RE: Dangers of human self-modification

From: David Cake (dave@difference.com.au)
Date: Sun May 30 2004 - 00:57:41 MDT


>On Thu, 27 May 2004 "Philip Sutton"
><Philip.Sutton@green-innovations.asn.au> said:
>
>>Can you tell me how would *you* would envisage we could enhance
>*wisdom* via genetic engineering??
>
>1) Engineer an emotional and not just intellectual respect for the
>scientific method. Ever though it works great, evolution never gave us
>the ability to love the scientific method in our gut because for all its
>virtues it works too slowly to help much in surviving in the jungle; a
>controlled experiment examining the consequences of running and not
>running from a Saber Toothed Tiger is not a very good idea. This lack of
>respect is the reason we believe in spoon benders, flying saucers,
>racism, the image of The Virgin seen in a pizza topping, and God.
>
>2) Engineer a visceral understanding of statistics. Flying is the safest
>way to travel yet many people feel safer driving a car even though
>statistically it is more dangerous.
>
>3) In general, when we recognize that one of our feelings is irrational
>we should always have the ability to change it. Example: Fear of some
>snakes is a good idea, fear of all snakes is not; Fear of falling is a
>good idea, fear of working on the 24íth floor is not.

        I think for 1&2, its well beyond the
ability of genetic engineering to do so
straightforwardly.
        Both statistics and the scientific method
are ideas that act at the level of high level
abstract thought. While I can conceive of it
being possible to somehow re-engineer humanity to
better balance cognitive judgements with sensory
biases etc, I don't think its possible to choose
what those cognitive judgements will be. To reuse
someone elses metaphor, its like trying to
enforce particular computer GUIs in the chip
design.
        The last point is an interesting one. Its
never going to be genetic engineering alone that
achieves this, and I think its highly likely that
genetic engineering will have very little to do
with whats essentially a psychological question.
But even if we have such an ability, I thinks its
unlikely that it will ever be restricted to the
ability to chance only to feelings that are MORE
rational, though many of us will try to use it
that way. I think it far more likely that, for
every 1 person that has a genuine phobia and can
remove it, we get 10 that try to re-engineer
their own personal responses to fit in with the
demands of their personal relationships, to
improve job prospects, and other personal goals
(which nevertheless seem terribly important to
the individuals concerned).
        Cheers
                David



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