Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

England, Employment, Wages and Brexit

The Guardian newspaper has a story about wages in England:

A shortage of factory workers is starting to push up pay rates but wage rises in the services sector remain rooted at around 2%, according to the latest feedback from the Bank of England’s regional agents.

The central bank said its agents, which are based in offices across the country, found that shortages this month across the manufacturing sector were leading to a “slight increase in pay growth” that would take average rate of pay rises up by half a percent, from 2-3% this year to 2.5%-3.5% in 2018.

The report appeared to justify Threadneedle Street’s move last week to increase interest rates, which officials at the bank said was needed to dampen the inflationary effects of wage rises.

A survey of employers in October by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation chimed with the BoE report after it found firms were having to raise their pay offers to hire new staff.

The REC said the increase, the second quickest rise in wages since November 2015, followed a fall in unemployment to the lowest level in 40 years that had restricted the number of workers available to take up new positions. It warned that higher pay offers were also needed to counter a growing shortage of EU workers ahead of Brexit.

“We already know that EU workers are leaving because of the uncertainties they are facing right now,” said Kevin Green, REC’s chief executive. “We therefore need clarity around what future immigration systems will look like. Otherwise, the situation will get worse and employers will face even more staff shortages.”

Official data shows that in August net migration fell to its lowest level in three years, with more than half the drop caused by EU citizens leaving and fewer arriving since the Brexit vote.

I find it truly shocking that employment and wages are determined by the market forces, or that the supply of labor is affected by whether foreigners can freely enter and exit a market. Who could have imagined such absurd chains of events? Fortunately, we can rest assured that this is an aberration and can’t possibly apply in the US.

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Different but Equal?

Here’s a fascinating recent article with the forbidding title of The landscape of sex-differential transcriptome and its consequent selection in human adults.  I’ll provide the abstract, and then a translation into English.  Here’s the abstract:

Background
The prevalence of several human morbid phenotypes is sometimes much higher than intuitively expected. This can directly arise from the presence of two sexes, male and female, in one species. Men and women have almost identical genomes but are distinctly dimorphic, with dissimilar disease susceptibilities. Sexually dimorphic traits mainly result from differential expression of genes present in both sexes. Such genes can be subject to different, and even opposing, selection constraints in the two sexes. This can impact human evolution by differential selection on mutations with dissimilar effects on the two sexes.

Results
We comprehensively mapped human sex-differential genetic architecture across 53 tissues. Analyzing available RNA-sequencing data from 544 adults revealed thousands of genes differentially expressed in the reproductive tracts and tissues common to both sexes. Sex-differential genes are related to various biological systems, and suggest new insights into the pathophysiology of diverse human diseases. We also identified a significant association between sex-specific gene transcription and reduced selection efficiency and accumulation of deleterious mutations, which might affect the prevalence of different traits and diseases. Interestingly, many of the sex-specific genes that also undergo reduced selection efficiency are essential for successful reproduction in men or women. This seeming paradox might partially explain the high incidence of human infertility.

Conclusions
This work provides a comprehensive overview of the sex-differential transcriptome and its importance to human evolution and human physiology in health and in disease.

The article was interesting, but a slog given my lack of knowledge of the field.  I don’t mind admitting I couldn’t follow it in its entirety, though  I did manage to acquire a feeling of inadequacy and the start of a headache. So for a translation, I will rely on distinguished geneticist Jenny Graves who just wrote a piece about the article that is quite accessible and from which I will quote below. Graves starts with the punchline:

Most of us are familiar with the genetic differences between men and women.

Men have X and Y sex chromosomes, and women have two X chromosomes. We know that genes on these chromosomes may act differently in men and women.

But a recent paper claims that beyond just genes on X and Y, a full third of our genome is behaving very differently in men and women.

These new data pose challenges for science, medicine and maybe even gender equity.

Here’s a more extensive summary:

In their new paper, the authors Gershoni and Pietrokovsk looked at how active the same genes are in men and women. They measured the RNA produced by 18,670 genes in 53 different tissues (45 common to both sexes) in 544 adult post mortem donors (357 men and 187 women).

They found that about one third of these genes (more than 6,500) had very different activities in men and women. Some genes were active in men only or women only. Many genes were far more active in one sex or the other.

A few of these genes showed sex biased activity in every tissue of the body. More commonly, the difference was seen in one or a few tissues.

Most of these genes were not on sex chromosomes: only a few lay on the Y or the X.

