Currently, humans risk becoming similar to domesticated animals. We have bred docile cows that produce enormous amounts of milk but are otherwise far inferior to their wild ancestors. They are less agile, less curious, and less resourceful. We are now creating tame humans who produce enormous amounts of data and function as efficient chips in a huge data-processing mechanism, but they hardly maximize their human potential. If we are not careful, we will end up with downgraded humans misusing upgraded computers to wreak havoc on themselves and on the world.
“We used to think our fate was in our stars,” James Watson, one of the scientists who discovered the structure of dna, declared in 1989. “Now we know, in large measure, our fate is in our genes.” The implications were clear. Unravelling the genetic code would bring an exquisite understanding of bodies and their afflictions but also of minds. After the completion of the human genome project, which Watson initially led, such hopes faded. Individuals’ physical or mental characteristics, and their susceptibility to diseases, turned out to be extraordinarily complex. Some of the swagger went out of genetics. Now it is back.
For much of the 20th century, psychology was dominated by the idea that human nature is a blank slate embellished by upbringing and environment. “Blueprint” begins by describing how Mr Plomin and others have demonstrated that, on the contrary, behavioural differences are strongly influenced by genetics. Studies of adopted children indicate that in disposition they more closely resemble their genetic parents than their adoptive ones. Even when they are reared apart, identical twins are more alike than the non-identical kind (who are as genetically different as any brother or sister).
Such research shows that, on average, dna accounts for about half of the psychological differences between people, with the remainder due to environmental factors; the actual proportion varies with the characteristic in question. More recently scientists have combed through human genomes to identify thousands of genetic variants associated with particular traits, from height and weight to educational attainment and neuroticism. Tests costing less than £50 ($65) can measure genetic propensity to different outcomes—to be overweight, or to go to university.
For those who imagine all that leaves enough wriggle room for benevolent parents or teachers to exert an influence, Mr Plomin has bad news: these environmental factors are themselves substantially influenced by genes. For example, his work shows that genes account for about a third of the differences between the television viewing habits of children. Worse, the remaining tranche of environmental influence appears to be mostly attributable to unpredictable events rather than, say, being brought up in a house full of books.
These findings, says Mr Plomin, imply that “parents don’t make much of a difference in their children’s outcomes beyond the genes they provide”; dna is a “fortune teller” that “makes us who we are”. Environmental effects are “important”, but “there’s not much we can do about them”.
Mr Plomin insists that, armed with their genetic test scores, individuals can take action to counter or augment their innate proclivities; but they are hardly likely to succeed if their psychology is as delimited by genes as he suggests. An equally plausible possibility is that these scores will be used to stigmatise genetic “have-nots” or to justify discrimination. This is the high road to eugenics, about which Mr Plomin is largely silent.
Instead he advocates the use of such scores when choosing between candidates for a job. Yet a person with high scores for traits associated with coding skills is not necessarily a good programmer—they merely have a higher likelihood of being one. A candidate who had demonstrated their aptitude for the job would feel rightly miffed to be passed over in favour of a genetically gifted incompetent. Likewise, though doctors may find it useful to know that a patient is genetically predisposed to be obese, the best way to establish their weight is to ask them to step on the scales.
These are problems of emphasis rather than accuracy. But in a field as ethically fraught as genetics, even that can be troubling. For instance, as Mr Plomin notes, the size of the genetic component of a particular trait—its “heritability”—varies between different populations. The heritability of educational attainment in Norway has increased since the second world war as the country widened access to health care and schools, flattening out environmental effects. That trend seems, worryingly, to have reversed in America in the 21st century. The irony is that the heritability of many traits rises if states do more to provide for all their citizens equally.
You might conclude that without broad measures to tamp down inequalities of opportunity, genes have fewer opportunities to shine. “Blueprint” instead touts the importance of dna in shaping the individual. Hubris indeed.
i had to register a free account to read this. some people say if you just enter with the private mode, it’ll show the article. i don’t know.
#genetics #humans #heritability
animals need energy. evolution process is also connected to /caused by the need of getting energy.
we, humans, have a concept of dignity. humans give up energy/power in favour of dignity.
humans make not economically beneficial for them choices because of the dignity.
amos oz was saying that Hebrews were stunned with the force they posses now, and never had before. this reminds about the compensation theory that those from Russia or Arab countries who recently became wealthy or well-to-do, often compensate former asperity and lack of opportunities.
by transferring the compensation theory to the internet, I think, that many of us today are stunned with the opportunity that many acquaintances and even strangers may read what they transmit, and even like it. Which can be roughly estimated as the likes count.
it is of course a natural need for humans to be accepted in the community, and to feel a bit of self importance. probably, those, who were devoid of those, are more obsessed with showing off in the “internets”, as Bush put it.
thus, like the Hebrews are compulsive to use force, like New Russians must use golden lavatories, we write online, and count
what god sent us today likes, instead of aiming for deeper interpersonal relationships.
which has it’s opposite side: consuming this astonishing amount of information simply is not easy/possible, thus we learn to swallow it fast, without chewing, in vain hope of not missing out.
that’s the vicious circle of the beginning of the internet age, which is hard to escape.
Now I’ve been written this, I’ve remembered words of my friend about the Mcluhan’s book.
#compensation_theory #compensation #theory #psychology #humans #internet
the moment when you realize, that dirty written scripts do not surprise you any more. you do not want to quote them, do not want to show them to someone because it’s the way it should be.
#work #acceptance #humans
humans are not perfect. that is why relationships (with humans) are not compatible with perfectionism.
#relationships #humans #perfectionism #compatibility