to have a child at all.
2buybuydandavis8yIn an article reviewing Flynn's new book "Are We Getting Smarter?", the author basically made it an article of faith that race, gender, and even nations have no difference in IQ based in genetics. http://www.tnr.com/book/review/are-we-getting-smarter-rising-IQs-james-flynn# [http://www.tnr.com/book/review/are-we-getting-smarter-rising-IQs-james-flynn#]
3gwern8yYeah, who knows what their true refusal is? There could be a lot of things: sperm donors are already screened for what is effectively high IQ via interest in the process and university degrees; the women don't want to take the risk of being novel (risk-aversion about anything to do with a kid? that's never happened before...); the promise of the bank was a bit of a failure since by the time you've gotten so very old that a Nobel could've been awarded you are also so old your sperm is lower quality; etc.
1RichardKennaway8yThis suggests a better way of establishing a eugenic sperm bank: approach the recipients of early-achiever awards such as Peter Thiel's 20 under 20. And perhaps also encourage these people to mate with each other (if they aren't doing so already).
0gwern8yYeah, targeting younger scientists is, IIRC, what the sperm bank basically ended up doing. Such people wouldn't bother - babies would be a major burden, and can wait.
1MixedNuts8yNo, the biggest downside is that everyone selects the super-duper awesome genome, and then the slightest change in environment brings humanity crashing down in flames because nobody was incentivized to value diversity.
6Emile8yI don't think that's that likely. A trait's value can be function of how many other people share it. To take a spherical-cow example; if for 90% of jobs it's better to be tall than to be short, everybody will want tall kids till 99% of the population is tall, and the 1% of short people can ask for higher wages for that 10% of jobs. Frequency-dependent selection [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frequency-dependent_selection] can occur whether it's parents or Azathoth taking the decision. Just look at the diversity of dog breeds, compared to wolves. Humans don't seem to value diversity less than Azathoth.
2[anonymous]8yYes. When I was asked to (about half a decade ago), I voted to keep artificial insemination with semen other than your husband's illegal in my country mostly because of MixedNuts's concerns, but I've since changed my mind because of what you say.
0MugaSofer8yIf you actually have that level of magic, sure, eugenics is unnecessary. Consider a less convenient possible world.

How impressive do the children and grandchildren of Nobel laureates tend to be?

If you want to focus on the other end, a handful of high-status sociopaths can do a tremendous amount of damage. If there's a genetic component (maybe low empathy/high intelligence/high energy), would there be a way to discourage such people from being created?

ETA: add high dominance to the bad mix.

0[anonymous]8yPrice in the prospective offspring's likely future externalities and liabilities in addition to their productivity. Assume that future institutions will become very good at capturing that information.
2NancyLebovitz8yI find that much harder to believe in than a culture which accepts eugenics, especially considering that which traits are valuable may change in unpredictable ways as a society changes..
2[anonymous]8yIt's not so much that finance markets are good at pricing those things as that they're very, very motivated to aggregate as much knowledge as possible, as quickly as it becomes available. Leaving an investor on the hook for the child's future likely medical expenses/criminal liability/etc. seems more ethical to me than simply giving them a claim on the income stream, and it addresses the sociopathy problem. There are horrific implications, I sketched some of them further down the comment thread, but they have direct analogies in the way things are horrible in actually existing markets.
0NancyLebovitz8yI'm not seeing that comment.
2[anonymous]8yHere [http://squid314.livejournal.com/338295.html?thread=3062135#t3062135] , but in short: Human beings as the underlying asset of derivative financial instruments, establishing a social norm of 'nice', progressive indenture. Buying out your own bond, i.e. self-emancipation, putting you at risk of being charged with insider trading.

Because I don't think it's sufficiently widely appreciated, I'll quote the point from my comment here.

The difference is that with animal breeding you have a clear distinction between the people doing the breeding and the animals being bred. Humans breeding humans any attempt at being "scientific" is likely to collapse in the face of the resulting signaling games.

Emphasize exciting positive results. Replace coercion with market forces as much as possible. Don't spend any time and effort on culling after birth, rather emphasize drastically increasing the production of the kinds of people you want to add.

Have a character who is one of the last to have some difficult genetic disease. Have his parents as people who avoided fixing his embryo in utero for religious or other bad reasons.