How could a third of our genes be differently controlled in men and women?

We now understand that proteins work in extensive networks. Change the amount of one protein produced by one gene, and you change the amounts of all the proteins produced by many genes in a long chain of command.

We also know that hormones have powerful influences on gene activity. For instance, testosterone and estrogen dial up or down many genes in reproductive and body tissues.

Here is how Graves’ piece ends:

What do these new insights mean for our progress toward gender equity? A bad outcome could be appeals to return to outdated sexual stereotypes. A good outcome will be recognition of sex differences in medicine and treatment.

I think what Graves is after can be characterized as “different but equal.” And though it makes perfect sense given the current state of genetics and biology (to say nothing of common sense), such a philosophy would be quite unwelcome in certain parts these days.

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Not With a Bang, but a Whimper… Democratic Party Edition. An Op Ed.

A presidential candidate like Donald Trump should not be viable. Candidates he supports should not be viable. The existence of Donald Trump should be a boon for the Democrats. And, in fact, it has been.

But it hasn’t been enough. Perhaps four (or eight?) years worth of results will tip the balance for Democrats, but it is reasonable to ask: why have Democrats been coming up short against Trump, both in the Presidential election and in special elections since?

The reason is that the Democrats have abandoned their traditional base (i.e., the working class). So why the change?

I would suggest it is because the middle class intelligentsia from which most leaders and volunteers of the Party spring is increasingly reliant on people who have believe in nonsense.

Consider a paper entitled Evolution is Not Relevant to Sex Differences in Humans Because I Want it That Way! Evidence for the Politicization of Human Evolutionary Psychology published in EvoS Journal: The Journal of the Evolutionary Studies Consortium.

Here’s is the article’s abstract:

This research explored political motivations underlying resistance to evolutionary psychology. Data were collected from 268 adults who varied in terms of academic employment and parental status. Dependent variables represented whether participants believed that several attributes are primarily the result of biological evolution versus socialization. Variables addressed attitudes about: (a) sex differences in adults, (b) sex differences in children, (c) sex differences in chickens, (d) human universals, and (e) differences between dogs and cats. Using a Likert-scale, participants were asked to rate the degree to which they believed items were due to “nature” versus “nurture.” For instance, one of the items from the cat/dog subscale was “Dogs are more pack-oriented than cats.” Independent variables included political orientation, parental status, and academic employment status. Political liberalism corresponded to endorsing “nurture” as influential – but primarily for the two human sex-difference variables. Academic employment status was independently predictive of the belief that sex differences are the result of “nurture.” This effect was exacerbated for academics who came from sociology or women’s studies backgrounds. The effect of academic employment status also corresponded to seeing behavioral differences between roosters and hens as caused by “nurture.” Further, parents were more likely than non-parents to endorse “nature” for the sex-difference variables. Beliefs about differences between cats and dogs and beliefs about causes of human universals (that are not tied to sex differences) were not related to these independent variables, suggesting that the political resistance to evolutionary psychology is specifically targeted at work on sex differences.

While the paper deserves its own post, for our purposes, a quick summary is this: a person’s tendency to attribute differences between the behavior of roosters and hens to nurture rather than biology increases if the person is either an academic or not a parent. The paper also notes that this effect seems especially pronounced among Gender Studies scholars. The sample size is a bit small, but meshes with what can be observed on the evening news or twitter.

Conservatives have more children than liberals, and academics tend to lean left, so the particular brand of crazy discussed in the paper above is a Democrat rather than a Republican phenomenon. More than that – the childless and academics have the time to set the agenda for causes and organizations in which they get involved.

The adoption of the an anti-Biology stance (and yes, the Republicans have their own, different and long-standing anti-Biology stance… and it has them cost them) comes at the same time as the Democrats have been jettisoning Labor as their cause. This is not a coincidence. The historical image of Labor is of men trudging off to work every day at the crack of dawn to support their nuclear family. In today’s lexicon, those are oppressors who maintain the toxic male patriarchy.

Once you identify the problem, the solution is easy: toss those fat cats who lord their privilege with sweat stained undershirts and grime under their finger nails under the bus. And don’ t stop there. Oppose their elitist attitude by finding common cause with other ideas that are anathema to them. Labor worries about unrestricted unskilled immigration, fearing it will lower wages, cost jobs, and making the country less safe? The obvious solution is to bring in Sayfullo Saipov and pretty much anyone for whom Saipov cares to vouch. The US taxpayer will be happy to spring for the bill.

