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Mother Hitton's Littul Kittons - Input Junkie
October 5th, 2009
08:54 am

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Mother Hitton's Littul Kittons
An overview of tameness/aggressiveness experiments
The next task was to measure tameness, for which they used the "glove test". Wearing two cotton gloves and a third made from chain mail, a researcher moves his or her hand slowly towards the rat, attempts to touch it and pick it up. "You can do anything with the tame rats," says Albert. "You can touch them, you can pick them up, you can move them around, you can move their arms and legs." The chain mail is there for the aggressive rats. "The moment you open the cage door some of them will come flying at the glove, bite it, latch on and scream," he says. "After testing you sometimes have bruises on your fingers."

The title of this post is also the title of a Cordwainer Smith story which includes minks bred for maddened aggressiveness-- which is broadcast telepathically as part of a security system.

Another part of the security system is a trip wire set off by a search which includes that misspelling-- a very modern detail.

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From:bradhicks
Date:October 5th, 2009 02:33 pm (UTC)

Paging Dr. Procrustes

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Flying baby shit.

I knew about Belyaev, I've been fascinated by his findings ever since I first heard about them, and I'm delighted that somebody's continuing his work. I'm also favorably impressed by the embryo-swapping experiment; finally, geneticists that acknowledge fetal development has a role in gene expression (or, as I suspect, gene expression has a minor role in fetal development).

But wow.

It had not occurred to me that they could identify the domestication gene(s); when Bill Holbrook made that a plot point in Kevin & Kell, I thought it was an improbable but entertaining sci-fi story-telling device. And given the point (made by Belyaev himself) that we are the self-domesticating primate, this has creepy eugenic/psy-med possibilities. Will we sterilize those who lack the domestication genes at birth, in order to finally rid ourselves of violent crime? Will there be mandatory gene therapy to domesticate violent adults?

As someone who was a victim of aggression over and over again in childhood, in ways that left scars on me to this day, I ought to welcome this. But Procrustes was never my favorite Titan.
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From:nancylebov
Date:October 5th, 2009 03:19 pm (UTC)

Re: Paging Dr. Procrustes

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I'm more concerned about moderate aggression being engineered out of people who are defined as not being appropriate to try to increase their status.
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From:atomicat
Date:October 5th, 2009 05:19 pm (UTC)
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Cordwainer Smith blew my mind as a kid. Such a great pity that he wrote so few stories.
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From:heron61
Date:October 5th, 2009 07:55 pm (UTC)
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I'm very pleased that Belyaev's work is being carried on, I first encountered references to it around 5 years ago, and was fascinated. I'm fascinated with the potential for taming literally any mammalian species. We could soon be in for a whole range of exotic pets.

OTOH, I'm a bit dubious about the idea of humans as a self-domesticating species, since I'm not at all certain that we are less violent than chimpanzees (or at least that pre-industrial humans are less violent than chimpanzees). I'm betting that humans can be engineered to be less violent, but I suspect that currently almost all of the changes towards that end have been a mixture of culture, combined with (at least in the first world) an increased abundance of necessities and a decrease in significant deprivation (which has both psychological and developmental effects).
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