People like to say they care about future generations. That's ridiculous, obviously. The reality is that people only care about perpetuating their own genes. If we cared about the quality of life for future generations, most births in modern societies would result from the sperm and eggs of donors that are healthy, brilliant, talented, hard-working, happy, tall, and blessed with excellent emotional intelligence. To keep things non-racist, let's assume the donated sperm and eggs in my hypothetical situation come from the best specimens in every ethnic group.

Just to be clear, I'm not recommending that society restrict reproduction to the best genetic specimens among us. That would violate all sorts of basic freedoms. All I'm saying is that if we cared about future generations, we have the means to solve a lot of their problems in advance through genetic management. In reality, we don't care too much about future generations, so the current method of mating all higgledy-piggledy is fine with everyone.

None of us wants to live in a world where human reproduction is restricted by the government, or even by social norms. I'm just making the case that if the current generation of child-bearing folks were to bite the bullet and voluntarily accept restrictions on their reproductive options, future generations wouldn't need to have the same restrictions. In a generation or two, society could go back to mating all higgledy-piggledy in the old-fashioned way, secure in the knowledge that any mate they might select in that future generation would be the product of good genes.

It's a creepy idea, right? Yeah, I get that. It's impractical too. But I'm sure people once said the same thing about donating their organs, and we got over that. The only real limitation to genetic management is psychological. We could get past it if we truly cared about the wellbeing of strangers that will be born after we die.



Rank Up Rank Down Votes:  +38
  • Print
  • Share


Sort By:
Jun 4, 2012
This is not about will power, per se. But I didn't know where to stick it (although the guy who posted 'Leadersh*t' might be onto something).

This blog is probably not overflowing with sonnet fans. Pity. I find Dilbert to be a tired cynic. He dissipates revolutionary energy. After thousands of awkwardly-suspended Frame Three's, he's remains on the job. Where's Che Guevara? I'm a fan of Ernest Hilbert's sonnets. So the rhyme, if not the reason, proved irresistible. --Norman Ball

Dilbert's Hilbert Cube
(a paean to Ernest Hilbert's sonnet experiments)

Cubicles surround a devil's bargain
beneath the vanguard's failing line-of-sight.
Good men scaled heights and died so all might pierce
acoustic tile. Their kids now mutter jargon 
behind fabricated lines. Space is tight.
Light chatter subs for views in tombs with ears
for radio. Whole minds attune then take

Dilbert stirs the pot with lead
balloons. His sketchiness is tightly drawn
by five. Outside the box, Big Bosses rake
trapped miners over coals while overhead
a phosphor-fingered entity has sawn
animal spirits squarely down to size--
three frames, then Dilbert's animus subsides.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 2, 2012
We humans aren't more than animals with a big brain. Our motivations are the same as those of monkeys or fishes or whatever animal you can think of (preserve yourself just enough so you can spread your genes). Our big brain just blurs that by wrapping it with culture.

Of course there are some really smart people, but sadly that just makes them think even less about spreading their genes, so we end up where we are.

