Recent work in genetics has made it clear that Tibetans, Andean Indians, and Ethiopians adapted independently to high-altitude living. It’s also clear that the Tibetan adaptations are more effective those in Andean Indians. Infant survival is better in Tibet, where babies average about half a pound heavier, and the suite of Tibetan adaptations doesn’t seem to fail with increasing age, while a significant fraction of Andean Indians develop chronic mountain sickness in later life. The Andean pattern look something like an exaggerated acclimatization response, while the Tibetan pattern is more like that seen in mammalian species have lived at high altitude for a long time.
Undoubtedly this is because Tibetans have lived at high altitude far longer than Amerindians. it’s even possible that some of these alleles go back to archaic humans, who could have lived in high-altitude areas of Asia for as much as two million years.
The obvious solution to these apparently permanent problems in Bolivia and Peru is a dose of Tibetan genes. Since Tibetan alleles are more effective, they must confer higher fitness, and so their frequencies should gradually increase with time. This doesn’t mean that Bolivians would turn Tibetan overall – the change would only happen in those genes for which the Tibetan version was more efficient. It wouldn’t take all that high a dose: in fact, if you’re not in a hurry, just a few tens of Tibetans could transmit enough copies of the key alleles to do the job, although admittedly you’d have to wait a few thousand years to complete the process.
Logically, the easiest way to do this would be to encourage some young Tibetan men to immigrate to the Andes. Clearly, men can be more effective at this than women. We could pay them to donate to the local sperm banks. We could subsidize the process, giving cash rewards to the mothers of part-Tibetan kids, a la the Howard Foundation. We could give our heros Corvettes. Considering the general level of discontent in Tibet, it might not be too hard to recruit young men for this kind of work.
The project would take longer than the usual NIH time horizon, so probably the best approach is to find some wealthy sponsor. You could get a sure-fire version of this program going, one big enough to make ultimate success a racing certainty, for under a million bucks. The backer would never see the end result, but so what? When we build, let us think that we build forever.