And after all of this, the misogynist racist pigs prove their perfidy by refusing to give their votes to the Democrats who despise them and want them dead. They begin voting Republican. Sure, Republican economic policies not only don’t work, the benefits they do manage to generate don’t trickle down to the working class. But at least Republicans aren’t purposely screwing them over, and the Republican Party is willing to give them some hope along with the bad economic policy. Hope is free, after all.

The good news is that insanity isn’t completely entrenched in the Democratic Party. It hasn’t had control long – less than a decade, in fact. It can be reversed. I’m just afraid that it isn’t going to happen.

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Terrorism, UK Today, France Yesterday

From a story in Daily Mail:

Terror suspects including jihadis returning from fighting in Syria are to be offered taxpayer-funded homes, counselling and help finding jobs to stop them carrying out attacks in Britain.

The top-secret Government strategy, codenamed Operation Constrain, could even allow fanatics to jump to the top of council house waiting lists.

Official documents seen by The Mail on Sunday reveal that up to 20,000 extremists previously investigated by MI5 will be targeted with what critics last night described as ‘bribes’ aimed at turning them away from extremism.

The highly contentious nationwide programme is due to start next year, with police and cash-strapped councils hoping the Home Office will pay for it out of its £900 million counter-terrorism budget.

The article goes on:

The move comes amid growing concern at the huge number of radical Islamists living in Britain who the security services are unable to track effectively.

Fanatics who had been under surveillance by MI5 in the past were among the perpetrators of the two terror attacks in London and one in Manchester this year that left 35 people dead.

The intelligence agencies fear as many as 20,000 former ‘subjects of interest’ – people who had been monitored but later dropped off the radar – could be plotting fresh atrocities. It is this group that will be targeted by the new scheme.

A bit more:

A fierce debate has also raged about how to deal with the estimated 360 battle-hardened jihadis who have returned to Britain after fighting with Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and the ones who may come back now after the fall of the so-called caliphate.

Bear in mind an awful lot of these battle-hardened jihadis ended up that way because they were attracted by the propaganda about how they were going to get to treat the, well, call them infidels.  If the Daily Mail story is anything close to true, I imagine “bang for the buck” is going to be an element in a very bad pun for the British taxpayer.

Now here is an article about France in Deutsche Welle  (Deutsche Welle is Germany’s equivalent to the BBC International Service or Voice of America) from a few weeks ago:

France is about to pass a new anti-terror law as it eases its way out of the state of emergency. But civil rights campaigners say it will put citizens under general suspicion. Lisa Louis reports from Paris.

The state of emergency was declared in the immediate aftermath of the November 2015 terror attacks, in which 130 people were killed. France has since been hit by various other attacks and martial law has been renewed several times. It will now expire in early November, just like President Emmanuel Macron had promised during his election campaign.

But first, parts of it will be enshrined in general law.
“The terror threat level is still very high and we can’t just lift emergency rule without adapting our law accordingly,” said MP Yaël Braun-Pivet from the government party La Republique en Marche (LREM). She heads the National Assembly’s Law Commission that has drawn up the new anti-terror legislation.

To summarize… measures that in the past were so extraordinary they were meant to deal with insurrection and other threats to the nation are going to become everyday law under a President who just half a year ago campaigned as the Great Left Hope.  I am not an attorney, but effectively, it seems to me to be the equivalent of the US having and lifting martial law, though not before taking some of the provisions of martial law and moving them into our civil and criminal codes.

French authorities also make a case that sometimes there is an overlap between those who commit petty crimes and those who commit terrorist acts.

I think most people would prefer to live in a world with less terrorism (and less petty crime) on the one hand, and fewer police powers on the other hand.  But scaling back the cops isn’t going to prevent the next terrorist attack, much less the one after that.  So there is a trade-off.

Obviously, working backward, none of this would have happened without an assortment of terrorist attacks, some spectacular and some mundane. If you had the ability to tweak one thing in the past, what is the smallest change in French history that would have prevented France from having all these terrorist attacks?  Are there any lessons in this for Britain?  What about for the US?

 

Update, 5:11 AM PST, 10/31/2017…  a couple of minor grammatical corrections were made.

