Book "Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution" by Francis Fukuyama
Book "Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution" by Francis Fukuyama

Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution

May 10, 2002

"We need to steer technology towards aims that are clearly therapeutic and away from ones that involve essentially human redesign, trying to improve our human species . . . . That was tried at great cost over the past couple of centuries and rejected as costly and ineffective."


FRANCIS FUKUYAMA: The End of History was a book about progress and how the evolution of human politics had led to liberal democracy and market-oriented economics. Marxists believed in a progressive history which would lead to a socialist utopia. I argued that at the end of the 20th century what we saw instead was a progressive history, which, instead of leading to socialism, was leading to democratic capitalism to which there were not any really clear alternatives. One of the reasons for this is human nature, that over the past couple of hundred years, especially since the French Revolution, a number of utopian political movements have tried to remake society through very ambitious social engineering. They largely failed because they were based on an inaccurate model of human nature.

Marx, for example, said that man is a species being, which means that human beings have unlimited wellsprings of altruism towards the species as a whole. This is simply not true. People are altruistic towards kin primarily, and then towards a fairly narrow circle of friends and people close to them, but they do not feel the same level of altruism to the heroic Vietnamese people or some abstract entity halfway around the world. If you abolish private property and try to subordinate the family to the state as socialist countries did, it will not work. You are pounding a square peg of human nature into a round hole of an ideologically predetermined society.

One after another, all of these experiments—from the French Revolution itself, to Bolshevism, to the Chinese Revolution, to Cambodia—failed, and usually at horrendous cost.

Technology helped in that downfall because the last, or the ongoing, revolution that we are in, the information technology revolution, has been quite supportive of democratic values. Instead of centralizing power, it tends to spread it out, gives people access to information, and so the IT revolution has gone together with the democratization of larger and larger parts of the world over the past generation.

Now, this is how I get to biotechnology, because it is not obvious that any technological set of advances will improve our moral and political conditions. It depends on the technology. If you think about social engineering in the past, it was always based on fairly crude types of technologies, like labor camps, Freudianism, the various theories of how you mold human behavior that were thrown up by the 20th century.

But, supposing that you had a different set of technologies for manipulating human behavior that were based on a scientific understanding, for example, of the brain, or the sort that modern cognitive neuroscience is beginning to provide us, you may have much more powerful tools for molding behavior. This is why I started thinking about the possible political consequences of biotechnology.

I discuss four pathways to the future, or simple scenarios. I don't mean at all to denigrate the achievements. The biotech industry is amazing. With stem cells, we have the capability of regenerating tissue. Many of the major diseases are on the verge of being conquered through genomic medicine.

But biotechnology is complex as a moral issue precisely because it has some bad wrapped up with the good, and the bad tends to be a bit more subtle than bad things like nuclear weapons. When the first bomb went off in Alamogordo, people understood that this was very dangerous and why it needed to be kept under strict control. The bad things about biotechnology are more complex and they are included in a package with the good.

Let me go through these four pathways: 1) the revolution in the way we understand the genetic causes of behavior; 2) neuropharmacology; 3) life extension; and 4) genetic engineering per se.

1) Let's begin with this cognitive revolution. The two-millennia-old debate about nature versus nurture has gone through a number of interesting shifts over the past hundred years. After Charles Darwin, you had a lot of genetic theories of social behavior—Herbert Spencer, Madison Grant, the whole school of scientific racism that appeared in the 'teens and 'twenties in this country, which argued that the stratification of the world, with white Europeans at the top and all the different colored people at the bottom, was genetically based. One of the major achievements of 20th century science was to debunk the empirical basis for that. And politically, Hitler gave this a big kick in the rear because he so discredited eugenics and the idea of genetic determinism that nobody believed that, and the pendulum swung over at mid-century to an extreme of social constructionism, where people believed that whatever we are is entirely the product of our environment, genes play almost no role in this—if little girls behave differently from little boys, it is entirely as a result of the way they are socialized and not because of their biology.

