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  1.  (483.1)
    Found this via a link on Grinding, and its got some interesting stuff on genetic engineering and bioethics, check it out and give your thoughts.

    Is anybody else worried about the stagnation genetic engineering could advocate?

    I mean there are some views of it as an artistic endeavour, but the fact is (and I'm using physical attraction as an example) attraction has always been tied into a cultural viewpoint, so if geneering takes off, can anyone else see one very specific, very current body image becoming predominant, and eventually total? Especially with weird scientist types as the architects...

    What variation does this allow for future generations? What if eventually (and I'm no expert on the cultural effects of human attraction) people stopped being attracted to the norm (which could be everyone, not just the majority)? What comes next, experimenting with features until we find the new attractive, so that we can once again be assed to procreate? Or will we just get our jollies virtually? Will sex have anything to do with procreation?

    Freaks me out... But also quite exciting...
      CommentAuthorJoe Paoli
    • CommentTimeJan 12th 2008 edited
    If we start tinkering with our base genetic makeup, I hope we're smart enough to throw our original DNA into the (a) Doomsday Vault.
  2.  (483.3)
    Evolution adapts to our current status. Natural selection will choose the people who better deal with their genetic enhancements. So I don't think evolution will stagnate because we're enhancing our bodies genetically (if I'm overlooking some important scientific notion of Evolution, please correct me). Of course, we WILL have to be very careful. I have to admit I'm excited by this too.
  3.  (483.4)

    I wasn't thinking in terms of evolution, I was thinking purely in terms of human individuality.
  4.  (483.5)
    What if eventually people stopped being attracted to the norm?

    erm... you have *seen* the internet haven't you? Given the state of extreme porn/fetish/general weird shit there will *always* be someone willing to breed with whatever weirdness we can cook up.

    The risk is that we speciate ourselves, so while the machinery *may* match (and given such people as splitcock - maybe not so much) we'll split into peoples unable to interbreed. And that *will* have a huge effect on politics. At least we sometimes temper our reaction to things because the people we are bombing are 'still human'.

    (Or again, with the use of language to dehumanise people, perhaps not so much).
  5.  (483.6)
    I'm having a time out until I can learn some manners.
    I know a number of people that have told me someone was hot, when clearly they were not. (Paris Hilton anyone?)

    people will always be attracted to fucking, and in turn, just plain humans.
  6.  (483.7)
    I know a number of people that have told me someone was hot, when clearly they were not. (Paris Hilton anyone?)

    Absolutely seconded.
    • CommentAuthorZeebo
    • CommentTimeJan 13th 2008
    I'm not sure genetic engineering will become universal any time in the near future. Appearance-wise, making people homogenous will be almost impossible. There are a large number of factors that affect physical appearance that aren't strictly governed by your genes. Weight, for example, is partially regulated by "thrifty genes" which are somehow differentially (epigenetically) activated based upon the mother's food intake. If a mother gains less weight during pregnancy (as demonstrated by the Dutch Famine Birth Cohort), the child is more likely to have a legacy of storing more fat than others if well-fed.

    As for speciation, that most likely won't be a problem either. No one's really sure what causes speciation, but many of the more prominent theories involve changes in mating behavior or population isolation. Given our current population and penchant for playing hide-the-salami in fun and interesting ways, it'd take an act of several gods working together to pull off human speciation.
  7.  (483.9)
    As for speciation, that most likely won't be a problem either.

    I think that if we are messing around with genes on such a large scale then the fact that the genes stop matching might cause speciation rather than the much slower population isolation.

    Didn't I read somewhere recently that there were seven species of giraffe?
    • CommentAuthorZeebo
    • CommentTimeJan 16th 2008
    the fact that the genes stop matching might cause speciation rather than the much slower population isolation

    Well, I suppose it depends upon your definition of "speciation." If you follow the traditional sense of being able to produce fecund offspring, it'd take a lot to speciate. Most probably, it'd involve people futzing with their developmental plan. If there's varying developmental signaling in a baby, then that could definitely muck them up in a major way.