I think that restricting reproduction to a few people or improving genes artificially crosses an ethical line (maybe it's just my "culture"). But something more acceptable and easy to implement would be to educate people to reduce natality rates. That alone would take care of overpopulation and people could invest more in preparing each child, so in theory they'd be somewhat smarter.
May 16, 2012
I suspect what will happen instead is we will get better at genetic manipulation so we can still use our own genes, but just the best of them and with a few upgrades in weaker areas. And the big danger? Assuming there are no medical probs (ie the process does not create cannibalistic hoards of blood suckers or some such), and all goes generally as planned, I think the main danger is underdiversification. We will likely mostly all try to code for the same narrow set of traits. But the weird and wacked out people often generate some of our greatest geniuses. The line between genius and insanity is a narrow one Austism is correlated with high IQ parents, etc. If we take the 'safe' road and try to make our kids according to preconcieved notions of perfection, we risk cutting out the most vital driving forces behind our society. If you look at human intervention in any kind of breeding program so far, every time, we have created breeds that look better only in one or two often rather superficial ways, but are overall a weaker creature in general. Look at dogs, horses, etc. Are any of the creatures we have worked on smarter or stronger than their natural counterparts? Ever see the grace of a wolf compared to the lumbering slowness of a mastiff? And race horses may look pretty and run fast but they have so many health problems and are skittish and wacked out by nature. I for one would not trust current humanity with the task of undertaking any breeding program of any kind and especially not our own. Because our track record sucks.
May 15, 2012
Once we take that first step, I can't see it not being controlled by politics (or economics). Would we want to breed (or later, engineer) more docile people who are more likely to obey the law and not question authority? Maybe even create a slave race to do the dirty work that all those bright and talented people would find beneath them? Could we one day genetically engineer people to be better consumers? You only have to look at what we have done in the past to see what the future may hold.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
May 15, 2012
I think you're being far too human-centered here, Scott. Clearly, if we really care about future generations, and not merely our own offspring, then we should work as a society to build advanced machine lifeforms that can one day replace us. We could give them a capacity to learn and improve on themselves, and the capacity to reproduce and defend themselves. They could be explorers, inventors, and eventually even colonizers of distant worlds. And we can program them to live in harmony with their environment, unlike humans who are selfish consumers of resources with little thought to the good of either future generations or the planet.

When you say that you care about future generations but only so long as they're human, it's really only a small step above saying you only care about future generations if they include your particular genetic descendants. I mean really, Scott. I would've thought you were beyond such limited thinking.
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
May 14, 2012
I can't believe you would write that. It implies that you believe that there are such things as "superior genes" I know you like to write things that make us think, and you take on positions that make for a good debate. I guess a good one then! i'll bite..

Take for example, identical twins. I have a couple of them in my family, they have the same genetical information yet they are very much not the same. One is a bit taller then the other, and is doing better at school. Yet I wouldn't and could not say that one of them is genetically superior to the other. Because she simply is not. What may be happening, is that she is utilizing other genes, and still would not call her superior to the other one, just different.

Twins are studied in genetic research and are bringing these sort of questions to the table, why are they not exactly identical?

Point is that their identical genes are not making them identical. Logically, nor would you'r "better" gene pool probably go about to become what you expect them to become.

Genes are not the be all and end all of human reproduction. I read genetical research that pops up on some popular scientific sources, and am by no means an expert, just that I read what the current developments are on the understanding of genetics. It's an interesting field.

I read some research that says that we switch on and off genes in response to the environment. And we carry genes that can be activated if some sort of challenge rises that we have to deal with in the environment.

"variation is the best option for the future" Any attempt to make things "better" could go in any unexpected direction. Say you'r tall, blonde super humans lack or have a weaker version of something as simple as a gene that helps in dealing with simple social interactions, or are prone for depression. Suddenly you have a generation that can not function in a very subtle way that could lead to widespread social unrest. Or simply they feel superior, after all, are they not the "superior race"?

A very dangerous path to start down on, and I am sure many consider it to be a legit one. But it is so lacking in nuance. Modern science is always "right" until they figure out that they were incredibly stupid and wrong "way back then" I find to many similarities between the current genetic debate and the eugenics horrors of the past.

Say, we discovered the gene for psychopathy, severe lack of empathy. And in one generation we wipe it out, the world would surely be better off. But what if that gene was somehow connected or was vital to some other function, like the ability to react rationally in an emergency, the ability to turn off empathy to save a school bus of children instead of running over a puppy... You can see how that would make for a very un-safe world.

It is hard and probably a impossible thing to figure out, and attempts in the past have all lead to horrible atrocities and unexpected complications, which is why it may be best to leave the whole issue to chance, which we are currently doing...so hurray!
May 14, 2012

Actually, that is a well-known phenomenon and there is even a movie about it. Check out "Idiocracy", one of the scariest movies I have seen in a long time!
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
May 14, 2012
"The reality is that people only care about perpetuating their own genes."

Thats what asexual fungi and jellyfish do.
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
May 11, 2012
"If everyone was healthy, brilliant, talented, hard-working, happy, tall, and blessed with excellent emotional intelligence, who would dig the ditches and work in the factories?"

