May 01, 2016
James Miller Interviews Razib Khan On Human Genetic Advances

Offspring genetic selection for IQ will come sooner than widespread adoption of electric cars. Razib thinks we'll know enough about the genetic structure of intelligence to start doing embryo selection for higher intelligence by 2020.

We will see people accept genetic research results by their own choices when they come to reproduce. Says Razib: "Revealed preferences do dictate history at the end of the day".

Say in the year 2021 we can select embryos for higher IQ. What will be the cost of testing a few dozen genomes well enough to select the ideal embryo? g

Razib says the rate of advance of CRISPR genetic editing on embryos will be practical in 5 years: "CRISPR is getting better and better and better and better". The ability to fix some bad genetic load mutations in an embryo would make embryo selection much easier. Got great stuff on one of your chromosomes mixed in with a few bad things? Fix the bad things. Give your kid only positives.

Parenthetically, after one recent series of dentist visits I've been taking notice of people's teeth. Some people have perfect gleaming white teeth with no cavities. Others like me are not so lucky. Lots of people like me would choose to give their kids better tooth genes if they had the choice. Other people have back problems or skin problems or food sensitivities that make their lives difficult. Why pass that along to your offspring if you can avoid it?

If (or, rather, when) we get more really smart people we will also get more super smart people like John von Neumann. Razib is a little scared at the idea of a substantial fraction of the population being as smart as John von Neumann (one of the smartest people to ever live). By 2030 people might be making babies of his intellectual caliber. So imagine these babies grow up and in 2055 a lot of active scientist operating at von Neumann's level, making many original contributions to many fields. What happens to the world then?

Razib thinks the Chinese will pressure the West to go faster on CRISPR and other genetic technology. Otherwise our geniuses will be far fewer and less able than their geniuses. Resistance will be overcome. I think the affluent will travel to other legal jurisdictions to start pregnancies if they can't get the biotech for super babies in their own country.

Razib thinks we will do genetic editing to create meat animals that are much dumber, unemotional, and pain free to reduce concerns about causing animals to suffer.

There's another aspect of cognitive differences and genetic engineering that Miller and Khan did not touch upon: cognitive attributes heavily influenced by genes that are not about intelligence level. My concern is that 50+ years from now we could have clashes between populations because different populations went in different directions with genetic choices that influence moral and social behavior. We could have groups of brilliant people with strong innate differences in moral reasoning style battling each other for domination within and between societies with an intensity that makes the last century's conflicts seem mild by comparison.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2016 May 01 07:50 PM 

Supersonic said at May 2, 2016 8:46 AM:

Randall, so you think in 50 years a caste of people will be created that will be hyper intelligent sociopaths with higher than normal aggression? Sounds viable to me. There are a few of these folks walking around Wall Street and the halls of Washington DC.

Abelard Lindsey said at May 3, 2016 12:44 PM:

So its Khan about Khan, eh?

Randall Parker said at May 3, 2016 7:29 PM:


Engineering for high IQ and engineering for sociopathy are two separate things. It could be that a successful CEO with psychopathic traits that helped him make decisions that drove his rise to power could opt for a kid that is even smarter, more competitive, more driven, and less restrained by conscience. That's a distinct possibility.

But I also think we'l have people creating offspring with strong moral instincts. But the twist is that the moral instincts vary. There are different weightings of values between people and, as a result, conflicts of values in the political arena. I think we could have Social Justice Warrior factions creating offspring who are super Social Justice Warriors while others create kids that aren't upset by big differences in wealth but who are upset by, say, coercive attempts to redistribute the wealth. A

lso, some will be more tribal, more protective of a smaller group at the expense of larger groups. Tribes in the Middle East come to mind. So do various ethnic nationalisms outside of Western European peoples.

So I'm thinking rising conflicts as a result of genetic engineering.

Wolf-Dog said at May 5, 2016 10:04 PM:

Rising conflicts as a result of genetic engineering: On the plus side, if just 0.1 % of the population were as smart as John von Neumann, the productivity of the economy would increase dramatically and there would be enough room in the world for everyone. This would mitigate the coming conflicts. WW II was made very genocidal due to the lack of resources, but with better inventions there will be less shortages of resources. As a result, if differently engineered super-intelligent human species don't get along, they will be able to segregate themselves in separate new territories that they will develop from scratch. They can colonize the Moon, Mars, the moons of Jupiter, etc. Or Antarctica, Greenland, Yukon, under the oceans, or distant undeveloped parts of the US and Canada that are empty.

The main thing that I worry is that our generation will be very obsolete even if we get gene therapy to extend our lives. Unless, of course, the future gene therapy can also boost our generation's intelligence also.

David Friedman said at June 1, 2016 6:40 PM:

I don't think a population will all go one way with regard to moral or social characteristics, at least as long as the decision is made separately by each couple.

Randall Parker said at June 11, 2016 10:29 AM:


I think we will get subpopulations that are internally more homogeneous. Take academia for example. Academics in humanities departments could select for genes that make kids into social justice warriors. Their kids could have cognitive attributes that make them far more likely to pair up with each other. So we end up getting something more extreme than we are already getting with Bill Bishop's Big Sort with even a much higher level of cognitive homogeneity in each community.

In some nations some genetic variants willbe ruled illegal for couples who are doing genetic editing. Each country will have a different list of disallowed genetic variants. This will accentuate cognitive differences between nations.

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