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In The News
   
 
 

 

In The News
 

 

March 15 - China Is Engineering Genius Babies

Article: Cloning And Genetic Engineering

It’s not exactly news that China is setting itself up as a new global superpower, is it? While Western civilization chokes on its own gluttony like a latter-day Marlon Brando, China continues to buy up American debt and lock away the world’s natural resources. But now, not content to simply laugh and make jerk-off signs as they pass us on the geopolitical highway, they’ve also developed a state-endorsed genetic-engineering project.

At BGI Shenzhen, scientists have collected DNA samples from 2,000 of the world’s smartest people and are sequencing their entire genomes in an attempt to identify the alleles which determine human intelligence. Apparently they’re not far from finding them, and when they do, embryo screening will allow parents to pick their brightest zygote and potentially bump up every generation's intelligence by five to 15 IQ points.

Geoffrey Miller, an evolutionary psychologist and lecturer at NYU, is one of the 2,000 braniacs who contributed their DNA. I spoke to him about what this creepy-ass program might mean for the future of Chinese kids.

VICE: Hey, Geoffrey. Does China have a history of eugenics?
Geoffrey Miller:
As soon as Deng Xiaoping took power in the late 70s, he took the whole focus of the Chinese government from trying to manage the economy, to trying to manage the quality and quantity of people. In the 90s, they started to do widespread prenatal testing for birth defects with ultrasound, and more recently, they've spent a lot of money researching human genetics to figure out which genes make people smarter.

What do you know about BGI Shenzhen?
It’s the biggest genetic research center in China, and I think the biggest in the world, by a considerable margin. They’re not just doing human genetics; BGI is also doing lots of plant genetics, animal genetics, anything that’s economically relevant or scientifically interesting.

And over the course of several generations you’re able to exponentially multiply the population’s intelligence.
Right. Even if it only boosts the average kid by five IQ points, that’s a huge difference in terms of economic productivity, the competitiveness of the country, how many patents they get, how their businesses are run, and how innovative their economy is.

When do you think the embryo analysis might be implemented on a large scale?
Actual use of the technology to do embryo screening might take five to ten years, but it could be just a few years. It depends on how motivated they are.

Could this whole process be repeated with other characteristics, like physical appearance?
Absolutely. In fact, almost any trait other than intelligence would be easier to do. We know that intelligence depends on lots of genes while physical traits—like hair or eye color—only depend on a few genes. Things like body shape would be easier to do, physical attractiveness would be pretty complicated, personality traits might be a little simpler than intelligence—how hard working somebody is, how impulsive, how politically liberal or conservative they are would be easier. How religious you are—that’s definitely influenced by genes to some degree.

 
 

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