Sure is purty and slick, though


I am extremely impressed with this creator’s video editing skills. Nicely done!

I am less impressed with the content, unfortunately. The message is pure optimism: our progress in biology is so great that maybe someday we can hope to cure a host of psychological concerns, like anhedonia, misery, self-doubt, etc., with…gene editing. Got low self-esteem? Frustrated by the world around you? Finding yourself unsatisfied no matter what successes you achieve? We can fix that, someday! We’ll just reach into your genome and snip out the bits of DNA that make you question your happiness, and replace them with genes that’ll give you joy, no matter how miserable the world is making you.

Well. I guess you could aspire to that, but it sounds very 1984 to me. Maybe I like being who I am, and don’t think that jacking up my sensation of happiness artificially is entirely desirable. There are drugs I can buy right now that will enhance my contentment with things as they are without meddling with my genome in a permanent way, but I don’t think elevated bliss is necessarily the purpose of my existence.

But set all that aside. Why would anyone think your satisfaction with the status quo is genetic? This is naive biological reductionism and genetic essentialism in raw form. I’d recommend learning some real genetics, molecular biology, and neuroscience, except that if your goal is happiness regardless of the circumstances, maybe artificially maintained ignorance is what you need.

Comments

  1. Becca Stareyes says

    I do have an anxiety disorder, and even if I’m genetically predisposed to it (that my brain might have a hair trigger when it comes to matching circumstances with ‘worry about this!’ chemicals), it didn’t manifest in all its glory until grad school made stress a lot more a part of my life (though it was intermittent earlier). From what I understand, that is the accepted model for a lot of mood disorders: a mix of genetics and environment.

    Also given my experience with psychiatric drugs, I like knowing that I can stop their effects by going off them. We don’t understand nearly enough about how the brain works to be mucking around with irreversible treatments for anxiety and depression unless the patient is desperate.

  2. HappyHead says

    I’m going to have to side with Captain Kirk on this one:

    KIRK: Dammit, Bones, you’re a doctor. You know that pain and guilt can’t be taken away with the wave of a magic wand. They’re things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are. …If we lose them, we lose ourselves. I don’t want my pain taken away. I need my pain.

    Medication for a problem is one thing, but editing people’s base code to make them bland and satisfied with things? No thanks. Dissatisfaction with the world around us is the primary driver behind all progress. If you’re happy with everything, there’s no reason to try and make things better.

  3. Bruce says

    Which is easier?
    One option could be to raise a child in a good environment over a few decades.
    The other option is to clone an adult, then edit the DNA before the single cell starts instantly splitting, then gestate it for 9 months in an appropriate uterus, and THEN to raise the child well over decades.
    Why do people act as if the DNA editing path is easier?
    Or, do they really think they can edit the DNA simultaneously in every cell of an adult? Without changing any of them except their mind? I dont think anyone real thinks that way. Unless on drugs.

  4. Dunc says

    I guess you could aspire to that, but it sounds very 1984 to me.

    More like Brave New World or THX 1138… If they had this sort of capability in 1984, they’d have used it to make people even more miserable and anxious.

  5. jrkrideau says

    That “rickety tandem Victorian volocipede” is neither Victorian and nor rickety.

    Two down, and we have not even got to the boinking.

  6. consciousness razor says

    We’ll just reach into your genome and snip out the bits of DNA that make you question your happiness, and replace them with genes that’ll give you joy, no matter how miserable the world is making you.

    The experience machine would be much less invasive, and I suppose it wouldn’t have to be irreversible. You could be made not to have any unpleasant memories or experiences of your life in the physical world while in it, sort of like Total Recall or something but much less of a dystopian nightmare (or at least that’s the plan). Maybe we don’t need to resort to anything very high tech…. I mean, you could probably get some pretty “decent” results with something more primitive, like a heavy object that is (gently) moved in the direction of your skull at high speed. You might have some nice dreams for quite a long time, if the family doesn’t pull the plug. Doesn’t that sound nice? Not to your family, of course … but you’ve got yours, so fuck them.

  7. Curious Digressions says

    Re: 1984. Misery was the goal.

    Obedience is not enough. Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own?

    To impact changes in a person’s genetics, wouldn’t they have to start at the point of conception? It’s not like a genetic auditor could go into my genetic make up and reset my happiness threshold for something consistent with non-medicated functionality. I could see a person with chronic depression or anxiety wanting that for their kids, but only a sucker would risk their kids on beta testing the technology.

  8. willj says

    but I don’t think elevated bliss is necessarily the purpose of my existence.

    And the purpose of your existence is…? Hey, don’t knock bliss until you’ve tried it.

  9. springa73 says

    Hmm, as someone who has pretty severe OCD plus some depression, I wouldn’t necessarily mind something that could re-wire my brain a little so it wouldn’t be as severe. The medication and various therapies over the years help some, but it’s still pretty damn strong and a heavy burden.

    I don’t want something that will make me joyful all of the time, no matter what. I just want something that would allow me to not have worry, anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts hammering around my brain 2/3 of my waking hours. It would have been nice if I didn’t lose a really good job because I just couldn’t focus on what I was doing because of my obsessive thoughts.

    Who knows, without my OCD I might even be able to contribute more to making the world a better place.

  10. Mobius says

    He lost me right at the start when he refers to “no boink” and says that plants and fungi reproduce asexually.

  11. says

    But set all that aside. Why would anyone think your satisfaction with the status quo is genetic? This is naive biological reductionism and genetic essentialism in raw form.

    Well…I’d suggest that some of those issues correlate with some “types” (for lack of a better word) of intelligence. Or, in other words, “Ignorance is bliss.” So might there be a way to edit genetics that results in a dumber, more ignorant person? That said, even if there is, that would be trading one problem for another, a tradeoff that does not seem worth it.

  12. mcfrank0 says

    I agree with Dunc as well — this sounds more like “Brave New World” than 1984.

    Also, didn’t “Inside Out” demonstrate that “Sadness” has a purpose?

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