Monday, April 16, 2012

Dungeons and Dysgenics?

This post obviously isn't intended to lay the issue of dysgenics at the feet of Gary Gygax, who after all, had six children.  I chose the title simply because Dungeons & Dragons and similar games which are always associated in the popular imagination with same was such a cultural force for those growing up north of the second sigma back in the early 1980s.

Among the smart people who I knew and shared social circles with growing up, in one respect I seem to be a fairly significant outlier.  Most of this group has passed 40 now, so it is appropriate to take stock as opposed to simply saying 'let's wait and see'.

That respect is that I have children.  Two presently, three with fairly high probability, and four is probably at more than 10-20% probability.  Of most of the rest of the people that I knew growing up and in college that are beyond the Second Sigma, very few have children, especially the women.

This isn't to say that all of those that I know who are beyond the Second Sigma are barren---indeed the engineers I know from work and several other reactionary bloggers in similar orbits actually have fairly sizable families, often exceeding that of my own.
I'm scratching my head right now---trying to think of anyone I know who is beyond the Second Sigma, has children, and isn't a fairly hardcore religionist.  I know a fair number of very smart atheists, both of the high and low church varieties, but I've not seen any issue from them, so to speak.  I'm not used to effects frankly that seem THIS binary in nature, not when we're talking about real people and not figures and lasagnas etched and baked into silicon.

Anyone care to take a crack at an overarching theory explaining these observations, or to add more data points?


Aretae said...

Given a loose definition of "know".

Me -- 2 genetic + a late miscarriage + still trying -- I am an educator/kid-phile by avocation.
Bryan Caplan: 3
Patri Friedman: 2

Aretae said...

Our goal was 6...but we haven't managed the biology right. There's still some chance of 5, but it's getting harder. Biology is a b****.

Jehu said...

You're about my age, right (@40)? Is your wife younger (mine is 35)? If she's over 40, your task of 5 will be awfully hard, if not, it's much more doable.

Anonymous said...

Kids are a bad deal for most right side of the bell curve people.

It will be interesting to see if this changes when artificial wombs or some other way of overcoming women's biological clock is invented. How much is it kids not being desired and how much is it kids not being desired soon enough for biology?

Jehu said...

What kind of a deal kids are for you depends a lot on your time horizon. Old people without grandchildren are often really sad in my experience. Also, a lot of the things that annoy you now about kids in general are much less annoying when the child is your own. Your son or daughter, for instance, inherits a good fraction of your own self-love as well as a fraction of your love of your spouse.

Anonymous said...


Are the benefits your discussed additive, or is there a marginal dropoff after you have 1-2 kids. Many high IQ people reproduce. Few have 3, 4, 5, 6 kids like the lower classes.

Loniliness can be solved by having 1-2. Also, I think many high IQ people only get off on raising "successful" kids, not just kids. So if you divide your resources there is less of a chance of success. You can afford the $20k preschool for 1-2, not 4-5.

I'm not necessarily endorsing that view, but it seems the motivation for most people.

Jehu said...

I'm not certain whether they're additive or not, but if you want to discuss the old age aspects, here's my take.
If you want a reasonable probability that at least one of your children and their spouse will look after you in your dotage, putting their kids on your lap and keeping you out of an old folks home (one of my friends from church works in an old folks home, and is the source of lots of my anecdotal information), you probably need at least 3 kids, 4 i safer. Also, if you're going to have quite a few kids, homeschooling is the route to take, the scaling of costs for homeschoolers is much better (I know a homeschool family with 12 kids that manages very nicely with a single income likely very close to that of most of our readers).

On another note, all of the kids you have are going to be recognizably from the same 'generating function', as it were, but they will be very different. If you chose their mother properly, their probability of being 'successful' is pretty good anyway, however you choose to define 'success'.

Anonymous said...

I guess on the old folks thing. I don't have much data to go on here.

Agree on the scalability of home schooling, but it's still too wierd for non religous nuerotypicals and high IQ women that insist on career.

Jehu said...

Homeschooling is getting more prevalent, and thus more acceptable to neurotypicals. Also, my anecdotal experience is this: homeschooled kids are substantially less likely to be overweight when they are late teens. This will likely play into the SMP/MMP in a big way in terms of attitudes, especially if the existing trend (being ideal weight as a woman gets you to the 75th percentile with otherwise 50th percentile looks presently, whereas it got you much less far back in the late 80s) continues.
On the old folks thing, here's an illustrative anecdote. I've got two little tiny redheads that draw little clusters of admirers when we take them out and about. Once, on the Oregon coast, they drew a woman of great-grandmotherly age. Apparently she'd had one daughter but her daughter hadn't had any children. Even with a complete stranger and only my most casual emulation of a neurotypical running, I could feel the sadness coming off her in waves as she adored my little boy. My friend at church who works in the old folks home tells me that it is chock full of women like that, many without even the daughter. It makes me almost understand the Japanese business of hiring actors to pretend to be your grandchildren or children.

