Embryo screening is the process of examining the genome of an embryo to determine if certain genes or sets of genes are present (the technical term is preimplantation genetic testing (PGD)). Examining embryos for genetic defects can allow prospective parents to select embryos without genetic defects to implant and carry to term. Currently this process is most prevalently used during in vitro fertilization (IVF), where eggs are fertilized by sperm in a lab to create the embryo before being implanted into the uterus. IVF in its current form is generally intended to help parents who have trouble conceiving or may be at elevated risk of birth defects.
Embyro screening to predict/raise IQ has been attempted since at least 2019, though it remains controversial and its effectiveness remains unknown. Other plausible means of raising IQ with genetic engineering include gametogenesis (a method of regressing cells into stem cells, then turning into sperm/egg cells, in an interative process), and CRISPR (editing specific sections of DNA of live organisms with high precision).
The potential power and downsides of widespread genetic engineering have been a topic of science fiction for decades, including Gattaca or the Deus Ex series, which imagine societies that are stratified into groups of those who have genetic enhancements and those who don't. Neuroscientist and fiction author Erik Hoel offered the following predictions for the year 2050 in a blog post published August 25, 2021
Sex and reproduction will become even more separated, and screening multiple embryos for their health before implantation will be common, although not universal. Superficial genetic upgrades for babies (heterochromatic eyes, for instance) will be a trend among the super rich or pop stars. However, there will be no genetic engineering that improves the fundamentals of human traits like intelligence or athleticism or even anything like attractiveness above and beyond all-natural humans—the available technology will still be focused solely on avoiding downsides, like genetic diseases or disabilities. This will ultimately cure a lot of potential suffering, but not lead to some sci-fi split between the “geners” and the “normals,” or anything ridiculous like that.
By 2050, will genetic engineering techniques be available which can raise IQ by 10 points?
This question will resolve as Yes if by January 1, 2050, there is at least one commercially available genetic engineering technique shown to raise a patient's IQ by 10 or more points on average. This procedure must be effective on >66% of the public; an intervention focused on patients with down syndrome, for example, does not qualify. Studies from medical journals, statements by government agencies or public health officials may be used as resolution sources if Metaculus Admins find them to be credible.
A procedure can be considered "commercially available" if it is available to the general public for a total cost of less than 25% of the median household income for that nation in that year. "Genetic engineering techniques" include embryo selection, gametogenesis, gene therapy, CRISPR editing, and other forms of gene editing or artificial selection. For example in the case of embryo selection, the technique may resolve this question positively if it can select embryos with an average of >10 IQ gain over the median embryo for that patient. Adverse side effects of these procedures are irrelevant for the purposes of this question (with the exception that the patient must typically survive for at least 5 years following the procedure).
Resolution may be delayed up to 2060 to confirm the effectiveness of the genetic engineering techniques. If studies are unclear at this point, the resolution may be delayed, or resolve ambiguously at the discretion of Metaculus Admins.