October 14, 2007
Same Sex Couples Travel To US For Designer Babies
The United States has fewer regulatory obstacles to the paying of egg and sperm donors and also of women who basically rent out their wombs for 9 months to bring a baby to term. This is prompting the growth of an interesting form of labor out-sourcing into the United States. Same sex couples from Australia are traveling to the United States to use US egg donors and women who can act as surrogate carriers of pregnanices to term.
SAME-sex couples from Queensland are heading to the US to buy designer babies for up to $133,000 - even specifying the gender they want.
IVF pioneer Dr Jeffrey Steinberg said an increasing number of gay and lesbian Australians were visiting his Californian fertility centre to begin a family and side-step Australian law that prohibits surrogacy.
Converted into US dollars that's about $120k. A sizable amount. Reproduction is big business.
One thought strikes me about reproductive technologies and their costs: We are going to witness DNA testing technologies become more powerful and more useful. We are also going to witness the initial introduction and growth in the power of biotechnologies for manipulating chromosomes and genes in embryos. As these things happen we will see a huge increase in the advantages to be gained from using in vitro fertilization (IVF) to create embryos outside of the womb (aka test tube babies). Yet those technologies will initially become available at high prices. Okay, so who will use them first? Wealthier people.
Since wealthier people will be the first to use reproductive technologies that boost offspring intelligence, make offspring healthier, and make offspring better looking the initial use of such technologies will boost the existing trend toward greater economic inequality. As the first wave of bioengineered children of the upper classes come of age those children will enjoy an even greater advantage over . The upper classes will become much more successful at maintaining multi-generation success stories as they become able to avoid at least some of the regression to the mean toward lower achieving offspring. Many of those who genetically engineering their children will actually produce children who are smarter, more motivated, and more socially adept than the parents of these children.
Gattaca worries aside, most of the genetic tests that are safe and in the pipeline relate to diseases, not drive and IQ.
The genetic tests now in the pipeline are a tiny subset of all the genetic tests we'll have 10 years from now. In coming years we'll know tons of stuff about neurologically significant genetic variations because the cost of DNA sequencing is falling so rapidly.
On the life extension debate a professor of philosophy made an excellent point.. If something is beneficial but we are only able to provide it for the rich it is still a moral good. 1% saved from some genetic diseases is still better then 0%. And as we all know what the rich can afford today, ten years from now everyone can. But even if that wasn't true, it is still a moral good.
Btw if we can manipulate the genes to give super iq's, I would have it virtually mandated that everyone in the nation must use it. Not that we'd need to.. what parent would want their child to be the dunce of the class?
We could see third world nations leap frog to the forefront of the world with genetic engineering.
Genetic/biotech technology will advance too quickly for income inquality to be effected much. For wealthier people to have a Darwinian effect on income inquality you need generations for the new designer-wealthy to grow up and repeat the cycle a few times. I expect this technology to go from super-wealthy to every-man within 10-15 years. The wealthy will have a small head-start, but it won't be sustainable. The income-equalizing effects of this technology will be much stronger in the long term as the poor can select for "rich kid" traits.
There will be some "anti-rich" selection, the same way there's backlash against "acting white", but (1) I don't expect there will be too much of it, and (2) people who make that choice for their kids pretty much guarantee their lineage an evolutionary dead-end, guaranteeing their status as 'footnote' rather than 'trend'.
I hadn't thought before about rich homosexuals being a driver of this technology, but it does make sense. Interesting.
The rich always have first access to new technologies. Without them, companies would establish no revenue stream that would allow them to drive down unit prices, to reach the "sweet spot" of the market, the vast middle class. Aside from a few, economically negligible companies, no sensible company targets only the upper class.
A thought - if the technology is $150,000 today, doesn't that suggest it will be $15,000 in five years and $1,500 five years after that? Some costs (such as the host mother's 'salary') will not fall in line with the technology curve, but the vast majority of people who will use genetic screening will be fertile couples looking for a genetic "leg up", so really the tech is the primary cost. I expect that if this remains unregulated you will see advances in technique and plummeting costs, leading to mass market adoption, similar to eye surgery.
Anyone want a war? Then don't allow the state to sponsor eugenics programs:
"Reflecting on Lee Silver's naive, and now frequently quoted, prediction that germinal choice will lead to a division between the genetic haves and have-nots. Adam Wolfson retorted in the Public Interest that "if genetic enhancement were to become possible, democratic publics would take to the streets with guns and knives before allow Silver's scenario to come to pass. The lower and middle classes insist that their children be provided with the same eugenic enhancements available to the children of the rich. In time, The U.S. government would subsidize eugenic programs, not to create an overclass but to preserve equality, to elevate everyone's natural endowments." The point of this book is to argue for precisely such a movement, a movement that progressives will be forced to embrace once they have exhausted the dead-end of bioLuddism."
Citzen Cyborg pg 133.
The future of gene therapy is far less exciting that we frequently picture it. Bioluddites on the left will be reasonable once their fear of immutable genetic differences is no longer an issue, and both the left and the right seem likely to adapt once the benefits of gene therapy are visible and undeniable in early adopters.