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A Question to Anthropologists

Harper
Posts: 374
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2/16/2015 12:17:59 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
It'd be prudent for those of you who'd like to answer my question to read this forum post, as it directly relates to the topic at hand (sorry if it's a little lengthy): http://www.debate.org...

The question I'd like answered is the question I pose at the end of the post: is it possible to evolve or manipulate the genome in a way that creates a human species whose individuals would not require other humans to live? How difficult would such a project be if it's a realistic one in the first place? I know that we are social mainly because of our big brains and intelligence: we needed others to take care of us while our complex brains were still forming. So would such a manipulation require a change in the way the brain itself grows and functions and is that change even possible or practical?

Thanks in advance.
Otokage
Posts: 2,347
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2/16/2015 7:03:24 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 2/16/2015 12:17:59 AM, Harper wrote:
It'd be prudent for those of you who'd like to answer my question to read this forum post, as it directly relates to the topic at hand (sorry if it's a little lengthy): http://www.debate.org...

The question I'd like answered is the question I pose at the end of the post: is it possible to evolve or manipulate the genome in a way that creates a human species whose individuals would not require other humans to live? How difficult would such a project be if it's a realistic one in the first place? I know that we are social mainly because of our big brains and intelligence: we needed others to take care of us while our complex brains were still forming. So would such a manipulation require a change in the way the brain itself grows and functions and is that change even possible or practical?

Thanks in advance.

Hi Harper. First I do not agree with some things you have said on the other thread. Like that we are too weak on our own to survive. I think individual humans are versatile enough to survive on their own, although I can accept they are more successful as a species if they associate. Also, humans have an unmatched capacity at manipulating and associating with non-human animals, like other mammals and birds.

About what you have said on the human child being dependant of the mother, that means he/she must rely on a single human to survive, not "on humans" in the sense of a society.

I can agree with Aristotle, but I don"t extract from his quote that humans "can not survive on their own because they are weak", only that they naturaly need other humans to feel balanced, like other social species.

And finaly about war, I don"t think war is intrinsecaly wrong, it can be a rightful act sometimes, like self-defence.

But now to your question. I'm not an anthropologist but I believe any biologist could give a satisfactory answer to this. Imo yes, it is possible to an extent depending on what you mean by "independent from other humans". Does that include, that we should also be independent from our mother in infancy and/or gestation? If that's the case, I believe the project would practicaly be science fiction. The only plausible scenario that comes to mind is the hyper acceleration of the infant's development, creating a reserve tissue (full of fat or glycogen, etc) and probably give camouflage coloring to the skin. If I were to try, I would introduce into the zygote other eukaryotic genes that produce effects similar to those cited, and try to solve the messes they arose due to the influence of some genes over others. I believe that with enough time and enough zygotes, is not an "unreal" project, but of course a genetic "re writing" on this scale, it currently impossible because exceeds by far our knowledge of both the human genome and proteome.

As for simply creating a human that in an adult state is independent from society, that is of course a much more plausible project. I believe a lot of humans right know would be capable of living a life without people, although through genetic therapy we could create a human that just doesn't feel attracted to live in group, and therefore does not suffer the emotional consequences of isolation, although Imo stripping a human from its instinct to live in groups, would reduce his/her social intelligence, and therefore would also have negative side effects. As for the difficulty on doing this, I believe it would be relatively simple once the genes involved in this "social instinct" are figured out. Depending on the size, you could either remove them, exchange them for a modified version via a vector, or even simply block them with a drug if they work with a traditional transcription-translation scheme.

Hope it helped.
UndeniableReality
Posts: 1,897
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2/18/2015 8:29:29 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 2/16/2015 12:17:59 AM, Harper wrote:
It'd be prudent for those of you who'd like to answer my question to read this forum post, as it directly relates to the topic at hand (sorry if it's a little lengthy): http://www.debate.org...

