Extinction Genetics

Like everything great it appears superficially as a paradox, but there’s now a practical model for it:

The paradox Burt had to solve is how something very bad for mosquitoes could also be spread by them. One answer, he saw, was a selfish gene that is harmless if one copy is present but causes sterility if two copies are. (Like humans, mosquitoes have two sets of chromosomes, one from each parent.) Starting with a male mosquito with one copy, the selfish gene will ensure that it ends up in every one of his sperm, rather than just half. That way any offspring with a wild mosquito will also be carriers, as will all their offspring’s offspring. As a result, the gene will rocket through the population. […] Eventually, it becomes likely that any mating pair of mosquitoes will both be carriers — and their offspring, with two copies, will be infertile. Quickly, the population will crash, reeling from the genetic poison.

So the provocation of malaria has resulted in a remarkable piece of abstract anti-biological ordnance being put together. (Abstract, because the principles are applicable to any sexually reproducing species. The concrete details of the mosquito-killing version are fascinating, and outlined in the article.)

Hypothetically, the optimum strategic environment in which to unleash this thing is high-intensity global warfare between bio-conservatives and their enemies. Given the length of the human generational cycle, it would be a slow weapon — but one that compelled its target population to submit to techno-genetic plasticization as the only alternative to extinction. Naturally, all vestiges of decency would have had to be stripped from the conflict for such abominable genius to be imaginable (which is why it’s a Frightday night scenario here at XS, where we’re appalled, of course). In any case, the essential asymmetry of this thing in the direction of extreme neo-eugenics is unmistakable, once noticed.

Technology is neutral goes the orthogonalist refrain. Really, it isn’t.

ADDED: A gene drive introduction (video). (Via.)

May 6, 2016admin 8 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Fertility


8 Responses to this entry

  • rzg Says:

    Your blog is a joy, Nick.


    Posted on May 6th, 2016 at 4:29 pm Reply | Quote
  • Xavi' Says:

    While this is interesting from the genetic standpoint, the first few sentences of the first paragraph leapt out at me. I wondered before going to the article, Why? Why are mosquitoes to be eradicated? Why? For Humanitarian purposes of course, these pesky insects are ending the lives of large numbers of Africans, clearly in a compassionate world, this cannot stand. The Humanitarian drive is indeed so monstrous, our betters would prefer to crash an entire ecosystem for virtue points. The thought that Mother Nature, or Gnon is doing all she can within her power, to spare us from the impending horrors as she has always striven to do, by which constant European science, medicine and aid has to this present moment in time upset the equilibrium, is too horrible to contemplate for the New Man, so he goes to the labs with his feelings, to do “true good”.


    Posted on May 6th, 2016 at 4:48 pm Reply | Quote
  • grey enlightenment Says:

    seeing a possible link with unrestrained immigration


    Posted on May 6th, 2016 at 6:11 pm Reply | Quote
  • John Says:

    The Chinese will cook up a crispr bomb for the R1 Haplogroup soon enough. Good news for the cyborg industry.


    Posted on May 6th, 2016 at 6:19 pm Reply | Quote
  • Rec0nciler Says:

    Weld this onto formalism, and you’ve got a fully-functional system of intelligence preservation. That system’s design is graceful, merciful, unobjectionable…almost humane. And strangely, the niceties come at no expense. They function only to make the system simpler, more effective, and more economical. From where I sit, the sensation it inspires is less horror than awe.


    Posted on May 6th, 2016 at 8:36 pm Reply | Quote
  • SVErshov Says:

    “Are we risking a genetic epidemic if the selfish DNA should jump the species barrier to affect other insects?”

    mildly put in fact. mosquitos have been responsible for gene lateral transfer in many species including humans. few important reproductive genes in humans 100% identical to same genes in mosquitoes.

    with all those crazy techs proliferating it is easy to assume, that humans will have opportunity to be genetically modified here and there quite soon. why war with all its brutality, when you edit reproductive genes and nobody living there anymore just in 50 years. luckily we can have any number of same gene and as it been demostrated (in case of genetic diseases) having one normal copy of some particular gene can compensate for disfunction. I hope you reach enough to unmodify your self or using your basement as cryostorage for stem cells.


    Erebus Reply:

    >”few important reproductive genes in humans 100% identical to same genes in mosquitoes.”

    Which important genes would those be? I’d be astonished if the sequences were “100% identical.” Humans and fruit flies both possess the SIR2 gene, among many others they share, but the sequence of the fruit fly version is only 42% identical to its human equivalent. I can’t think of a single gene that’s sequentially identical between humans and fruit flies or any other insect.

    You seem to be confusing horizontal transfer with evolutionarily conserved genes. (The Sir2 gene, for instance, is also in yeast, bacteria, and, yes, mosquitoes.)


    Posted on May 7th, 2016 at 4:18 am Reply | Quote
  • The Empty Vessel Says:

    “Given the length of the human generational cycle, it would be a slow weapon — but one that compelled its target population to submit to techno-genetic plasticization as the only alternative to extinction. ”

    Alternatively, the antinatalist equivalent to a pessimistic techno-utopian program. The kind imagined by Zapffe; the die-off makes us better off. Far less likely than warfare. Probably requiring your evil geniuses, in the end. I vow to liberate all sentient beings, whether they want liberated or not. Horror as ultimate compassion.


    Posted on May 7th, 2016 at 2:55 pm Reply | Quote

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