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Genetics as an Omitted Variable in Psychology and Social Science

Here’s the abstract of an article by Frank Schmidt in the Archives of Scientific Psychology:

Governments often base social intervention programs on studies done by psychologists and other social scientists.Often these studies fail to mention other research suggesting that such interventions may have a limited chance of actually working. The omitted research that is not mentioned often shows that the behaviors and performances targeted for improvement by the environmental intervention programs are mostly caused by genetic differences between people and for that reason may be more difficult to change than implied in these studies. This is particularly true when the goal is to greatly reduce or eliminate differences between people in such domains as school achievement, impulsive behaviors, or intelligence. This problem of omitted research creates two problems. It tends to call into question the credibility of all social science research, even the studies that do not omit relevant research.And from an applied point of view, it leads to the expenditure of taxpayer dollars on programs that are unlikely to produce the desired outcomes.

Here are a few paragraphs from early in the article:

The first area of problem research focuses on the ostensible effects of life experiences on life outcomes. This broad area includes many research areas and topics in different psychological specialties. The aspect of much of this research that is problematic is the common failure to acknowledge the relevant findings in the field of behavior genetics.

These findings show that virtually all tendencies, traits, behaviors, and life outcomes have a substantial genetic basis (cf.Bouchard, 1997a, 1997b, 2004; Colarelli & Arvey, 2015; Lee & McGue, 2016; McGue & Bouchard, 1998; Plomin, DeFries, Knopik,& Neiderhiser, 2013; Plomin, DeFries, Knopik, & Neiderhaise, 2016; Plomin, Owen, & McGuffin, 1994; Turkheimer, 2000). Even day-to-day variability in positive and negative affect has been shown to be substantially heritable (Zheng, Plomin, & von Stumm, 2016).Research has further shown that most supposedly purely environmental variables (such as the number of books and magazines in the home) that are often concluded to be environmental causes of later life outcomes are themselves genetically influenced (e.g., see Plomin & Bergman, 1991; Plomin et al., 2016). That is, they are substantially influenced by the genetic makeup of the parents in the home, whose genes are passed on to their offspring.

Research also indicates that people seek out and create their own environments based on their genetically influenced proclivities and interests (Scarr, 1996; Scarr,1989; Scarr & McCartney, 1983).The forgoing is a very brief overview but is believed to be sufficient to establish the main point. These behavior genetics findings do not mean that experiences of people do not have any effect on their later life outcomes. But they do mean that failure to even mention potential or likely genetic influences on these outcomes is a serious problem, one that reduces the credibility of the research. The following are some examples of studies that fail to acknowledge these well-established research findings.

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When People will not be Judged by the Color of their Skin, But On Where Their Ancestors Were Judged by the Color of their Skin

The Wall Street Journal had a piece that made reference to this story in the Cornell Daily Sun:

Martha E. Pollack, nearing the six-month mark of her presidency, is facing her first major test at Cornell after hundreds of black students, responding to the arrest of a student who may be charged with a hate crime, marched into her office last week and hand-delivered a series of demands.

The most interesting of the demand is:

We demand that Cornell Admissions to come up with a plan to actively increase the presence of underrepresented Black students on this campus. We define underrepresented Black students as Black Americans who have several generations (more than two) in this country.  The Black student population at Cornell disproportionately represents international or first-generation African or Caribbean students. While these students have a right to flourish at Cornell, there is a lack of investment in Black students whose families were affected directly by the African Holocaust in America. Cornell must work to actively support students whose families have been impacted for generations by white supremacy and American fascism

That brings to mind this piece in the NY Times in 2004, or this one in the Chicago Tribune by Pullitzer Prize winner Clarence Page:

Harvard law professor Lani Guinier and Henry Louis Gates Jr., chairman of Harvard’s African and African-American studies department, reported that 8 percent, or about 530, of Harvard’s undergraduates are black, but somewhere between one-half and two-thirds of them are “West Indian and African immigrants or their children, or to a lesser extent, children of biracial couples.”

Not counting those who are classified as “foreign students,” Guinier and Gates said, only about a third of the students classified as “black” at the nation’s most prestigious university were from families in which all four grandparents were born in this country.

I was not surprised by those findings. Like many other African-Americans, I have been noticing for years how the children of black immigrant families tend to be much better represented among high school honor-roll achievers than their native-American black counterparts are.

Now that they are showing up in disproportionate numbers at selective colleges like Harvard, both advocates and opponents of affirmative action are raising a howl in their various ways.

Page goes on:

Now Harvard has to ask itself what its affirmative action plan is supposed to accomplish. If its goal is simply “diversity,” it may not matter how American the roots of its black and brown faces happen to be. But if its goal is to address historical racial inequalities in American life, Harvard may have to take black ethnicity into account in the way that some institutions have argued over which nationalities should be counted as “Hispanic.”

