So some magical human-like creatures called Altum come from another continent (in my book) to this human populated continent (both are about the size of Europe). They want to help humans become a better species morally and physically, so they decide to breed humans into better ones. They can live for about 7,000 years, and the project starts with one million humans at the beginning, 50% males, 50% females. They are looking and breeding them for the ones who show the best of these:

  • Physical: strength, speed, agility along with the best scenes (eyesight, hearing, etc.) to create a better built human.
  • Health: longest predicted lifespan, immunity do diseases.
  • Mentally: ones that are mentally stable and have the highest amount of the best chemicals in their brain for example serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, endorphins, and glutamate.
  • Mentally (2): best IQ along with how well they can adapt and absorb information.
  • Genetics: best genetics means best survival in the natural world.
  • Sex: the humans will compete for the best chance of the best mate.

The humans would be put in an large environment that would stimulate them for survival of the fittest but also be social. Some kind of forest were they have to run around and survive from predators (for the physical part) but every year the Altum would appear to them and test them in everything else then organize the mating pairs. The humans think they are gods, but they're not. The Altum would watch from afar and dispatch the worst except when they were testing them.

The Altum's goal is to create the best human possible. With all these things, could these people make a smarter, stronger human in 1000 years?

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    $\begingroup$ You need to read up on eugenics. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugenics $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Oct 9 '18 at 23:49
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    $\begingroup$ I should point out (in addition to my answer) that humans do not have a track record of taking kindly to eugenics imposed from within, let alone externally. I suspect the captive humans would not cheerfully submit to this process. $\endgroup$ – jdunlop Oct 9 '18 at 23:50
  • $\begingroup$ "The humans would be put in an large environment that would stimulate them for survival of the fittest but also be social." Contradictory goals. This is honestly a poorly thought through question. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Oct 9 '18 at 23:54
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    $\begingroup$ @RonJohn They're not at all contradictory. Social cooperation has always been an important part of humanity's survival strategy as a species. $\endgroup$ – Cadence Oct 9 '18 at 23:57
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    $\begingroup$ You do understand that "best" implies an axiology, that is, a set of values? Since we are not Altum we don't know what their set of values is, and you did not tell us. So tell us, what is the "best" IQ for a domesticated human from the point of view of the Altum? What is the "best" survival in the natural world for a human as far as the Altum as concerned? What is the "best" amount of serotonin in a human's brain? What is the "best" hearing a human slave should have? What don't the Altum like about human vision? What's the Altum opinion about how a "better built" human should look like? $\endgroup$ – AlexP Oct 10 '18 at 0:07

We Don't Know

The tag is science-based, so I'm going off of scientific understanding here, and the answer is, "we don't really know". You can certainly apply artificial selection to a population to secure any given trait, that's just standard animal husbandry. Breeding for a suite of traits, however, can be fraught.

For example, there's a reported correlation between intelligence and autism-spectrum behaviour. Breeding for high intelligence, then, might be antithetical to the other goal of mental stability and health. (Side note, having elevated levels of "good" chemicals in the brain can be just as unhealthy as having lower levels, so that's not a good indicator either.)

Inborn immunity to disease is virtually impossible, since diseases reproduce a lot faster than we do, and are highly motivated (evolutionarily speaking) to find ways to compromise any defenses we manage to put into play.

I would say that overall careful husbandry would result in a healthier, stronger population, but many of the characteristics and metrics you've specified are either far more complex than we can definitively sort out at this point in our understanding of the genome, or actually work against each other in our genetic makeup.

Finally, I'd like to note that lots of species excel at avoiding predation without being particularly intelligent, so "survival of the fittest" definitely does not need to mean "survival of the smartest".


As has been suggested, you should try reading up on eugenics, and a sorry tale it is.

You also need to get rid of the rather sterile concept of "best". It has little utility in the context you are using it.

Let's take most of your desired traits, shall we?

Health: longest predicted lifespan, immunity do (sic) diseases.

These are not necessarily the same thing. Take malaria, for instance. Do you want your population to be resistant? Fine. Of course, if malaria is not present in a particular area, it's entirely possible that the inhabitants will suffer from sickle-cell anemia (which confers resistance to malaria). Actually, it's present in malarial areas as well, but its effects are a net benefit. Cystic fibrosis, a rather nasty genetic disease, is theorized to confer resistance to cholera, typhoid and/or tuberculosis. The list goes on. Look up "heterozygote advantage".

