Ich Bin Ein Neo-Eugenicist

Posted: 6th June 2011 by Khannea Suntzu in Uncategorized
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Infect Teh Interwebs

(Written before 2010, ported to my current blog in 2011)

Update for the year 2018, 9 years after me writing this article

🙂

The following article deals with topics that are subject to significant prejudice, kneejerk reaction, phobia and superstition. So read it closely before you go on a rant.
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Here is a presentation on this at FORA.
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Let’s draw a line in the sand – on one iside wrong, and on the other side right. The real world often doesn’t work like that, but we have to make a distinction, because in the past bad people did horrible things. But let’s please not get too deeply into  utilitarianism or morality – let’s just apply the golden rule, and see where at least I found myself.
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In the article I interchange “genetic modification” and “selfalteration” freely, largely because I think they are ‘morally equivalent’. That means I talk about three different types of treatment and use them interchangably – i.e. (1) changing the body of a free person; (2) changing the genes of any human being, mature, child, prenatal, or preconception and (3) any type of medical treatment to heal, repair or upgrade the human state.
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In the past we had a societal stratum on both sides of the political spectrum (both far right fascist and far left communist) that had a personal urge to loathe “the lesser off in society” and wanted to have less of those; i.e. make sure that people with glaring genetic defects, low intelligence, a tendency towards this or that ‘abnormal’ sexual behavior, generational predisposition to crime or unemployability, consistently ugly people, or people with neurological issues did not breed.
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These authoritarian elites proposed the use of what they regarded as “gentle but necessary force” – the last people fitting the bill would were sterilized as late as the 1970s in the United States. As it turns out this was fairly common in Sweden as well. Obviously there were less charitable examples of this ideology, in the mid 20th century germany and russia, which didn’t just sterilize but also murder anyone who didn’t fit the program.
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Let’s say clear, I am against that, vehemently.
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Genetic pressure on humans is nothing new. It has never much been institutionalized, but intentional genetic selection (and outright culling) occurred everywhere. A certain class of “somewhat more intelligent” people saw what you could do with cattle and concluded to do the same with other humans. The idea was first made prominent by Plato in “the republic”. In the middle ages kings took the right to bed women immediately after marriage, as so eloquently depicted in the movie braveheart, with the misguided goal to raise offspring with genetic features they wanted, and push our those they didn’t want.  But even far back in Rome there was state-sponsored pressure to have children of succesful gladiators with the explicit goal of introducing “a more worthy class of citizens” in the main population.
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This spectre has always been with us. I have the personal pet theory that humanity itself has bred itself, semi-intentionally mostly, in a certain direction. If I were to explain the urgency of some people in the greater population to bow down to some sort of deity, my first (difficult to falsify) explanation would be to assert that humanity has been ruthlessly bred over several millenia (attrition of over 50% of the main population in some cases) to favor middle class values, draconian submissiveness to patriarchal rulers and potentates, an endemic compulsion to exclude, persecute or exterminate people with even the smallest difference in genes or culture and a sickening eagerness to selfsacrifice for all but frivolous societal causes. In other words – humanity has been bred for submission.
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It goes even as far as to find arguments for the idea that western european humanity has been bred for capitalism, based on the conclusion that most ‘lower class’ human beings in the middle ages didn’t get a chance to convey their genes.  In western Europe almost all humans are descendants of city folk. All the ‘villains’ died and didn’t get a chance to pass on their genes.
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Yes, I do think humans are tame apes. Dronified bald erect walking, tool using, talking chimpansees – vectored to obey autocratic rulers, culminating these existential terrors into ‘god-ism’ and frustrated types of behavior I would otherwise associate with a miserably overbred domesticated species. Maybe humanity as it exists today benefits in terms of social cohesion, but I ask myself – at what terrible price?
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So as for how deep my bile runs for use of force and forced breeding, selection, excluding whole demographics from conveying genes, ocstracism and genocide, I can not emphasize enough my deep hatred for that part of existence.
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What I do favor is health.  Let’s just start by saying, if I were to consistently apply my own standards on what is an acceptable human life, I should have kindly asked ‘the parents of my physical form’ (1) not to breed. My father had a series of severe personality disorders. There was a line of schizofrenia and severe ADHD, narcism and violent alcoholism in his lineage. His mother was hospitalized as a schizofrenic most of her life. His father, my grandfather, was a consistently selfcentered bastard, what I heard of him, and he had very few scruples. On my mothers side has been a long line of severe pathological pain disorders, sudden onset senility and autism, severe anxiety disorders and rather odd responses to medication. 
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As a result I am pretty sure I have personality traits that are squarely in the definitions of ADHD, post traumatic stress, anomic personality disorder, a pathological tendency to change my mind. I have frequent migraines and the occasional cluster headache so bad I lie on the ground screaming and retching for hours. I respond very badly to stress, and I have the worst SAD in town. Worse, I have something akin to narcolepsia, especially when I get bored or stressed, and need at least 9 hours of sleep a day, more if I had a stressful day. And my memory is onesided and selective.
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I am aware that people will read this, and use these facts to discredit me – and if I read or hear that anywhere, I will be very very annoyed. Those that argue by using the infirmities of other people disqualify themselves.
