X-Message-Number: 11389
From: Thomas Donaldson <>
Subject: A Clarification, for Mike Perry
Date: Tue, 9 Mar 1999 00:23:04 +1100 (EST)

Hi everyone!

To Mike Perry: I should have been more specific as to the kind of changes
I was referring to. Naturally we want to bring patients back to full
physical health. As for mental health, there is a problem: many mental
conditions come from genes which also produce other GOOD things. The
major case of that is a tendency to depression or manic-depression: there
are significantly more creative people (artists, writers, etc) with
a tendency to manic-depression than the normal rate. To take someone
who suffers from manic-depression and cure them of their condition 
without consulting them might well result in some anger at what was done.

Clearly some brain conditions are very physical: I now lack some brain
areas, and this has affected my abilities (very thankfully, mostly my
physical abilities!). That kind of lack of health should clearly be fixed. 
The same may be said of conditions such as Alzheimer's or any of the other
many different brain conditions. 

To take manic-depression as an example (yes, this may pertain to the man
who was suicidal, too) we may someday work out means to get the creativity
without the depression. That would be good. But anyone who has been
revived and suffered from manic-depression before should not be
automatically modified. They should be shown the choice, not just briefly
but with full information, and allowed to choose for themselves whether
or not they want their manic-depression to be removed.

My own strong suspicion is that as we learn more about various mental
(and sometimes even physical) conditions we will learn not just of their
disadvantages, but that they associate with serious ADVANTAGES also. There
is an easy test to suggest that: most completely negative genes cannot
maintain themselves in a population. But when a gene has both positive and
negative effects, it may persist at a low level for centuries. In terms
of redesign, we need to work out how to change ourselves so that we get
the good but not the bad. Color "blindness", for instance, has some
advantages: color blind people turn out to be very useful in that they
can see things which are camouflaged to those who are not color blind.
Perhaps we can make a genetic modification which allows us to turn color
blindness on or off, and even vary it into spectral sensitivities which
have not yet been shown by any human being. (Yes, the trait of a gene in
maintaining itself has now begun to depend not just on natural selection
but on our own control of genes, but if anything this tells me that we
should study carefully what has happened to people with gene X in the

And because some are going to immediately raise the possibility of
becoming computers "with bodies", I will point out that the basic issues
involved here are hardly unique to biology. Any engineer knows that he
cannot make anything to have the highest abilities in every respect: 
design consists of making choices. To anyone living in California, this
should be very clear: sure, we can make our skyscrapers strong enough
to survive ANY given strength of earthquake, but by doing so we not 
only make them less habitable but also more expensive. So choices must
be made. (As for myself, I think that the line between biology and
computers, robots and living things, will become so blurred in the future
that no one would think the advantages of one over the other were clear
at all. After all, we do want immortality, and one way our body helps
our survival now is by its ability at self-repair. To my knowledge, no
computer now in existence or even envisioned has similar abilities. And
our control of biology will become as great as our control of
electronics, too).

When I was stating that we should allow patients to choose for themselves,
I meant primarily their mental and emotional (very linked!) traits, both
"good" and "bad"... so long as those traits were not ALREADY KNOWN as
diseases with NO mitigating factors at the time of the patient's

			Best and long long life to all,

				Thomas Donaldson

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