Out of the life sciences, that pendulum has been swinging back over the past generation, and people have been understanding now, particularly with the discovery of DNA and mapping the genome, the molecular basis of genetic causation. In many sensitive areas related to intelligence, crime, alcoholism, and the like, there are fairly clearly genetic determinants.

This is very controversial stuff. The Herrnstein-Murray book, The Bell Curve, in 1993, argued that intelligence, or at least whatever is measured by IQ tests, is about 70 percent genetically inherited, and that racial differences have a genetic basis. This, of course, raised a huge furor.

If you look in the aftermath, there were seven or eight books published as a result of The Bell Curve, and the consensus within the discipline of psychology was that Herrnstein and Murray were wrong at the 70 percent level, but the actual level of causation is about 40-to-50 percent. So you are still talking about half of your IQ being determined by genes.

The racial aspect, most people would say, is very likely to be environmental, but the book is not closed on that. There are other things linking genes to crime. The NIH tried to convene a conference on this and almost had to have it closed down because it met with protesters saying that they were trying to revive Nazi eugenics.

Most of the information that we have on this right now comes out of behavior genetics, which is the study of monozygotic twins. These are twins that come from the same egg that then are raised in different environments, and you can statistically show how much of their behavior comes from genes and how much from environment. In the next generation we will have a lot of molecular biologists who will have actual molecular pathways linking individual genes to individual higher-order behaviors, and we will not like much of what we learn out of this field because people do not like to be told that there is any degree of genetic causation at all.

2) Freudianism was killed by lithium and other drugs, because it turns out that there is a biochemical basis for human behavior. With the rise of things like Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac and antidepressants, or amphetamines like Ritalin, there have been very powerful tools invented for modifying human behavior.

Prozac is a particularly interesting one because it is a selective seratonin re-uptake inhibitor, which is inherently a very political drug. Brain seratonin is very much related to people's feelings of self-esteem, particularly related to dominance and dominance hierarchies. So if you have Hans Morgenthau saying that what politics is all about is dominance, it is very much affected by your level of brain seratonin. A monkey in a troop, if he achieves alpha male status, will always have a very elevated level of seratonin. This is why in many ways these antidepressants have become a kind of feminist drug, because more women than men are depressed, and what they do is elevate brain seratonin and create greater feelings of self-esteem.

Ritalin is interesting for the following reason: it treats attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which, strictly speaking, is not a disease. It is not a disease in that there is a pathogen that causes a pathological condition. It is merely a description of a distribution of normal behaviors related to your ability to sit still in a classroom, particularly if you are a second-grade boy, and when you get far enough out into the tail of this normal distribution, there are some diagnostic criteria and a doctor can say, “Well, you have ADHD,” and then you are prescribed Ritalin to allow you to focus.

Now, this comes as close as you can get to a socially constructed disease. When you get far enough out into the tail, nobody would argue that this is not a good—there are children that are so hyperactive that they cannot function normally without the drug. But it is prescribed—and over-prescribed—for many people in a gray zone, where they could also be treated through parents and teachers interesting them in their classroom work or giving them exciting things to do, but you now have a medical shortcut where you can prescribe a pill with the same effect. So, naturally, busy parents and overburdened school districts find it easier to medicalize the problem.

It has moral implications, in that it undercuts traditional understandings of character, because character used to be putting off immediate gratifications in favor of longer-term objectives or learning patience and self-discipline, and now you have a medical shortcut that allows you to circumvent this. It is not a surprise that one of the big books on Ritalin was entitled Nobody's Fault, meaning that if you have this problem, do not think that it is anything that you are responsible for personally because what you have is a disease and you are just not taking the right drug for it.

It comes about as close to an agent of social control as I can imagine. It is not something done by despotic governments to their citizens. It is done by well-meaning parents and teachers to children. But it indicates the tip of the iceberg that is emerging with neuropharmacological agents. Over the next ten to fifteen years you will see many more of these drugs appearing on the market to do everything that people imagine genetic engineering will do to modify human behavior—increase intelligence and short-term memory, raise your pain threshold, allow you to go without sleep. Many things will happen through drugs before we ever get to genetic engineering.

