Re: Dangers of human self-modification

From: David Cake (
Date: Sun May 30 2004 - 01:08:28 MDT

Samantha Atkins wrote:
>On May 26, 2004, at 7:39 AM, Ben Goertzel wrote:
>>Philip, I understand your point but I don't agree with it. I'm much
>>more pessimistic about human nature.
>>Two things could come from genetically engineering of wise humans:
>>1) a vastly greater incidence of individuals as wise as the
>>maximally-wise humans on Earth today
>Wisdom today seems to be a product of training, development,
>intention more than genetics per se. So why believe we will get
>more of it through genetic engineering in particular?
>>2) the creation of humans who are 2 or 10 times as wise (yeah I know, we
>>have measurement problems here) as any human alive today
>Same objection. I don't believe wisdom is amenable to genetic
>engineering significantly.

        I agree.
        Genetic engineering can probably help minimise certain
aspects of our genetic heritage that interfere with the attainment of
wisdom, such as tendency of fight-or-flight mechanisms to make us act
stupid, tendency to fall into depressive and obsessive patterns, etc.
Perhaps simply widespread use of technologies to minimize such
behavioural flaws (including genetic engineering) will have the
effect of raising the ambient wisdom level significantly.
        But I think many human beings on earth, through a combination
of learned self-control and behaviour patterns, have learnt to limit
the effect of such problems. Real wisdom, however, is still difficult.
        We have technologies for creating wisdom, such as
universities. Such technologies are still hit and miss, advancement
has slowed, and seem unlikely to make a quantum leap in efficiency
any time soon.
        Maybe we will work out clever techniques to make sure our AIs
are wise (as well as smart and friendly). I doubt we are going to do
it with people anytime soon.
        As regards Jefs wise point about an increase in wisdom
arising from an increase in group function - I think its no accident
that those problems that interfere with wisdom (anger, depression,
obsession, etc) also interfere with working in groups.

Ben Goertzel wrote:
>I just have very little faith in the ability of sociocultural change to
>elevate the wisdom level of the race.

        Well, me too. I have even less faith in genetic engineering to do so.

At 10:39 AM -0400 26/5/04, Ben Goertzel wrote:
>In fact, I have little faith that genetic engineering will be used to
>create ultrawise beings either -- I reckon it will be used first to
>create superintelligent killing machines.

        And unlike sociocultural change, I have very little
confidence that genetic engineering is practically able to do so much
at all, whereas sociocultural change, while hit and miss and a
frighteningly slow process, does appear to slowly (and far from
surely) head in mostly the right direction.


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