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Drakas_cover Everyone and their mother has heard of the story about the CRISPRed embryos by now. If you haven’t, the original paper is open access. Second, Carl Zimmer’s primer is excellent, Editing Human Embryos: So This Happened. For those who are overly alarmed by the non-ethical aspects, I think this is key:

Just because this experiment came out poorly doesn’t mean that future experiments will. There’s nothing in this study that’s a conceptual deal-breaker for CRISPR. It’s worth recalling the early days of cloning research. Cloned embryos often failed to develop, and animals that were born successfully often ended up with serious health problems. Cloning is much better now, and it’s even getting to be a business in the world of livestock and pets. We still don’t clone people, though–not because we can’t, but because we choose not to. We may need to make the same choice about editing embryos before too long.

Livestock and pets. And plants. I think CRISPR is going to be a big deal. It already is a big deal. But some people are worried now about a profusion of designer babies. We need to get calm here. For something to become a consumer product it needs to get much better in terms of probability of outcomes, and we’re a long long way from that. As Ramez Naam pointed out people are very risk averse with their children.

Rather, the real danger is more one of ethics. Something out of S. M. Stirling’s Draka series where a government or society isn’t bound by normal human ethical standards, and begins to basically treat their population like livestock. As is usually the case the major issues looming are not scientific, but have to do with human volition.

 
• Category: Science • Tags: Crispr 
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  1. I still don’t understand why you would use CRISPR to modify an embryo with a mutation, when you could just use pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to select an embryo without the mutation in the first place. Am I missing something?

    • Replies: @Esso
    @O'really

    Reporting bias I think. CRISPR makes a better story. PGD seems much less like messing with Nature, so reporters get confused and have a hard time spinning it the right way. PGD seems like a unilaterally good thing, and they never liked those embryos anyway. Eugenics is supposed to be bad.

    , @gwern
    @O'really

    Think about how many genes you can select against with that. Now think about how many edits you could do with a refined CRISPR. Now think about the laws of behavioral genetics.

    , @notanon
    @O'really

    There's more potential for abuse with CRISPR then PGD. I expect a lot of powerful people see that as an advantage.

  2. So the question is – who’s going to be the first offender? North Korea?

    • Replies: @omarali50
    @Kamran

    I would guess China. Metal chopsticks are great, but provide no advantage in this field ;)

  3. Do you really believe that there are no cloned humans out there?

  4. Apparently I’m not typical, since I don’t have a problem with the concept of “designer babies.” At least as long as the designing is done by the parents. Really, people have been designing their babies for generations based on their pick for a spouse.

  5. @Kamran
    So the question is - who's going to be the first offender? North Korea?

    Replies: @omarali50

    I would guess China. Metal chopsticks are great, but provide no advantage in this field 😉

  6. @O'really
    I still don't understand why you would use CRISPR to modify an embryo with a mutation, when you could just use pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to select an embryo without the mutation in the first place. Am I missing something?

    Replies: @Esso, @gwern, @notanon

    Reporting bias I think. CRISPR makes a better story. PGD seems much less like messing with Nature, so reporters get confused and have a hard time spinning it the right way. PGD seems like a unilaterally good thing, and they never liked those embryos anyway. Eugenics is supposed to be bad.

  7. @O'really
    I still don't understand why you would use CRISPR to modify an embryo with a mutation, when you could just use pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to select an embryo without the mutation in the first place. Am I missing something?

    Replies: @Esso, @gwern, @notanon

    Think about how many genes you can select against with that. Now think about how many edits you could do with a refined CRISPR. Now think about the laws of behavioral genetics.

  8. @O'really
    I still don't understand why you would use CRISPR to modify an embryo with a mutation, when you could just use pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to select an embryo without the mutation in the first place. Am I missing something?

    Replies: @Esso, @gwern, @notanon

    There’s more potential for abuse with CRISPR then PGD. I expect a lot of powerful people see that as an advantage.

  9. Nobody is going to CRISPR hundreds or even thousands of SNPs in embryos to breed smarter children, except in science fiction. That is, assuming that cognitive GWAS ever gets large enough sample sizes to even yield that many targets.

    • Replies: @Rick
    @O'really

    People are thinking of (and have already begun) using this technology to transform elephants into mammoths, and modern human cells into Neanderthal cells.

    Once this kind of thing has been successfully worked out, the leap to making thousands of SNP changes in your own children will be simple, and a small number of beneficial changes might be 'normal'.

    , @Esso
    @O'really

    Perhaps it's not even worth it to build and apply genetic-cognitive models. Removing mutational load is easy and should go a very long way. It is just a matter of hammering the bits that stick out, relatively speaking.

    Iterated PGD (there has been some progress in producing gametes) looks like a much cheaper way to remove rare variants than ad-hoc CRISPR for the said rare variants. Iterated selection will result in greatgreat...grandchildren rather than children, but volumes (important for IVF) are a natural part of the process. Very cost-effective, not to mention smaller risks.

  10. Hmmm I guess I’m throwing my hat in the ring to be mocked, but to me at least it seems like ho hum news. (At least in regards to the big picture.)

    To expand on that sentiment, it just seems to me that organic intelligence is just too limited in the end as compared to what we can create using other media.

    Once upon a time I posted in another of your threads a similar sentiment, but you kind of poo poohed it.

    So I’m back for round 2.

    Here’s my argument.

    Let’s assume it is possible to create an artificial intelligence (and I do believe it to be possible).

    Let’s assume we can genetically engineer humans (not much of an assumption).

    Now let’s think about both of these possibilities.

    Which is the more profound and far reaching?

