Continued from here.
The unusual warning, maybe.**
Eight years after I* had had the idea of multi-parents stem cells making up one embryo, of using multi-hybrids’s vigor as a means of increasing human intelligence by at least an order of magnitude, the oldest 10 of our Tesselated children turned 6 and the youngest were newborns, the first of a batch of 100. Cohort, if you are a biologist, batch if production planner. I was mostly a planner in those days, helping to make the connections of who can do what that powered our fast-growing research community.
The Tessel technology was based upon plain old hybrid vigor***. Nature had produced many forms prior to my thought. Polyploids, mosaics, hybrids and chimeras were the natural versions. All of these turn out to be common in nature. I have been calling the Tessels ‘hybrids’, should explain why it probably should be ‘chimera’.
Properly, a hybrid is the offspring of very-different animals, ones that didn’t normally breed. The more different they were, the more interesting the effects, tho those also tended to have problems. Mules are a good example, stronger and more enduring than horses and larger than the donkey, but can’t reproduce themselves. The breeders of Mules must have had the same kind of issues we had with Tessels.
Hybrids are blends at the level of chromosomes, just as are normal offspring. Hybrid vigor is due to a higher proportion of the animal’s genes being heterozygous, having an allele from the mother and a different one from the father.
Chimeras are a single animal with genetically distinct cells produced by fusion of two different fertilized zygots. This is rare, but we don’t know how rare because it is only discovered by accident when a chimera’s blood or tissue is typed.
Mosaics, however, are predominantly one individual that grew from a single zygote, but got some other cells with different genetics in some way. We are all mosaics, as somatic cells accumulate small mutations, so your liver may have a slightly different set of SNPs than your heart. Also, all females are natural mosaics of father and mother’s X chromosomes. All other chromosomes always have a pair, and they have evolved together, so there is no need to adjust for the amount of transcription of the two alleles on the separate chromosomes. But the X chromosome has different environments in female vs male cells, and 2 X chromosomes can unbalance the cell. Thus, female cells inactivate one of the two X chromosomes, selected at random. That randomness makes her a chromosomal mosaic in X. One of those came from her mother, one from her father, so a woman may be heterozygous for an allele on that chromosome, and that protection from homozygous poor alleles is one reason for women’s longer life. Half of the cells protect the other half. That scaled, as it turned out in Tessel technology, to cells mixed in the embryo, chimeras.
But polyploids had also been a form of hybrid vigor, one well-studied. Polyploids are multiple sets of chromosomes in one cell, which allows independently evolving genomes in one organism. They were an obvious approach to genetic engineering, offering big advantages relative to the process of modifying genes. The advantages of multiply heterozygous cells by polyploidy were known to be very great for many plant species and now a few animals, as heterozygous is always good. More independent copies of each gene, more alleles, and thus the plant has more versions of each enzyme and structural protein, and therefore is a better plant, able to handle more stresses. The additional, inherent advantage of more independently involving control points in turning the different genes on or off is why polyploids make up many food crops. They can be more easily bred to resist more stresses at the same time than any of the monoploid ancestors. The advantages of polyploids will also be true for chimeric animals, provided we can avoid the obvious downside of mixed sexes.
There is some unavoidable downside : a chimera will have more attachment points for viruses and bacteria, what sex is randomizing for in its side of the genetic arms race with those enemies. OTOH, that is true for X, and so in the female case the effect of that must have been overcome because the chimera has more defenses as well as better bulwarks against cell-to-cell transmission of viruses, and so less of the total organism will likely be ill or get cancer at the same time, a considerable advantage in extending the length of an individual life.
In return, the genetic engineer had a very interesting palette to work with in a mix of people he could measure beforehand and during the experiment, and then measure the result in so many dimensions.
So, properly speaking, a Tessel is a chimera if we are being careful with our terminology, but the mechanism is just plain old hybrid vigor, redundancy at the level of the biochemical machinery and its control systems.