The question I'd like answered is the question I pose at the end of the post: is it possible to evolve or manipulate the genome in a way that creates a human species whose individuals would not require other humans to live? How difficult would such a project be if it's a realistic one in the first place? I know that we are social mainly because of our big brains and intelligence: we needed others to take care of us while our complex brains were still forming. So would such a manipulation require a change in the way the brain itself grows and functions and is that change even possible or practical?

Thanks in advance.

I'm curious why you addressed this question to anthropologists.
Harper
Posts: 374
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2/19/2015 12:51:36 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 2/18/2015 8:29:29 PM, UndeniableReality wrote:
At 2/16/2015 12:17:59 AM, Harper wrote:
It'd be prudent for those of you who'd like to answer my question to read this forum post, as it directly relates to the topic at hand (sorry if it's a little lengthy): http://www.debate.org...

The question I'd like answered is the question I pose at the end of the post: is it possible to evolve or manipulate the genome in a way that creates a human species whose individuals would not require other humans to live? How difficult would such a project be if it's a realistic one in the first place? I know that we are social mainly because of our big brains and intelligence: we needed others to take care of us while our complex brains were still forming. So would such a manipulation require a change in the way the brain itself grows and functions and is that change even possible or practical?

Thanks in advance.

I'm curious why you addressed this question to anthropologists.

Well, I'm asking a question about humans and anthropologists study humans, so it seems that an anthropologist would be better at answering the question at hand than, say, an entomologist. In retrospect though, I probably should have addressed it to geneticists since the question deals mostly with human genetics.
UndeniableReality
Posts: 1,897
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2/19/2015 1:32:35 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 2/19/2015 12:51:36 PM, Harper wrote:
At 2/18/2015 8:29:29 PM, UndeniableReality wrote:
At 2/16/2015 12:17:59 AM, Harper wrote:
It'd be prudent for those of you who'd like to answer my question to read this forum post, as it directly relates to the topic at hand (sorry if it's a little lengthy): http://www.debate.org...

The question I'd like answered is the question I pose at the end of the post: is it possible to evolve or manipulate the genome in a way that creates a human species whose individuals would not require other humans to live? How difficult would such a project be if it's a realistic one in the first place? I know that we are social mainly because of our big brains and intelligence: we needed others to take care of us while our complex brains were still forming. So would such a manipulation require a change in the way the brain itself grows and functions and is that change even possible or practical?

Thanks in advance.

I'm curious why you addressed this question to anthropologists.

Well, I'm asking a question about humans and anthropologists study humans, so it seems that an anthropologist would be better at answering the question at hand than, say, an entomologist. In retrospect though, I probably should have addressed it to geneticists since the question deals mostly with human genetics.

Yes, it is much more a genetics question. I don't think anthropology has much to offer in terms of answering this question.
Harper
Posts: 374
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2/19/2015 1:42:34 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 2/16/2015 7:03:24 PM, Otokage wrote:
At 2/16/2015 12:17:59 AM, Harper wrote:
It'd be prudent for those of you who'd like to answer my question to read this forum post, as it directly relates to the topic at hand (sorry if it's a little lengthy): http://www.debate.org...

The question I'd like answered is the question I pose at the end of the post: is it possible to evolve or manipulate the genome in a way that creates a human species whose individuals would not require other humans to live? How difficult would such a project be if it's a realistic one in the first place? I know that we are social mainly because of our big brains and intelligence: we needed others to take care of us while our complex brains were still forming. So would such a manipulation require a change in the way the brain itself grows and functions and is that change even possible or practical?

Thanks in advance.

Hi Harper. First I do not agree with some things you have said on the other thread. Like that we are too weak on our own to survive. I think individual humans are versatile enough to survive on their own, although I can accept they are more successful as a species if they associate. Also, humans have an unmatched capacity at manipulating and associating with non-human animals, like other mammals and birds.