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My constitution is by and large the result of distinct genetic factors. Had I been an adopted child from ‘healthy’ parents, raised by the same pathological parents, no doubt I would have had problems but surely I wouldn’t have had the set of neurological disorders I have now, and I would probably have been able to hold a job, generate a decent income and live a far better quality of life. Unfortunately I can not, not by a long shot, and believe me, I have tried again and again. I is a source of great shame and embarrassment.
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Society we live uses a simple rule – everyone gets equal opportunities, and (based on free will and a skewed notion of fair play) if you fail, it is “your own fault”.  This is a curious notion in a society where at one point we have accepted that bodily disability merits a disability pension, but if someone has the bodily disability of “being lazy” it does not. The mere fac of falsifiability plays a large role. Democracy and the ability to tolerate collective sacrifice plays another role. Nevertheless a large portion of society has qualities that may seem frivolous, but make a significant difference, either way.
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Here is where my tale gets politically incorrect.
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Pretty soon we will enter an era where it is simple, affordable, about as safe as the natural alternative – to apply precise genetic alterations to the genome of a human and create offspring that have qualities the parents didnt have, and may not have deficiencies the parents had, or were carrier to. It won’t just be easy to do this, it will be cheap as well. In less than one human generation, anyone with minimal training will be able to experiment with altered genes, in his or her garage. It is already being done right now by freedom-loving people. These are not easily typecast as mad scientists.
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These changes would occur after manipulation of sperm, ova or fertillized egg, possibly by zygote selection, possibly by in vitro genetic modification, possibly by selectively targeting gene expression. That means – once introduced into human offspring, they are with the rest of humanity effectively forever.
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Pretty soon, and I am talking a decade or so, technology will be able to make sweeping and fundamental changes to the genetic qualities of our lifestock, and as soon as these treatments will have been made “multi-generationally” safe, fast, repeatable, predictable, affordable and noninvasive, there should be no reason the same treatments (and I use my words cautiously here) ‘should not be made accessible’ to whomever human wants to apply them to his or her own offspring. Let me say that differently – what legal or moral argument is there to disallow a parent to make a number of genetic modifications to his or her offspring that cannot be interpreted as abusive. If a parent can homeschool why can’t a parent home-DNA modify?
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Nonetheless local law will find reasons to disallow these techniques. I can imagine that a fiercely catholic Poland will object to these treatments, for reasons that are largely a historic artifact. Many other countries will have complex political compromizes, a general feeling of “queasyness” and assorted other (often equally random) reasons to object.
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But do we do in the enlightened western world as soon as one country will implement these treatments, on a massive scale? First country I think off applying a nationwide genetic screening program, including in vitro fertillization of every single citizen, selection of known genetic carriers for “deficiency’ (by whatever definition dujour one cares to come up with), “desirable qualities” or (and it gets really icky here) “potential avenues of enhancement”, would of course be China. If the first country to start applying genetic therapies on a large scale, we can all feel safe in being morally outraged. But what if it isn’t China, but it is Japan? Or Malaysia? Or Israel? Judaism has amazingly little taboo about genetic repairs of unborn humans.
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In the words of Dr. Strangelove, “can we afford a mineshaft gap?” – the question is – how will US elected officials respond when a single year of nationwide genetic screening in China produces a visible and compelling (and cost-efficient) drop in humans born with birth defects and genetic afflictions?  What if that generation universally tests as several points higher on IQ aptitude tests (yes I know it is  a crude testing mechanism) and has virtually no bad teeth, asthma, blood diseases, markedly lower cancer rates, bone deformities, uglyness, male baldness, color-blindness, short life expectancy, congenial heart defects (the list goes on for a long time). What if that year the number of Chinese born that required lifelong care, such as people with DOWN syndrome, dropped to onehundred the societal norm elsewhere.
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What if in a country the state didn’t do this, but it’s people, using their own resources, their own ingenuity and their own designs? Would the international have a right to protest, condemn or intervene? I predict, with a steely expression, within years other countries would follow the example and offer their citizens the same. I say, the djinn is out of the box. I am fairly positive someone, somewhere is already busy doing this.
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[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_ufBvaY5rk&hl=en_US&fs=1&]
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So, step two, lets get even more politically incorrect. Lets start my making the following gruelling statements.
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A parent who finds his or her child has a genetic abnormality that, if not treated with a key vitamin during pregnancy, would make the child be born with an IQ 20 points lower, and who does not apply this treatment, is guilty of severe parental abuse. A parent has a moral obligation, and should have a legal obligation to so whatever is affordable and easy, to make sure a child is born with full faculties. I didn’t say ‘genetic modification’ – I said – a child which grows up deficient unless it gets a vitamin.
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A parent who purposefully selects the genes or zygote characteristyics of a child to conform to a constrictive or abusive standard,  is guilty of a crime. I am saying, my democratic vote (no more, no less) goes to society regarding this type of behavior as severe child abuse. Causing a human to be born that has limitations or deficiencies “from the norm” is an act that should be regarded as criminal.
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If in a specific year a child is conceived genetic technology or pharmaceutical treatments were available that could have prevented a specific heredetary disease in a child, of which the parents could have made themselves aware and had the means and access to apply – and the parents willfully didn’t – it is my vote in a democratic society, that these parents should be held accountable to child neglect.

