[LMB] No lefties in the Nexus

Tony Zbaraschuk tonyz at eskimo.com
Fri Oct 4 14:33:58 BST 2019

On Fri, October 4, 2019 4:12 am, Alex Y. Kwan wrote:
> Though one would think the scientists would be able to figure out which
> genes contain the good traits and which contain the bad ones and which has
>  both. At which point the scientists might not be able to clean too many
> of them.

The problem is that some genes are both.  I believe the case of sickle-
cell anemia has already been mentioned (two copies of the gene kills
you; one copy makes you slightly worse off except that it's much harder
for malaria to affect you, which is a net benefit if you live in
heavily malarial regions - there are a number of different variations
on just that one theme.)  What environment(s) are you going to be in?
Some genes will be good in that environment, bad outside it.  (Consider
the typical Inuit body form, short and squat - great for conserving heat
in cold climates, but consider the problems in, say, tropical South
America if someone were to move there.)

Some genes we can generally point to and say "yeah, we all agree
everyone would be better off without this."  But ... not so much.
Some things are developmental problems rather than genetic problems --
presumably they can be fixed or prevented in mature replicator
technology, so the same general considerations apply.

Part of the difficulty is "who chooses" -- the haut, for instance,
are quite happy making choices to define the genetic legacy of
their own caste and of others in the Cetagandan Empire.  How do
the ghem, or other Cetagandans, feel about the haut making those
choices?  Are those choices in the best interest of the haut, or
the best interests of the ghem?  (Or the best interests of the
janitors' children?)  Whose standards apply?  Again, some things
are fairly easy to agree on; others, not so much.  (I'm very sure
that there are some planets in the Nexus where certain hair/skin/eye
configurations are Socially Preferred or even mandated, for instance.
Perhaps other gene configurations.  Perhaps you're not _allowed_ to
have a kid with less than X intelligence... or maybe some groups
aren't allowed to have kids with _more_ than X intelligence...)

> And what if experiences with the bad genetic defects are part of what
> made the person him or her? What if their personality would have been
> entirely different without the defects?

Case in point: Miles Naismith Vorkosigan.  Teratogenic rather than
genetic, but what would he be like without the struggle to overcome
the disadvantages of his height and brittle bones in a culture that
highly values physical ability and non-mutatedness?

There's a lot of room for different types of stories about how these
choices are made, who makes them, and what the long-term results are.

Tony Z

Et vocavit Deus, "Fiat lux!"

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