Continued from here. The usual unusual warning.**
I* had specified a step function in intelligence of humans as the goal, at least 3 standard deviations above normal intelligence. We could reliably get 2 standard deviations in depth of knowledge with better teaching techniques, I hoped we could do that also with a better initial brain.
The first animal studies said that mosaics of 3 very different strains of a species were more intelligent, on every test to date (but only half a dozen of those, it takes a much larger set to be confident we had found the best/worst effects) than the combinations with fewer parents or less different parents. Also, the combinations of number of parents and parents that produced most-different total genetic differences was very much smarter than animals lesser in measures of the average number of alleles for each gene, the number of single nucleotide polymorphisms total, etc. Controls were mosaics with all parents from one inbred strain, those were larger than normal animals, smarter because of larger brains, but the smartest were only 2 standard deviations above normal, average 1.5 sigma. That was significant, but a step function.
By this time, reading a person’s DNA took a few hours and cost $100, so we knew everything about the parents and each genome in the mosaic embryo. These kids were measured and tracked in many aspects of biochemistry and brain development from birth.
Making sense of 8 separate genomes at once was not easy. ‘Genomics for normals is concerned about the alleles and SNPs in a pair of chromosomes. Our Tessels had 8 pairs, 2 chromosomes per cell, but 8 different cell lines intermixed. In the early days, we couldn’t prevent the cell lines from segregating, so the liver would be 1 or 2 parents, kidneys another set, etc. That was difficult to interpret, but usually went along with a brain with only 1, 2 or perhaps 3 parents, so those Tessels weren’t 3 standard deviations more intelligent. But, we had to know everything about all of our kids in order to understand what was causing what.
For Tessels, we had to know how mixed their brains were. Biopsy of the brain is a non-trivial risk, not something we could justify just for research purposes, so we checked other cells derived from the neural plate, the muscles of the head were easiest. If those contained all N parents, we were relatively certain the brain did also. Sometimes it took a lot of biopsies to find them all, and our Tessels were even less stoic than an average child.
In retrospect (note my frequent use of the phrase), we did not, could not have, balanced research against parenting as well as we might have. Both influenced the child and the outcome of our research, of course. Also the society, the first of the dreaded unanticipated effects, nature’s modifications to our plans.
The big question we were trying to answer was, what aspect of 8 parents produced the best brains? Both our animal and human results said ‘different’ did, but there are many aspects of genetically different, which ones were important?
There are several ways to measure genetic differences, but most aimed at being measures of evolutionary distance. We were concerned with intra-species differences, a subset. You can count differences in Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs). These are changes of one base in a DNA strand. There are about 10 million of these known and predicted for the human genome, one every 300 base pairs, on average.
SNPs can be in sections of a chromosome that are thought to be useless to the organism, left from some ancient virus that copied itself into one of our ancestor’s chromosomes and then mutated. Others could be within a gene, but in a section that is discarded as the protein is constructed, or in an area known to be a promoter of transcription of the adjacent DNA. Ones affecting the amount of protein or RNA control element can predict phenotypic traits such as response to drugs, toxins and risk of diseases. However, the great majority of SNPs appear to have no effect, so counting them as ‘differences’ exaggerates the measure.
Ideally, measures such as %age differences within control regions would have been useful. We did not, however, have a good grasp of what was what in any chromosome, thus the best of these measures was an approximation, and we couldn’t know what was what without a lot more data. And, of course, given the number and variety of SNPs and the rapidity with which new SNPs enter population, most of our Tessels were equally different in these measures. Just differently equally different : counts are sums, after all, and sums and averages can hide a lot of difference.
A second approach is %age of alleles that differed between the parents. This was promising, as 80% of human protein producing genes didn’t have alleles, and thus we focused on differences with known phenotypic effects. The problem with this measure was most of the others didn’t have many alleles, except for the immune system genes, and thus many randomly-selected sets of parents would be identical in this measure, and most of our Tessels were. We had speculated that the immune system genes would be the answer, as immune system and brain interact in newly-discovered ways, but there are very many alleles of those, so many it would take 1000s of Tessels to see effects of even pairings.
The real information we wanted wasn’t available yet. That was a detailed analysis of the state machines that controlled tissue differentiation. We knew there were 1M base pair segments of DNA that were strongly conserved in mammals, but did not code for protein. Those must contain the control regions that drive brain differentiation, and so the answers to our puzzle, but little was known about them. We were still flying blind, modern selective breeders without even having benefit of pedigrees.
We opened our research to the world, and immediately had many labs helping. Everybody would like more intelligence, and the world’s most intelligent knew how paltry their minds were against the puzzles nature has produced. Every study was replicated quickly, sometimes in parallel, 2 labs intentionally doing the same experiment to be sure all their procedures and chemicals were OK for the next experiment they wanted to do. Sterile conditions for tissue cultures are easily contaminated, and the technical expertise of technicians in implanting iPSCs in embryos can’t be taken for granted, so such replications were good training, and part of the reason everything went so quickly.
