This essay shows the epitome of the old nature-nurture argument but in a completely different way. Instead of asking what has more influence in making the resulting individual, this raises the question of which strategy will be more important to long-term human survival and development. The answer is the same, both genetics and strategy are critical and are deeply entwined.
This essay is basically a summary of my book Genetics For A New Human Ecology. While that discussion of genetics had to be written separately, it is completely critical to this discussion. While that book avoids discussion of strategic adaptation, this one must include at least a summary of the genetic issues. Hopefully, it can be done briefly.
Just like this book, the point of that book is that for humans to adapt to the New Ecology will require both genetic and strategic adaptation. The thing is that the genetic adaptation all exists under a huge constraint. Humans face a genetic disaster because changes we have already made will result in an unsupportable genetic load. We have basically doubled reproductive age, which will multiply the mutation rate. At the same time, what we have called human progress has been the removal of Natural Selection. Every generation we will accumulate both single point and larger broken genes. It is basically the opposite of evolution, only worse because instead of being less effective, broken genes will often be ineffective. Already the rate of sterility is around 15%. There is supposed to be a constant balance between the mutation rate and the natural selection rate that removes bad mutations. Medicine has been a large factor in removing natural selection and we have removed other factors but the biggest change is that we are having smaller families because in this ecology we have needed to invest more in the development of each child. Our reproductive strategy has gone from one of quantity to a strategy of quality, but the smaller families presents less opportunity for evolution to act. This is a disaster and it is here. Before long, women will know that perhaps half of their children will be born with significant birth defects and like genetic things works, it will add up and get worse. We simply cannot afford the cost of natural selection even if we could stand the harsh consequences of it coming back. The only ethical and economic solution I can see is to replace natural selection with pre-implantation artificial selection. The technology is already available in its infancy and it is inexpensive, a critical factor when considering that everyone that has children is going to need this. More importantly than the technology in ways though are the moral issues. If artificial selection does not seem moral to our powerful instincts as well as our moral reasoning, it will not be used. The book explains in depth that it is moral because it results in healthy children, families and communities, the basis of morality. Also, genes are the ultimate wealth, a wealth that keeps on giving generation after generation. While we generally do not dwell on the morality of natural selection, it has been described as "red in tooth and claw". It is a brutal, blunt instrument. We can do better. The other reason artificial selection is moral is that we cannot possibly survive without using it. Artificial selection is moral.
There are other genetic technologies, such as the CRISPR gene editing tool (that has currently been given a pass on unintended side effects). While gene editing technologies will lead to biotechnology fortunes, it will not be as economical as artificial selection and it is a just not the right tool for the job of replacing a broad general effect such as natural section. It is a finer tool more suited to details. It is like a weeder when we need a mower. Artificial selection requires a genetic analysis and then selection. At a minimum, gene editing requires that analysis, the editing process, then another analysis step to verify the result, then selection. Eventually, gene editing may even be used to create new genes, but that is not what is needed right now. Humanity has great genetic wealth. We need healthy humans now, not new innovative potentials.
Humans have always had some problem genes, hereditary physical and mental diseases that are a family curse. The problem is that every generation, there are mutations that the parents did not have. They are called "de novo" Latin for "fresh", but they are not fresh, they are broken. Some are small, single point mutations and about 16% of them really cause no change. Unfortunately, many are bigger including deletions or duplications of sequences or even entire chromosomes. Your genes are the result of thousands of generations of natural selection, meaning premature death to create the most efficient survival machine possible. Random changes are very rarely an improvement and usually break how the gene works. We cannot survive if these broken genes accumulate. Natural selection could be used to remove not just de novo mutations, but other hereditary diseases. Evolution is a change in gene frequency. Artificial selection could be used not just to remove genes that break each generation, but to remove hereditary diseases and to husband the best genes humanity has. There aren't many "bad genes", because nature does not tolerate them and natural selection removes them. Besides the hereditary weaknesses though, there are genes inserted by viruses that can cause nasty problems if activated. There are weaker versions of genes that are prone to failure or cancer with age. Artificial selection could reduce their number. At the same time, it could be used to increase the frequency of good genes that support health beauty and brains. Nature does not guarantee that your children will inherit what you respect the most about yourself, but artificial selection could do that, husbanding genetic wealth generation after generation. Everyone could have health beauty and brains, which would not only be perhaps confusing but would effect so many other natural, ancient strategies such as status. We could deal with it. This means health and beauty that lasts, senses that don't fade and a clear mind as one ages.
There are other issues that artificial selection would effect, such as racism. Hybridization, the coming together of different peoples is much of how humans naturally evolve. We see the advantage of hybridization in the vigor of the crops that support modern agriculture. Hybridization is how we have evolved in the past and is the about the only way we can adapt to the future. No race is adapted to what is going to be needed in the future. We must look at other races as having genetic potentials our children are going to need to survive in the future. The problem is that it comes at a cost, because the different genes do not always fit together perfectly. The benefit comes at the cost of natural selection. Artificial selection could remove that cost. It used to be that if you were healthy and worked hard, you could survive. In the future, you are also going to need to be smart. Artificial selection will also offer us that greater intelligence that we are also going to need to deal with the machines we are making. The point is that though, artificial selection is the only way we can avoid an existential disaster, it will also allow us to adapt to the future and husband the great wealth that is represented by human genetic diversity.
The natural selection rate among humans was very high. If you consider that there is a basic balance between mutation rate and natural selection rate and consider that the mutation rate has gone up quite a bit, we are in trouble. With natural selection so low now, most mutations that occur in one generation are carried to the next. Since the mutation rate is fairly constant and genes are additive, that means the number of mutations doubles the first generation and increases by the same amount every generation. We need to start dealing with this problem immediately.
Genetics is the gift that keeps on giving. It is the truest and greatest wealth there is. Artificial selection offers a form of justice and equality that we have never seriously considered and potentials that nature has never offered. Artificial selection will offer a future to many people that may be wondering if there is a place in the future for them or their children. Generation by generation they can improve their genes. We need that, because we need everyone having a hope for the future and working for it if we are to accomplish the strategic changes we need to. Humanity must husband their genes or we will not survive. If we husband them wisely we may have a future brighter than many have even hoped for.