Thursday, July 1, 2010

Kicking Against the (pin)Pricks

I really like this article, enough so that I think I'll spend some posts arguing against several of its premises, conclusions and wild speculations. Stay tuned!

12 comments:

Chip said...

From your own archive, there's some relevant discussion in the comment thread here.

Alas, Dan Geinster's strange "manifesto" seems to have disappeared. I'll see if I can find it with the wayback machine.

Chip said...

Geinster's essay (sans graphics) is archived here.

Chip said...

Correction: I see that the central graphic is preserved. Not quite how I remember it, but memory is a fickle bitch.

metamorphhh said...

Thanks, Chip. I remember this one from some time ago.

filrabat said...

That essay is almost compelling. After all, most people would want their children to be kind, intelligent, attractive, strong, etc. The problem is in what genetic engineering itself allows. The very same process that could allow already decent and civilized parents to design such children could also be used by rotten people (i.e., amoral, Social-Darwinism-as-ethic types) to create people with even fewer inhibitions to getting what they want no matter who it hurts. They can also such a human with the reflexes of a cat, giving them an additional edge. To see what I mean, watch the last episode of ABC's Sci-fi series "V". There, they talk about a "V-Soldier", a super-alien specifically designed for combat. Don't even ask about the genetic engineering or nanotech accidents that will undoubtedly take place. That kind of accident could easily make the BP oil spill look like an ordinary motor oil spill in your garage.

Also, what about the rights of people who are challenged in some way? It could, paradoxically, decrease sympathy for the disabled, obese, etc., for then society would say "Hey, you're deaf or blind and you refuse to get it cured? How can you expect us to have sympathy for YOU!"

Extend this concept to people who are physically unattractive, or less than Einstein IQ, and so forth and you can see how genetic engineering could easily make a society less tolerant about one's imperfections. In short, this would create MORE pain for individuals because they would feel pressure to conform to society's expectations of what a "worthy" person is -- as opposed to being free to express their real selves by accepting and loving themselves in spite of their imperfection. Some will undoubtedly undergo a cure anyway, if only to escape society's scorn for not jumping on the genetic self-improvement bandwagon.

The power to change means even more pressure to change in accordance to society's ideals. How the hell is that supposed to be a just society (and hence one worthy of having a single child born into it)?

No thanks. My branch of the DNA tree is getting out while the going's still (relatively) good.

Kalki02 said...

filrabat...

Same here, mate. My genetic buck stops with me. Of course, being a male with a normal heteroseuxual drive,this can be a bitch! I'm sure many can relate.

CM said...

filrabat-

have you seen the movie Gattaca? It's about just such genetic intolerance as you describe. On an unrelated note, I think I've been spelling your handle wrong. Sorry.

Back to the pinprick article... wow. So this person's argument basically goes like this: there currently exist some people who subscribe to NU. There is currently no such thing as super-soma, perfect genome or vat-grown meat that doesn't taste like soggy pork. However, we should totally expect all those wonderful things to materialize in the next few years and become the norm. But NU taking over? Now that's just silly and implausible.

Another irony meter going to an early grave...

filrabat said...

Yes, I saw Gattaca, good movie. Good cautionary tale. That's one thing I like about social oriented science fiction - it allows us to see the potential landmines resulting from any technological improvements we make.

Constant said...

I have some problems with Gattaca, because as far as I remember, it offers no perspective of criticism of these stupid parents at all who were so selfish as to insist on having a random child. It's all about how their off-spring is disadvantaged - in astronautics! As if it wasn't justified to look for the fittest candidate for a space flight, as if flying into space was an experience everyone was entitled to...

CM said...

Constant -

you're right about the movie not criticizing breeders. But then who ever does? IIRC, the "natural" way of making babies is even kind of fetishized in Gattaca.

But the protagonist was disadvantaged in all areas of his life: career (he was only allowed to be a janitor as himself), dating, etc. And it would certainly be much better if all who wanted to go to space could go. Just another reason life sucks. I actually think the movie does a good job of demonstrating how the life of an average person is deficient in so many ways, even if it does not do so intentionally.

timcooijmans said...

It's funny. These genetic engineering fantasies are about making people into superheroes -- improving their strength, speed, agility; apparently it's like advancing your character in an RPG video game. But that will get us nowhere. Instead of people fighting fist to fist, knife to knife, gun to gun or automatic rifle to automatic rifle, we will get superheroes to superheroes. What the hell good will that do? They will just throw each other into skyscrapers again and again, and all we will ned up with is destruction.

What we NEED is "happy pills", or, more truthfully, *distraction* pills. We need distraction from pain, discomfort, boredom, disease, feelings of responsibility, the lot... Distraction pills are one way to get to this state. Coma is another. Dreamless sleep is yet another. Recreational drug use can help along the way. So can the usual avenues of distraction -- pastimes, parties, work, travel, ...

Death is a permanent solution. Never being born is prevention.

TGGP said...

The internet archive gives unreliable access. If you like the archived essay, I recommend copying its contents to host at your own blog.