    However, if you are referring to the "genomic" definition of speciation (such as the researcher proposing 11 species of giraffe), then human speciation would be more feasible, but still difficult. Most phylogenetic determinations are based upon unimportant mutations of small regions of a genome. They are usually corroborated with similar studies of mitochondrial DNA (which evolves much more slowly than nuclear DNA). By this definition, many isolated populations, even if they are capable of successfully breeding with each other, are separate species.

    I still think, as frightening as the prospect is, the most likely form of speciation as originating from genetic manipulation will probably involve someone deciding they want a demonic hemipenis. Then, of course, they meet someone who has the docking mechanism for such equipment and a new species will be born.
    • CommentTimeJan 16th 2008
    Wouldn't a lot of this be influenced by what kind of modification technology goes mainstream? Going by my not quite up-to-date pop-science memory, there are several theoretical options.

    One is the retrovirus thing, where you get a virus to rewrite the genotype of an adult specimen. This couldn't create any major changes to the phenotype, just change what kind of juices you secrete, pigments, hair type etc? But to get your real authentic mutant freakishness on, you'd need to grow something with the genetic rewrites from scratch, to get the phenotype effects. Between that and the first option what a couple with retrovirus type rewrites might squeeze out is anyone's guess. Then there's surgical modifications, which could get really impressive if we get the kind of wet nanotechnology which would also be needed to make retrovirii going - building new bone and other tissues in vats, adding, sculpting, removing, rerouting, replacing, introducing redundancy... The ultimate in this would be assembling a whole organism from artificial parts, making a biological android.

    I'm not sure we understand evolution well enough to predict what might happen over time. Sometimes, it goes slowly over millions of years, sometimes it leaps forward in just a handful of generations. Still, it's on geological time, isn't it? Metaphors like stagnation or acceleration on a human timescale doesn't seem to apply. Unless you deliberately make a fertile generic human and grow a couple of hundred millions of it, get mods specifically designed to be speciated(?) or radically variant and inheritable accepted on third-world markets, you're not going to see much of an effect on the total gene pool - it would get a little richer perhaps. A bit of extra variety can't hurt the species as a whole. Probably not much of a consolation for that kid who hits the genetic jackpot and inherits his grandfather's old genetic tattoo from his college days, but still a reason to be mildly optimistic.
    • CommentAuthorzenbullet
    • CommentTimeJan 17th 2008
    Speciation is an artificial distinction anyways, animal "types" live in more of a broad continuum, but I could be blowing smoke out of my ass on this one.

    But even in Darwin's time it was known that two close species could reproduce, and then one of those two could reproduce with a third, and so on down the line, till the original couldn't reproduce with the one at the end of the line.

    You know, I'm not even sure this is applicable, I'm going to have to reread this thread when I'm less tired.
    • CommentAuthorGrimnir
    • CommentTimeJan 17th 2008
    I think you'll see most early vanity ge mods be for things like being all crazy athletic and skinny, big dick/big tits, and then even more mods for being smarter, having better memory, aptitudes for music and spatial awareness, better empathy, great nightvision, great distance vision, perfect pitch, living practically forever, maybe some limb regeneration stuff, innate sense of direction. It'll become a basic cocktail that pretty much everyone gets. For a generation or two, depending on how expensive it is, people will look a lot alike. Everyone will be pretty and nearly perfect.

    If it's as expensive as plastic surgery is today, fat ugly dumb people will seriously be second-class citizens (not that they aren't now). But once it gets more in line with a tattoo, cost-wise, at that point being perfect will mean SO much less, and the body-modders that will be making themselves really fucking weird right from the get-go will rapidly become 30% of the population or so. And when it's easily reversible, when it's no big thing, the equivalent of a spa treatment, major body changes for $100 or so, at that point you're gonna see people doing things like giving themselves an insatiable libido while they're on vacation or turning into a demon to go to Burning Man, red skin and horns and big leathery wings with a dick too large to even use on a human woman. People deciding to spend a year as a little asian woman just to see what it's like or as a giant who looks like Thor. The impetus will be not on looking like an ideal any more, but on making yourself look as interesting as possible, the best reflection of your personality. Which would, of course, also be a matter of decision. Basically, taken to the extremes of effectiveness and ease of use, it allows you to experiment with existence and identity to your heart's content.

