Re: Risk, Reward, and Human Enhancement

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Mon Dec 31 2007 - 17:01:03 MST

On Dec 13, 2007, at 7:06 PM, Rolf Nelson wrote:

> On Dec 5, 2007 11:54 AM, Byrne Hobart <
> > wrote:
> As we get better at directly manipulating human abilities, we're
> probably going to encounter situations in which a treatment has
> uncertain effects. Consider a new intelligence enhancement drug
> that, in clinical trials, has been shown to reduce IQ by 5 points
> 90% of the time, and raise it by 10 points 10% of the time (and can
> be repeated indefinitely). For an individual, this is a pretty bad
> deal -- but get a group of 10,000 devoted singularitarians, have
> each one take the treatment, and then repeat it for the ones who get
> enhanced, and you'll end up with one person with an IQ 50 points
> higher. And one ridiculously smart individual may make enough of a
> contribution to outweigh making 9,000 willing volunteers marginally
> dumber.
> I'd like to think I would volunteer, if it were the most cost-
> effective way to help out. (I can't say whether it's probable that I
> would actually volunteer, since (a) I'm not yet taking time to
> actually think it over since it's hypothetical, and (b) the human
> brain has an uncanny knack for rationalizing its way out of actually
> following through with making sacrifices for strangers.)

Why would you like to think that? On the face of it it is a very poor
decision. The likely outcome is that you lose 3.5 IQ points.
Perhaps we get somone whose IQ is raised 50 points but of what good
is that to you? There are hyper IQ folks out there now who aren't
working on anything you think is all that important. What makes you
think that possibly getting one more such person is worth the real
damage to yourself and most others who volunteer? Would you "like to
think that" because it makes you a "good Joe" or willing to take one
for the group or such? Why?

The rest of the "all too human" reasoning above says that you (and I
mean all of us) need all our marbles intact. :-)

- samantha

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