3) The third pathway has to do with life extension, which is probably the most politically relevant phenomenon. It is a perfect example. Up until now, public health has not done anything to human lifespans. What it has done is eliminate diseases and allow more people to live to their natural lifespan than previously.

The gains in public health up until this point have led to this startling demographic prospect for the developed world over the next fifty years. As a result of prior advances in medical technology, the birth control pill, and then sociological changes in the status of women, fertility rates have fallen in Europe and Japan to 1.1-1.2 total fertility rates. The replacement rate is about 2.2 or 2.3. That, coupled with longer lifespans, has led to a situation where the UN now estimates that by the year 2050, the median age in Italy will be close to sixty, and in which you will lose about 1.1 or 1.2 percent of the native-born population in these countries every year. Year-in and year-out, you lose 30 percent of the native population in one generation.

All of this is predictable on the basis of existing demographic trends and biomedical technology. It does not presuppose any change in our ability to extend human lifespans. One of the safest predictions you can make about the cumulative effect of biomedicine in the next two generations is that it will push lifespans out further.

There are some molecular biologists who believe that there is a common molecular basis to aging and that you may be able to intervene either chemically or genetically to fix that and essentially double or triple human lifespans so that people could routinely live to 150 or 200. There is no clear limit, if they figure this out.

Now, currently, because of this shift in the demographic balance, Europe faces a very difficult political dilemma, which is that you have a looming social security crisis, but also a shrinkage of absolute GDP with fewer people around. You will inevitably have to import workers from the outside, and they will be workers from all of the surrounding parts of the Middle East and Africa, where the median age is where it has always been through the rest of human history, which means down at twenty-one or twenty-two. You have already seen very big backlash movements throughout Europe to this kind of importation of culturally different workers.

Pat Buchanan has just written an awful book, called The Death of the West . The statistics that he cites are actually pretty accurate. His solution is to cut off immigration, and that is just impossible. You cannot raise fertility for native-born Europeans, and it is totally unrealistic to think that you are going to cut off immigration.

Therefore, the developed countries that survive the next fifty years will be the ones that figure out how to create societies that manage the inherent conflicts in multicultural societies, where you have very culturally different people having to live together and you have to figure out how to assimilate people and give them a sufficiently common understanding of what the society is about that they can live peacefully with one another.

Now, if you think about some of the other impacts of increased lifespans, this is individually rational and desirable but socially disastrous. The whole biomedical field is devoted to doing anything possible to allow people to live longer, without really considering what some of the cumulative impacts will be.

For example, the pension problem is bad enough. In Japan, you go from currently four workers for every retired person now to two workers for every retired person in another twenty-five years. It is happening very quickly. The absolute size of their labor force peaked in 1998 and it has been declining ever since then.

Just consider what it does to the rest of society. You have age-graded hierarchies all over modern societies, where your status and income rise the older you get. Corporate promotion ladders, university tenured professors, boards of trustees—every institution has an age-graded hierarchy. Now, if you live in a society where you are a great-great-grandfather and you are competing against your great-great-grandchildren for the same job because you are not dying, none of these hierarchies will work. It will mean that people will have to at a certain point rise, and then they are going to have to fall off the hierarchy and then start over at age fifty or forty and retrain with different skills, which is a big social adjustment. I am not saying that it cannot be done, but it will mean a society that is quite different from the one that we understand.

The final issue is social and political adaptation in a society where you do not have normal generational succession or where generational succession is very much spread out. Economists say: "the discipline of economics progresses one funeral at a time," which is true not just of economics but of politics and many things in life, that we develop a world view by the time we are twenty-five or thirty and do not change it after that point. That is why everything proceeds in generational terms.

In American politics, you have big political revolutions every twenty-five years because Tom Brokaw's "greatest generation" is succeeded by the "baby boomers," and then by "Generation X." Each one of these age cohorts is shaped by a different set of political and economic conditions. Often, you do not get political change until you have the passing of one generation.

