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Old Feb 26th 2009, 12:00 PM
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drgoodtrips drgoodtrips is offline
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Default Designer Babies

Apparently, the time has arrived:

http://singularityhub.com/2009/02/25...ere-they-come/

It isn't quite as sensational as the headline makes it out to be. Couples cannot "create" features. They just pick from among the traits of existing embryos. They're using the same principle that is used to screen out genetic disorders, but now allowing embryos with certain eye colors, hair colors, or complexions to be chosen.

Personally, I don't see what the problem is. The article mentions that a lot of countries have regulations against this sort of thing, but the US does not. I'm not sure what objection there would be to this beyond people being uncomfortable with change.
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Old Feb 26th 2009, 12:30 PM
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Dominick Dominick is offline
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Default Re: Designer Babies

I don't see how anyone could make an argument against this that wouldn't be based on religious fundamentalism or paranoid association with Nazi methodologies.

And I'm not so sure about Pandora's box being opened. There is a lot of wishful thinking and reductionism in the genetics business (not in the genetics science). Genetics are far more complex than these corporations lead to believe. Genes are not merely on/off switches. The whole thing is inextricably multi-layered and replete of feedback systems. Altering genes -which is indeed not the case here yet- will not possibly have unforeseen and unintended consequences, but will unavoidably have them.
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Old Feb 26th 2009, 01:22 PM
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Default Re: Designer Babies

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Originally Posted by Dominick View Post
I don't see how anyone could make an argument against this that wouldn't be based on religious fundamentalism or paranoid association with Nazi methodologies.
I'd make the same argument I'd make against anything unknown. Better to be safe than sorry.

In this case, the choice is very easy. There is virtually no public gain here and rather high risks of society-wide bad effects resulting. Ergo, I'm inclined to be opposed to allowing any of it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dominick
And I'm not so sure about Pandora's box being opened. There is a lot of wishful thinking and reductionism in the genetics business (not in the genetics science). Genetics are far more complex than these corporations lead to believe. Genes are not merely on/off switches. The whole thing is inextricably multi-layered and replete of feedback systems. Altering genes -which is indeed not the case here yet- will not possibly have unforeseen and unintended consequences, but will unavoidably have them.
The science doesn't scare me - the people do.

The unintended effects will be sociological, psychological and society-wide.

Did China expect a boom in homosexuality when they adopted a "one-child" policy? I doubt it - but that's what they ended up with. Unintended consequences by definition can't be predicted or foreseen ahead of time.
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Old Feb 26th 2009, 03:08 PM
Multiplum Multiplum is offline
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Default Re: Designer Babies

I have to say I really like this. I'm aspiring to work in this field, and see it as an excellent opportunity to, among other things, eliminate diseases that cause immense suffering.

It's very, very complex, of course, and I doubt we will be able to create people exactly the way we want them for a long time. I don't really see it happening, but at the rate these things are discovered, who knows where we will end up. I don't think we have anything to lose.
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Old Feb 26th 2009, 07:54 PM
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Default Re: Designer Babies

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Originally Posted by Dominick View Post
I don't see how anyone could make an argument against this that wouldn't be based on religious fundamentalism or paranoid association with Nazi methodologies.
I should like to think that a humanist argument might be able to be made here. I'm not sure if that's possible though...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dominick
And I'm not so sure about Pandora's box being opened. There is a lot of wishful thinking and reductionism in the genetics business (not in the genetics science). Genetics are far more complex than these corporations lead to believe. Genes are not merely on/off switches. The whole thing is inextricably multi-layered and replete of feedback systems. Altering genes -which is indeed not the case here yet- will not possibly have unforeseen and unintended consequences, but will unavoidably have them.
This process replicates a similar process already in use. The game here is to choose/separate amongst a few available options. Sexual selection is almost certain to be the most common one (I'm just guessing based on human common behavior of the past). That is to say, this is not sci-fi, this is now.

And the Pandora's Box is thus opened whether we like it or not. We shall witness the 'unintended consequences' regardless. As noted above, I'd expect such consequences to appear in the socio-cultural-political-economic sectors long before any possibly serious problems show up on the genetic side - if at all.
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Old Mar 11th 2009, 10:47 AM
SMadsen SMadsen is offline
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Default Re: Designer Babies

"Preimplantation genetic diagnosis" has always been around. As Michael points out, it's also known as sexual selection. The only difference is the step from qualifying genetic ambitions by 'feeling' them to measuring them. I only find it to become worth of ethical consideration in two cases; either if we go the next step, from trying to measure it to actually designing it, or if we start to qualify genetic ambitions by late-term "postimplantation genetic diagnosis".
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Old Mar 12th 2009, 02:10 AM
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Default Re: Designer Babies

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Originally Posted by Multiplum View Post
I have to say I really like this. I'm aspiring to work in this field, and see it as an excellent opportunity to, among other things, eliminate diseases that cause immense suffering.