Those who challenged the status quo. Now get back to work!
0 Rank Up Rank Down
May 11, 2012
1800 local time... Watching a movie called 'The Island' on WB... Based on a similar idea as your post above... Harvesting human organs by growing retarded humans... PG15 thriller actually... Futuristic environ... Sophisticated vehicles, architecture and weapons.... Two specimen escape the lab and create havoc in LA... The LAPD ofcourse are unable to catch and kill two innocent kids (Thats not futuristic I guess.)...
May 11, 2012
And once all the undesirable traits are purged from the gene pool, the Final Solution will be complete.
May 11, 2012
"Just to be clear, I'm not recommending that society restrict reproduction to the best genetic specimens among us."

I'd be happy to restrict the worst genetic specimens from reproducing. To be specific, forced sterilization for crack heads is all I'm asking.
May 11, 2012
If you need a license to drive a car, you should need a license to breed.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
May 11, 2012

I am going to expand on your theme as an 'investment opportunity'.

I'll even risk saying that everything American is following the same dangerous and self-defeating trend since 1990.

Investment opportunities are created outside the US by wealthy Americans. Venture capital and equity funds pour into the labor markets of emerging economies. A mere fraction of the margins from them are rolled back into the US, mostly in the GNP.

Take the Capital Group for instance. Compare the quality of their portfolios inside and outside the US. They have invested billions of dollars in productive industries in Africa and India. And their investors are: Ohio Public Employment Retirement System, Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund and Pennsylvania Publlic School Employee's Retirement System. It's your money.

If there is any investment in genetic management, it will be made outside the US. And in return you'll have better facilities at home to retire and vegetate.

Sad. A country that is founded on the dignity of the individual is being invaded by the same ideas that the founding fathers had rebelled against to create the United States.

If you love your ideas, protect them with your life. The whole world knows that, except the generous US technologist.

+1 Rank Up Rank Down
May 10, 2012
If everyone was healthy, brilliant, talented, hard-working, happy, tall, and blessed with excellent emotional intelligence, who would dig the ditches and work in the factories?
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
May 10, 2012
Speak for yourself when you say "None of us wants to live in a world where human reproduction is restricted by the government". Some of us do. Bringing a new life into the world is vastly too important a decision for it to be left to individual people. Many people are irresponsible. If we're willing to take children away from abusive parents, then there's no reason why we shouldn't take reproductive rights as well.

Then there's the question of one child policies. If China didn't have such a policy, they wouldn't stand a chance of becoming a first world country.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
May 10, 2012
Best post in a long time. I enjoyed it.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
May 10, 2012
If we really did come from Adam and Eve, then we are all in-bred, and possibly cross-bred too considering no daughters were ever mentioned.

Rather than selective breeding being the future, gene manipulation and cleansing will be more likely. Already couples can have genetic testing done to determine what their unborn children may have. It is only a matter of time before some clever lad in China figures out how to fix genes in utero and prevent the defects from ever turning on in the first place.
May 10, 2012
Intellectual people already practice voluntary breeding restrictions, by waiting for and selecting the right person to breed with, having only the number of children they can economically and emotionally support, etc.

Non-intellectuals instictively know that their best survival strategy is to out-breed all the smart people, now matter how insane the child-rearing situation may be.

Only true geniuses realize that the "dumb" strategy is winning.
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
May 10, 2012
Genetic management's popularity is mostly limited because we can't apply it to our own genetics.

But just IMAGINE if we could!

If mankind discovers how to effectively alter genetics in existing organisms, humanity will experience the most significant revolution ever known or seen. The Industrial Age and the Information Age will be left in the dust.

Forget about getting plastic surgery, get some new genes. Change that eye color. Get taller! Become smarter! Become shorter! Become brown - or white. Or even alternate your skin color depending on the seasons.

When man can begin to master genes and start to organize evolution on a personal basis, we may even rebel against our genes, and stop reproducing altogether. Virtual Immortality!

If we can apply genetic changes to existing people, life as we know it, for better or worse, will change forever.

Hey Scientists - I'm looking at you. Figure this stuff out already! :-)
Get the new Dilbert app!
Old Dilbert Blog