A bigger question to me is this: Why are black students whose families have been in America for generations being left behind by newcomers, including black newcomers from other countries?

Gates plans to organize a study group around that question. I can offer the group one easy possibility, no charge: Immigrant kids work harder.

They work harder, in part, because their parents work harder–and their parents work harder because of their relentless optimism: Where others might see a dead-end job, immigrants of all colors see an entry-level opportunity.

I don’t want to comment on Page’s conclusions; that may be a post for another time. I do note that what probably derailed the thought process brought up by Lani Guinier, Henry Louis Gates Jr., and Clarence Page was the meteoric rise of Barack Obama. But Barack Obama is no longer president. Furthermore, it isn’t clear that Americans descended from American slaves are better off relative to other Americans after eight years of Obama than they were before his presidency.

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The Sharing Economy – Including the @$$holes

A friend of mine who has made it into his sixth decade without ever sullying himself with gainful employment is now doing deliveries, shared-economy style. (Packages, not people via Uber or Lyft.) I thought he was going to rail against the system when he described what is new in his life, but his attitude surprised me. Transcribed, to the best my of my recollection, his comments were:

So I went down for orientation. There were a bunch of people just like me. Basically, @$$holes who don’t deal well with people. @$$holes who don’t want a job, and couldn’t keep a job if they could get one. What I love about the shared economy is that it allows @$$holes like me to participate. I work when I want, and I’m getting somewhat regular income for the first time in my life.

Obviously, not everyone in the sharing economy is an @$$hole. I’ve met some nice people while taking Lyft, for instance, or staying somewhere through airBNB. And my wife is a superhost on airBNB. I’d be afraid to call her an @$$hole. On the other hand, the only person with whom I have an acquaintance who regularly drives for Uber and/or Lyft has a personality that is best described with words like “volatile” and “belligerent.” In any case, I don’t think he is capable of holding down an actual job but he doesn’t seem to have a problem driving strangers around on short trips.

So maybe one unexpected benefit of the sharing economy is that it has made some otherwise unemployable people into productive citizens.

Update: 10/22/2017, 4:57 AM – corrected first sentence by changing word “fifth” to “sixth.”

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On the Effect of the Gender Composition of the Editorial Boards for Top Economics Journals

Here’s the abstract of a discussion paper from the IZA Institute of Labor Economics by Felix Bransch and Michael Kvasnicka:

Using data on articles published in the top-five economic journals in the period 1991 to 2010, we explore whether the gender composition of editorial boards is related to the publishing success of female authors and to the quality of articles that get published. Our results show that female editors reduce, rather than increase, the share of articles that are (co-)authored by females. We also find evidence that female editors benefit article quality at low levels of representation on editorial boards, but harm article quality at higher levels. Several robustness checks corroborate these findings. Our results are broadly consistent with existing evidence on the behavior of gender-mixed hiring committees and of relevance for gender equality policy.

The rest of the article is also at the link.

Consider this post to be a follow up to this one.

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Race is a Social Construct

Back to back on my to read list were two articles that made an odd juxtaposition. First up was Race Is a Social Construct, Scientists Argue in the once great Scientific American. Here’s a representative blurb:

More than 100 years ago, American sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois was concerned that race was being used as a biological explanation for what he understood to be social and cultural differences between different populations of people. He spoke out against the idea of “white” and “black” as discrete groups, claiming that these distinctions ignored the scope of human diversity.

Science would favor Du Bois. Today, the mainstream belief among scientists is that race is a social construct without biological meaning. And yet, you might still open a study on genetics in a major scientific journal and find categories like “white” and “black” being used as biological variables.

The article goes on as a confused mish-mash, and includes a comment that one researcher feels that

modern genetics research is operating in a paradox, which is that race is understood to be a useful tool to elucidate human genetic diversity, but on the other hand, race is also understood to be a poorly defined marker of that diversity and an imprecise proxy for the relationship between ancestry and genetics.

Of course, when people think “race” they think ancestry. Ask a random person to classify people whose ancestors lived in what is now Japan, Sweden, and Uganda 2,500 years ago and he/she will, with little difficulty in most cases, classify those people as “Asian,” “European” and “Black,” respectively. Other objections to discussing race include the fact that people travel, and sometimes procreate after they’ve moved. Additionally, the fact that not all White people are exactly alike, and not all Black people are exactly alike, etc.,  is also viewed as problematic.

