[stupid idea] semi-dwarf fertilizer-responsive supermodels

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From: Dave Long (dl@silcom.com)
Date: Thu Oct 26 2000 - 16:25:52 PDT

> Isn't it funny how almost all of the key battles in the Middle East
> throughout history have happened in about 4-5 places, in almost exactly
> the same way each time in each place?

It's certainly a counterexample to "human optimism, ingenuity, and
technology inevitably solve our worst problems". When I visited
the ruins of the old city outside Jerusalem[0], it became obvious
that people have been living there for over 4,000 years, yet still
haven't figured out how to get along[1].

I doubt we have any more optimism or ingenuity, and technology hasn't
done much beyond widen the scope of the battlefields. Could there be
such a thing as having too much history -- "they forget nothing, and
learn nothing"? But let's be optimistic; maybe biotech can help, and
we can follow Galton...

> ..., an English dilettante scientist and cousin of Charles Darwin. In
> the late 1870s, Galton created crude, blurry composite faces by melding
> mug-shot photographs of various social subgroups, aiming to prove that
> each group had an archetypal face.

Galton was heavily into eugenics -- if formal breeding programs have
been so successful with other mammals, why not apply them to humans?[2]
Domesticated animals are generally more docile than the wild types, so
perhaps we could breed in a /heerdenmoral/ to replace the /herrenmoral/
that leads to conflict[3].

Why would he have been creating composite faces? It's pretty standard
in the breeding world to attempt to shortcut genotype evaluation by
evaluating phenotypes[4] instead. It's only been in recent years, for
instance, that it's been discovered that many of the visible traits in
traditional prize bulls had zero (or even negative!) effects on the
efficiency of milk production in their daughters (in a factory dairy
environment, at least).

> While that hypothesis fizzled-the
> average criminal looked rather like the average vegetarian-Galton was
> shocked to discover that these averaged faces were better looking than
> nearly all of the individuals they comprised.

So Galton discovered that composing hybrids of phenotypes produced
superior (better looking) phenotypes. Is there any relation between
"better looking", and fitness? According to the journalists, yes[5]:

> But why would cognitive averaging have evolved? Evolutionary biology
> holds that in any given population, extreme characteristics tend to fall
> away in favor of average ones. Birds with unusually long or short wings
> die more often in storms. Human babies who are born larger or smaller
> than average are less likely to survive. The ability to form an
> average-mate template would have conveyed a singular survival advantage.

In cereals the superior fitness of averages is clearly shown;
hybrid vigor results in higher yields, and purebred lines
which consistently reproduce themselves experience inbreeding

Can one outcross forever? Apparently not; yields decline in
successive generations from the original cross. (entropy/drift?)
Therefore, we need to maintain the low-yielding purebred lines
as sources which we can cross to consistently produce desired
high-yield hybrids.

This is where the stupid idea comes in: if we wish to breed for
high fitness humans, and choose to do so by making sure our
"working population" is composed of vigorous F1 hybrids, how
do we maintain a supply of the "show population" despite their
fitness disadvantage? As usual, FoRK answers:

> I don't think population diversity thing is applicable to
> people. Technology insulates nicely from adverse effects of inbreeding

Now, technology may insulate, but since everything is supposed
to be reducible to financial terms, a suitable pile of the ready
is probably an appropriate handicap. For any of our progeny who
we feel are unable to compete fairly on the basis of genotypically
depressed fitness, we can award a handicap in the form of a large

If all this eugenical activity not only ensures lasting peace in
the mideast but also a population of supermodels, there will be
an easy answer to the question posed by:

> You know, I sure hope that "moronic," "silver spoon," "Jezusfreak,"
> and "from Texas" aren't *all* derogatives.

"Silver spoon", being the finbiotech tool of choice, as applied
according to this modest proposal, would be the nonderogative.

Yours for transhumance (sic),

[0] the only city I have been where architects take "fire fight"
    as a design consideration.

[1] yes, many of the good ideas we have about getting along are
    from that area, and they're even simple, but to expand on
    the domain of Clausewitz' observation:
        "everything in peace is simple, but
         the simplest thing is difficult"

[2] Orwell in _Animal Farm_ tells a story in which the pigs
    pursue their interest in maintaining their bretheren in
    domestication. Application to human society was left as
    an exercise for the readers.

[3] but what if we've already domesticated man through selection
    for succesful living in village and city?

[4] Of course, generally one evaluates the entire conformation, not
    just the head, and hotornot scores reflect avoidance of pinning
    exhibitors who cannot be fully judged:

> You noticed that two... in 5 minutes of playing I noticed the only people
> above 6 were displaying T&A. Saw an 8.3 that wont be on the site long I'd
> bet - oh my innocent eyes!. A few dups. Males all seemed to be < 4 with
> shirtless (T&A again) getting them to ~5.

[5] Another possible explanation is simply scarcity -- we judge
    as beautiful that which is not common. Langlois takes one
    tack against that,

> ... Langlois argues that if extremes create beauty,
> "then people with micro-jaws or hydrocephalic eyes would be seen as the
> most beautiful, when, in fact, eyes that are too big for a head make that
> head unattractive."

    but extremes need not be extremes of expression. In a 1d
    space, there will be many samples at the mean of a normal
    distribution (the famed bell curve), and very few at the
    edges. But move to multiple dimensions (and the space of
    facial features and their relationships has at least a few
    thousand dimensions), and most samples are at a distance
    from the mean point[6]. So being "average" in all ways
    will be very rare, and taking the mean of several poorly
    correlated commonly found samples of the population will
    give a result rarer than its precursors.

[6] if this is not obvious, consider either chi-square tests,
    or the surface/volume ratios of n-spheres as n increases,
    or the virtue of portofolio diversification.

[7] Application of this stupid idea to the historic roots
    of high culture, university endowments, etc. is left
    as an exercise for the reader.

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