Mentally: ones that are mentally stable and have the highest amount of the best chemicals in their brain for example serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, endorphins, and glutamate.

You are apparently unaware that "the highest amount of the best chemicals in their brain" is normally A Bad Thing.

High serotonin - Serotonin Syndrome. Extreme cases include high fevers, seizures, irregular heartbeat, unconsciousness, death.

High dopamine - agitation, anxiety, insomnia, hyperactivity, mania, paranoia.

High glutamate - hyperalgesia (pain sensitivity), restlessness, ADHD-like symptoms.

Mentally (2): best IQ along with how well they can adapt and absorb information.

High IQ has only one certain benefit - it suggests that you will do well in college. That's it. It is what the IQ test was developed for.

Breeding for "intelligence" is one of those nebulous ideas which seem straightforward but in practice is very, very iffy. At the very least, "intelligence" seems to be the product of a whole bunch of genes (not the same ones in each individual), and I suggest you familiarize yourself with "regression to the mean".

At the very least, you should be aware that high levels of technical "intelligence" appear to correlate with autism rates. Are the Altums really interested in getting a lot of Aspies?

Genetics: best genetics means best survival in the natural world.

Oh, that's good. As we all know, "the natural world" is a nice uniform environment, where what it takes to survive means the same thing all over, right?

Wrong. At the least, the skills (and their underlying attributes) needed for survival are different between tropical hunter-gathers, plains bison-hunters and Arctic hunters.

Sex: the humans will compete for the best chance of the best mate.

Best chance? Best mate? US southwestern tribes such as the Pima are noted for exceedingly thrifty weight retention, allowing them to survive the inevitable drought/famine cycles in the area. Put them in a more hospitable environment and they become obese at a very high rate. Is a Pima woman a "best" mate? That does depend on exactly which version of "the natural world" you're living in.

In Darwin's TOE, he distinguished between natural selection and sexual selection. Natural selection applies to individual survival. Sexual selection applies to mate selection. The two are (or can be) in intense conflict. The peacock's tail is a prime example. It hobbles the mobility of the peacock, so a bigger tail means a lower chance of survival to breeding age. A bigger tail appeals to peahens, so a surviving peacock produces more offspring. There is simply no way to tell in advance what the optimum (in terms of overall peafowl population) balance of the two forces will be. The same applies to any such conflict.

Is being a murderer a good thing? One study of an Amazon tribe (the name escapes me) dealt with the nature of local warfare. This normally involves the two sides confronting each other and making scary displays until one side or the other backs down. Actual fighting is fairly rare - after all, if you actually get in a fight you can get seriously killed, and this is sort of the ultimate in undesirable genetic outcomes. The thing is, according to the study, the rare individuals who actually went and killed somebody in these confrontations had more children than average. In modern terms, chicks dig bad boys. Or, as the old Tom Rush song goes, "Ladies love outlaws".

So overall you might reconsider your premise. For the most part it makes little sense.

  • $\begingroup$ You might add that mental illness and intelligence are strongly correlated. Being smarter makes you sadder $\endgroup$ – Garret Gang Oct 18 '18 at 16:26

Applying any selective pressure against a breeding population reduces diversity by artificially empowering some traits with a statistical survival advantage. When it happens in nature, the pressure is spread out across a variety of environments, allowing a variety of different traits to become advantageous. When outside intelligent agencies attempt to replicate this process, they are always limited by the prejudices and goals which they bring to the project. Regardless of what traits they specifically value, their selection is always too narrow, leaving a limited subset of genetics which are capable of achieving that advantage.

Artificially managed selective breeding has a strong record of producing the desired genetic traits, but always at the cost of diversity within the breeding population. This loss of diversity inevitably leaves the population unprepared for disease threats which may develop later.

You can have stronger, and you can probably have smarter. You might even be able to get some level of inherited social morality going. But it will come at the cost of weakening the specie's preparedness for future biological threats. When we become one unified and homogeneous super-race, we also become a singular and therefore easier target for the next plague which wants to wipe us out.

