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Chinese Baby Geniuses to Come

Chinese scientists are sequencing the DNA of 2,000 geniuses to in order to engineer smarter children


Chinese Baby Geniuses to Come

Chinese scientists are sequencing the DNA of 2,000 geniuses to in order to engineer smarter children


China is a very competitive country, to say the least. It is a land where many things can be ignored in the name of progress. Things like safety regulations, air quality, and individual well being are often cast aside in the name of progress for the glorious Peoples Republic of China. There is a new line that is planning on being crossed though, the unexplored area of genetic engineering. Human genetic engineering. The acceleration of Darwinism, is a topic of extreme controversy around the western world. The aim is to use the DNA of 2000 “geniuses” to sequencing their entire genomes, in an attempt to identify the alleles which determine human intelligence. The hope is to use this advancement to increase the IQ of children by five to fifteen points. If China were able to increase the intelligence of coming generations by up to an entire standard deviation (fifteen points) then it would indeed put them on a different level as a whole. 

This is all happening at BGI Shenzhen where the process supposedly getting close to completion . The end result is parents who are able to select the smartest zygote from a batch of fertilized eggs and with the new technology pick which one will have the highest IQ. Then in vitro fertilize the mother-to-be, letting the potentially genius develop.
VICE was able to get an interview with Geoffrey Miller, an evolutionary psychologist and lecturer at NYU. He is one of the 2,000 people who contributed their DNA to this project.

VICE: Hey, Geoffrey. Does China have a history of eugenics?
Geoffrey Miller: As soon as Deng Xiaoping took power in the late 70s, he took the whole focus of the Chinese government from trying to manage the economy, to trying to manage the quality and quantity of people. In the 90s, they started to do widespread prenatal testing for birth defects with ultrasound, and more recently, they’ve spent a lot of money researching human genetics to figure out which genes make people smarter.

What do you know about BGI Shenzhen?
It’s the biggest genetic research center in China, and I think the biggest in the world, by a considerable margin. They’re not just doing human genetics; BGI is also doing lots of plant genetics, animal genetics, anything that’s economically relevant or scientifically interesting.

Are you in touch with them?
I just got an email a couple of days ago saying that they’d almost finished doing the sequencing for the BGI Cognitive Genetics Project, the one I gave my genetics to, and that the results would be available soon.

What was their selection process?
They seem mostly interested in people of Chinese and European descent. They’re basically recruiting through a scientific conference, through word of mouth. You have to provide some evidence that you’re as smart as you say you are. You have to send your complete CV, publications you’ve produced, standardized-test scores, where you went to college… stuff like that.

How will the research be applied?
Once you’ve got that information and a fertilized egg that’s divided into a few cells, you can sample one of the cells to figure out the expected intelligence if it’s implanted and becomes a person.

What does that mean in human language?
Any given couple could potentially have several eggs fertilized in the lab with the dad’s sperm and the mom’s eggs. Then you can test multiple embryos and analyze which one’s going to be the smartest. That kid would belong to that couple as if they had it naturally, but it would be the smartest a couple would be able to produce if they had 100 kids. It’s not genetic engineering or adding new genes, it’s the genes that couples already have.

And over the course of several generations you’re able to exponentially multiply the population’s intelligence.
Right. Even if it only boosts the average kid by five IQ points, that’s a huge difference in terms of economic productivity, the competitiveness of the country, how many patents they get, how their businesses are run, and how innovative their economy is.

Will the West, specifically America, follow China’s lead? Some publications and sites like project-syndacate.org  speak to the growing concerns of tampering with human genetics.  These concerns are that of the socioeconomic implications of having the technology to alter a child’s genetics would only be available to families of means and would create a greater disparity between the two.

When do you think the embryo analysis might be implemented on a large scale?
Actual use of the technology to do embryo screening might take five to ten years, but it could be just a few years. It depends on how motivated they are.

Could this whole process be repeated with other characteristics, like physical appearance?
Absolutely. In fact, almost any trait other than intelligence would be easier to do. We know that intelligence depends on lots of genes while physical traits—like hair or eye color—only depend on a few genes. Things like body shape would be easier to do, physical attractiveness would be pretty complicated, personality traits might be a little simpler than intelligence—how hard working somebody is, how impulsive, how politically liberal or conservative they are would be easier. How religious you are—that’s definitely influenced by genes to some degree.

Shit. How does Western research in genetics compare to China’s?
We’re pretty far behind. We have the same technical capabilities, the same statistical capabilities to analyze the data, but they’re collecting the data on a much larger scale and seem to be capable of transforming the scientific findings into government policy and consumer genetic testing much more easily than we are. Technically and scientifically we could be doing this, but we’re not.

China is looking to the future with this program and others. Now investing far more money than the United States in education and adding programs to foster creativity, a longstanding criticism of the Chinese education system. If China can stop its smartest people’s brains from going to the United States and Hong Kong, is another question. Either way, the advancement of genetic modifications can have incredible influence on the world to come.