From birth, Tessels had been different. They were both larger and more robust and a bit more infantile in some ways. The MDs who hovered over them said they would be judge premies by behavior, tho they averaged 13 pounds at birth, which rose to 15 in this 2nd batch. We didn’t know if that was due to better tech in creating the embryos we implanted, or because the research teams had been recruiting the largest women as surrogate mothers. Big mamas or not, many of the kids were still born caesarean.
They took longer to achieve physical milestones, longer to move from a baby’s patterns of eating and sleeping, but less time to reach mental milestones, at least those consistent with physical development. Their lagging physical abilities, from not being able to hold up their larger heads on through their very clumsy adolescence, were a far worse frustration for them than for most children, and they were less able to deal with those frustrations than normal children, as they lagged in emotional development, the psychologists thought at least 6 months for the first group.
All those different development patterns produced very different behaviors and many new and continuing problems for the parents.
If we had not had 8- to 16-parents per Tessel, assisted by servicebots, the combination of size, amount of food these kids ate to produce their fast growth at sizes 2 standard deviations larger than average children, and all of the diaper changings and feedings and naps that required would have stopped all research. They needed entertained when they were awake, even when eating, and got bored if anything went on too long. They could not be entertained together, one always got bored first and ruined it for both. They could be upset a long time, or could calm down in a second, and I would often see 3 adults at wits end trying to distract a Tessel enough to produce that calm and stop the screaming. Big kids can scream loudly.
All of the Tessels needed talked to all the time, although as they got older, music could substitute. Some learned language far beyond a child’s comprehension, others didn’t talk until they were 3, then spoke in complete sentences. They were mesmerized by some kinds of music, but got bored with any one piece quickly.
So they need far more personal attention than a normal child, and the parents just got worn out, despite being fascinated with the rate of growth of that spark in those kid’s beautiful eyes.
We were all relieved when the servicebots began playing with the oldest children. Looking back, the earliest notes say that was when they were 3 and half. By that time, most of the first 10 Tessels could play checkers, although still so clumsy they would often knock pieces out of position when moving, and one was challenging adults who hadn’t played since they were kids, but were paying attention, trying. The servicebots played checkers and some other board games, by age 5 the kids were up to dominoes, and within the year were playing domino games the servicebots had apparently invented, as nobody recognized a game with those rules. Kept the kids occupied. When the servicebots had them was about the only rest the set of parents had, and you haven’t tried to dress a squirming kid until they are annoyed, weigh 30 pounds, are very strong, and don’t want to get dressed.
The oldest 10 kids had been the proof of safety. We knew we could produce the Tessels, we had proven all of the technology with animals, and handling human clone lines in a petri dish or eggs and embryos was not different. Up to this point, the first 10 kids had been in one lab, and the next 30 2 years later 10 in our labs and 20 in 20 different labs, repeated for 2 years.
Those were our initial subjects and beloved children.
This next cohort of 100 kids in year 6 would have been 8 a month, average, but these were bunched within a couple of months of 9 months after we kicked off this phase of research. By this time I didn’t try to keep track of individual unless they were a standout in some way. They were a tough group to be a standout in, so I knew the problems and the opportunities.
I have never understood why nature ties those into one person so often.
Always invest in halo effects. That was the new rule I adopted from the initial successes of the Tessels. In the beginning, results were startling in many cases, although little was predictable. Bodies and faces were all consistently good, averaging over the control points for sequencing embryology and tissue development made people more beautiful. Ordinarily, more beautiful is more generic and less individual. Ordinarily, beautiful people are most uniform and symmetrical, thus most forgettable. These kids were symmetrical, but the face forms from the same neural plate tissue as the brain, and the same confused control circuits that produced larger and more complex brains produced striking facial features.
Their physiologies were uniformly better, and some of the early results in animals predicted people who would be very healthy and mentally active at 130 years of age. We already had hints of these effects in the many beauties and great athletes of the world of mixed parentage. The one downside is that Tessels were predicted to not last long into their eventual decline, a one-hoss Shay effect thought to be the inevitable last cascade after so many backup metabolic and hormonal circuits had failed and been protected by stressing other’s cells in the mixed cells from their 8 parents.
