STAT News, “reporting from the frontiers of health and medicine”, leads today on a survey it conducted in conjunction with Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health. It seems that the American public is split on whether public funding should be made available to support research into gene therapy. The balance of opinion moves strongly away from 50/50 towards no when the science involves unborn babies – even where such research aims to eliminate disease. Support for gene editing research dwindles still further where the research is engaged in what the article describes as “more frivolous” pursuits, such as working to improve a baby’s intelligence.
Respondents appeared to acknowledge some value in intelligence in one finding of the survey that otherwise passed without comment. Buried at the bottom of the story was a suggestion that six times as many people feel that decisions on pre-natal gene editing should be made by “scientists, physicians and similar experts”, as opposed to government officials and policy makers. The article reckons this finding underlines a “widespread mistrust of the federal government”.
We might infer that it also reflects a widespread trust in people who actually know what they’re talking about. The article doesn’t contrast this response with an earlier question in the survey revealing that when respondents had “heard or read about changing the genes of unborn babies” they were more in favour of the research.
Lively Stuff from Planet BAM!
- AI in the investment world: is competitive investing a zero sum game?
As increasingly sophisticated algorithms are being built into investment software, this blog asks a good question: when everybody has such algos to hand, is competitive advantage eventually arbitraged out of the system? Now this assumes a zero-sum relationship among all investors, when the real world suggests that ultimate risk lies in bad investments. So maybe investors will have to work harder, but the beneficiaries will be the investments themselves.
- Revealing neuroscience of Internet porn: reward without either risk or social validation
A number of interesting points are made in this article that looks at porn addiction from the perspective of brain science. Neuroplasticity is affected by addictions both good and bad, and the wiring of a brain arising from a series of “dopamine spritzes” can be problematic if the promptings of porn are processed in the same part of the brain – the ventral striatum – that manages our social processing, determining how engaged (or not) we are with other people.
- Your brain on music: does it have a music room? Is music more than auditory cheesecake?
Neuroscience and MRI scans are evolving a clearer understanding of how music plays in the brain, but there is a lot of work to be done in understanding how innate music is in humans.