Next up on my reading list was Impact of common genetic determinants of Hemoglobin A1c on type 2 diabetes risk and diagnosis in ancestrally diverse populations: A transethnic genome-wide meta-analysis in PLOS Medicine. Here are a few quotes:

Blood glucose binds in an irreversible manner to circulating hemoglobin in red blood cells (RBCs), generating “glycated hemoglobin,” called HbA1c. HbA1c is used to diagnose and monitor diabetes…. About 11% of people of African American ancestry carry at least one copy of this G6PDvariant, while almost no one of any other ancestry does. We estimated that if we tested all Americans for diabetes using HbA1c, about 650,000 African Americans would be missed because of these genetically lowered HbA1c levels… This work supports a role for a precision medicine application to reduce race-ethnic health disparities using HbA1c genetics to improve T2D diagnosis and prediction and to inform screening strategies for T2D across the African continent where the prevalence of the G6PD variant can reach 20%.

From what I can tell reading medical and genetic literature, there is a collage industry in which scholars tell us that “race is a social construct without biological meaning.” But there is a second cottage industry in which a different group of scholars looks for genetic manifestations that strongly correlate with that particular biologically meaningless social construct.

The first cottage industry also warns us (to quote the Scientific American article again) that:

Assumptions about genetic differences between people of different races have had obvious social and historical repercussions, and they still threaten to fuel racist beliefs.

Meanwhile, members of the second cottage industry seems hell bent on trying to save lives. It is all very odd.

 

Update, 10/18/2017, 5:48 AM PST – minor grammatical error corrected by removing the word “with” following the word “mish-mash.”

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CRISPR Critters

The first applications of gene editing are (will be?) to fix deleterious mutations. Nobody, or almost nobody, will complain when previously horrible diseases get fixed before a child is born. But the practice won’t stop there. There will be a progression of editing services from muscular dystrophy to hairlip to more ahtleticism, and eventually, more hair or a more attractive nose. The last two may take a while.

But what will be really interesting will be the tweaking of genes that fix cognitive issues. Again, its a matter of progression. Nobody – OK, almost nobody – will complain in a decade or three when Downs’ Syndrome is edited out of a fetus. From there, bringing a mildly retarded child to normal is a barely an ethical step at all. After that, well, perhaps someone destined to be of normal intelligence can be made smarter than average, or even a borderline genius along one or another dimension.

The timing of this whole process of enhancement will depend on its complexity and difficulty, and the difficulty of dealing with trade-offs that might exist. It is possible, but unlikely, that a single tweak of the genome will bring a noticeable leap in IQ. But it is more likely to require making a lot of small changes to the genome.

Timing also matters in and of itself. An evolutionary process may cause less social upheaval than a revolutionary process. Its one thing to go from cohorts with today’s intelligence to something we’d call a genius today over a period of a century or more. Its another to achieve that over half of a generation.

But regardless of details, its all coming. At some point there will be generations with large numbers of genetically edited young people. And they will be different. On average, they may have some combination of trait we deem desirable. These include athleticism, beauty, creativity, perseverance and intelligence. But those genetically edited people, however different, will also be the same as the rest of us in a few key ways. They will simply be individuals, trying to make their way through life as well as they can. They won’t be a single monolithic entity, and they won’t behave or think the same. They won’t have the same life trajectories. But like the rest of us, they will all be trying to make a living, and for some of them, their inborn traits will make it that much easier for them to outdistance the competition.

If there is one thing the very diverse members of the edited group will agree upon, it is probably this: there is no way in hell they’ll be voluntarily accepting handicaps Harrison Bergeron-style, to level the playing field. All of this is going to be painful to the un-edited who happen to be around at the time, and who may wish for such handicaps. They may even succeed in getting some handicaps required through strength of law or societal pressure.

Such steps to compensate for an uneven distribution of skills, talent and abilities will create winners, namely those given the leg up. But it will be a short-term, and harmful victory. Holding back the talented, or replacing them with those who are less gifted, simply slows development and innovation, and blocks the tide that would otherwise lift more boats.

(A final note: I guess if I were someone else I might have written the same essay about AI. However, having done some work on the outer edge of the distant periphery of the field, I just don’t believe anyone will be building anything that remotely resembles a self-motivated sentient machine in any future that is remotely foreseeable today. As a result, machines won’t outcompete people. People using machines, though, will outcompete other people, but that makes for a very different post.)

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