In Russia right now, only people over sixty-five vote Communist, because that was their life experience and they cannot think in other terms. The Communist Party will disappear once that cohort passes from the scene, but until then it is still a fairly major force.

Much in terms of adaptation and progress is dependent on normal, natural generational succession, and if that can no longer be taken for granted, the pace of adaptation, change, innovation will dramatically slow.

4) Finally, genetic engineering per se is done routinely in agricultural biotechnology, where you take a plant, a soybean or a corn plant, and you snip out a gene and you import another from somewhere else. It does not have to be from another plant. They take jellyfish genes for fluorescence and put them in corn plants to have fluorescent markers, so they can cross species boundaries. This is the basis of all of the controversy right now in Europe over genetically modified organisms. Someday human biotechnology will be able to do this.

Some of this technology will have clearly therapeutic uses. In many genetically linked diseases, like cystic fibrosis and Huntington's, and also propensities for diabetes, breast cancer, you could take out the “wrong” gene and replace it with one that will not give you that propensity, which is very important as a therapeutic path, and has an impact way beyond any existing remedy because it takes away the cause of the disease. It is also handed down permanently, through so-called germ line engineering, to all of the subsequent descendants of the person who is engineered in this fashion.

This is the most powerful, but almost the most potentially dangerous, of all of these technologies for the reason that human rights are based on a certain understanding of human nature.

Thomas Jefferson was a believer in natural rights. When he said in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, he was making a natural right argument. He was saying: based on the characteristics of the human species as we know it, human beings have certain characteristics in the state of nature, by which he meant their human natures, that gives us a guideline for what we must protect in politics.

When he was on his deathbed in 1824, he wrote: “one of the reasons we can be optimistic about the future of the United States and of progress is that Nature has not conspired to create certain people that were born with saddles on their backs and others born booted and spurred to ride them.”

In 1776, when he penned the Declaration of Independence and said that all men are created equal, African-Americans and women did not have political rights because people did not believe that they were fully human beings the way that white propertied men were fully human beings, that they lacked intelligence or the right emotional characteristics to be admitted into that charmed circle of human beings that are owed political rights in a democratic political system.

One of the big achievements of modern politics has been gradually to expand the circle of those human beings that are owed rights on the basis of an empirical realization that certain human beings are not born, in effect, booted and spurred; they are not born with natural genetic advantages that give them a right to dominion over other human beings. Many of the results of modern anthropology and molecular biology, have been to show that the human race is a fairly homogeneous species; there are not major ethnic or racial differences between groups that may look different on the exterior but in fact have a common human essence. This is one of the reasons why you have had this expansion of rights to the entire human race.

We feel able to lecture the Chinese about human rights because we believe that everybody is a human being underneath the skin, below the layer of culture and other differences, that we all respond to tyranny and torture in the same way.

This technology down the road will give us the capability, in effect, to create people that are either born with saddles on their backs or born booted and spurred. If you start moving into the area of genetic enhancement, where parents can give their children genetic improvements, you are setting up a situation in which that homogeneity of the human species can no longer be taken for granted, where elites, who are the first to take advantage of this, will start embedding their social advantages genetically in their children, which will not just increase existing inequalities but may undermine the very principle of equality, which is based on an empirical observation that people around the world are not all that different from one another. Under some scenarios, you could imagine almost a speciation of the human race into different types of human beings—musicians will endow their children with greater musical ability, or athletes will give their children better athletic abilities—such that this basic equality can no longer be taken for granted.

I will conclude by saying that there is something we can do about it, which is to regulate it. I have never been a big fan of regulation overall. The Reagan-Thatcher revolutions that have happened in the last generation were, by and large, a good thing because the world in many respects was over-regulated with regard to economic activity. For example, information technology does not produce much by way of social harms, and so it is perfectly right that we do not regulate that very heavily.

