October 12, 2002
More on Regime Stability, IQ, Personality

Razib at Gene Expression has responded to me here about my post on whether progeny genetic engineering for intelligence and personality will happen more rapidly in the US or China.

I'd like to clarify a few points. First of all, I do not see cloning as an essential technology for IQ enhancement and certainly not for personality change. Granted, one could take someone who has a very high IQ and a preferred personality type and clone that person and make many people with similar IQ and personality. The big advantage of cloning is that one doesn't have to identify the particular genetic variations that contribute to making a particular IQ level or personality type. Just find someone with the desired characteristics and clone him (or her).

However, there are many disadvantages to cloning (leaving aside the fact that we do not yet know how to do human cloning). The first is that identical clones are no improvement over whoever it is that is being cloned. Granted, one can choose people to clone who have highly desired qualities (looks, athletic skills, intelligence, personality, disease resistance, etc) and therefore those clones can have more of those desired qualities than the population at large. Still, each of us are all walking around with many harmful mutations and there is no single ideal person to clone. Another really big disadvantage with cloning is that whether in China, America, or elsewhere, the vast majority of parents really do want to have kids that have mostly the parents' DNA. If you can tell people that they can have kids that are built mostly from their own DNA but with, say, some DNA changes for health reasons and also their choice of changes for brain characteristics then that will have a lot more appeal than offering them cell to implant in the woman's uterus that has the qualities of some person that is not closely related to them. Children still need to be raised and it is unlikely that the Chinese government will start running large scale cloned baby group homes to raise cloned babies. It seems more reasonable to expect that even 20 or 30 years from now the vast bulk of children will be born to the women who will then proceed to raise them and that the bulk of those children will have more genetically in common with their mothers than with the population at large. Therefore, it seems to me that the way forward will be by tinkering with parental DNA to make small numbers of changes that the parents decide they definitely want their children to have.

Now we come to the question of non-democratic regime stability in a genetically engineered future. For the purpose of argument let us accept the Lynn & Vanhanen figures for average IQ per nation. I'm no expert in psychometrics to even be able to judge the quality of the data upon which their estimates are based. But for the moment assume the figures are fairly accurate. Well, is the average IQ difference between China and America large enough to really make a difference in regime control? I think a 7 or 9 point IQ difference is not as big as what will happen the future if one country rapidly embraces genetic engineering for IQ enhancement while another country lags in adopting it. Suppose genetic engineering becomes widespread and China's average IQ goes up by 30 points. It's not like the IQ scale is linear in its effects. Higher IQ causes qualitative differences in how people think. People with higher intelligence can think with concepts that are quite beyond the reach of lesser minds.

But genetic engineering of the mind will not be done only for intelligence. It will be done for personality too. It seems very likely that there are personality types that are harder or easier to rule by a repressive regime. There may also be intelligence characteristics (e.g. inquisitiveness) that make one have a greater independence of mind, a lesser willingness to accept orders, a greater desire to feel unconstrained, and a lesser desire to bow to peer pressure. The really huge wildcard for the future is that we do not know what personality characteristics people will choose once they can choose personality characteristics. As I've stated previously, the biggest danger from human genetic engineered may come from the ability to do personality type selection.

Personality engineering is the really a triple edged sword here. It will become possible to genetically engineer truly psychopathic personalities that will feel no loyalty to either free societies or to autocratic regimes. It will also be possible to genetically engineer personalities that are very obedient and easy to rule undemocratically. Imagine incredibly altruistic and, at the same time, easily intimidated personality types. But it will also become possible to genetically engineer very independent personalities that have strong consciences that are constructed to make them easily trainable to be strongly resistant to tyranny and supportive of freedom for all.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2002 October 12 11:22 PM  Biotech Society

Mac Diva said at December 21, 2002 11:20 PM:

I was browsing the scientific racism site Gene Expression the other day when I saw several posts by you there. Does this mean your interests intersect with that strange fellow's?

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