No kidding, the older these kids got, the more appealing they were. Big, with big round, high-domed heads, beautiful eyes, striking features. They may have lagged in motor coordination, but in losing their baby fat and baby features, they seemed to me pretty advanced. Just looking at the faces of the 5 year olds, you would have guessed 7 or 8.
We hadn’t allowed publicity of individual kids, everything in the lab notebooks was masked, but of course the word got out early, a government research community maybe could have kept it secret, but not university research labs. By the time the first 10 had been born, pictures of the first had gotten out. I don’t know why we tried to prohibit pictures, everyone has cameras. Yes, I do know, we had intended to protect the kid’s privacy.
So, it was soon clear these first 10 kids were never going to have privacy, they were more famous than the astronauts who had landed on the moon. Everyone knew what they looked like, and web sites published everything known about them. The code masking who was what kid in the research notes was soon broken (we hadn’t thought to use more than routine code names, ha ha), because the research notes dutifully record little events like “fell and received cut above the left eye”, one of 10 kids’ pictures a few days later showed a cut above the left eye.
Because of their popularity, editors wanted more. We had reporters beating down the doors and had added the first security guards. Reporters, curious people ‘just found their way’ into the lab in unexpected ways. It was dangerous to the kids, we were trying to control their exposure to germs and restricted people around them, as much evidence indicated viruses and bacterial infections diminished intelligence. We checked every person coming on the shift to be sure they weren’t obviously harboring anything new, swabbed their throats, etc. Unexpected visitors were annoying and distracting.
Understand, we weren’t preventing them from catching colds, etc. So far, nothing had caused more than sniffles. We were very aware of the problem of too-clean environments, so all this was trying to have a natural environment for immune system development, which was tied to brain development in unknown ways, and preventing anything that would damage developing brains. We had been careful from the beginning to inoculate them with good gut microbes because that seems required for normal development, more unexpected interactions are found every year. It is very amusing to see the infant’s startlement at their first enormous fart that produced.
As their immune system matured, we cycled through 2 or 3 month courses of protein extracts of various intestinal and blood-born parasites to give their immune systems practice, to prevent autoimmune diseases. Other suggestions from some of the parents were not adopted : They wanted to add different bugs and wild animals to their diet to provide enough variety to allow at least a week between eating the same food. That mimicked a hunter-gather’s diet, and spacing and the wide examples of proteins would prevent, they reasoned, food allergies. As that would be a logistical problem in a project that had more of those than it needed, and as blood tests showed these kids to have relatively low levels of protein fragments from their food large enough to be antigenic, we decide against that. Noted : Their hybrid vigor showed itself in good guts, also.
It was in year 6 that the representative of the servicebot manufacturer told us about the security module for the servicebots. Protecting the child in their care was still #1 priority, but they weighed 200 pounds, were fairly nimble by this time as their power train had been upgraded several times to improve their power/weight ratio, and had front plates of kevlar to protect their innards. Their grip could crush a strong man’s forearm, and their kick would break an elephant’s leg, so they didn’t need fancy moves, just the training of how to get between threats and the kid, move toward the threat and hurt it if it didn’t retreat immediately. As we were scaling up the program, we had a lot more facilities to protect, so this came at a good time.
Some of our competition in the proprietary technology companies publicized their children, but we limited their exposure to the notes in the lab books and photos, which we now put in the notebooks. So it was known they had good minds, could play games far better than any other children their age and were captivated by some kinds of music, but the details of individual kid’s behavior were private, beyond standard psychological assessments, which tended to be bland “emotional maturity is still lagging behind normal by at least 6 months”, by age 5 it was a year, perhaps 18 months in the boy who was the best at games. The Ns were too small to be confident in any one age range, but emotional maturity of the girls was in advance of the boys at every age, there was no overlap in their distributions at all.