    You can’t get around it, the only way not to consider the question is to say that you cannot create a thinking AI using computational technology.

    If you can though, genetically engineering humans is like breeding a super horse when the first Model T comes off the assembly line.

    So whatever date we have for thinking machines, whether Kurzweil time, or a century from now, I just can’t see organic life as being competitive with artificial. Not that it has to die and go away because something better is around.

    But I’d put money on the machines if they went head to head with engineered superhumans. And it wouldn’t even be much of a fight, assuming a few generations of machines.

  11. @O'really
    Nobody is going to CRISPR hundreds or even thousands of SNPs in embryos to breed smarter children, except in science fiction. That is, assuming that cognitive GWAS ever gets large enough sample sizes to even yield that many targets.

    Replies: @Rick, @Esso

    People are thinking of (and have already begun) using this technology to transform elephants into mammoths, and modern human cells into Neanderthal cells.

    Once this kind of thing has been successfully worked out, the leap to making thousands of SNP changes in your own children will be simple, and a small number of beneficial changes might be ‘normal’.

  12. @O'really
    Nobody is going to CRISPR hundreds or even thousands of SNPs in embryos to breed smarter children, except in science fiction. That is, assuming that cognitive GWAS ever gets large enough sample sizes to even yield that many targets.

    Replies: @Rick, @Esso

    Perhaps it’s not even worth it to build and apply genetic-cognitive models. Removing mutational load is easy and should go a very long way. It is just a matter of hammering the bits that stick out, relatively speaking.

    Iterated PGD (there has been some progress in producing gametes) looks like a much cheaper way to remove rare variants than ad-hoc CRISPR for the said rare variants. Iterated selection will result in greatgreat…grandchildren rather than children, but volumes (important for IVF) are a natural part of the process. Very cost-effective, not to mention smaller risks.

  13. I feel like genetic editing will be obsolete before being mainstream because of AI Revolution. What needs to be done is immediately cloning a lot of Von Neumann or Einstein to try to prevent malevolent AI.

  14. To be a Draka, being genetically engineered via CRISPR is not enough. You have to undergo the Draka fitness program: physical, mental, and psychological starting in late infancy in order to be a respectable member of the Draka Domination.

    Remember, there are no fat Draka. Allowing yourself to get out of shape is a great shame and reflects poorly on your family upbringing and friends.

    • Replies: @TB
    @Abelard Lindsey

    Stolen from Michael Gilleland's blog; http://laudatortemporisacti.blogspot.no/

    Aelian, Historical Miscellany 14.7 (tr. N.G. Wilson):

    This law is a Spartan one. The wording is as follows: no Spartan is to be seen with an effeminate complexion or a heavier body than exercise will produce — the one was a confession of idleness, the other of effeminacy. It was also provided in the law that every ten days the ephebes should without fail appear naked before the ephors. If they were well-built and strong, emerging from the gymnasium as if they had been sculpted or chiselled, they were complimented. But if there was anything flabby or soft in their limbs, any swelling of fat arising from idleness, they were beaten and punished on the spot. The ephors also made a point of reviewing their dress every day, to ensure that in each detail the proper style was maintained. Spartan cooks were expected to know about meat only; anyone with other skills was banished from Sparta, as if this were the purging of a sick element.

    The same authorities brought Nauclides son of Polybiades before the assembled inspectors. He was overweight and had become fat through luxurious living. They threatened him with the additional punishment of exile if he did not for the future change his habits, which were the subject of criticism and Ionian rather than Spartan. They claimed his appearance and physical condition brought disgrace on Sparta and its laws.

  15. TB says:
    @Abelard Lindsey
    To be a Draka, being genetically engineered via CRISPR is not enough. You have to undergo the Draka fitness program: physical, mental, and psychological starting in late infancy in order to be a respectable member of the Draka Domination.

    Remember, there are no fat Draka. Allowing yourself to get out of shape is a great shame and reflects poorly on your family upbringing and friends.

    Replies: @TB

    Stolen from Michael Gilleland’s blog; http://laudatortemporisacti.blogspot.no/

    Aelian, Historical Miscellany 14.7 (tr. N.G. Wilson):

    This law is a Spartan one. The wording is as follows: no Spartan is to be seen with an effeminate complexion or a heavier body than exercise will produce — the one was a confession of idleness, the other of effeminacy. It was also provided in the law that every ten days the ephebes should without fail appear naked before the ephors. If they were well-built and strong, emerging from the gymnasium as if they had been sculpted or chiselled, they were complimented. But if there was anything flabby or soft in their limbs, any swelling of fat arising from idleness, they were beaten and punished on the spot. The ephors also made a point of reviewing their dress every day, to ensure that in each detail the proper style was maintained. Spartan cooks were expected to know about meat only; anyone with other skills was banished from Sparta, as if this were the purging of a sick element.

    The same authorities brought Nauclides son of Polybiades before the assembled inspectors. He was overweight and had become fat through luxurious living. They threatened him with the additional punishment of exile if he did not for the future change his habits, which were the subject of criticism and Ionian rather than Spartan. They claimed his appearance and physical condition brought disgrace on Sparta and its laws.

  16. Better Drakas than Emberverse.

    Probably.

    • Replies: @B.R.
    @Anatoly Karlin

    That's like a choice between unicorns and fairies or something.

    Both equally improbable and nonsensical.

  17. 1978 movie: The Boys From Brazil is another si- fi cloning

  18. @Anatoly Karlin
    Better Drakas than Emberverse.

    Probably.

    Replies: @B.R.

    That’s like a choice between unicorns and fairies or something.

    Both equally improbable and nonsensical.

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