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People have an intuitive egalitarian instinct, which has existed as far back as our Hunter gatherer days. They derive value from knocking the top down, despite this action lacking any principled justification.

The leveling down objection should make it clear that inequality is not inherently bad, yet that conclusion contradicts people’s (flawed) moral intuitions.

If it is unethical to handicap the cognitive abilities of those at the top, it should be similarly unethical to deny cognitive enhancements to those who would otherwise reach the top.

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**Some people** have an intuitive egalitarian instinct, or more simply put, envy. There is, like most cognitive traits, variance in distribution.

https://scholar.google.ca/scholar?q=variation+of+malicious+envy&hl=en&as_sdt=0&as_vis=1&oi=scholart

The important thing is whether you're keeping envy (and by extension egalitarianism) out of the institutions where it does the most harm. And right now we seem to be doing the opposite ...

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author

I think that the egalitarian instinct can be a reflection of envy but it can also look like wanting to help improve the downtrodden. Unfortunately, one can get mixed up with another. I see a lot of politics that just looks like hating the rich rather than helping the poor.

I totally agree about keeping envy out of institutions. Seems like the move is toward more division and more hatred along class, race, gender, etc. lines. Lots of people seem to think that hatred of groups is warranted if they are oppressors. I would like a return to individualism.

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Jan 21, 2023Liked by Ives Parr

I really try to be open-minded and steel manning as much possible, but it really is beyond my comprehension why would someone oppose making your children healthier and smarter. Someone with more money than me should make a study about the type of messaging or branding that makes PGT-P more palatable to normies. Making PGT-P mainstream should be one of humanity's biggest priorities.

Something interesting that came to my mind while reading this article is the following:

Some readers may be familiar with the IQ communication range. This is the idea that if there is a large gap in IQ between two individuals (say, two standard deviations and above), it becomes difficult to form meaningful relationships and communicate effectively. This is specially true for relationships between superiors and subordinates. I can imagine this becoming a problem for parents who cognitively enhance their children. Would you give your child a much higher IQ for the opportunities that it entails if you know it's going to damage your relationship, and that you will be the obvious intellectual inferior of your own child?

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author

I would still cognitively enhance. It is unsual that parent and child would be drastically different in cognitive ability. If we had a huge change in the ability for parents to enhance children, then that would become relatively common. I still think people can have meaningful and loving relationships across IQ ranges. Parents love their children when they're toddlers and children even though they are usually not that bright.

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Jan 21, 2023Liked by Ives Parr

I am convinced that the cultural shift around IVF came from pictures and video of happy IVF babies.

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author

That's probably right.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LiciNlrc3sE

This video of Rafal, Thuy, and Aurea Smigrodzki is really really wonderful. We need more of this. Interviews with journalists have ominous music at one point or another or start talking about horrible human rights violations. Journalists look for all sorts of tenuous bad associations or take things out of context to make the practice or people involved look bad. I'm thinking of a certain someone especially.

I think if this video was the first time someone heard about this practice, many would come away with a positive impression. "Nobody can really argue with a healthy, happy baby"

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Jan 23, 2023Liked by Ives Parr

You are right, that video is truly wonderful. Yes, this is what I mean. And 99.9% of people talking about PGT-P have probably not seen that video, each share of this video likely does heavy work for PGT-P.

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author

I will share it tomorrow. I think you’re right.

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I don't think a large IQ gap between parent and child would be a huge problem in practice.

For one, the child will take a while to cognitively develop, so the parent will be smarter even if the child has a higher level of potential.

Also: blood is think. IQ gaps matter a lot when forming friendships, partially because there is a tension to forming a relationship where you don't want a large status-differential between the two people. In families, this matters less as our genetic programming understands that our family members are on our team.

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If you find 1-7 acceptable, would you find human cloning acceptable?

If not, why not?

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I don’t see why it shouldn’t be. People have a lot of weird ideas about clones from sci-fi. Your clone would be exactly like an identical twin, except not born at the same time. People ask stuff like, Can you harvest your clone for organs, would they still have human rights, etc? WTF? No and yes respectively... why would you even ask that? No one thinks of identical twins that one is disposable or not real or something. They are just two people who happen to eerily similar because they have identical genes.

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The main objection to PGT-P is that the science isn’t proven yet rather than the ethical issues.

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author

Can you elaborate on what you mean by proven and which aspect it is your're concerned about?

I'm simplifying a bit, but if a batch of embryos is sequenced and the polygenic scores are quite literally worthless because they are so innacurate, then this is similar to letting nature choose. If polygenic scores just aren't very good, then selection isn't as good but it still could be worthwhile.

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We simply do not know yet all the genes responsible for complex traits such as intelligence. The clinical validity is uncertain and unproven and likely won't be for many decades. The risk-benefit ratio skews particularly unfavorable if IVF/PGT is done for the sole purpose of PRS rather than for aneuploidy and/or monogenic diseases in the context of infertility and/or screening for genetic diseases.