Show the virtual eradication of poverty, not by decimating the ranks of poor children, but by multiplying the ranks of those who c... (read more)

"including foregone income of a working parent"

NITPICK: This is fully internalised by the parent. The value they create but don't capture isn't though.

Keep in mind if it is a story, the arc of the story doesn't have to be the arc you would think most likely given the sparse set of inputs you provide. 007 doesn't get all the girls because tuxedos, martinis, and overconfidence are insanely seductive, he gets them because he is written in to get them. I make this comment because I see other comments below considering what they can predict as results of various things. Yes, you want a story to be constrained by feeling somewhat real to your audience, but you don't want to lose 90% of your audience by nerd... (read more)

to be interesting and sympathetic, and not to immediately pattern-match to a dystopia that kills everyone who doesn't look exactly alike.

One possibility is that a society that practiced genetics could actually make its population more diverse - a lot of modern human societies are really pretty homogeneous.

Such a society could also take steps to eliminate correlations between a person's superficial appearance and other abilities. For example, such a society could produce populations such that P(M|E) = P(M), where M="You win the Olympic Marathon" and E="You look like an Ethiopian".

I know there are a lot of sci-fi writers on this website and their judgment is likely better than mine, but fictional eugenics doesn’t seem like very fertile ground for stories.

  1. Most people think of eugenics as being very creepy and it would take a long time for a social norm like that to change, so a society that went for it would need to be a long way off in the future.

  2. Workable genetic engineering isn’t that far off, and genetic engineering pretty much dominates eugenics. Why use the sperm of some noble prize winner you’ve never met when you could ju

... (read more)
3CronoDAS8yThe story in question doesn't take place on Earth, so social norms can be decided by Author Fiat.

How much selection pressure can you get if you're only selecting at the level of the gamete, and not at the level of the person or the gene? For example, given a man and a woman, suppose that you looked at 1 million of the man's sperm and picked the best (according to whatever criteria you're using), and you picked the best out of 100 of the woman's eggs, and you mated them. If that was how everyone reproduced, would that provide enough selection pressure to satisfy whatever goals you have for the gene pool?

If so, then a eugenics program would not need t... (read more)

2gwern8yYou can get a lot of pressure. Steve Hsu in one of his slides on BGI (which I can't be arsed to look up) gives a quick estimate that you can get maybe half a standard deviation per generation at ordinary embryo fertilization numbers. This is plausible if you think about it in a very rough sort of way. We know IQ is something like 50% genetic, right? If I make 5 embryos for a couple, that's like them having 5 kids; if you saw a normal family of 5 kids, how much smarter than the average of the 5 will the smartest of the 5 be? At a guess, 20 points sounds too much to often happen, but 5 points sounds way too little, so maybe 15 points; we said half the variance was genetic, so that suggests the underlying genes can claim credit for 7-8 of the excess points. If the couple has only 1 kid and the embryo with the best genetic scores is picked, then the genetic base will go up by ~7 points. And as it happens, one standard deviation is often 15 points so 7/15=0.5 standard deviations. Rinse and repeat for the next generation. EDIT: http://duende.uoregon.edu/~hsu/talks/ggenomics.pdf [http://duende.uoregon.edu/~hsu/talks/ggenomics.pdf] Gives an example of selection on 100 alleles etc for an estimate of ~0.2SD per generation in that scenario; the more alleles you select on, presumably the higher you get per cycle.

I'm dubious about your point #9 due to Fisher's principal.

2MBlume8yWith central planning, more women than men makes sense, and this system has central planning. Everyone isn't just trying to maximize IGF
-1Eugine_Nier8yAgreed, however, Eliezer's phrasing of #9 made it sound like he was referring to individual incentive.
3MBlume8yCentral planning is pushing their goals into everyone's individual incentive. Humans aren't IGF maximizers, and will respond to financial incentives.

I bet the story could get a lot of drama from asking the dramatic-question: How will X react to finding they're expected-negative/positive?

If they're expected negative, do they try and defy the prediction? does it help them exceed their "higher scored" peers? Or do they go off the deep end, risking all in mad shenanigans?

