Friday, August 04, 2017

Seen on Twitter

There was one of those poll things making the rounds:

"If you planned to have a kid, and a safe genetic technology could boost their IQ by 10 points, how much would you be willing to pay for it?"

Most people voted "between $1000-$100,000" for it; one person who Tweeted said that they'd sell their house, cash in their retirement, and do whatever they could.

I don't know. I'm of a different feeling on this. I can think of things, if I were having a kid, that I'd rather they had than a little intelligence boost.

For one thing, 10 points is really not THAT much, at least over certain levels. (going from say, 110 to 120 won't make that much of a difference in their achievement).

I suppose I should stipulate first that yes, the child having a sufficient IQ to be able to take care of themselves as an adult would probably be the baseline - if that 10 point boost made the difference from "child has a lower quality of life because he or she will be 100% dependent on someone else forever" (and also - worries for the parent of "who will care for them when I'm gone) vs. "Child can live more or less independently."

But also: I have known "high IQ" people who had various learning disabilities and struggled in school (high IQ does not, I think, have any protective effect against dyslexia or ADHD or other challenges). And I have known an awful lot of high IQ people who suffered from anxiety, or dissatisfaction with "how the world is," or had a hard time negotiating social life.

So I guess my "I wouldn't use it" is two fold:

First, a higher IQ doesn't necessarily make your path in life easier. In some cases, IQ may mainly be a measure of "how well this individual does on a certain test" or "how well they do in an academic setting" and given how the world is going now? I'm not sure being successful in academic settings is all that useful.

And also - well, maybe it sounds like boasting, I don't know exactly what my IQ is but I do know I've been seen, in the past at least, as "pretty smart" - if my handwriting had not been so atrocious (long story) and maybe if I'd been a bit more emotionally mature, I would have been tracked into a gifted program. I was sent to prep school in part because I needed "more of a challenge."

But:  I also tend to be anxious. And I worry excessively about what people think of me. And I can get very bleak moods where I look at the world and throw up my hands and wonder why the One in Charge has just not wiped out the human race yet and started over with another species...and in some cases, I do think being a "smart" person maybe makes you more prone to be dissatisfied and anxious.

And secondly, I think there are more important traits, really, than "high intelligence" for successfully negotiating the world. (Again: provided there is no disability extreme enough to affect one's ability to work or live independently). I think, for example not being an anxious person is maybe a more successful trait. Or being more happy-go-lucky. (Or pretty much any of the things I have mourned not having in my personality make-up these past few years).

I'd say, "I'd rather my child be a compassionate person than a necessarily smart person" except with the world as it is today, I'm not sure compassion is such a helpful trait for the individual who has it. Certainly not being "unusually" compassionate as you will probably wind up being taken advantage of by scammers and unscrupulous people.

What might I consider paying for a kid to have? Maybe if I could ensure an appropriate level of toughness - I wouldn't want a little bully, but I also would prefer a child of mine to be less-buffeted by the unpleasantnesses of life than I was, and better-able to say "go hang a salami" or similar to someone who is being rude or demanding to them. Maybe someone with better "boundaries" than I have, or "less-permeable."

I think also someone who gave less of a darn what other people thought. Perhaps the reason I haven't achieved more in life than I have (despite having heard the bad old "You're going to do great things" as a kid that most "smart" kids hear, and yes, it does become a bit of a burden) is that I worry too much about "What if I fail? People will laugh at me" or "I have this idea but it will be unpopular so I better just squash it down and not express it."

And really, yes: I'd consider paying (given the genetic engineering were possible and 100% safe) for a child who was tougher and less-prone to anxiety than I was (and am), rather than a minor enhancement in smarts - which again, isn't necessarily a trait correlated with "success," at least as how the world defines it.

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