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I think his point is that there is no "risk". The worst-case scenario is that the alleles selected will not correlated with the target phenotype (which is how fertilization works right now). The only downside would be the ten grand that the parents could have spent elsewhere.

Note that this is very different from gene editing where there are significant technical and ethical challenges. PGT-P is a free lunch.

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*there is no risk

That's only true if the patient is undergoing IVF and embryo biopsy for other reasons anyway. And even then, PGT-P may unintentionally select for adverse traits.

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Jan 22, 2023·edited Jan 22, 2023

This is an argument against all medicine. Any medical intervention may unintentionally have an adverse effect. Screening against BRCA might select for something bad, too.

With all medicine, we have to act on best evidence. We look to see if BRCA is associated with something other than breast cancer first. We might miss it. This is acceptable. That is just how all medicine is.

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>This is an argument against all medicine. Any medical intervention may unintentionally have an adverse effect.

In most cases said adverse effect is bounded to the individual receiving treatment, and so their consent is sufficient.

PGT-P that unintentionally selects for e.g. psychopathy (selecting on income could plausibly do this; CEOs have a far-higher rate of psychopathy than normal and psychopaths do tend to exploit others more generally) would eventually destroy a society practicing it. You can't "consent" to other people being hurt.

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Have you read "The Revolutionary Phenotype" by Jean-François Gariépy? It lays out a downside risk of PGT-P, specifically the demotion of humanity to a sort of soulless layer in a new genome (he calls it a quantome). Gariépy's theory is that, with sufficiently widespread usage of PGT-P, this new genome will fundamentally reside within and serve the computers that make the embryo selections, rather than serving humans. I'm just curious whether your pro-PGT-P stance is made with an awareness of Gariépy's theory or not.

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author

I have not read this book. That sounds interesting, though. Thank you for mentioning it.

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Jan 21, 2023·edited Jan 21, 2023

If an AI starts adding quantomes to IVF embryos:

a) that isn't PGT-P

b) people would notice

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Jan 22, 2023·edited Jan 22, 2023

A "quantome" is not something that an AI would be adding to embryos; it's a term that Gariépy introduces to describe the "genes" (basically the DNA-selecting algorithms/models) of the AIs that will be selecting the "best" human embryos.

It's not about doing something secretly. People will want the best embryo to be selected, and (at least, initially) the AI will tell them that's what it's doing, and it will be hard to tell if the AI is doing anything other than that. But mightn't the AI start selecting embryos that, to some extent, serve the AI's interests, rather than the interests of the human embryo or its parents? In this case, the AI (and the other AIs that it's competing against) become the new "life forms", and we just become part of its genetic layers, a hollow shell of what we once were. That's the theory, at least.

It's hard to do the book's theory justice in a comment here, and I'm not an expert in this field. I recommend reading the book if you really want to understand the theory. The book is well-written, relatively easy reading, fascinating, and pretty short.

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It sounds pretty dumb, that there would be some tradeoff between what parents want, and what the AI wants, big enough that parents are being tricked into making hollow shell children. And none of the high-IQ future population notices.

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It doesn't sound dumb to me, but I have the additional context/perspective of having read the whole book. Gariépy lays out how (according to his theory) a similar change has already occurred twice in the history of life on Earth. In this theory, proteins served as the original genetic material, but proteins ceded the storage and selection of their genes to RNA. RNA, in turn, ceded the storage and selection of their genes to DNA. Now, Gariépy says, we are about to face another such "phenotypic revolution" in which humans (DNA) cede the storage and selection of our genes to computers/AIs. Gariépy lays out how intrinsically resistant a lifeform / genetic layer is to ceding this control to a new, higher genetic layer. He describes three difficult problems that must be overcome in order for such a transition to occur. But seeing how this transition could have already occurred twice in the history of life on Earth, and seeing how computer/AI gene storage and selection could meet these difficult challenges in order for it to happen yet again, lends to me a certain degree of plausibility for his theory.

It's not exactly about "none of the high-IQ future population notices", per se. Maybe the high-IQ future population does notice (or maybe the AI even tells them explicitly), and the population goes along with the changes willingly. It might be more of a question of survival than of what the parents "want". The AI might say to the parents (maybe truthfully): "Well, I could give your child the genes for autonomy, independence, and self-interest that you were wanting. However, several of the neighboring quantomes have started to select for feelings of extreme loyalty and slavish obedience to their quantome (the AI) and to the human members created and selected by their quantome. As a result, these neighboring quantomes have highly cohesive societies and strong political and military advantages relative to our quantome, and these advantages will continue to grow if we continue selecting for autonomy, independence, and self-interest. As a matter of survival for your child, why don't I go ahead and give it (and the children of other parents) some of those genes for feelings of extreme loyalty and slavish obedience, so that the humans of our quantome will have a chance of standing against these neighboring quantomes?"

I must again recommend reading the book, if you want to grapple fairly with the theory. As I said before, it's well-written, relatively easy reading, fascinating, and pretty short.

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