September 06, 2006
Better Educated More Willing To Design Babies

Reproductive biotech will widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots as smarter people arrange to make their kids have even higher IQs.

The well-educated are significantly more open to the idea of "designing" babies than the poorly educated, according to a new study by psychologists at the University of East Anglia.

Here's a summary of some of the findings of this research group:

  • The better educated prospective parents are, the further they are prepared to go to improve their children's IQ.
  • Women interpret certain interventions in child rearing as "design acts" more readily than men.
  • People over 50 interpret certain interventions as "design acts" more readily than people under 25.
  • Because of "parental uncertainty" - the idea than women know for certain if a child is their's whereas men do not men show a significantly greater preference than female parents for their children to inherit their own characteristics.
  • Parents see different physical, social and intellectual characteristics as desirable depending on the sex of the child.
  • Older women and childless women are significantly more willing to "improve" the physical, social and intellectual characteristics of prospective children? (This can be explained by women seeking to increase their genetic heredity, particularly when their time to reproduce begins to decrease.)
  • Both men and women see genetic engineering as acceptable primarily for medical applications.

Once genetic engineering of embryos allows prospective parents to make their kids smarter, better looking, higher athletic performers, and with more desired personality traits all the reticence about genetic engineering for non-medical reasons will go out the window. I'm expecting a stampede toward offspring genetic engineering once it becomes possible.

Higher education is a proxy for higher intelligence. The correlation is not exactly 1 but it is very high. The more highly educated and smarter people will more rapidly and deeply develop a grasp of what offspring genetic engineering can deliver. Also, since the smarter have higher incomes on average they will be better able to pay for genetic tinkering than will poor people.

With the cognitive elite stampeding to make their kids have 150 IQs the less bright and downright dim will be left in the dust. Society will become even more divided by intellectual ability than it already is.

Offspring genetic engineering will also create inter-generational rifts as younger smarter people find less in common with older less bright people.

I am expecting a portion of the cognitive elite to demand that governments pay for free genetic engineering for anyone who plans to have a baby. But if the less bright are left to choose which genetic enhancements to give to their developing fetuses will they place a high value on raising intelligence?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2006 September 06 10:28 PM  Bioethics Reproduction

Kurt said at September 7, 2006 2:57 AM:

The cognitive elite will want to make their kids smarter. The lower classes have less interest in smartness and, in fact, are downright contemptous of it. They will want to make their kids good looking. Make their guys studly and their girls very pretty and sexy. These are the values that the lower classes seem to idolize.

Mind you, this is for the West and the rest of the world. The Chinese, of course, will want to make their kids smarter and there will be clinics all over places like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guanzhou province for people to go to to design their kids to be smart (I am looking out my hotel window at the Beijing skyline as I write this - it is overcast).

Wolf-Dog said at September 7, 2006 7:44 AM:

Even though I use the ZoneAlarm firewall and the Mozilla Firefox browser, I can see that there are Google Advertisements about genetics, and related subjects that are connected with this blog about designing babies genetically. Is this happening with the permission of the FuturePundit web site, or is there any spyware in my computer?

Joe said at September 7, 2006 8:31 AM:

Why do you assume that the more educated will want to leave the less in the dust? They could just as likely want to uplift everyone. There is also no reason for everyone to be smart. If MM becomes reality only a small percentage of the population would need to work. The other could do as they please including being dumb without hurting anyone.

PS. Wolf-Dog the ads arn't spywear they are context sensitive ads from Google. Randall's got to make a little money :)

rsilvetz said at September 7, 2006 9:37 AM:

It depends on so many things. Will designer-baby tech be regulated to death? If yes, then we will see a cognitive elite and a divide. If it is a free-market, designer-baby tech will drop in price rapidly in semi-log rate to its profitability and it will be thousand-fold cheaper within 20 years of its introduction. If the nation-state survives, you will see the rise of the covert program to get 200-IQ kids regardless of overclocking disease and pyschological issues, provided the kids can produce cutting-edge tech for military-industrial purposes.

Additionally, simple gene mods to increase physical attractiveness and physical capability will command a premium. Just crushing homcysteine by adding an enzyme pathway to degrade homocysteine will essentially wipe out heart disease and artherosclerosis. (At that point you can also short the stock of Viagra makers.) The odds are that we will resurrect the fading blonde, up symmetry and up proportions in women. Myostatin regulation will be a target to increase muscle mass in both sexes.

Russ said at September 7, 2006 10:36 AM:

I think something major is being overlooked here. Smarts? Great! But there is a bizarre notion that intelligence is necessarily the overriding virtue, which is not so. As Scientific American has noted, the difference between talent and hard work is effectively indistinguishable with ten years' training. I can see a few fields here and there where it might make a difference -- and I appreciate the difference between somebody who is a little clever, like me, and an outright genius, which I'm not.

But I know several folks who are flat-out geniuses who have led lives little different from anyone around them.

Now, am I saying that I wouldn't give my kids a leg up? YOU BETCHA I'd give them a leg up. In every category I could afford... but first and foremost, and far before intelligence, would be fixes involving health and longevity, particularly anything at all that promised to increase the length of time allowing childbirth.

The intelligence fetishists aren't getting anywhere if they stroke out at 90.