It's very, very complex, of course, and I doubt we will be able to create people exactly the way we want them for a long time. I don't really see it happening, but at the rate these things are discovered, who knows where we will end up. I don't think we have anything to lose.
You scare the hell out of me. The phrase "exactly the way we want them" is probably the key, most problematic statement of your entire opinion on this. How you want people to be is (clearly) not the way I want people to be. Furthermore, I don't think that I get a say in how people should be from this perspective, not even my own kid. There are a few debilitating diseases that affect a very small portion of the population and I think it would be an extremely difficult choice to give people the opportunity to snuff out something they don't want.

I'm not going to make a religious argument here because that's not the side of things I support either. I'm going to make the argument that controlling the circumstances of how we want things to be will provide us with things that are not what we want them to be because of unforeseen factors influencing choice. What we think we are getting in choosing a child's characteristics is probably not exactly what we ordered. We are led to believe that the presence of disease or other characteristics that make life difficult for a child/family are undesirable. Life is hard, life with a disability is harder. There are lessons to be learned from all of this though and I think that part of our time here, whether you think that this life is all we have or not, is to be spent learning some big lessons. Choosing what we allow our kids to look like is too nave a choice to me and makes those big lessons seem like they're under our control.

Regardless of how I personally feel about this, I think that we as humans have to do this or at the very least we have to toy with the idea of doing this. Fucking with things and controlling them and manipulating the universe as much as we can is what makes us human. Resisting the urge to do this too much, especially when we cannot fathom the outcomes, and debating the merits of these kinds of technology is what makes us responsible humans and worthy of existence in the universe.
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Old Mar 12th 2009, 08:06 AM
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dilettante dilettante is offline
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Default Re: Designer Babies

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael View Post
This process replicates a similar process already in use. The game here is to choose/separate amongst a few available options. Sexual selection is almost certain to be the most common one (I'm just guessing based on human common behavior of the past). That is to say, this is not sci-fi, this is now.

And the Pandora's Box is thus opened whether we like it or not. We shall witness the 'unintended consequences' regardless. As noted above, I'd expect such consequences to appear in the socio-cultural-political-economic sectors long before any possibly serious problems show up on the genetic side - if at all.
I was rereading this thread after Greendruid's post and I think the you've probably hit on a big red flag here. It does seem likely that sexual selection would be the most common use of being able to "design" aspects of your child. But, if you think about it, almost no good can come of letting people choose their baby's sex.

Baring some unusual circumstances, that safest ratio is roughly 50/50 male/female; but nature gives us something close to that anyway if we just leave it alone. Skewing the ratio one way or the other is just asking for trouble, both demographically and culturally. I expect that, if everyone could choose the sex of their child, the world population would quickly see a massive increase the male/female ratio due to the various cultures that value male children over female children. History (and common sense) would seem to indicate that large numbers of young men who cannot find spouses are trouble: not only do they not maintain the population, but they tend towards violence and disruption.

And I suspect the same dangers are there (if less immediately predictable) in letting people choose other qualities about their children besides just the sex.
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Old Mar 12th 2009, 09:56 AM
SMadsen SMadsen is offline
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Default Re: Designer Babies

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Originally Posted by dilettante View Post
And I suspect the same dangers are there (if less immediately predictable) in letting people choose other qualities about their children besides just the sex.
Where do you draw the line? At the free choice that comes with spermbank catalogues? At your free choice of partner? Or if that choice is taken away from you by things like arranged marriage, by handing the choice over to your parents? Or to others?

At what exact moment are you not choosing qualities for your child?
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Old Mar 12th 2009, 01:18 PM
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Default Re: Designer Babies

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Originally Posted by SMadsen View Post
Where do you draw the line? At the free choice that comes with spermbank catalogues? At your free choice of partner? Or if that choice is taken away from you by things like arranged marriage, by handing the choice over to your parents? Or to others?

At what exact moment are you not choosing qualities for your child?
I'm not trying to draw a line.
I'm just suggesting that the more power people have to precisely control the attributes of their progeny, the more capable we are of royally screwing things up. If everyone embraced the power to choose of their child's physical attributes, then the species's genetic make-up would be changing at the speed (and with the carelessness) of fashion trends.
That sounds like trouble to me.
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