In less than 5 years, we were confident enough to proceed with the first human Tessels. We planned those as 5 year cycles, figuring we would have some analysis of the kid’s mental development by 5 years to guide further work. Different labs had started their human clones at different times, soon there were Tessels at all stages of development and training.
We didn’t bother reproducing the early work on animals, went straight to 4+ parent embryos. Other labs were more cautious, their early results were only positive, ours were very positive. First, as with all of the hybrid vigor displayed in mixes of the different varieties of humans, the Tessels were, on average, pretty nice normal in body and facial features, very few less than normal, and with a not-so-rare upside of ‘very pretty’ judgments from the nurses. I didn’t know how they could tell, but they had been right about my handsome kid.
One thing I was always reassured of by every woman : “He looks just like his father”. Nobody heard it with the Tessels. These kid’s faces were not simple photographic montages of the parents, they all looked intelligently special. They had big heads, even in proportion to their bodies, with high domed skulls with high foreheads, and their skulls were rounder than most Europeans. Some showed a bit more of one ethnic group’s facial characteristics than another, but it wasn’t possible to categorize them, they didn’t fit any standard racial mix. As the most-different combinations always had every race of parents, the Tessel’s skin tone was a light chocolate brown that was nearly luminous, nearly unique. The baby’s eye colors were generally versions of golden hazel, but the iris was strikingly crystalline, normals started wearing contacts to replicate that effect. Hair was normally brown, sometimes a very nice reddish brown. The lips and brows and shape of eyes and cheekbones, chin were sculpted, crisper than most for people their size.
Second, the predictions of the animal experiments were confirmed . The 8-parent Tessels were by far the most intelligent, the programs creating their much more complex tessellated brain, confused by mixing programs and timing from the different parents, converted a significant portion of the resulting brains to genuine genius savants, the best of the super-intelligences. Most of the rest were lesser savants of some kind, but generally better and wider in talent than the autistic versions and much more normal in dealing with people, thus generally useful.
For common metabolic and physiologic core functions, the ones most tightly tied to genes and having the most regular genes, Tessels were regularized, standardized, but at average levels 3 standard deviations above average for measures of size, physical strength and athletic abilities. So both men and women averaged sizes and weights of 1 in a 1000 of normal population : Neanderthal-sized bodies with best of the best physiologies and many more neurons controlling the same number of muscles, each of which had more muscle fibers. The Africans contributed their denser bodies and diverged brains, the Australian aborigines their diverged brains and physiology, etc.
But brains developed from genetics in an intricate program of control that was much more complex and less standardized than protein-producing genes, and more sensitive to environment. Interactions between neurons produced synapses, details of the synapse were dependent upon sequences of signals back and forth between the two neurons. Changing timings had non-linear effects in cell numbers, synapse numbers, and organizations of complex of synapses. Those were the goal : new convolutions in new connections producing new mental capabilities.
Don’t forget ‘sensitive to environment’. We were raising these kids in standard uteruses in mothers on the best standard diets, then fed ditto. But there were very many nutrients, nutraceuticals, nootropics, and medical interventions on the horizon which we hoped would provide even more leverage. That research kicked off as soon as we had understood more about how to reliably produce the effects in animals.
Tessel’s disposition was generally happy baby, but also were as quirky as their intelligences, volatile in unexpected ways in un-expected situations. They didn’t sleep like normal children, had 2- and 3-hour cycles of sleep, with REM stages much longer than most normals. Beyond thoughts of ‘diurnal cycles are different’, we didn’t have any understanding of that for the first 10 years of research.
When awake and alert, they had ‘calm and even dispositions’. That was evident in most of the Tessels from childhood, we thought it was the mix of dispositions in their brains. It had been long known that different alleles for synaptic receptors of neuotransmitters were correlated with different personalities, e.g. the associated with liking novelty or not, authoritarian, etc. So the more different the parents, the more average the child. Great intelligence, however, had unexpected effects on emotional lability, and the ‘super-computer intelligences’ were especially unpredictable and most difficult to bring back to equilibrium. Interesting and challenging folks to work with, I thought. They all took a lot of parenting, the super minds much more. Combined with the different waking cycles, being a Tessel parent was a challenge and strain, even when you had all 16 parents (8 normal 2-parent embryos) and robotic assistance for more mundane tasks like changing diapers on 20 pound babies who might decide to object.
As many of our early parents were combinations of people from our research groups with additions from the surrounding community to get the needed diversity, research both suffered and blossomed. The standard lab work suffered, was maintained by the cautious folks who weren’t yet parents of Tessels. But their observational data was very good, and the daily testing of capabilities prompting many ideas of new tests, we began having more understanding of their capabilities.
The children were healthy from birth. As they grew, so fast, they proved quite physically fit, alert, strong and agile at every age. The older they got, the more they were a challenge in every dimension.