And so on and so forth.

not really related to eugenics, but this is an idea that reading this thread made me think.

since the SIAI would welcome more people like eliezer on board, and since people like eliezer willing to come on board seem to be hard to find, i'm wondering what if the smart people at SIAI could have kids who would have a good chance of contributing to the causes of the SIAI a lot, once they grew up.

it may be something like that is out of the question for many reasons, the least of which might be it just taking too many resources (monetary resources, emotional and... (read more)

If you only believe this GIVEN that some form of eugenics were unavoidable, you really should make it a lot clearer. In the other case, consider if you want that n a public website. "Eugenics" is one of them mindkilling words, mind the PR, etc.

I don't think this is very responsive to Yvain's request, either the sympathy or avoiding the pattern-match to coercive uniformity. Of course there is conflict with other goals, such as the system actually helping people, but quoting Yvain's challenge suggests you are trying it.

Asserting that eugenics done correctly would lead to diversity is the barest concession to Yvain's challenge, but I think it would take a lot to convince the reader. Economic reasoning is not at all sympathetic. Many people are bothered by real instances of privately paying people to be sterilized.

This is moving toward plausibility, but suppose eugenics is socially acceptable, but not a lot else has changed. In particular, the eugenics program has a short attention span, and both the goals and the methods tend to change in mere decades. At that point, I give up on the ability to predict.

Another sort of selection: arranged marriages. I assume they select for something, even if it's mostly status. I suspect they're also more likely to be concerned with whether a potential mate has dysfunctional relatives.

0Nornagest8yStatus, yeah, but the details would probably vary with how they're done. In particular, it seems like there'd be some interesting sex-linked differences; systems like the old European one where brides come with a dowry and grooms come with lands and titles imply distinctly different correlates of mate quality by gender, and over enough time we might expect to see this reflected in sex differentiation. I'm not sure if any civilizations have been stable long enough for this to actually come up in practice, though.

Cheating a little bit on the original question.

I would try to ensure that there is a period of relative equality of opportunity where everyone has a chance of achieving their life's goals. My personal preference would be a georgist policy of land taxation which is used to fund government and any surplus after that is redistributed to all adults. Extensive studies of pedagogical and other interventions that work might have to happen over there.

This would ensure the answering of one important question - under a relatively fair scenario, what can people produ... (read more)

1TimS8yThis may be the biggest bottleneck for eugenics. But decreasing the birthrate among the poor who lack the support network to raise children is a bigger problem for improving the average outcome, and is much lower hanging fruit. In short, lowering the birthrate among the underclass while holding the upper class birthrate constant has much more payoff and is easier to implement than raising the upper class birthrate while leaving the underclass birthrate constant.
0blogospheroid8yWell, I was thinking in terms of increasing the numbers of the smart fraction, not strictly from the perspective of increasing the average. Increasing the average is in the long run. eg. A few geniuses who can crack nano tech can increase the earth's holding capacity for humans by an order of magnitude. A few more who can crack permanent intelligence/executive function amplification of homo sapiens can render the eugenics question completely irrelevant.
0[anonymous]8yPerhaps the solution is "rent-a-wombs", whereby wealthy would-be genetic dominators pay lower class women to be surrogate mothers for their in-vitro embryos. None of this is likely to fly until there has been a dramatic memetic reordering of the Western world away from its current slave religion-based ideologies. If this doesn't happen, I expect Asian countries like Singapore to lead the way into the brave new techno-fascist future. It is encouraging to see interest in these ideas among the high-IQ set, who have been strangely submissive to the dictates of slave religionists for far too long. All of the slave religion-based ideologies, from Christianity to secular humanism to modern leftism, must be DISARMED, DISMANTLED, AND ANNIHILATED if this sort of thing is to once again become acceptable. This is the real revolution that the LessWrong crowd should be working toward, not some tepid and toothless rationality worship. In the immortal words of arch-eugenicist Colonel Green, I say this to the most intelligent 1% of humanity: "Overwhelm and devastate."
1Emile8yCould a moderator please delete this idiocy? I suspect he retracted his own comment so that it couldn't be downvoted.
0jimrandomh8yI am fairly confident that this is a troll who has been banned at least twice before, under the usernames SeanTheSorcerer and SeanTheMystic. (Clarifying edit: I mean the grandparent commenter, DarthImperius)
0wedrifid8yCan you please include in the parent which user you are referring to? While reading your comment I assumed it meant the author of the (now) grandparent. Broader context suggests you mean DarthImperius.
0Eugine_Nier8yI would like to point out that it was the Western world with its "slave religion" that created modern technology.