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Taking Clones Seriously

I'm inclined to agree with you. To flesh out the scenario: suppose that an organisation decided to clone Von Neumann (or Einstein or Marie Curie or whoever), then handed the resulting baby to the adoption services of a responsible Western country, knowing that the adoption service put a lot of effort into making sure that prospective parents were responsible and suitable to raise a child. (I believe the US is a bit of an outlier on letting random people adopt without stringent checks, so let's say it's the British or. Swedish adoption system.) The adoptive parents don't know the baby is a clone-genius and raise him/her normally*  I find it hard to say that this proposal to have a baby and ensure it's raised by loving parents would be unethical. 

Raymond D has some extra concerns about using Von Neumann's genes without permission, but I'm inclined to the view that permission from the heirs would be enough to make that ethical. Von Neumann himself is dead and can't suffer, so if the heirs are OK with the proposal, then I can't identify anyone who would be harmed by it. Another possible solution to this problem: clone a living genius who gives their consent.

I'm still thinking about this, and these are not firm conclusions, but I agree that the clone proposal deserves thought.

 

* I understand that knowing you are the clone of Einstein and that if you do anything less than revolutionise physics you have failed to meet expectations would pile unreasonable amounts of stress on a child. So there's a good argument for not letting the clones or their adoptive parents know they're clones.

I read “White Fragility” so you don’t have to (but maybe you should)

Ok thanks for the correction. I’ll pick a different example next time.

I read “White Fragility” so you don’t have to (but maybe you should)

I also think that moving the lens of public attention away from racism would make it easier to try solutions to other problems that disproportionately affect black people. As just one example, the system of funding schools from local property taxes means that affluent areas have nice well-funded schools and impoverished areas generally don’t. Systemic reform of school funding to be more equal per child would improve the education available to disadvantaged children (who are disproportionately black). It’s an example of a race-blind policy change that would improve racial justice, and it won’t get attention while everyone is yelling about racism. And yet, even in a world with zero racism (which is not our world), kids born in a poverty trap will have difficulty getting out of the trap and if those kids start off disproportionately black then you will get a situation of ongoing racial disparity in outcomes.

Tl;dr if we spent less time thinking about racism and more time on effective ways to alleviate disadvantage you would get a better and fairer world and also one with less racial disparity.

I read “White Fragility” so you don’t have to (but maybe you should)

Thank you for a thoughtful response. I agree that the current situation in the US is very far from the desired end state and I don’t want to deny the real problems that exist. I’m just deeply concerned that the proposed ‘cure’ is a new permutation of the same disease.

Edited to add: I would also argue that proposing a direction of travel toward the ideal world is not the same as pretending we’re already there.

I read “White Fragility” so you don’t have to (but maybe you should)

I think your comment assumes bad faith. You assume that the right hand will beat down the black man. That is wrong and discourteous. 

You also ignore the point about the direction of travel: we should move toward a world where race is less important, not toward a world where race is more important. We already know what happens if you go the other way. There are places which have entrenched politics based on each racial group getting an entitlement, like Malaysia and Lebanon (the Lebanese system has religious groups instead). It's a stable equilibrium and it's a bad equilibrium. Those are not happy countries. The USA doesn't want to end up like them. 

I read “White Fragility” so you don’t have to (but maybe you should)

Thank you for the write-up. However, I profoundly disagree with the premises of White Fragility. Why? Because DiAngelo's starting premise is that race is and always must be really important. And I object to that. In fact, I think that 'believing race is something real and important' is a necessary precursor to racism. 

(And yes, I believe her book to be racist against white people and yes, anti-white racism is a thing. It's true that in the US context white racism against non-white people is more frequent and often more harmful, but that doesn't make anti-white racism OK. It's like saying that men often sexually assault women, so if a woman sexually assaults a man that's totally fine because women are an oppressed demographic. Nope, that is not how ethics works.)

So what do I believe? I think that a person's skin colour should be seen as a minor physical detail of no importance. I believe in Martin Luther King's dream: 

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.

I have a dream that one day out in the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by their character."

 

A world where people are judged not by the colour of their skin but by their character. Imagine that. I know that we are far from that world today, but it seems to me that our efforts should be directed at getting closer to MLK's dream world. And that books like DiAngelo's, however well-intentioned, which demand that we see skin colour as really important, are in fact taking us further away from the ideal. 

What precautions should fully-vaccinated people still be taking?

Thanks for the source, I hadn’t seen it before. 90% risk reduction is still an order of magnitude, seems like a big deal to me. 

One point to be aware of: I notice they don’t distinguish between the different vaccines, they just give a population-wide figure. The UK has used a combination of Pfizer and AstraZeneca, and on other metrics eg efficacy against symptomatic infection or hospitalisation, AZ is slightly to moderately worse than Pfizer. Assuming the same pattern holds for long covid, I would assume a >90% risk reduction for Pfizer (and Moderna with similar mRNA technology), which is the read-across relevant to American readers.

What precautions should fully-vaccinated people still be taking?

Sorry, no source - but given the vaccines massively (>90%) reduce risk of other harms ie death & hospitalisation, I think the null hypothesis has to be that vaccines also massively reduce risk of long COVID. 

I also start with a prior that a lot of discussion about long-COVID is low quality and I think it's an example of post-viral fatigue rather than some brand-new thing. It gets lots of media hype, like anything vaguely scary and covid-related, but hard data seems to be hard to come by and often very low quality. 

How much interest would there be in a fringe theories wiki?

I'd be interested in such a wiki - I assume that there are a number of true beliefs which mainstream thought currently dismisses as false/weird/absurd, and I'd like to have one place where I can go and look for ideas where the mainstream may be wrong. 

That said, jimrandomh is absolutely right that epistemic hygiene is going to be important. Another way to put it: we want stuff like CellBioGuy's theory about the PETM global climate-change being caused by a previous civilisation, which is interesting and not physically impossible (although I'm not convinced by the argument), we don't want physics crackpots telling us about perpetual motion machines. 

Possible solution: link the wiki to LessWrong accounts and require a minimum LessWrong karma score in order to edit. Plus an invite option for people with interesting ideas who don't meet the minimum karma score.

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