First, the physical. Remember the fact that they averaged, at every age, 3 standard deviations above normal height? That was average, for the first 15 years of our program, nearly every new child had a new characteristic or level of characteristic, and several new combinations. All Tessels occupy robustus bodies occupying that 1 in a thousand average height, 50 – 75% heavier at every height. Nearly all of the human pregnancies required caesareans, as the kids averaged 13 pounds at birth, 50 pounds at 3 years.
Average, but the more children we raised, the more outliers we saw, most on the upside. Either the standard deviation of the distribution was large OR the distribution had fat tails. ‘Fat tailed’ risk distributions, as Taleb has taught us all, means the standard deviation is unbounded, so your world is dominated by ‘black swans’, major events of unexpectable frequency.
Then the intellectual. Most got very smart very fast, and were easy to get along with so long as you or things didn’t frustrate them. Normal children at 18 months in 2016 had tablets and knew how to evoke cartoons and play games. Tessels managed that at 12 months, but were only so slow because Tessel brains and bodies matured slower than normal bodies despite growing so fast, so their coordination wasn’t able to keep up with mental capabilities. Tessels were much more frustrated by their physical inadequacies than normal children, which imbalance was one of the problems.
Emotionally, our psychologist said they lagged normal children in developing emotional control. They were as disciplined as normal kid one or 2 years younger. The combination was a real handful for normal parents. At 4, still having tantrums, these were the size and strength of 8-year old bodies with 12-year-old wants interpreted by 4-year-old’s experience and understandings directed by an 2 and a half-year-old’s emotional control. It took a lot of parents and a lot of parenting to raise those kids, strength was needed just to pick them up.
The robots were a big help in normal care, despite the problems. Doing simple physical things, laundry, cleaning, playing with the kids, they were very good, tho the kids liked to play and be held by normals more than the bots. But taking instructions beyond simple was a problem of understanding on their side. As the earliest adopters of bots for the nursery and kinder school, we strained the technical support groups of the home care robotics we used. The bugs were never-ending. They got better every year, no question, but general intelligence is a deep problem. We know that because it takes most humans 18 years to be good at dealing with our world.
Despite all of these problems, our Tessels were very loveable and much loved. When these kids were balanced, they were a joy : laughing and playing like any kids, bright, vivacious, all good to outstanding in looks, the halo effect became more pronounced as they grew. They had amazing ability to grasp detail, so noticed little things. They understood adults better than the adults understood them. They did the normal things kids do, watched cartoons and played games, and ate. Kids ate a lot, took a lot of diapers in the beginning.
Lots of positive developments, but I predicted their teenage years were going to be exciting if emotional maturity continued to lag behind physiological. Very different, very superior in some mental attributes, with vulnerabilities we couldn’t yet know. Very useful, if well managed. When have humans ever managed different others well?
I was feeling the pressure of a deadline looming. Our oldest kids were 5 at the start of the next generation of Tessel embryos, which were created with our latest techniques for mixing the iPSCs and latest and best ideas for what human characteristics would improve on the first generation. Given their rate of maturation, in 5 more years, they would be mixing with normals in supervised settings, in 10 in unsupervised, in 15 dating, and in 20 years they would be working in the world.
Deadlines kill creativity. I hate pressure.
In psyops, the message is the op.
*Generalissimo Grand Strategy, Intelligence Analysis and Psyops, First Volunteer Panzer Psyops Corp. Cleverly Gently Martial In Spirit
**The usual unusual warning.
I just noticed, a day later, that I have not written even a mere warning for my avid readership to ignore, much less a properly unusual warning, which will be read and appreciated for millennia into the future, propagating propaganda of great insidiousness far and wide.
You do, you understand, really, discount warnings? That warnings that are sincerely in your interest are the ones you especially don’t pay attention to? That that fact should be a Lebowski Enlightenment?
Because propagandists of the world do understand that! And about a million other tricks of rhetoric, long-playing high-fidelity 3D 2-level bank shots into the pockets in your mind. People just like me.
People just like me use frames in their propaganda to direct your mental set into desired paths of persuasion, into accepting assumptions explicit or implicit in the context in which that frame would happen. Pounding the frame is a fundamental technique of propaganda. Pounding the frame is fundamental to big lie propaganda, tho it is used in every advertising campaign, and so is in your interest to be alert for, as you can often learn what it is the screed wants you to believe from the frame. Contexts and associated frames can be things like the mental set of being neutrally critical as a highly desirable stance in interpreting any information presented to you, for example. Just like this.
Most insidiously insidious of all, the bastards go recursive on you. Just like this.
Not bad for a straight-through first try***, with no idea where it was going, sentence to sentence, imho. I should have done the truly clever thing and ended it with a compliment they had to puzzle in order to be sure I wasn’t being sly. That would stick in their mind all day. Tho, I think I have selected my readers well enough they wouldn’t fall for such an obvious ploy.
***One edit later : I did some changes to make the arguments more parallel. I can’t mislead people in such things.
One more edit later : I feel greatly remiss for not mentioning that that last bit of framing is the innermost of the frames. The outermost supports my bid for world domination.
Did you catch the bit about recursion? In that context, am I or am I not a bastard in writing this warning?