[LMB] No lefties in the Nexus

Tony Zbaraschuk tonyz at eskimo.com
Thu Oct 3 22:33:32 BST 2019



On Thu, October 3, 2019 4:17 pm, Luke Bretscher wrote:
> On Thu, Oct 3, 2019 at 2:24 PM Lorelei Kaena <lorelei.kaena at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>
>>
>> Not in particular, of course not. In general? It’s written right
>> there. All those ‘cruel chromosomal defects’ gone, ‘so much
>> heartbreak avoided’. Which would mean, perforce, that the people who
>> carried them in their genes are gone. That’s what gene-editing is.
>
> I'm pretty sure they meant that the children of the people who carried
> those genes would be genetically modified, as embryos, to not carry those
> genes.

Although, the Nexus does have the capacity to go in and 'edit' genes in a
living person - consider Vorzohn's Dystrophy in _Komarr_ or Donna
Vorutyer's sex-change in ACC.  By now this is relatively easy and reliable
for them.

I expect that attitudes changed over the several hundred years of
back-history between the widespread introduction of such technologies and
the Nexus 'present', though one still sees major differences in social
acceptability between, say, Beta Colony or Cetaganda on one hand, and
Barrayar on the other.  There are probably also worlds that have
near-Betan level tech but have different societal responses and
availability.

But I would expect that most _genes_ or _gene combinations_ that are
widely agreed to be deleterious have been edited down to the point of
having a _much_ lower incidence in the population.  Parents choose to have
those defects 'fixed' in their children... the next generation has a lower
percentage overall.  Repeat for several generations.

The hard part will be trying to decide what sorts of things should be
edited out.  Some things there will be wide agreement on; other genes will
turn out to be advantageous in certain situations or combinations. 
Engineering optimization problems are usually _very hard_ problems because
there are many interconnected factors to be taken into account, and
pushing the optimization of one factor may end up causing problems with
other factors.  Bioengineering is likely to be _even more_ difficult.  And
that's before we get into matters of preference.  What if there's a fad
for left-handers, or curly blue hair, or something else?

I expect there were probably some attempts that Didn't Work Out and are
now mostly known to the historians of medical ethics -- the Vor preference
for sons and the downstream effects on social mobility is likely to be one
of those examples in a couple of centuries, but one could write a horror
novel about (say) trying to optimize intelligence and discovering that you
wound up with something like Tay-Sachs disease, or add regeneration
ability and discovering that you'd shut down one of the defenses against
cancer cells.

(My personal thoughts on the matter tend to be Hippocratic: "first, do no
harm.")

Tony Z

-- 
Et vocavit Deus, "Fiat lux!"



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