Vakus Drake


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The Case for Human Genetic Engineering

An irish elk/peacock type scenario is pretty implausible here for a few reasons. 

  • Firstly people care about enough different traits that an obviously bad trade like attractiveness for intelligence wouldn't be adopted by enough people to impact the overall population. 
  • Secondly for traits like attractiveness low mutation load is far more important than any gene variants that could present major tradeoffs. So just selecting for less mutation load will improve most of the polygenetic traits people care about.

Ultimately the polygenetic nature of traits people care the most about just doesn't create much need or incentive for the kinds of trade offs you propose. Such tradeoffs could only ever conceivably be worthwhile in order to reach superhuman levels of intelligence (nothing analogous exists for attractiveness) which would have obvious positive externalities.

Universal Eudaimonia

>The AI comes up with a compromise. Once a month, you're given the opportunity to video call someone you have a deep disagreement with. At the end of the call, each of you gets to make a choice regarding whether the other should be allowed in Eudaimonia. But there's a twist: Whatever choice you made for the other person is the choice the AI makes for you.


This whole plan relies on an utterly implausible conspiracy. There's no way to avoid people knowing how this test actually works just by its nature. So if people know how this test works then there's zero reason to base your response on what you actually want for the person you disagree with.  

The Case for Human Genetic Engineering

>Of course there are probably even bigger risks if we simply allow unlimited engineering of these sorts of zero sum traits by parents thinking only of their own children's success. Everyone would end up losing.

The negative consequences of a world where everybody engineers their children to be tall, charismatic, well endowed, geniuses are almost certain to be far less than the consequences of giving the government the kind of power that would allow them to ban doing this (without banning human GM outright which is clearly an even worse outcome).

The Case for Human Genetic Engineering

>I left this example for last because I do not yet have a specific example of this phenomenon in humans, though I suspect that some exist.

**There's plenty of traits that fit the bill here, they're just not things people would ever think of as being negative.**

Most such traits exist because of sexual selection pressures, the same reasons traits as negative sum as peacock feathers can persist. Human traits which fall under this category (or at least would have in the ancestral environment):

Traits like incredibly oversized penises for a great ape, secondary sexual traits like permanent breasts, etc are almost perfectly analogous to peacock feathers. Plenty of other aspects of human biology may also have been driven by sexual selection, but it's harder to determine. For instance birds have voice-boxes which are vastly more complex than can be justified without sexual selection. Similarly it's quite plausible that humans have far more vocal range/ability than would be justified just for the purpose of communication.

Eye and hair colors other than the default brown/black are probably mostly zero sum. Since many mutations leading to other hair/eye colors seem to have spread implausibly fast given their marginal to nonexistent benefits. Of course given such traits seem exotic when they are rare it makes sense they would spread through sexual selection.

Height fits the bill, since it provides a negative sum social advantage, at the cost of placing more toll on the body and requiring more calories. In the ancestral environment heigh also gave an advantage to combat prowess, which is likely to be partly responsible its success (and still negative sum).

If you buy the theory that higher intelligence among hominids was driven by sexual selection beyond a certain point then it also fits the bill. Since within this model the advantage of intelligence would be negative sum in the ancestral environment past a certain point. With it letting you be more popular, while forcing the whole population to evolve more energetically costly brains which provided diminishing returns to practical things like hunting prowess.

Many irrational aspects of human psychology fit the bill quite well, after all not getting socially ostracized was far more important than having accurate beliefs.

Anyway my point is such zero and negative traits are actually quite common, and generally attributable to social signaling. Making humans in many respects comparable to peacocks when you take a step back. The fact such traits are driven by sexual selection is also the same reason engineering them away (at least where they're still not positive sum in the modern world) will never be popular.

People would never endorse the prospect of engineering people to be: short, very intelligent and rational but poor at navigating status games, have tiny dicks and breasts, etc.

Inoculating against Psychedelic Woo

I suspect there's some underlying factor which effects how much psychedelics impact your identity/cognition. Since even on doses of LSD so high that the visuals make me legally blind, I don't experience any amount of ego dissolution and can function fairly well on many tasks.

How More Knowledge is Making Us Dumber

That doesn't follow from my comment at all.

The fact IQ has plenty of limitations doesn't negate all of the ways in which standard IQ tests have tremendous predictive power.

Status for status sake is a fact of political life

>Why did Donald Trump decide to take a stressful 12-hour-a-day job in his mid seventies?

This example doesn't work particularly well for a few reasons: Firstly Trump as well as his family and friends have been able to reap tremendous financial benefits from his position (through a variety of means especially corporate capture). Secondly Trump somewhat infamously has been known to take far more vacations and do a lot less actual work than most previous presidents.

How More Knowledge is Making Us Dumber

>For instance, the person with the highest IQ [2] (about 30% higher than Einstein) lives on a farm in the middle of nowhere and has not done anything or contributed to the world. On the other hand, we have Elon Musk [3] who is smart, but not as smart as having the highest IQ in the world. Yet, Elon is capable to make change happen. 

Essentially every part of this paragraph is wrong or misinformed. Einstein never had an IQ test so estimates of his IQ are little more than baseless speculation (especially if you're trying to compare him to other geniuses).

Any claims that somebody has "the highest IQ" are also universally misinformed and/or deceptive for a few reasons. Firstly is that standard IQ tests have a ceiling and cannot do much to distinguish intelligence beyond the range they were calibrated with. So claims of IQ's way over 170 are always either adjusted upwards because of age (meaning they aren't statistically valid, because they don't conform to this distribution:, or they are using non-standard IQ tests which lack the evidence of efficacy of the standard IQ tests (and are also almost always statistically invalid).

So all of the reasons you gave for not wanting to be at the upper end of the distribution simply do not hold water (like most claims that being a super-genius doesn't make you better off).

Is there a simple parameter that controls human working memory capacity, which has been set tragically low?

It's worth noting here that human working memory is probably vastly worse than our ancestors in many regards, because chimps outperform us on short memory tests by a massive margin. This is probably because hominids repurposed the relevant hardware towards doing other things.

Could waste heat become an environment problem in the future (centuries)?

I don't expect this to be a problem because by the time humans would be using this much energy we should be easily capable of constructing simple megastructures. One would only need to decrease the amount of IR light that hits the earth with massive but relatively cheap (at least once you have serious space industry) IR filters in order to decrease the earth's temperature without impacting anything dependant on the sun's light.

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