Ramez Naam makes the point that futurists need to follow what real human nature is and the economics of technology.
Ramez provides useful perspective in the video below.
* prosaic current actions for improvement are ignored and underestimated (exercise, learning a new skill are choices that can be made that improve more than any drug or enhancement now.). Also, improving money earning and money management or being able to start a successful company. Going from poor to wealthy is big change in capability and increases the equipment and resources that can be applied or influenced.
For people in poor countries, a big shift in what is possible is to move to a better company/job, better city or country where there are more opportunities. People who left India or Africa for America and Europe generally have become for more successful. They may not have changed much in the physical or intellectual sense but there were in a situation and supporting system for success. This goes to overestimating the individual and underestimating the group, the city, the country and society. I will revisit this later in the article.
* Greater than human intelligence exists. It is from companies like Intel, Google and the semiconductor and computer industries. The collective efforts of thousands to millions of coordinated people using a lot of computers, equipment and resources to improve technology. Later steps in improvement have been more difficult and required more resources. So we have tested the proposition that a certain level of greater than human intelligence and capability can accelerate development.
Look at the video and then I will make more of my points.
However, the old best corporations and industries can get disrupted by new entrants who are able to progress faster than the old ways. This is being shown with Elon Musk who is disrupting rocketry / space access, electric cars, solar power and other transportation.
In web search – Google’s search algorithm beat out all of Yahoo’s human categorizers, so AGI could out perform the pace of human improvement. We are now seeing how millions of servers and the data on the internet and the data that Google can acquire can be applied to solve problems. Better search, better language translation, etc…
Genetic Enhancement Rollout and Potential Capability
More intelligence leads to better lives for people. They go to jail less. Their jobs are better and they divorce less.
Each one-point increase in a country’s average IQ, the per capita GDP was $229 higher. It made an even bigger difference if the smartest 5 percent of the population got smarter; for every additional IQ point in that group, a country’s per capita GDP was $468 higher. This is according to Are the Wealthiest Countries the Smartest Countries? (Heiner Rindermann, of the Chemnitz University of Technology, Psychological Science )
However, we can see the damage when intelligence is lower across large national populations.
48% of children in India are stunted. Diseases can leave brain damage when they do not kill. This reduces IQ points by 11-20 on average across the country. This makes India more poor.
* In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) currently is used for 400,000 babies each year.
* A new “Alka Seltzer method” for controlling PH reduces costs from $10K-20K in developed world to about $1K
* Developing world was $2-4K and can be $200
* Comprehensive Chromosome Screening (about $6000) can boost successful IVF by 10-20%
–> Lower costs for IVF means more adoption and widespread basic genetic screening via chromosome screening will already be used for high IVF success rate
* China lifting one child ban
* This will mean annual birthrates will go from about 16 million ==> 25.5 million
* 23-42 normal child bearing age
* IVF at older ages up to 50-55 now at about 5-15% but improving
* More older women in China will use IVF
* China is not culturally against enhancing children (a lot of tiger moms and cultural differences)
* Lower cost and more effective IVF with standard chromosome screening, easy step to gene screening
* Maybe 4 million IVF/year with gene screening
Children tend to fall within a spread of 13 IQ points above and below the average IQ of their parents.
Positive outlier at around 2 or 3 percent where child is two standard deviations above parents
Pick the smartest genome from a batch of, say, 20 embryos (but it could 50 or more embryos) to get 20-30 IQ points higher
We are technologically close to non-destructive sequencing of human gametes and zygotes by sequencing 10-20 cells.
Genetic Engineering for Intelligence
BGI (Beijing Genomics institute has a large intelligence study of thousands of geniuses
Various studies finding genes with up to 0.5% impact on intelligence
Intelligence is 40-80% inheritable
There are likely hundreds to a thousand genes that genetically determine intelligence
Similar to height. According to Steve Hsu’s estimates (based on actual data) most humans have (order of magnitude) 1000 rare (-) alleles for intelligence and height
One standard deviation above average has (very roughly) 30 fewer (-) variants.
No negative alleles might be 30 SD above average! Such a person has yet to exist in human history…
Each standard deviation (SD) up or down are defined as 15 IQ points greater or less,
95 percent of the population scores an IQ between 70 and 130, which is within two standard deviations of the mean.
30 SD above average would be and IQ of 550.
Maybe IQ 550 is Impossible or Meaningless
550 IQ would be like a 13 foot tall person
Physiology limits practical height
What are intelligence limits ?
Average human height is 70 inches and 3 inch SD (standard deviation)
8 feet 1 inch – 97 inches this is 9 Standard Deviations over average
235 IQ is the equivalent in intelligence of a 8 foot 1 inch person
Geniuses and Society
5% of population with 30 points higher intelligence might be about $14000 more GDP per capita
5% of population with 120 points higher intelligence might be about $56000 more GDP per capita
What would a society with tens of millions of Edisons, Einsteins, Steve Jobs and Elon Musks be like ?
Could we get beyond them in capability?
5% of population significantly intelligence enhanced would be possible if IVF takes off and embryo selection and genetic engineering with it over the next 10-20 years.
As noted by Ramez Naam, in vitro fertilization is at 4% of births in Sweden where it is subsidized.