CLAR said...

my experience is broadly consistent with the original post here, though ironically enough i am a third sigma (based on SAT, ACT, and MCAT conversions, no explicit IQ testing so take that for what it's worth) 25 year old who is planning on having 4-6 children. have a LTR/soon to be fiancee girl who is on board with homeschooling and is a lifelong catholic.

i am somewhat of an exception as i am agnostic deist, though i hew towards traditional christian morality in most things.

Jehu said...

Yes it be only the reactionaries or the explicit natalists (Caplan and Aretae fall pretty firmly in that category) that have any significant number of kids beyond the 2nd sigma. You may find your level of religiousity intensifying as your new family grows.

Alrenous said...

If I wasn't self-aware, it would surprise me to discover that it isn't common knowledge that the grandparent-aged are sad without grandchildren children and very sad without children.

Helpfully, our society tries to cut off the elderly from the young, so that even the reproductive can experience that sadness.

Jehu said...

There are some seriously sad folks in a lot of old folks homes. A huge part of why in many such homes the life expectancy is so short is the low morale (in the martial sense) of the people there. Some of them might as well hang a big sign that says 'You Came Here To Die' over their entryway. Even a cat or a dog helps them tremendously, but lots of them don't even have that.

Anonymous said...

I've been considering a question lately of great personal importance. Perhaps I'd like to frame it first.

Lots of people here would probably consider genetically enhancing their kids once the technology is at the level necessary. I've been wondering lately what "your kid" means. It's pretty straightfoward in a natural birth. But if you start changing the genes, to what extent does the fact that the base material was yours still make the kid yours?

What is the difference between a substantially genetically altered child from your sperm and a child from another man's sperm?

As I've noted before, I have terrible genes for everything but intellect. I'm very sick, I'm ugly, I'm non-neurotypical. Moreover, many of these problems have been hereditary in my family for some time. I'm not even so sure my genes are that smart. My family is mostly +1 sigma, so I expect my +3 sigma intellect to revert to the mean in my children. They will however retain my diabetes, asthma, bone problems, immune system problems, etc.

We can't yet alter genes with out tech. But you can borrow anothers genes. Sperm and egg banks are full of grade AAA supergenes. Technology wise it's not hard to brew a baby likely to have superior genes.

I've considered going this route. I think I could find a woman willing to do it too, if I focused on the issue enough. It's possible they might still want to use their own eggs, but that would still be an improvement.

I wonder what the tradeoff between knowing the child is "mine" and raising a child much more likely to succeed and be happy is? What is the relative value of imparting my values through parenting versus genes?

The idea of cuckolding is repulsive to me, but the idea of using anothers genetic material at my own request isn't nearly as repulsive (but is still uneasy). I would never, for instance, do it if a wife suggested it. But I might suggest it myself. A symantic difference perhaps, but an important one. One that makes it my decision and leave me in control.

Jehu said...

The issue you cite is a very sticky one, and one likely to become increasingly salient in the 2020s as preimplantation genetic diagnosis gets good enough to be productized in a meaningful fashion. Expect to see lots of institutions go totally ballistic about this---just different ones if the the issue is mutational load (see the recent Sailer article on this) or if the issue is identifiable genetic variants.
If the issue is 'spell checking' (i.e., not so much which variants you've got but how many are broken copies), expect to see a very intense fight over it with a relatively short period between illegal and nearly illegal not to do it.
If the issue is which variants you have (genome project basically), expect to see people looking for excuses besides fertility medicine to use PGD protocols. There's no bright line that is politically defensible, so it will likely happen if this is the narrative that the data ends up supporting.

Either way, here is my take. I want my children to be descended from me and my wife. I recognize that there exist people who are 'superior' in one or many ways to either of us, but I don't want their children, I want ours. Would I use some sort of best 1 of N protocol with PGD---probably. Would I go for spell-checking, also, most likely. Would I want my wife to use an egg from someone else and IVF using donor sperm? Absolutely not. Would we use a gestational surrogate like Patri and his wife if such was necessary? Almost certainly.

On a more personal note, for yourself: I've previously pointed out that if by grace of God, the center actually holds for 20-30 years, there's a good chance you may be able to get some of the same upgrades available to newborns. Diabetes in particular is likely to get a lot of attention because of its autoimmune nature.

Anonymous said...

You're healthy, good looking, and smart though. I would expect that answer. Not that its necessarily wrong, but whatever faults you have you've never lived the life of someone that is left side of the bell curve in most facets.

I'm aware a lot more options may be around at 60, but I'm going to want to have kids before then.

As to the rest will take more time then I have right now. Gotta go to the gym and get 1/10th the results for the same effort.

Jehu said...

PGD for your diabetes may well be available by the time you're having kids, even assuming you have a suitable wife in hand right now. What you describe earlier is really akin to adoption, and I suppose if you're going to adopt, you might as well adopt as well as science will allow.

Aretae said...

Like you, the wife is a bit younger.