But biotechnology is a different kettle of fish, that it does carry with it these potential dangers. Although it is not possible or desirable to stop the accumulation of scientific knowledge, we can steer technology, the application of science, into everyday products and procedures. We do that all the time, not just with really dangerous things like nuclear weapons, but even with biomedical technology. We have all sorts of rules, for example, regarding human experimentation that vastly slow down the pace of progress in biomedicine because of ethical concerns for the welfare of human research subjects.

So the question is now denying ourselves valuable therapeutic solutions to very terrible diseases, because that is perfectly legitimate. We need to steer that technology towards aims that are clearly therapeutic and away from ones that involve essentially human redesign, trying to improve our human species, because that opens the door to a kind of social engineering that has really not been possible. It was tried at great cost over the past couple of centuries and rejected as costly and ineffective. We must go into this with our eyes open to the potential for repeating many of those mistakes with this new technology.

I am happy to take questions.

Questions and Answers

JOEL ROSENTHAL: Thank you. You are serving on the President's Council for Bioethics. Maybe you could continue with what you were just talking about, on the role that the Federal Government is playing. I presume that most of the debates within that committee have been around the cloning issue.

FRANCIS FUKUYAMA: Yes, there is a near-term debate because the Senate is considering a couple of different bills on human cloning. The House passed a broad ban against both reproductive cloning, which is cloning children, which everybody is in favor of; and then a ban also on so-called therapeutic or research cloning, which is the creation of cloned embryos to extract stem cells, and that is what is hung up right now in the Senate. I understand that neither version of the bill has enough votes to reach closure.

I was in favor of the broader ban, not because I am pro-life, but because you cross an important threshold, that even if you say that an embryo does not have the moral status of an infant, it is something undeniably human. Crossing that threshold where you are creating a cloned embryo is one that you ought to take very carefully.

I would be satisfied with a compromise for regulation, which may emerge over the next few months, given this current deadlock. The British have a solution that would work for me, a human fertilization and embryology agency that heavily regulates embryo research, so it permits research cloning, but under very carefully controlled conditions.

More broadly, the Bioethics Council is a great forum for promoting debate over these issues. But, as I have told Leon Kass, the Chairman, I do not believe that it will have any lasting impact unless it leaves behind some institutional legacy.

The United States and other countries need to create an entirely new set of regulatory institutions that will be able to incorporate some of these ethical considerations into their approval of a whole series of new biotechnological procedures and products that will be coming down the line. In the current setup of the FDA and the NIH there are too many gaps in jurisdiction and things that are not covered under the current setup.

QUESTION: My observation is that the situation in Europe is even worse than you described, because not only do we have this demographic time bomb, but those countries in Europe that are affected unfortunately have the problem of a pay-as-you-go pension scheme, which is perhaps one of the reasons why there was a hesitation in Britain about joining the monetary system.

My question relates to your final point about genetic engineering. One of the attributes that we can all agree human beings have is that they wish the best for their children. Whatever else we do, we all seek out those technologies that will give our children an advantage. Surely there is already an example of what you were describing in place, and that is the ability of people to carry out a simple test on an unborn child to determine the gender of that child. As you know, in East Asia, the results have been catastrophic, in Korea, in China. Certainly the gender imbalance is absolutely extraordinary, despite its being illegal. Regulation has failed in that context.

On the second point, you were arguing about the need for regulation for cloning. Thank you for your compliments about the British regulatory system. We are allowing a more literal interpretation of exploitation of stem cells than anything under discussion in Washington.

No matter how efficient your regulation might be in the United States, you must still get around the problem that technology is a fungible asset and you cannot deny it. Regulation in the United States will not prevent an Italian laboratory from carrying out those experiments.

FRANCIS FUKUYAMA: I mention the Asian sex ratio problem in the book. In the early 1990s, there were 122 boys being born for every 100 girls in South Korea, and in China as a whole there are 117 boys for every 100 girls. That does not prove the impossibility of regulation, because the Koreans have now fixed that. They saw that this was a problem and started enforcing their existing laws, so now the sex ratio has shifted back much closer to 50/50. So I don't know that it is impossible to fix problems like that.

