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IEET > Rights > ReproRights > Life > Enablement > Health > Staff > Kyle Munkittrick

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Let Designer Kids Be Kids


Kyle Munkittrick
By Kyle Munkittrick
Science Not Fiction

Posted: Dec 10, 2010

Could it be that genetic engineering might be part of what cures us of the hyper-parenting pandemic?

Katie Roiphe over at Slate is worried about helicopter parents screwing up their kids by trying to perfect them:

You know the child I am talking about: precious, wide-eyed, over-cared-for, fussy, in a beautiful sweater, or a carefully hipsterish T-shirt. Have we done him a favor by protecting him from everything, from dirt and dust and violence and sugar and boredom and egg whites and mean children who steal his plastic dinosaurs, from, in short, the everyday banging-up of the universe? The wooden toys that tastefully surround him, the all-sacrificing, well-meaning parents, with a library of books on how to make him turn out correctly - is all of it actually harming or denaturing him?

The article’s title “If we try to engineer perfect children, will they grow up to be unbearable?” grabbed me (of course). But the “engineering” bit wasn’t, to my chagrin, referring to actual genetic engineering.
kid
Instead, Roiphe was referring to parents obsessing over every aspect of their child’s lives, as if some misstep in the minutia would produce an invalid. These parents seem to accept the nature/nurture divide and, realizing there is nothing they can do to improve the genetic make-up of their little bundle of joy, attempt to overwhelm nature with nurture.

Yet in the process parents are inhibiting the, ahem, natural ways in which children learn and develop: unstructured play, exploration, discovery, and getting hurt. How can we get helicopter parents to back off?

Maybe with genetic engineering?


READ THE REST


Kyle Munkittrick, IEET Program Director: Envisioning the Future, is a recent graduate of New York University, where he received his Master's in bioethics and critical theory.
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COMMENTS


I’m all for genetic therapy.
But I think it’s going to be short lived.
Who’s really going to need it when we are replacing biological systems with electronic systems?
As much as we might be able to do with genetic enhancement, it won’t compare to what we can do with cybernetic enhancement, so genetic enhancement will be a temporary fad. Enjoy it for a few years I guess, but be prepared to leave the ‘meat’ behind.





iPan, even if you’re right, you haven’t addressed the issue. Even ‘cybernetic individuals’ must somehow grow, develop and mature in some manner…

It’s like someone in the late 19th Century asking, “Where shall we ride our horses to?”

And you tell them that the automobile is coming soon, will have multiple advantages, and it’s time to leave horse meat behind.

And the person replying, “Very well, but even so, where do we want to *go* to?”





I’m more worried about the generation of cossetted little china dolls that will grow up to be whiny simpering weaklings, narcissistic manchildren, or both. These are not the sorts of individuals who will be ready to lead the future, no matter what it is.





“cossetted little china dolls that will grow up to be whiny simpering weaklings, narcissistic manchildren…”

But they can make a good living in Hollywood.





BTW, GamerFromJump, speaking of wusses, what a wuss Leon Kass was:
“everyone must die on schedule”, that is, save for Kass’ people.
Another wuss—the biggest wuss in American history—was the first Bush, ‘89- ‘93. Yet you’ve got to hand it to his son, whereas his dad merely wasted four years, Dubya wasted eight, beating Papa out by 200 percent.
But if you want to be taken in by promises of shrinking the state, you are wasting YOUR time: the last instance of America permanently shrinking government was when it helped dissolve the Soviet Union in 1991. By your own Rightist lights, an entire two decades has been wasted. Today Palin, in service of rightwing (not conservative) feminism wants to waste another four or eight years playing Joan of Arc. There’s a hypothesis I’m examining, that people want to destroy each other more than anything, however since aggression is somewhat constrained by the law, they have to be content with wasting others’ time; one can always waste another’s time (tell us, who can waste more time than the post-Cold War GOP?). And then you are the winner, the one whose time you have wasted is the loser.
What really matters above all else is your family is higher up the foodchain, and someone else’s family is lower down, even if you use the state to assist you in some secret way. Always hold cards nobody can see; pull every string, use all your PULL, your connections, to be a king of a hill.





