Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 50 Number 15, April 25, 2020 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

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Dominic Cummings, Andrew Sabisky and
Eugenicism at the Heart of Government

The recent Andrew Sabisky affair is telling of the outlook held by those at the heart of government. Andrew Sabisky was briefly an advisor to Boris Johnson, having being hired by his chief aide, Dominic Cummings. He resigned on February 17 after his racism and eugenicism were exposed.

Sabisky is an open advocate of eugenics. Interviewed for Schools Week in 2016 [1], he said: "Eugenics are about selecting 'for' good things. Intelligence is largely inherited and it correlates with better outcomes: physical health, income, lower mental illness. There is no downside to having IQ except short-sightedness."

He also brazenly stated: "From a societal perspective, the benefits of giving everyone modafinil [a mental performance-enhancing drug which can be fatal] once a week are probably worth a dead kid once a year."

Also in 2016, he wrote a review of The Welfare Trait by the eugenicist Dr Adam Perkins. Sabisky praised this book, which asserted that "welfare dependency can be bred out", and declared that "habitual welfare claimants were less conscientious and agreeable than the average person". He also suggested "measures to boost the fertility of those with pro-social personalities" [2].

Connected to eugenics is so-called "scientific" racism. Earlier in 2014, Sabisky wrote in reply to an article on the Profit of Education website: "If the mean black American IQ is (best estimate based on a century's worth of data) around 85, as compared to a mean white American IQ of 100, then if IQ is normally distributed (which it is), you will see a far greater percentage of blacks than whites in the range of IQs 75 or below, at which point we are close to the typical boundary for mild mental retardation."

These views were certainly well-known to Dominic Cummings well before his hiring of Sabisky. In a 2014 post on Cummings' blog [3], he wrote: "one very good way to retain human control over technology - and to think up better ways to ameliorate its negative consequences - is global embryo selection. You've [Cummings] talked it through quite well; it can and will work. One way to get around the problems of unplanned pregnancies creating a permanent underclass would be to legally enforce universal uptake of long-term contraception at the onset of puberty. Vaccination laws give it a precedent, I would argue."

This was in reply to a blog post by Cummings reporting on a conference he had recently attended. This conference, "Science Foo Camp 2014", was hosted by Digital Science, Nature, O'Reilly Media and Google at Google's head office in Silicon Valley; it covered, amongst other things, "finding the genes for IQ" as Cummings put it. He was referring to the session he attended by American physicist and businessman Stephen Hsu, who has been a leading figure in the Beijing Genomics Institute project investigating the genes responsible for cognitive ability.

Hsu says of his own work: "I'm doing my best to increase the number of future humans who will be 'fully awake'. My current estimate is that one or two hundred common mutations... are what separate an ordinary person from a [genius]." [4]

Reflecting on this in his post, Cummings wrote: "It is already the case that farmers use genomes to make predictions about cows' properties and behaviour ... It is already the case that rich people could use in vitro fertilisation to select the egg which they think will be most advantageous, because they can sequence genomes of multiple eggs and examine each one to look for problems then pick the one they prefer. Once we identify a substantial number of IQ genes, there is no obvious reason why rich people will not select the egg that has the highest prediction for IQ." Further, ... if this sort of thing does become possible, then a national health system should fund everybody to do this."

Hsu is clearly close to Cummings, with Hsu and Cummings being pictured together outside Number 10 Downing Street, proudly displayed in Hsu's glowing review of Cummings' role in the 2019 election [5].

At the time of the conference, Cummings was special advisor to the then Education Secretary Michael Gove; he writes that he was invited because of an essay on education he wrote while in that position, which became public in 2013 [6].

In this essay, he draws heavily from Hsu and another genetic determinist, Robert Plomin, to make statements such as: "Work by one of the pioneers of behavioural genetics, Robert Plomin, has shown that most of the variation in performance of children in English schools is accounted for by within-school factors (not between-school factors), of which the largest factor is genes. … the overall effects of shared environment ... accounts for only about a third of the variance of GCSE scores. … good teachers improve reading standards for all but this means that the variance that remains is more due to genetic differences."

He later declares: "We know ... that although cognitive tests are noisy, we can quite accurately identify the top ~2% in IQ on whom we rely for scientific breakthroughs and even crude tests at 13 predict differences within the top 1% in future scientific achievements (contra repeated assertions, tests of cognitive ability are much better indicators of future academic performance than social class...). We should give this ~2% a specialist education as per Eton or Kolmogorov, including deep problem-solving skills in maths and physics."

During the Sabisky affair, a spokesman for Number 10 refused over thirty times to answer the question of whether the Prime Minister agreed with Sabisky's views. However, a speech given by Boris Johnson in 2013 [7] is fairly clear:

"Like it or not, the free market economy is the only show in town. Britain is competing in an increasingly impatient and globalised economy, in which the competition is getting ever stiffer.

"No one can ignore the harshness of that competition, or the inequality that it inevitably accentuates; and I am afraid that violent economic centrifuge is operating on human beings who are already very far from equal in raw ability, if not spiritual worth.

"Whatever you may think of the value of IQ tests, it is surely relevant to a conversation about equality that as many as 16 per cent of our species have an IQ below 85, while about 2 per cent have an IQ above 130. The harder you shake the pack, the easier it will be for some cornflakes to get to the top.

"And for one reason or another - boardroom greed or, as I am assured, the natural and god-given talent of boardroom inhabitants - the income gap between the top cornflakes and the bottom cornflakes is getting wider than ever. I stress: I don't believe that economic equality is possible; indeed, some measure of inequality is essential for the spirit of envy and keeping up with the Joneses that is, like greed, a valuable spur to economic activity."


[1] Laura McInerney, "Andrew Sabisky, political forecaster", Schools Week, July 15, 2016

[2] John Johnston, "Tory adviser Andrew Sabisky suggested welfare claimants are 'less conscientious than the average person'", Politics Home, February 17, 2020

[3] Andrew Sabisky, reply to "'Standin' by the window, where the light is strong': de-extinction, machine intelligence, the search for extra-solar life, autonomous drone swarms bombing Parliament, genetics & IQ, science & politics, and much more @ SciFoo 2014" by Dominic Cummings, Dominic Cummings's Blog, August 19, 2014

[4] Steve Hsu, "Only he was fully awake", Hsu's own Information Processing blog, March 3, 2012

[5] Steve Hsu, "Now it can be told: Dominic Cummings and the Conservative victory 2019", Information Processing, December 13, 2019

[6] Dominic Cummings, "Some thoughts on education and political priorities", 2013

Cummings summarises this long essay in "My essay on an 'Odyssean' Education", Dominic Cummings's Blog, 2014

[7] "Boris Johnson's speech at the Margaret Thatcher lecture in full", The Telegraph, November 28, 2013


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