With regard to the internationalization of research, it is true that you cannot stop scientific research, that it will simply move from one country to another, short of an international agreement. But you can limit the application of the technology, so that, for example, there is a combination of safety and ethical reasons for having a reproductive cloning ban, which in my view is quite similar to the reason we have a ban on incest: it is not that a lot of people want to do it, but there are sufficient cases where it might be undesirable that you would want to ban.

Just the fact that you can go to another jurisdiction and get yourself cloned does not affect that, any more than if there were a country that permitted incest, that we would care that a brother and sister could go to that country and get married there. That would not bother me, and it would not undermine the purpose of having domestic laws that regulated the behavior of your own citizens.

But you are right in terms of the scientific research itself. It is not hard to move it to another jurisdiction, and it probably will continue.

QUESTION: You talked about trust, and I love that book, because I believe that trust is so important. I wonder if you have changed your views, or is it a different focus, between then, that book, and now?

FRANCIS FUKUYAMA: The book was really about culture and the way that different cultural values either promoted or undermined social trust. I still think that that is a key to economic development and good politics.

I wrote that book in 1995, and since then, so many other people have picked up on that issue. The World Bank, after being run in the early 1990s almost entirely by these very hard-headed economists who thought that everything was just a matter of rational incentives, now has a fairly major effort to study social capital, based on the realization that without certain social values, development would not work. You cannot build institutions, you cannot have decent politics, and so you can never really divorce the study of economic development from questions of values and moral issues.

QUESTION: Your thesis is that political change proceeds at a generational pace, and that will slow down. Have you thought about what this might portend?

FRANCIS FUKUYAMA: It will cause trouble if the scientific and technological advance happens at this accelerated pace and if people cannot adjust to it. And part of the adjustment is generational. There are people who have never used email, or even word processors. I certainly have many friends who continue to write their books with fountain pens. But I have never met anybody under the age of thirty-five that does that, because it is a generational thing.

Another important one that is already happening is this idea that you can be a middle manager and lose your job at age forty-five or fifty and then have to retrain, work your way up another ladder. I do not see any way that you can avoid this as a general human experience in the coming generations. For people who have grown up in a lifetime employment system, that is an awfully hard thing to adjust to. They are forced to do it by being fired. But younger people, who grew up in a more mobile labor market, do not go into a job with the expectation that they will stay there until they retire.

One of the big problems in Japan right now is that everybody has grown up under a lifetime employment system and they simply cannot adjust to the idea that their company is going to fire them, they have to accept lower pay and lower status or employment.

And so I am not saying that you cannot work these things out over time, but it is a very painful adjustment process, which will be more painful if this process of generational turnover starts to slow down.

QUESTION: To go back to your last point about the problems involved in genetic engineering, you said that the evidence suggests that a very substantial chunk of our capabilities are genetically determined now. It is all very well to say “men are created equal,„ but in fact that is not true. People may be born booted and spurred or not, but they are born with very different levels of all kinds of assets. You can handle that, in large part, by a political system which makes assumptions about legal equality and then perhaps build in some restrictions on the ability of some to use these resources in a nasty way. What's the difference?

FRANCIS FUKUYAMA: Currently, there are great individual differences in your genetic endowments that make some people more successful in life than others, but it does not sort itself out ethnically or racially in identifiable subgroups. And furthermore, there is a regression to the mean over generations, and so the son of a wealthy tycoon has about an equal chance of being a good-for-nothing, so you have this “shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations“ saying. Wealthy people can do much to improve the lot of their children, but one thing they cannot do is pass on certain genetic characteristics, much as they try to do so.

There are some different scenarios. One is that if people start doing this sort of thing, it will be an invitation for the state to step in and raise the bottom, and use positive genetic eugenics to improve the lot. The old-fashioned genetics everybody agrees was bad. This was trying to prevent low-IQ people from having children. That is not going to be revived.