Survival isn't necessarily strictly about physical survival, one must take into account the survival of the human's sanity. And so the average human would never be able to survive on its own, due to the deterioration of its mental health from lack of social contact.

About what you have said on the human child being dependant of the mother, that means he/she must rely on a single human to survive, not "on humans" in the sense of a society.

I can agree with Aristotle, but I don"t extract from his quote that humans "can not survive on their own because they are weak", only that they naturaly need other humans to feel balanced, like other social species.

Humans needing each other for social reasons is precisely why I want to find out if it's possible to eliminate social dependence. Weakness does not only signify physical inabilities, but mental ones, too. And as you've said, the human cannot live on its own without sacrificing balance and sanity. Therefore it is too weak to live on its own, for fear that it loses its mind out of loneliness.

And finaly about war, I don"t think war is intrinsecaly wrong, it can be a rightful act sometimes, like self-defence.

The existence of war in the human condition is what I was addressing. If you were attacked, self-preservation dictates that you defend yourself, there's nothing wrong with that. I'm saying that the existence of war and of warlike people is a wrong. War in self defense would be rendered unnecessary if those who engage in war for primitive reasons ceased. So war, for that reason, is intrinsically wrong. But people still engage in and initiate war because it is embedded in our nature as we needed to be a part of a cohesive society to survive, and war provided a means for that cohesion.

But now to your question. I'm not an anthropologist but I believe any biologist could give a satisfactory answer to this. Imo yes, it is possible to an extent depending on what you mean by "independent from other humans". Does that include, that we should also be independent from our mother in infancy and/or gestation? If that's the case, I believe the project would practicaly be science fiction.
My main concern is psychological need. Having humans become more physically independent is a definite plus, but the elimination of the need to surround oneself with other humans is the main goal.

The only plausible scenario that comes to mind is the hyper acceleration of the infant's development, creating a reserve tissue (full of fat or glycogen, etc) and probably give camouflage coloring to the skin. If I were to try, I would introduce into the zygote other eukaryotic genes that produce effects similar to those cited, and try to solve the messes they arose due to the influence of some genes over others. I believe that with enough time and enough zygotes, is not an "unreal" project, but of course a genetic "re writing" on this scale, it currently impossible because exceeds by far our knowledge of both the human genome and proteome.

Interesting.

As for simply creating a human that in an adult state is independent from society, that is of course a much more plausible project. I believe a lot of humans right know would be capable of living a life without people, although through genetic therapy we could create a human that just doesn't feel attracted to live in group, and therefore does not suffer the emotional consequences of isolation, although Imo stripping a human from its instinct to live in groups, would reduce his/her social intelligence, and therefore would also have negative side effects.
That was one of my concerns-- effect on intelligence. The most intelligent species are also the most social, so it would stand to reason that taking away society from the human condition would also result in a gradual decline in intelligence.

As for the difficulty on doing this, I believe it would be relatively simple once the genes involved in this "social instinct" are figured out. Depending on the size, you could either remove them, exchange them for a modified version via a vector, or even simply block them with a drug if they work with a traditional transcription-translation scheme.

After thinking it over, I began to wonder if we could simply remove certain aspects of this "social instinct" while keeping humans social in some respects. For example, introverts are less social than extroverts, but they still do feel the need to engage in social behavior, it's just that they are less dependent on it. (I wonder how a human species of introverts would fare? The "social intelligence" as you've noted would probably go down, but I think you'd eventually hit a balance between the love of solitude and the love of people.) The main reason I posed the question in the first place was because I think there are three aspects of humankind that caused the chaos of the human condition: flock mentality, emotionalism over rationality, and lack of self value-- all of which can be directly connected to the social instinct. If we could only somehow remove those aspects of the social instinct while still keeping human social connections intact (friendships, work connections for division of labor, etc.), I think we'd be fine as a species, and we wouldn't need to have it so it's one man to himself.

Hope it helped.
Thank you very much for your response.