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But I can drive it a notch higher.
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Even though as a society it is my opinion we should care for all people when they need care, insurance companies might choose to provide reimbursement and payments when there is reason to know in advance a human being will need lifelong care. In such countries where this is (voted to be) legal an insurer may let the parents know – if you do not test for genetic abnormalities the insurance for the child is 25% higher, to offset increased risk of us having to pay coverage. Insurers might very well opt to pay for any tests or even sneak them past you. If you are tested and an abnormality is found, insurers might opt to offer to reimburse the abortion cost, and/or pay for genetic screening (or genetic modification). Consequently, in this system we live in, if you intentionally choose to give birth to a child knowing it is likely to be born with severe treatment-requiring disability, the system will do its damn best not accept said infant in our medical insurance coverage – when paying the bills caring for (say) someone with paralyzed legs, you are on your own.

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Would that be fair? If a sound democraticly elected government implements laws that allow this, then yes, it would be.  It might not be prudent, it might be cruel in many cases, but I do see something like that happening very fast. If you don’t like it, please by next elections vote against keeping in place the current socio-economical system we have in place. This is the price of cost-based capitalism.
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I do not think (and I may be mistaken) any person with a distinct disability would choose to keep the disability if simple treatment were available.  I do not think ugly humans (and the slippery slope turns into an abyss here) would stay ugly if a 3 day, robust treatment changing them from this into this were safe, painless, available and affordable.  There are steep societal and personal costs to deficiencies, even if the conceptions of these deficiencies are cruel, ill-defined, mutable, stupid, conceited, self-serving, machiavellan, backward, prejudicial, monumentally selfdefeating.  Societal exclusion or prejudice can be a worse torture than deficiency itself, trust me on that. I will laud those societies that care for their infirm, educate their citizens on prejudice, compensate for incapacity, care for the suffering or vulnerable, with every fiber of my being.
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But I simply laud a society which does that, AND has the capacity to freely offer any of its subjects the means to physically alter itself “to function better“, or be plain happier. I applaud a society that both cares for “it’s victims and vulnerable” as well as is able to offer an alternative in the form of treatments against ailments.
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I know there are no easy solutions, and I know corporations will be getting ready to make zillions, and I know people make stupid choices, or subcultures will isolate themselves, and I know there is reason for caution at every step, but the alternative I do not like, which is people having absolutely no choice, when it comes to changing themselves after birth, caring for the wellbeing off their offspring. If we as a species can formulate bad, we can formulate good. If we as a species can formulate sickness we can also formulate vigor.
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The next step in this discussion (insofar there is a discussion at all!) is asking if people can be allowed to selfmodify, or modify their offspring. The first question of course is if people do this (and they will, even if we declare it illegal) whether or not they do it safely.
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A society which condones the application of genetic treatments, genetic screening, genetic modification, of unborn children, should levvy a tax to offset any future risk for the children being born as a result of these treatments, or their immediate offspring,  developing unexpected side effects or deficiencies.

