Steven Pinker: How Soon Will Genetic Enhancement Create Smarter Humans?

 

Genetic Enhancement – Published on Mar 17, 2016

Today’s video is part of a series on genius, in proud collaboration with 92Y’s 7 Days of Genius Festival – http://www.92y.org/Genius.

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Transcript – I think it’s unwise to make a confident prophecy in what technology will or won’t eventually be able to do. I think that cuts both ways. That is it’s people have looked foolish by saying that something will never happen, but they’ve also looked foolish by saying that something is inevitable. So there are things that we can accomplish technologically that we as a society have chosen not to, such as passenger supersonic air transport. I think if you were to say to someone in 1957 the speed of commercial jets now is going to be the same as the speed of the commercial jets in 2016, 60 years from now, they would say you’re nuts. Technology goes up, up, up, up, but sometimes it doesn’t. Because people don’t like sonic booms and jet fuel got too expensive. Likewise, if you would’ve said in 1972 no one is going to set foot on the moon for another 44 years and counting, again. They would say technology always lifts us higher and higher, but sometimes it doesn’t. The Cold War ended. People lost interest. There are all kinds of social and economic factors that in combination make the future of technology inherently unpredictable. And I think in engineering human intelligence, to say nothing of human genius, no one knows but I would put my money with no. For one thing, there are moral and legal taboos. People think that introducing traits into offspring is a form of eugenics and is on a slippery slide to Nazism. I happen to think that that is a bogus ethical argument, but it is by far the majority that’s a cool argument and in many countries genetic enhancement is or will be illegal. And it’s going to take a huge force to overcome that. Just as cloning is illegal in virtually every country, when Dolly the sheep was cloned in 1997 there were confident predictions that there’s nothing you can do to stop human cloning. It was just around the corner and here we are almost 20 years later and it has not happened.

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Steven Pinker: How Soon Will Genetic Enhancement Create Smarter Humans?