Engineering Selection

This whole business of being alive used to seem so much simpler and less morally ambiguous before I realized that the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must, that it has always been thus and could not have been otherwise. The other day I was reading Luke Muehlhauser's interview with Steve Hsu, and Hsu says:

Let me add that, in my opinion, each society has to decide for itself (e.g. through democratic process) whether it wants to legalize or forbid activities that amount to genetic engineering. Intelligent people can reasonably disagree as to whether such activity is wise.

There was once a time in my youth when I would have objected with principled transhumanist/libertarian fervor against the suggestion that the glorious potential of designer babies might be suppressed by the tyranny of the majority.

I don't have (those kinds of) principles anymore. Nor faith that freedom to enhance will inevitably turn out to be for the best. These days, my thoughts are more attuned to practical concerns. Oh, I'm sure he's just saying that because it sounds nice and deferential to contemporary political sensibilities and he doesn't want to catch any more flak than he does already. Obviously, the societies than forbid it are just going to get crushed under the boot of history.

Think about it. The arrival of Europeans in North America didn't go very well for the people who were already here—and that was just a matter of mere guns, germs, and steel (in Jared Diamond's immortal phrase). What happens to our precious concept of democratic process when someone has the option to mass-produce von Neumann-level intellects to design the next generation of superguns, ultragerms, and adamantium-unobtanium alloy?

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