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To these newly emerging technologies or options there are four basic attitudes; “no, never”, “no, unless”, “yes, but” and “yes”. I lean heavily towards yes, for clear personal reasons. Not allowing it, will create a black market and we have seen how corrosive black markets (and mafia’s) are to society. If any of these treatments are blankly disallowed society creates a new (and unaccountable) black market, a new crime, a new prohibition, a new indiscrimate tool for governmental repression (giving a law to a government is like giving a leather belt to a wifebeater) and people ending up in prison for plain silly reasons.
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Worse, the rich who want their offspring to “have the best chances in life” may worsen a societal disparity between haves (and cans) and havenots (or can’ts) to the point of gattacism. No matter what laws you implement, a person with a billion can always buy an alternative. And if they can nobody will be able to stop them. You can protest, whine, curse, cry, but this won’t change the reality of the world.
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I think it is crucially important to have these technological developments remain in the limelight, and be as accessible as possible, within fair margins of safety. You want poor and rich alike to have access to self-modification, you want these treatments to be as safe as possible, and you want them mass-production affordable. In all cases you want to be able to outlaw, ‘hold a societal discourse on’ and persecute excesses to the max, but you’d also have to accomodate and respect consumer freedoms, parental rights, experimentation, alternative lifestyle, personal freedom.
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In act – I am pretty sure that the teabagger generation we now see protesting for individual empowerment will be the ones, one generation from now, protest government interference on how they will be allowed to genetically modify their offspring.
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Right now there is a strong fear, prejudice, suspicion and queasyness on the practical side of these topics. Only the kind of parents “that so desperately want a child” (you know the type) are societally urged (or reimbursed) to use these technologies, because there is room for empathy. But the time these technologies are safe as a flu shot (…), casual as dentistry,  cheap as a boob job and fast as a whinehouse rehab is not far off.

So my position on the free availability of genetic treatments of unborn people is clear – I am overwhelmingly on allowing and regulating it, and making sure we do not have disasters – because we do not implement them, or as a result of when we do implement them. People who “wildly experiment with genetic treatments” should be accountable for frivolous or impulsive choices, governments should set stict and transparant and democratic rules and standards, but freedom should reign, even in cases where such modifications move beyond the realm  of treating ‘disability’, or into the real  of self-augmentation.
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That’s right, if we should allow the genetic prevention of infirmity we have no reason not to let people implement improvement.
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So, I’d love to hear what people think about it, but I will not respond to dythirambic, orotund, obtuse, insulting, overly florid, overly prejudiced, overly xenophobe or highly politicized rants, if and should they occur. Be polite, entertaining and understandable please.
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(UPDATES):
* http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0410/36594.html (animal-human fertillity practices)
* http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2010-05/procreative-sex-may-soon-be-quaint-relic-study-says (!)
* http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2010-05/student-invents-stem-cell-collecting-silicon-tampons-women
* http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1993665,00.html
* http://www.bionews.org.uk/page_59304.asp?dinfo=JylxLnMnUW77TZrwq1yCdy4o
* http://www.thoughtware.tv/videos/watch/5074-Gregory-Stock-Bioethics-To-Upgrade-Is-Human (!!)
* http://www.reproductive-revolution.com/ (!)
* http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/sciencenotfiction/2010/10/14/sir-could-i-see-your-breeding-license/
* http://io9.com/5841941/the-mathematical-formula-for-designer-babies-with-tiger-stripes-or-leopard-spots
* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLzebk_vPRE&feature=em-uploademail

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