Privately, everyone knew these kids had a lot of behaviors that would get a normal kid labeled a behavior problem or seriously strange. They were not autistic, but displayed many of those behaviors, e.g. rocking and crooning, repetitive movements, and hyperintense focus that blanked out any recognition of people as people, and then a switch would click in their brain, and they would become very aware of people and seem to understand what you had been thinking from the social context and what they could replay from their astonishing sensory buffers.
Those measures of performance on memory, etc. tests were in the lab records, and some people grasped how unusual these children were.
The psychologist’s assessments of intelligence didn’t try to estimate IQ, that is unreliable at early ages even for normal children. These kids were interesting mixes, outstanding in games, clever at seeing and remembering detail, and otherwise best summarized as ‘quirky intelligence’. Whatever mental abilities they had, they weren’t normal patterns, and sometimes showed little progress in grasping a game for what seemed like a very long time, and then overnight would jump several levels of play.
The servicebots were the first to notice that pattern and told the researchers about it. But not until one of them happened to ask.
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 Warning. I feel unusual, so an unusual usual warning.
While on a walk with my lovely wife a while ago, in a park we hadn’t visited for some time, she recounted some details of my proposal scene that I had, thankfully, forgotten. Well, actually, I was proud as hell, but in conventional terms, I should have been thankful to have forgotten.
We had quite a discussion. Frightened the vultures perched on the cacti. We agreed that my stagecraft was impeccable. We agreed the concept was original. We agreed my style had class. Lots of class. We disagreed about high and low.
But she remembered, and 20 years later, some of her contemporaries have been married the third time. I am sure she understands how fortunate she is. All of my friends know how deserving she is, having me.
That is the kind of authentic detail, things that make a person real, faux confessions (but every word true, well, except about the vultures and cacti.) that suck readers in and make them think an author is trustworthy, when he is nothing but a propagandist. And you have no way of knowing.
Before you know it, you are reading the warnings that are the propaganda, and eating out of the author’s hand. That is when he knows he is on the way to world domination.
Also, as secretary for the Generalissimo, I take his dictation. He fiddles endlessly with the wordings and what order he tells things in. He claims he wants everything clear, no misunderstandings, it is hard work to get that right. I wasn’t there, I don’t know, have to take his word for it. But I am trying hard to keep track of the science, to check his claims and descriptions. I do the same for Scherrhy, and cross check them. I promise I would never knowingly mislead you with anything implausible.
***Actually, maybe not so simple. This says organisms make up each other’s environment, and many plants grow better in the presence of other plants, and have clearly evolved to take advantage of other’s presence. Thus, whenever any 2 organisms are growing in each other’s close-enough vicinity, there is likely to be mutual dependencies, an ecosystem aspect. Tessels had 8 in very intimate shared presence. What this did to the population of gut and skin bacteria alone could have profound mental and physical effects on the total organism, one among dozens of system-level effects.
Tessels were not a controlled experiment. Guided evolution is not as guided as I thought.
Thinking about this later : there is an interesting analogy between the Kirschner and Gerhard concept of cellular systems that have evolved to adapt to each other and that link to plants doing the same with other plants, and Gabe Brown‘s examples another in real use. The entire ‘farming as applied ecology’ food forest, permaculture movement is built on those.
I possibly under-rate the hybrid vigor produced by 8 cell lines making up one organism. One thing that argues against that would be how close organisms are to perfect in West’s measures. OTOH, no reason to believe mammalian brains are anywhere close to as efficient as birds, some of whom are close to great apes in vocabulary, reasoning about the world, memory, and social reasoning. If any of this is true, we are going to hate having so few wild relatives, and will need to breed back Neanderthals and Denosovans and Erectus as we are trying to do with the auroch, etc. A good use of ‘build a genome technology’, unlike the original proposal.
Also, fish can recognize human faces. I recall that while at Ohio State, a couple of the people in the lab did a reversal set study with opossums. Choices were lemon scent vs vanilla, and the opossums got to single-trial reversals, only monkeys could do that with junk object visual discriminations, as I recall.