I’m trying to figure out what @8:52pm was a response to, cause it sure wasn’t anything in this thread.

As for “biggest wuss in American history”, I don’t even like HW Bush, but I could not honestly put him above Carter on the weakling meter.

As for that last paragraph, that is either trying to box others into an ethical category to which you think they belong, or if it’s an honest position statement, evidence of borderline personality.





@iPan, I would say that you’re right about bioengineering/genetics being only of temporary usefulness, as electronic/cybernetic systems can be evolved much more rapidly from a base form to an advanced form (see the personal computer), but as they do make a good interstitial to help people who need help today, development should not be abandoned. If human capability can be boosted with bio, go for it.

To be honest, we can’t fully predict what form the trans/posthuman will take. It might be that some biology is necessary (I doubt it, but you never know).

Anything that helps free us from the kludge that is our evolutionary legacy, I’m for investigating.





GamerFromJump, you brought up cossetted little china doll whiny simpering weakling narcissistic manchildren. By libertarian lights,  hissy-fitting little twinkletoe mincers can do very well in today’s market—as there is quite a demand for it (IMO Justin Bieber is a trend, not a fad). As you were mystified by my comment, I was mystified by the vehemence of your dismissal of the androgynous and or Peter Pans. How un-21st century of you, Gamer.





GamerFromJump, if you were not being facetious, you ought to know that Kyle was descriptive in his: “precious, wide-eyed, over-cared-for, fussy, in a beautiful sweater, or a carefully hipsterish T-shirt. Have we done him a favor by protecting him from everything, from dirt and dust and violence and sugar and boredom and egg whites and mean children who steal his plastic dinosaurs.”
You were cantankerous: “I’m more worried about the generation of cossetted little china dolls that will grow up to be whiny simpering weaklings, narcissistic manchildren, or both. These are not the sorts of individuals who will be ready to lead the future, no matter what it is.”
You only neglected to include “FAGGY”.





“You only neglected to include “FAGGY”.”

Assuming you’re using the term in its colloquial slur context, I would not apply it, as I know far too many LGBT persons of strong character and independent mindset for it to be accurate in any way.

The future isn’t just an unknown, it’s probably unknowable until we get there. Any prediction or plan we make will probably not survive contact with reality. The people who will be ready to meet the challenges of the 21st Century and beyond are those who do NOT go on TV or to the nearest courtroom and yowl about mental anguish or how unfaaaair it all is, but instead *fix the problem*.

I would say this quote from Star Trek TNG serves very well:

“If you can’t take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go back home and crawl under your bed. It’s not safe out here. It’s wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross; but it’s not for the timid.”

The perfectly safe society is the static one, which might as well be dead for all it matters. To grow, change and evolve is *NOT* safe, and the future needs people who can deal with that.

Of course, that was the point of the article in the first place; use genetics tech to increase our children’s ability to take the bumps that are going to be part and parcel of the future, and the phenomenon of “helicopter parents” strangling their children’s coping skills aborning will fall by the wayside. Hopefully that’s the case.





Fine, the above returns to what Kyle wrote, after your slight excursion into Theodore Roosevelt’s line about “sissies” who need to take a real hard licking until they get some sense knocked into them. Most days I argue with Rightists who more or less take Roosevelt’s 19th century position, so I’m extremely suspicious—the Rooseveltian position still appears to be a prevalent one.
Naturally, Kyle’s piece is on engineering youths who are strong (without being excessively aggressive)—no disagreement there.
However being so suspicious, I surmise too many still want youths to go beyond being strong to the point they are combat-ready. Male youths are placed in a double bind; being expected to be gentle yet violent: one side of a mouth tells boys to be humble and emulate ‘gentlemen’, the other side of the mouth tells them to possess self esteem (which is IMO politically correct for conceit), and be brutal to those who get in their way. It always comes back to how when you examine behavior rather than what is said, you find it is in fact quite more brutal than our homilies express.





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