Mirco said at September 7, 2006 1:02 PM:

People that want smarter kids will surely want give them the ability to be hard working and with a drive.
Smart and lazy is not a good mix.
But, probably, they will try to make tham smarter, with more willpower, prettier, stronger and healthier.
If you have a higher IQ, you need willpower to use it, a stronger body to be able to study more and prettier so people don't oppose you.

The Superfluous Man said at September 7, 2006 2:49 PM:

"As Scientific American has noted, the difference between talent and hard work is effectively indistinguishable with ten years' training."
Wrong. "the validity of job experience for predicting future job performance is only .18 and the increment in validity (and utility) over that from GMA alone is only .03 (a 6% increase)." GMA is IQ. Read the entire piece for a liberating portion of truth -

The Scientific American is notoriously leftist. That is harmful when covering such items.

"In every category I could afford... but first and foremost, and far before intelligence, would be fixes involving health and longevity, particularly anything at all that promised to increase the length of time allowing childbirth.
This is to ask whether longevity or greatness is of more import. To die at 45 as Baruch Spinoza, or at 95 having lived a good but not outwardly great life. I suppose the goal is Moses, live to 120 while having shaken the world.

I would have to agree with the left, once it takes up sponsoring such genetic engineering - eliminating the effects otherwise inevitable is a worthy of our mammon.

I'm not so sure that the poor don't recognize the importance of g (intelligence). But the problem lies in that the poor and stupid will not use it as much as others would, even if free - the illegitimacy crisis is one such proof.

By the way, according to Richard Lynn in Eugenics, the most viable method of genetic engineering is not that per se, but 'selection,' testing eggs and sperm for the expression of various genes, giving a biological profile of the future child. Lynn says there that the intelligence of the offspring could generally be raised 15 points from the average of the parents every generation in this manner. However, there is a limit to our intelligence, but first an analogy. The record for horse racing was set in the early 20th century (say 1937, I forget). But horse racers have been breeding with abandon long since. This suggests that all the genes for fast racing are in the horses already; breeding just makes the favorable ones more frequent. As for the recordmaking horse, it was a culmination, close to the set of all optimal genes expressed in one horse. So to with humans - all the genes are there, and it is possible that the smartest possible man has already lived (though Lynn doesn't mention that genes conferring higher intelligence may be exclusive to certain populations, say Whites or Asians, allowing miscegenation to raise IQ further).

Lynn highlights in Eugenics the threat of an intensely eugenic China, sketching a disaster scenario in which China has taken over the world due to its Galtonian regime. One pleadingly hopes that the Sinosphere will moderate. Worth a read in any case.

Randall Parker said at September 7, 2006 4:13 PM:


I put ads on the pages. If the revenue from them stays steady enough (fingers crossed) I'm going to upgrade to a dedicated server. Then I'm going to add some content that uses more horsepower on the server - looking at ideas involving a database where we could argue using real data.


Of course IQ matters a great deal. See psychometrician Linda Gottfredson's reprints of research papers. See this graph by Linda which shows the power of IQ to cause differences in outcomes (same graph here).

Engineering, software development, medicine, and finance are all fields where the higher the IQ the better your work can be. There are others.

Some smart people use their smartness to be lazy. They take jobs where they can not try hard and still excel over all their co-workers. Other smart people use their brains to make scientific discoveries or design better products.


Yes, some of the cognitive elite will advocate for uplift and will even donate money for genetic engineering for poor people having kids. Some will advocate for tax funded genetic engineering for all babies. Heck, I may advocate for that myself. Higher IQs mean lower crime rates, less use of welfare, higher incomes, higher taxes paid.

Brett Bellmore said at September 8, 2006 4:16 AM:

At this point I'd go for intelligence over longevity; By the time longevity is an issue for people born today, we'll probably already have solved the aging problem. But remodeling an existing brain to be smarter could be a much more difficult task. (I'm assuming you can divide intelligence fixes into biochemical, and structural. The former, easy to apply to existing brains. The latter, heartbreakingly difficult, if you don't want to wipe them clean in the process.) So, first fix the things that will be *hard* to fix in the future.

Dave said at September 8, 2006 9:35 AM:

But different genetic configurations are better in different situations, there is not a one size fits all solution.

According to Fjordman Scandinavian men have become feminized.

Yet their ancestors were the Vikings one of the most fearsome warriors of their time period. So what happened? In the past they grew up in those tough northern enviroments and their genes were selected for that, but now they grow up in the biggest welfare states on the planet and the same genes are not not producing the same results.

Randall Parker said at September 8, 2006 7:14 PM:


I agree that going for intelligence over longevity makes more sense for babies being born today. A baby born today will turn 50 in 2056. Unless civilization collapses aging will be fully reversible by 2056.

Yes, restructuring a fully developed adult brain will be very hard to do. Better to go for high intelligence from the very start.

Bob Badour said at September 9, 2006 7:05 AM:


Men in the west have not become feminized. The political correctness movement has emasculated men, which is something entirely different.

Rob-ot said at September 10, 2006 1:56 PM:

Dave, why do you think it's the same genes? A few hundred years of even mild selection can change gene frequencies pretty significantly.

Maybe modern Scandanavians are disproportionately descended from the more docile Vikings.

All in all, I think people will select their children for what they (and their subculture) value. And probably for important things they know they lack. Nerds may well choose more extraverted, and bright.

God knows the train wreck if certain people get to choose freely. Do we want Mexican-Americans to become more macho? How about the moral majority becoming more faith-based?

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