Regardless of the traits which we chase in order to bring us together, our togetherness paradoxically weakens our whole. Only by spreading out into every shape, color, size and mental capacity can our species maximize its genetic diversity and thereby increase its survival chances against an also growing/diversifying/evolving hostile environment.


While I heavily agree with jdunlop, the Altum may not. I don't believe your proposal is adequate for raising humans to a higher tier. Although I think with perfect control (Altum decide who gets to reproduce and when) it may be achievable (but any results will probably be marginal and somewhat luck based as science still has a somewhat crude grasp on how DNA works) as long as you don't care about the Altum being total dictators. Also there are some other things you might want to consider.

I'd argue Trait 3(Mentally: ones that are mentally stable) and Trait 5(Genetics: best genetics means best survival in the natural world.) are probably one overlapping trait. To survive in the forest or any dangerous landscape, a mind capable of controlling oneself such as Les Stroud is a prerequisite for living in places that want to kill you. If you are depressed/having a headache/schizophrenic episode/convulsing from a seizure/sad in the jungle while the tiger comes, you don't exist and can't pass on genes.

Trait 6 "Sex: the humans will compete for the best chance of the best mate." can be scratched off the list as well because (citation needed) sexual selection can occur in a variety of different ways for different reasons depending on the environment. For instance in 1937 Humphrey Bogart was quite "attractive" in his day. Notice how small and lacking of muscles he is. It was considered attractive in that day for a man not to have huge muscles because it meant the man had to work hard labor(low pay). Compare to a modern more muscular Chris celebrity, who is considered attractive because a man who has time to sculpt physique probably has a enough dedication/time/money to support a child as most of dayjobs are about sitting around. All around, being able to attract a mate is based more on social events than biological. If you ever feel you are ugly, just walk into your local Walmart and you will probably feel more attractive.

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So we can revise your list down into 1)Physical Prowess, 2)Constitution 3)Mental Health, 4)Mental Capacity and begin to look into the experiment further.

You may find that each of those traits begins to fragment into many more (eyesight and strength for instance under physical prowess). The upside is that you have a population of 1,000,000. For each important sub-trait you want to try to breed for consistently, group up 25 males and 25 females (Source for this number below) in separate but similar environments to test for any 1 trait. It may seem limited, but you would be able to breed stock for 20,000 particular traits this way.

Once you have gathered your breeding stock into 20,000 or less groups of 50+ people per group, you begin to alternate between producing the one shared trait and crossbreeding with another group. Hopefully you can begin the experiments with people that classify for multiple breeding groups. Once you can breed enough humans over time to get a consistent batch of 2 selected traits (you manage to keep stable a 25m/25f breeding stock of John_Urschel),you breed for more traits and continue till you reach the ideal trait population.

The Altum are going to have a difficult time juggling all the people breeding and who should breed with who. Also you'll need to do A LOT of baby killing. Any children that don't have the selected for trait need to go (unless they have other selected for traits in which case they would move to a different breeding group).

Hopefully the Altum will be able to eventually crossbreed into success as they continuously try out new combinations.

People may be concerned by genetic diversity although if you look at a biology.se question here, you'll see that 25 couples (50 people) is enough to handle if (Which it is) perfect control over the breeding stock was implemented.


You cannot increase all of these traits as they conflict with each other.

  • Higher Strength means less agility. Higher speed means less stamina.

  • Better physical characteristics means less resources for the brain.

  • More brainpower means more mental issues (b/c more complex system has more that can go wrong)

  • Better senses means less brain resources for abstract thinking, and vulnerability to sensory overload (e.g. owls who cannot see during the day)

  • More fit individuals might have less need for a society around them.

Altum could eliminate the individuals that are "not good at anything" (i.e. good at something that not on Altum's list). But they will soon arrive at the frontier -- cannot get more of one trait without giving up another.

To move the frontier, they would have to go beyond breeding: more efficient metabolism, more strength per inch of muscle, more connections in the brain. But that means genetic engineering, or other way of introducing brand new mutations.

Instead, your Altum could narrow down their definition of "best". It could be better fit to specific environment and role, e.g. farming food for Altum.

If their goal is more developed civilization, this means different "breeds" specializing in different roles: farmers are strong but clumsy, craftsmen are agile but not too smart, rulers are smart but weak.

Finally, many of these trait improvements can be achieved by better nutrition and parenting/education/training. Which means changing society, not genes.


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