Transhuman Individual genetic potential are less important than supereducation, supercompanies, supercities, and civilization and humanity enhancement
As noted earlier, for people in poor countries, a big shift in what is possible is to move to a better company/job, better city or country where there are more opportunities. People who left India or Africa for America and Europe generally have become for more successful. They may not have changed much in the physical or intellectual sense but there were in a situation and supporting system for success. This goes to overestimating the individual and underestimating the group, the city, the country and society.
Geniuses in poor areas of Africa or India are not able get educated to their potential and often are unable to become wealthy themselves or lift up the people around them.
Instead of only moving, the companies, the cities and the countries need to be improved more rapidly. We have seen rapid national improvement with China, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.
China can help more developing countries build affordable and needed infrastructure.
Education improvements in augmented reality and massively open online courses could accelerate the development of countries. Education can uplift the poor and further improve the “developed” countries.
Schools in a box. Bridge Academies’s CEO, a former Silicon Valley entrepreneur named Jay Kimmelman, compares his company to Starbucks and McDonald’s — organizations that offer a consistent experience no matter where in the world you encounter them. Beyond its 212 branded academies in Kenya, Bridge has set its sights on Nigeria, Uganda, and India. The founders intend to be serving half a million children in 30 countries by 2015, and 10 million by 2025. “We’ve systematized every aspect of how you run a school,” Kimmelman says. “How you manage it. How you interact with parents. How you teach. How you check on school managers, and how you support them.” And this operational approach gets results. Bridge tests kids six times a year, and a third party performs Early Grade Reading and Math Assessments annually. According to those evaluations, Bridge students are beating out their peers at government and other private schools. In reading fluency, the gap is as high as 205 percent. The heart of her pitch is simple: Bridge schools teach kids. Whereas the average government primary school has a 47-to-one student-teacher ratio, Bridge’s is 30-to-one — and it teaches students for two additional hours each day.
The Bridge obsession with consistency and performance produces its most alien attribute: scripted lessons. Because effective lesson plans are a notoriously difficult aspect of teaching, Bridge eliminates any guesswork — dictating classroom instruction down to the noun and to the minute. In Ms. Elizabeth’s subtraction class, she consults the Bridge manual as kids chant and repeat her phrasing with Pavlovian discipline. Her classroom protocol has been written in advance by Bridge’s dedicated curriculum team. This may sound overly doctrinaire, but there are distinct advantages. For teachers, “the examples don’t come off the top of their head, or when they woke up at five in the morning to try and prepare their class,” May says. The scripted approach also allows for incredibly efficient teacher training: Bridge’s seven-week course is lightning-fast compared with traditional accreditation programs.
Scripted lessons means that the teachers can teach what they themselves have not learned that well.
By making education and retraining a lot better we can raise up what can be done a lot more than just raising IQ alone.
Factory mass produced Sky City skyscrapers could impact urbanization in the developing world. Successful urbanization will lift people up to higher levels of per capita income, increase productivity and can reduce pollution.
I see the impact of Sky Cities and Broad Factory mass produced skyscrapers like the move from 3 to 4 story buildings to cities with 30 story buildings. Average skyscrapers are now 30 to 50 stories tall. This factory mass production will make 100 to 300 story buildings affordable and common.
Eight times the density would be a 45% boost to productivity.
Road capacity could be boosted by 4 times using robotic cars. This could be another 30% boost to productivity.
The Sky Cities are also designed to reduce pollution (99% less construction dust) and use 5 times less material than a regular skyscraper. They would also house homes, offices and stores which will enable more in building commuting. This will boost productivity and reduce commuting times.
Certain megacities (future New York, Shanghai, Tokyo etc…) could increase to being about one third to one half of the overall population and could have 75% more GDP per capita than they do today.
For all countries, getting urbanization or reurbanization right and making cities more productive can provide a greater GDP boost than attempting to militarily conquer another country.
Getting big technology like reusable space craft, Spiderfab robotic construction in space, cheap nuclear fission and nuclear fusion for energy and propulsion would enable the survival of humanity against any natural disaster.
A Kardashev 1.5 civilization (ie with nuclear fusion propulsion and molecular nanotechnology) could not be killed even by a sun going Nova. Spaceships and powered asteroids could move away from the star and use water and materials in asteroids and comets.
The Enhancement of people and plants for space and for long duration space travel would be what matters, not temporary status inequality or democratic systems.
In the long run, getting and using the technology for easy and cheap interplanetary movement and then having the resources of a solar system (trillions of times what is on Earth) is what is needed to enable going interstellar.
A solar system economy trillions of times larger is one where individuals can reach greater heights. Earth is like a tiny Pacific island and the World is the solar system. A spacefaring, super high technology economy is where we will need enhanced people and systems.
Being able to do this is what can make human civilization immortal.
Enhanced individuals need to be within a technological civilization in order to keep getting the treatments for longevity. They must be within an immortal (growing, thriving and learning) technological civilization.
Other background on views on Transhumanism that do not matter but need to be dismissed
There are various papers, articles and books that argue transhumanism from some kind of ethical perspective. People and society do not consult ethicist to make their actual choices. They sometimes consider things through that lens for some kind of debate but not for practical life choices.
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Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.