Replacing faulty genes in early human embryos and germ cells is within our grasp. Changing DNA in the nucleus would be inheritable. Ultimately, they could be used to make a genetically modified baby.
New Scientist thinks we could probably modify people to make them resistant to all kinds of infections and diseases, and stronger and fitter. They are doubtful about achieving superhuman qualities.
Some people are almost transhuman now
* Rare double mutants in the myostatin gene have more lean muscle and less body fat
* those with the LRP5 gene have extra strong bones (like the real version of the Bruce Willis movie Unbreakable character
* Those with the PCSK5 gene have 88 percent lower coronary disease
* Those with double CCR5 genes are HIV resistant
* Those with double FUT2 are resistant to stomach flu
4-8% of the genetic basis for intelligence has been identified. So more work needs to be done to be enable genetically creating superintelligence. However, even if only 20-50% were identified this could significantly skew genetically screened embryos toward a more intelligent population.
Harvard’s Luhan Yang described a human germline genetic editing experiment. Researchers hoped to obtain, from a hospital in New York, the ovaries of a woman undergoing surgery for ovarian cancer, caused by a mutation in a gene called BRCA1. Working with another Harvard laboratory, that of antiaging specialist David Sinclair, they would extract immature egg cells that could be coaxed to grow and divide in the laboratory. Yang would use CRISPR in these cells to correct the DNA of the BRCA1 gene. The objective would be to create a viable egg without the genetic error that caused the woman’s cancer.
Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) enables people with an inheritable condition in their family to avoid passing it on to their children. It involves checking the genes and/or chromosomes of embryos created through IVF. PGD can currently be used to test for virtually any genetic condition where a specific gene is known to cause that condition. It is currently approved to screen for over 250 genetic conditions.
Mammalian (mice and monkey) genomes can be edited by injecting pronuclear embryos with Cas9 cRNA and guide RNA (gRNA) but it is unknown whether editing can also occur during the onset of embryonic development, prior to pronuclear embryogenesis. We here report Cas9-mediated editing during sperm-induced meiotic exit and the initiation of development. Injection of unfertilized, mouse metaphase II (mII) oocytes with Cas9 cRNA, gRNA and sperm enabled efficient editing of transgenic and native alleles
Selecting for intelligence or genetically engineering for intelligence will require larger studies to identify the genes and more genes will need to be altered to achieve the enhancement
China’s One child policy is being lifted just as embryo selection based upon intelligence for invitro fertilized (IVF) babies becomes possible and we are on the cusp of genetic engineering. Women in China who are now older were banned from having babies but now will be allowed to have children. Many will not be able to conceive naturally and will use IVF. I see IVF going from 400,000 per year worldwide to 2-8 million per year over the next 10 years. IVF babies are more easily embryo selected and accessible for genetic modification. This would provide an economic boost to China in 20-30 years and the beginnings of a significant societal shift.
* Older women use IVF more than younger women.
* Societal shifts that cause more older women to use IVF to have children means more opportunity for embryo selection and genetic intelligence enhancement.
* Countries that permit embyro selection and genetic intelligence enhancement provide the opportunity for IVF to be used for enhancement
* Medical tourism to permissive countries is another means for older women to use IVF in combination with embryo selection or genetic enhancement.
In my talk I first summarized enhancement of human capabilities via products that we can buy. (Smartphones, Google Glass, Apple Siri, IBM Watson, forklifts, cars etc…) As those things get better, anyone can adopt them by buying the latest versions.
Steroids do enhance performance. They work. About 10 million people use them and it is primarily because of vanity. However, we do not live in the wild west or have to compete as Gladiators in Rome. The more powerful people in the world are the billionaires. In the real world the equivalent of Montgomery Burns from the Simpsons has more power than the equivalent of Captain America. Burns can hire his own police force or mercenaries. It is his lawyers and lobbyists who do his work.
100 years ago it was vaccines that began altering the physical attributes of people in a meaningful way. It extended lifespans and improved health. Health improvement boosted productivity and GDP.
I make the case that studies show that 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 thousands to tens of thousands of genes that genetically determine intelligence
This is twenty times more complex than height. According to Steve Hsu’s estimates (based on actual data) most humans have (order of magnitude) 1000 rare (-) alleles for height. So about 20,000 rare alleles for intelligence.
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.
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.