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vector: a_new_machine

link: http://www.canada.com/ottawa/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=14314591-ee96-440f-8c83-11a9822d3d42

Genetic researchers in London have found a gene in rhesus monkeys which, when shut off, removes the link between work and the expectation of reward so that monkeys who would normally focus more intently on a task when they expected a reward stayed focused on a repetitive task when researchers gave the monkey no reason to expect any payoff for their efforts.

The same gene exists in humans. Yay!

"Most people are motivated to work hard and well only by the expectation of reward, whether it's a paycheque or a word of praise," said Barry Richmond, a government neurobiologist at the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, who led the project. "We found we could remove that link and create a situation where repetitive, hard work would continue without any reward."


"There's no doubt we will be able to influence behaviour," said Julian Savulescu, a professor of ethics at Oxford University.

"Genetically manipulating people to become slaves is not in their interests, but there are other changes that might be. We have to make choices about what makes a good life for an individual."


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 24th, 2004 10:41 am (UTC)
I can imagine a painful breaking in period during which we put many of the powerful new tools in our toolbox to spectacularly ill-advised uses with some unarguably dystopian results, but I can then imagine learning from those mistakes, picking up the peices, and using our powerful tools and our hard-won experience and wisdom to create worthy successors to humanity.

Fleshers used to spin fantasies about aliens arriving
to 'conquer' Earth, to steal their 'precious' physical
resources, to wipe them out for fear of 'competition'
...as if a species capable of making the journey wouldn't
have had the power, or the wit, or the imagination, to rid
itself of obsolete biological imperatives. Conquering the
galaxy is what bacteria with spaceships would do--knowing
no better, having no choice.

-Greg Egan

If we are to flourish in the presence of incredible new
technological abilities, we would do well to focus on using
them to debug human nature. Power can corrupt, but
knowledge that brings the power to self-modify so as to
refine our psychology can ward off corruption and destruction.

-Max Moore

Oct. 24th, 2004 01:38 pm (UTC)
Re: Utopia/dystopia
Power can corrupt, but knowledge that brings the power to self-modify so as to refine our psychology can ward off corruption and destruction.
That is one of the most inspirational quotes I've read in weeks. Thanks.
Oct. 24th, 2004 10:01 am (UTC)
"We have to make choices about what makes a good life for an individual."

Who's this "we," paleface?
Oct. 24th, 2004 10:36 am (UTC)
Nice try at obfuscation, newspaper. OMIM only has 98 hits for "D2"...but I'm willing to bet that the researchers blocked Dopamine D2.

D'oh. You don't need genetic engineering to inflict a permanent overdose of major tranquilizers.

Fortunately, this is a dead-end technology: tardive dyskinesia and neuroleptic malignant syndrome, anyone?
Oct. 24th, 2004 10:51 am (UTC)
science reporting
It's tough to do science reporting for the general public without reducing the story to a cartoon of the actual research project. I'm not sure which would be worse, if reporters and news outlets just threw up their hands and said "forget it" to science reporting, leaving the job to specialized journals that have miniscule readerships by mainstream standards or if they continue the current trend of serving up absurd over-simplifications laden with political and cultural spin.
Oct. 24th, 2004 01:42 pm (UTC)
Re: science reporting
I'd assume they'd serve up political and cultural spin regardless. There are more proximately dangerous things to spin.

[I have a political ad on TV in mind. It's supposed to be a smear ad, but I don't think saying a politician systematically opposes the PATRIOT Act is a smear....]
Oct. 24th, 2004 11:22 am (UTC)
Well, I doubt big business will use forced genetic engineering to make future workers cope with low income levels and hard work in a post prosperity slave labor camp. As in the 1800's and early 1900's social control by media propaganda does that well. This kind of research usually leads to a drug, and that is something reproduceable from an industrial perspective.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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