But it is possible that in response to this kind of technology the state will say: “Okay, we are going to make sure that low-intelligence people have higher-intelligence children. “ If you read John Rawles' Theory of Justice, he said that one of the big injustices is the natural lottery that makes some of us better equipped by nature and that there is no reason why we should accept that.

QUESTION: You mentioned that communism will probably end when the older generation dies out. But what about the time bomb of pensions and everybody getting older? They will not vote those down as they get older, so how are we going to handle this?

FRANCIS FUKUYAMA: There will be a financial meltdown because these pay-as-you-go systems are not going to work, and so you will have to tax younger workers at increasingly high rates to pay for retired people. You will have to do things like raise the mandatory retirement age and push it back to later and later periods.

Ultimately, it means a drop in people's standards of living, because you simply do not have enough young workers. Or you make up for it by very high levels of immigration, in which case you shift the problem over to a different one, which is this question of cultural difference, and then these backlash movements by Le Pen and Haider. In every European country now in Switzerland, in Belgium, now in Holland where Ken Fortuyn was just assassinated—you're getting 25-to-30 percent of the public willing to vote for these anti-immigration parties or movements. There is an underlying demographic logic that is going to make this more powerful over time.

QUESTION: I have just been reading The Bell Curve and all of the responses to it. I'm quite convinced that there is something called the "g factor," and there certainly is a genetic component. But I'm not entirely convinced that that is associated with a socio-economic class. Why are you?

FRANCIS FUKUYAMA: I don't know that I made that assertion. If you make that as an empirical statement about an existing correlation between class and IQ, I am sure that statistically you can answer that.

It would seem, however, that there are many theories of human capital, economic theories—Gary Becker or the kind of standard economic models—that would argue that over time, increasingly, as you move into a more knowledge-intensive economy, there should be increasing returns to cognitive ability, to education, but also your innate ability will affect the kinds of gains that you can realize from that, simply because so much of what people do in a modern economy is the symbolic manipulation, and if you are smarter, you will do better in that kind of a situation.

But it is very possible that if you look back historically at the data, that the correlation between social class and IQ is not all that strong.

QUESTION: Most experiments in eugenics historically have ended badly, whether it was an effort in Europe to control the Jewish population or, in the Far East or India between male and female, the desire to limit the population growth of certain classes or ethnic groups. You suggest regulation. Do you see any way of avoiding similar catastrophes in the future, given that regulation is a political process in which the dominant elements usually manage to set the terms of the regulation?

FRANCIS FUKUYAMA: The old-style eugenics was done by a state and it was done coercively. Many libertarians would say that the only thing wrong with it was that it was done by a centralized, coercive state.

What will happen now is individual choices of individual parents concerning their children; and, since parents love their children, there is nothing to worry about, because nobody is forcing them to do anything. I talk about regulation in that context.

And so you have to answer the question: what's wrong with individual parents making, in effect, eugenic choices? We do this already. If parents find out that they have a child with Down's Syndrome, they may have an abortion, so that era has already begun.

There are a number of reasons why even a loving parent ought to be regulated and not have complete freedom of choice. You may think that something is individually rational, like sex selection in Asia is individually rational for an Asian parent, given the cultural preference for boys, but on a social level is really disastrous.

Furthermore, when you are talking about enhancement choices, none of these technologies will be risk-free. Given the complexity of genetic causation, it will be much more difficult to certify that a particular procedure is safe than it is in the case of existing drug approvals, for example. And so you face the question: you are a parent and you want to give your kid longer life or greater intelligence, but there may be a side effect that will not show up until you are long gone and the child is sixty years old.

We understand that the old-style eugenics was wrong and evil, but even this modern, free-market eugenics will also potentially prove very problematic.

JOEL ROSENTHAL: Unfortunately, we are running out of time. What we do at the Council is study the question of ethics and how it relates to international affairs, and many of you over the years have asked me, “How do you do that?” Well, the first thing I do is I read Frank, then I invite him here to speak. Thank you very much for coming.

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