    As for makin babies, between the confluence of ge mods and nano/surgical mods, there's no reason you couldn't pick the qualities of your child, too, before or after the fact, or if you wanted it random and untainted, just mix up a batch of each of your original genetic samples and pick the best baby. Or if you really wanted it natural, you could both revert to your original genetic code (or since parents like to give their children the best chance for success, the 'perfect' makeup your parents decided to give you while you were still in the womb).

    I guess that's kind of utopian to think there wouldn't be heavy restrictions on what you were and weren't allowed to do, and that the rich and powerful wouldn't keep such technologies economically out-of-reach of most people to make sure they retained their dominance over the world, which with beautiful nigh-immortal super geniuses being the ones in power, could easily last a LONG. FUCKING. TIME. In all likelihood they'd keep it illegal most places but not test for ge mods in any aspect of public life so they could go about taking advantage of the TREMENDOUSLY expensive illegal technology. After a generation or two, it would be pretty well accepted that the rich and powerful all did it, and it would be just another sign of the upper crust. At that point, it would be only due to rigid corporate control of the media and subversion of the religious movements that would most vehemently oppose the practice that they could hold onto power long enough to make it generally accepted, in which case maybe after a few hundred years we might see the sort of deal I'm pointing at above.

    Anyway, the distinction between race and species is an interesting one that seems a little sticky to me if you're not gonna use ability to inter-breed as the litmus test.
    • CommentAuthorzenbullet
    • CommentTimeJan 17th 2008
    But that's the thing:

    Say I'm some crazy battle soldier type guy, and I fall in love with some orange girl or something.

    And, you know, we're kinda genetically incompatible.

    But hey, supergenescience away!

    And you know, four days later we got what our child would be if we could actually have children.

    So what would we use as a litmus test?

    Anyone read Counting Heads?
    • CommentTimeJan 18th 2008

    The thing is - the retrovirus which orange girl popped to get that pretty skin tone might have revwritten her genotype to make her give birth to something more like a lobster than a human being. Since orange girl is already fully grown, changing her DNA can give her cancer and fuck up her body chemistry in ways we cannot begin to imagine, but can't really radically change her phenotype - what she has already grown into.

    The genetic modification to give an adult orange skin is not necessarily the same as a genetic modification which will make a baby be born with orange skin. What kind of creature, if any, her DNA could grow into would be hard to predict until you tried it. It does most of its work during gestation. Dreams of lobster boys aside, she would probably be sterile, or the fetus completely unviable. Superscience would have to use pre-mod samples or reconstructed DNA to grow you a baby.

    I don't see why having a litmus test for species is that interesting or useful, in light of modern genetics. Go far enough back, and everything's related. Differentiate enough, and every genetic sample is unique. Like insisting on measuring the mass of black holes in square cubits.
    • CommentAuthorHarvey
    • CommentTimeJan 18th 2008
    Well, I suspect the using genetic engineering for appearance alone is going to be a bit too difficult and unreliable to be a commercial reality. The problem is, is that it's becoming increasingly clear that there are a whole pile of post-DNA control systems that the body uses to stop weird proteins being made by weird mutations. Bear in mind that plant geneticists have been trying to develop various colours of plants for years, and having something of an awkward time of it, because of all the complex control systems - RNA interference for example, that was found by researchers trrying to change the colours of some plant or other. Might have been petunias. Also, one thing that the human genome project found was that you couldn't identify particular genes associated with something as outwardly profound as race (scotching all those half-formed discussions of race-specific biological weapons). It's much more likely to be body modification or advanced plastic surgery - why re-invent the wheel after all?